How to Find an Agent by Rochelle Melander
Attend any writing conference, and you’ll hear participants saying to each other:
+Do I need an agent to get a book contract?
+Do you have an agent?
+Is it hard to find the right agent?
For those of you who have asked those questions and felt as confused as this bookshelf is, here are some straight answers to your questions about agents.
Do I need an agent?
You need an agent if:
+The publishers you hope will publish your book only take agented work.
+You have been offered a book contract with a big publisher, and you need someone to negotiate the deal. (Some literary attorneys will do this, too.)
If you plan to self-publish your book or submit to small publishers, you do not need an agent. You can stop reading here and go back to working on your magnum opus! If you’re still wondering whether an agent might help you advance your career, read on.
What does an agent do?
+Consults with authors about their present and future writing career.
+Helps authors develop their book proposals and books, including offering suggestions for revision.
+Submits queries, chapters, and proposals to the editors she has developed relationships with.
+Negotiates the contract.
+Explains the contract terms to authors.
+Connects with publishing house on behalf of the author over any disputes—editorial, production, marketing, and so forth.
+Consults with the author on book publicity.
How much does it cost?
Agents are paid a percentage of your book sale. Most agents charge authors for copying or mailing costs.
Who is the perfect agent for you?
All agents are not equal. My ideal agent may not work for you. Here are some things to consider when looking for an agent:
+Does the agent represent books like yours? Most agents have niches or types of books that they represent. If you send your book proposal on the life cycle of seals to an agent who represents romance novels, you will get rejected.
+Is the agent connected to the people in publishing who will buy your book? An agent cannot do anything for you unless he or she is connected to editors in your field. The best agents have developed good relationships with several editors in their niche.
+Will the agent support you, your career, and your book in a way that works for you? This is a question of style. Some agents are interested in supporting clients in developing a writing career. Others are more hands off, preferring to deal only with the book contract. As you seek out an agent, it is important to know what kind of support you need from your agent.
+Is the agent willing to negotiate the best contract? Agents get to do what writers often cannot do for themselves—fight for more money, both as advance and in royalties.
How do you find the right agent? Take these steps.
1. Make a list of potential agents. It takes time to find an agent who is right for you. Most writers I know feel so desperate to move forward that they will take any agent that says yes. Don’t. It is important to research agents in order to find one that works for you.
+Search online. Both AgentQuery.com (no cost) and WritersMarket.com (yearly fee) offer online search tools for agents. Writers can search for agents according to the types of books they represent.
+Check acknowledgments. Most writers thank their agents in the acknowledgments. Look at books that are in your niche or writers who are similar to you and find out who agented their books.
+Ask. Talk to your critique group colleagues and other writing friends about their agents. Most writers are willing to share the name of their agents. Some will even introduce you to them.
+Attend conferences. Most writing conferences feature one or more agents on their panel. Go to their sessions and learn what they are looking for.
2. Deepen your knowledge. Once you have that list of potential agents, look more closely at their preferences and track record to see if they are a good fit for you. Consider:
+What types of books do they represent?
+How visible are the writers of these books? Do they get good publicity?
+What publishing houses do they work with?
+Are they working with writers who have multiple books or single books? (Multiple books by a single author suggest an agent who is interested in supporting writers through a career.)
+What is their style? Are they warm or reserved?
To find this information:
+Visit their websites or blogs.
+Check out the websites, blogs, and books of their clients. What do they say about their agents?
+Do an online search to see what others are saying about them.
+Check out predators and editors to make sure there are not any bad reports about them.
Once you have your short list of agents, you’re ready to submit! Good luck!
For more information, check out agent Michael Larsen’s tip, Nine Ways to Find the Agent You Need