I hope the answers to the most frequently asked questions will
give you a better understanding of the agent's
role in the Publishing process and will also provide you with some
basic information and resources to assist you in your choice.
For more in depth information visit the resource sites that
What Is A Literary Agent?
Generally speaking, he/she is an employee that you hire to handle
the business end so you can concentrate on writing. An agent's job is to
market your books, negotiate deals with publishers, keep track of rights
sold such as subsidiary rights which could include electronic distribution,
audiotapes and foreign rights.
Smaller agencies may
specialize in a particular type of book, for instance, children's
books, non-fiction, etc., while larger companies are more equipped to
handle a variety of genres.
A good agent knows what editors are looking for and can target
your manuscript effectively. He/she works on your behalf to strengthen
your career, not just to sell your book.
Why Do I Need One?
Agents have become an essential step on the climb to publication over
the last ten to twenty years. This is a reflection of the volume of
submissions and the difficulties of getting published by the mainstream
Today, many publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Editors rely on agents to "weed out" unacceptable or inappropriate
material and to submit books that are good enough to publish and that meet
the publisher's criteria.
An agent's savvy in negotiating contracts with publishers, not to mention
acquiring and retaining subsidiary rights, make them worth their weight in gold.
Contracts have become very detailed and complex and require expertise that most
authors or lay persons simply do not poses.
Should An Agent Charge A Reading Fee?
Absolutely Not!. An agent should get his/her money from selling books,
not reading them.
What Should I Look For In An Agent?
There are no literary agent degrees, and simply calling yourself an agent does
not make you one. Look for experience, either at an established agency or publishing
company. Ask for a current client list. Make sure they have sold books to reputable
Read the submission guidelines. Make sure the agency handles
your genre or you'll simply be wasting your time and theirs. Many smaller
companies specialize in specific genres and this can be ideal for a beginning
Visit their web site. It should be professional and provide specific information
about the individual. If it doesn't, look somewhere else. Do remember though, that if an
agent does not have a website this is not a reason to believe they are not reputable.
You'll simply have to look elsewhere for the information you're seeking.
In today's marketplace with e-Mail, fax machines and the like, locale is
not much of an issue. It is simply your preference. New York or elsewhere?
There are many successful agents across the country, the choice is yours.
How Do I Find The Right One?
There are a couple of ways to evaluate an agent to see if they are right
Start with Agent Research & Evaluation http://www.agentresearch.com
an online evaluator that provides a free verification search. If
the agent is listed, the search will tell you if he/she is a valid.
They also have a newsletter and other services at various costs.
Another good information source is
Publishers Weekly magazine. It is devoted to the world of publishing
and book selling and reports the movements of literary agents. It will
alert you to new agencies and agents and highlights those that are
beginning to make big sales. Of special interest is the "Hot Deals" section.
Writer Beware is also a great online resource. It provides in
depth information on what to look for and what to avoid when choosing
an agent. The site also provides many other useful resources.
You might also consider attending writers conferences. Good conferences will
invite three or four agents each year and usually new writers are allowed
direct access. You'll be in a unique position to learn about these agents
first hand. Generally speaking, if they are at the conference they will be
considering new clients. The downside to this approach is the cost
($500 and up).
How Many Agents Should I Query?
There is no real rule-of-thumb here. Some say 20-30, some 40-50. The point
being that you will probably hear nothing from many, or
you may receive a short form letter rejecting your manuscript for any number
of reasons and you want to hedge your bet. Hopefully a few will ask for
your manuscript. If so, congratulate yourself for getting thru the first hurdle,
but remember, even the agents who ask to read your manuscript may
still reject it. Being an author is not for the faint of heart!
How Long Should I Wait Before Contacting The Agent?
Allow some leeway. Wait several days to a week beyond the time
provided in the agent's guidelines before making a follow up call. After that,
by all means call and inquire about their progress.
What Do I Do When An Agent Wants To Represent Me?
Congratulate yourself for a job well done - and then get to work! You'll want
to contact the agent and find out if you feel comfortable dealing with this person
and if you feel you could form a friendly relationship. You'll also want to consider
the following questions:
Keep in mind that many of your questions do not necessarily have a right or
wrong answer - but serve to "get a feel" for the agent in order to make a good
match for you.
You'll also want to talk about you. Tell him/her what you have published
(magazine articles for example) or contests that you have won, and ask what
questions he/she would like to know about you and your work. Remember, this
is a two-way relationship.
At the end of your conversation, if you feel uncomfortable with the agent, you
are under no obligation to sign on. There are other agents out there, so take a
deep breath and move on. Remember, a bad agent is worse than no agent at all!
Once you have established the expertise of the agent, the most important thing is
the comfort level. You should feel comfortable with him/her as a person and you should
believe that he/she is going to do the best job for you and your career.
If your lucky enough to be considering more than one agent, and have made a
decision to sign on with one, call or send notes to those you did not choose and
let them know that your manuscript is out to an agency. Be honest, but leave the
door open for further consideration.
What If I Still Can't Find An Agent?
Keep trying. Start the process all over. It is possible for your manuscript
to be rejected by all the agents on your list. Many talented authors have
spent months and even years finding an agent, but have succeeded in the end.
Secondly, keep working on your writing credentials. Write magazine articles
and short stories. Gain exposure by getting published in magazines and journals.
When Should I Give Up?
Never give up! The key to finding an agent is two-fold. Perserverance
and an undying belief in your work. Eventually you will find someone
who believes in you and your work.