Querying & Agent Tips of the Week (Really Researching Agents)

Hey guys! My lovely fiance’ tethered his cell so I could do today’s post. All information in this post is from The 2011 Guide to Literary Agents.

Picture Source: thewritersworkshop.net
Picture Source: thewritersworkshop.net

Before you get serious about publishing your book, you need to do some research on the agents you’re considering sending your work to. Most agents will have plenty of experience with what they do. But what if you come across an agent willing to represent your work but is new and has no sales yet? Katharine Sands, a literary agents, says “An agent with little or no sales who has been an assistant at a leading agency will have just as much clout getting to an editor as an established agent. One of the things I always advise writers to do is to ask an interested agent ‘Why do you want to be my agent?’ They will then hear a very clear thumbnail sketch of how that agent will sound agenting.”

Before you send out your query letters, you need to understand how agents operate. This will help you find the right agent for your work and alert you to the ones you should avoid. Not all agents who are willing to represent you are trustworthy. Writers need to put the same amount of work into researching agents as they do with their own work. Here’s the best resources when it comes to researching agents:

The Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR) www.aar-online.org

The National Writer’s Union (UWU) www.nwu.org

American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) www.asja.org

Poets and Writers, Inc, www.pw.org

Publishers Weekly www.publishersweekly.com

Picture Source: cartoonstock.com
Picture Source: cartoonstock.com

It’s also valuable to use the internet to research potential agents. Just be aware that some writers may be bitter over certain agents rejecting their manuscript.

If you are considering signing on with a new agent without any kind of track record, you will be taking more of a risk than with someone who is already established. If an agent doesn’t have any contacts in the business, they won’t be able to help you out anymore than you could help yourself.

Agents should be willing to discuss their recent sales with you, which books, and what publisher. Some agents will consider this type of information confidential. If they share their information with you, check to see if your local bookstores and online merchants like Amazon carry the books they’ve sold. If you can only purchase books through a publisher’s website, be wary. Distribution is important to getting published.

Agents may or may not also charge certain fees. These may include fees for photocopies, postage, long-distance phone calls made on your behalf, and reading fees. These are all acceptable so long as they provide you with an itemized list of the fees and they should only ask after agreeing to represent a writer, as well as be discussed up front. Be wary if agents want to charge you fees before they accept your work, especially if the fees amount to hundreds of dollars. Agents who do not charge reading fees will have a stronger incentive to sell your work since they won’t get paid unless they do.

An agent may also offer to critique your work for a fee. In other cases, your agent may suggest an editor for you to work with. If you have a great idea but your writing needs work, you may have to work with a ghostwriter or co-author, who will share a percentage of your commission or charge by the hour. Many freelance editors will be glad to help you but make sure to request samples of their critiques and references before giving them any money. An honest agent won’t get any money for referring you to an editor. You can also find writing groups where other writers will help you polish your work.

Bottom line–it’s best to submit your work to agents who don’t charge reading or critique fees.



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