In traditional publishing the importance of a literary agent in writing cannot be downplayed. An agents job is to sell your manuscript to a publishing house, and handle contract negotiations while also acting as a buffer between you and the publisher. The importance of an agent thus illustrates the need to make an informed choice when picking an agent who is to help the author in publishing.
Finding an Agent
First and foremost, in evaluating potential agents, their track records should be given first priority. This necessitates the need to check into the background of the agent in terms of the agent-client deals that he or she has managed. The author should look for the agents in your genre and then scan the web for their home page. Are they accepting new clients? If so, submit the first three chapters, a synopsis and a short cover letter asking them to represent you.
There is the debate on the experience of the agent as a determinant in the choice of an agent. The belief that an experienced agent is likely to bring the best money could be true although there does seem to also be a belief that most established agents are rarely interested in emerging authors. This means that an emerging writer might have the best experience with an upcoming agent as they have the opportunity to grow together in business. However, the experience notwithstanding, it is imperative that their experience stays relevant to the job at hand. At least the new agent should have some experience in the publishing world.
The agent’s professionalism should be of utmost relevance. The agent’s correspondence should elicit feelings of confidence from the client. This can be done through timely responses, respectful communication as well as honesty in every step of the process. A good agent would always seek to achieve a mutual and respectful relationship with the client and hence, it is crucial that the author stays keen in order to evaluate the level of professionalism that an agent exhibits.
Identifying a good agent is also an imperative step in getting the right agent. For example, a good agent would easily explain the process of a book contract while also helping the writer in developing the pitch or the book proposal in order to have a better edge in the field. The role of the agent is to tailor the author’s proposal to meet the recommended standards for the given genre.
A good agent is expected to be alongside the author even if the book or novel does not proves successful. This means that the agent is expected to be a friend, a mentor, and a business manager. The roles of the agent should not begin and end at the publishing house, the he is required to always be there for the author, to motivate and challenge the writer to scale new heights. This should be easy because ideally, the agent is more knowledgeable than the writer in the writing world.
Finally, a good agent should be well known among other agents, this may mean associations of authors and agents, or even online mentions of the agent. The name of every agent should precede him or her and if these are missing, then the author is required to tread very carefully.
* Publishers/agents that charge fees to publish/read your work are to be avoided. Publishers should pay you; not the other way around. Agents get paid when they sell your book; you shouldn’t pay them.
* Publicists, and other non publisher/agent services may charge fees if you choose to use them. (Since they don’t earn money from the sale of your work, they have to get paid somehow.) For example, if you’re going to self-publish your book, and want to hire a cover artist, you have to pay. (If you work with a publisher, they pay.) But be wary of people who stand to make money off a recommendation.
- AgentQuery.com. About 1,000 agent listings and an excellent community/resource for any writer going through the query process.
- QueryTracker.net. About 200 publisher listings and 1,000 agent listings.
- WritersMarket.com. About 400 to 600 agent listings. $5.99/month subscription fee.