Finding an Agent, What to Consider
by Diana Cosby
Lets face it, in today’s competitive writing market, most authors are seeking an agent, and with good reason. Most major publishing houses accept agent-only submissions, which nearly closes the door to unagented work. In addition, contracts are written to favor the publishing houses. A good agent not only deciphers the legal jargon, but negotiates a solid publishing contract for an author’s book(s) that increases their royalties as well as other benefits. Before you dive onto the search for an agent, here are some tips to consider:
Your type of agent, would they be hands-on or strictly selling your work? What type of writer are you?
It’s important to know if you want an agent who will brainstorm with you or an agent who receives your work and markets it without intervention. When you’re researching an agent or meeting with them in an interview, ask how in-depth they work with an author.
Do want an agent for a certain category of book or for all of your work?
Before you submit to an agent, it’s important you’ve thought about this question. Some agents will prefer to market a certain category of book while others will want to represent all of your work.
Is the agent you’re targeting respected in the industry?
An important fact to consider when scoping out an agent to submit to is to find out if the agent/agency is reputable. A couple of good places to begin checking out an agent/agency’s reputation is:
Predators & Editors:
Alerts for Writers:
Meet your agent
If possible, I encourage authors to meet with agents they are seriously considering to represent them. We learn a tremendous amount about a person by meeting them face-to-face. Often, within the first few seconds, we know if we click, or, if there’s something about the other person that would drive us nuts to hang around them. Hey, we’re human, it happens. It’s better to learn that you and a potential agent don’t click before you spend your time and $ submitting to them, and before they spend their time reading your work.
In the past, when I met with an agent, I’d already done my homework. I knew what type of author the agent represented, what lines they tended to target with submissions, and anything else I could find out about them. Since these were professional meetings, I ensured I did my homework so neither of us was wasting the other’s time. Here’s a url that has some basic agent questions:
The agent is a representative of you
Food for thought. Regardless of where your agent works and lives, once you sign with them, they represent you. With each agent I considered, I did my homework and considered them within the context of professional situations. Were these people I would want representing me? Did their mannerisms turn off editors?
It’s essential that you have mutual respect with your agent, and that you’re comfortable talking with your agent, sharing not only your story ideas, but those of your writing goals and career moves. If you disagree with an agent’s marketing strategy or anything else, you need to be able, in a professional way, to express that. What good is having an agent who you don’t dare upset or can’t talk to?
A bad agent is worse than no agent
As anxious as you are to sign with an agent, having a bad agent-a person who isn’t submitting your work, an agent who isn’t fighting for super deals on your behalf, or an agent who doesn’t follow-up with editors – is worse than having no agent at all. Your manuscript – work that’s taken you months, if not years to write – is tied up with this agency. Depending on your contract, it could take a very long while, if ever, to remove a non-effective agent from a specific manuscript. This is where the research comes in again. Do everything you can prior to signing a contract to assure yourself that your agent will work for you, personally and professionally.
Parting ways with your agent
At times in our careers, things happen where we decide to part with an agent. Before you sign with an agent, read and understand what you are agreeing to, and know the procedures necessary if ever you decide to break from that agent/agency.
As authors, we work too hard in writing our novels to ever settle. I don’t care how tough the market is, how fierce the competition, wait, do your homework and don’t sign with an agent until you’re over the moon about them and they are over the moon about you. You want an agent who believes in you 110%. Their excitement, enthusiasm for your work comes through as talk about your stories to their colleagues and as they pitch your novel to numerous editors. It’s this excitement, this belief in you that will have your agent working overtime to help guide you to your success.