Literary Agents

Choosing a Literary Agent

RomanceChoosing the right literary agent is crucial.  It is an essential element to getting your writing career on a successful path.  Doing upfront research before picking an agent is an important piece to selecting the appropriate person that will represent you and your work.

Although, everyone has heard about the many unscrupulous literary agents lurking at every corner, there are just as many honest and hardworking individuals who truly want to do a good job for you.  It is just a matter of doing your thorough research and locating the right person to represent you.

Finding the right literary agent means that this agent is going to work hard to represent you and also that you and that person are compatible in goals and mission; ensuring that your agent represents the same type of books that you write.  It would be unproductive to have an agent represent you if he doesn’t work with the type of books or written material that you write.  This is an important factor to your success.

Checking to see if a particular agent belongs to the Association of Author’s Representatives is a good start to finding an agent.  Not all legitimate literary agents belong to this agency; however, if they do, it’s usually a good indication that they are upright.  Click on  www.aaronline.org to see if a particular agent is a member.

What to Look for in a Literary Agent

There are three types of agents in the industry; a good agent, an unscrupulous agent and a bad but well-meaning agent.  A good agent doesn’t want to take your money without helping you, an unscrupulous agent wants your money no matter what, and a bad but well-meaning agent usually won’t take your money but can’t deliver what on what they’ve promised.

Old books with appleIf you have to pay an agent upfront money, then you are getting scammed.  Sometimes these costs are disguised as reading fees, handling fees or other miscellaneous fees by unscrupulous agents.  Good agents do not ask for money up front as they get paid once your book is sold to a reputable publishing company.  There are agents out there whose intentions are good but are just bad agents. These bad agents may not chargeupfront costs and usually follow publishing guidelines.  They are truly trying to do a good job; however, they are just terrible agents and can’t pull a deal together — they really have no contacts in the industry.  These bad agents have most probably never worked as an editor or for a publishing company and therefore wouldn’t know who is who in the business.   If you are not careful, bad agents can be just at detrimental to your career as an unscrupulous agent.  You have to be on the lookout for both.

A good agent has many contacts in the publishing world and they know people on a first-name basis.  As a result, they have a better chance of selling your book and negotiating good deals for you.  These agents are also able to provide you with sound advice as to what is or is not currently selling.  Good agents do not have to search for new talent as they already have many writers submitting work for review – they don’t need to advertise.  A good agent can give you information on books that they have previously sold.

An unscrupulous agent has one mission in life – to take your money.  They misrepresent their qualifications and what they have accomplished for their clients.  They even operate under fraudulent conditions such as stealing your book ideas.  Others will take your “upfront” money and sometimes don’t even submit your book to editors. These unscrupulous agents tend to publicize and solicit new unsuspecting writers in the hopes of taking their money.   Good agents don’t have to do this.  Contracting with unscrupulous agents can cause your manuscript to not be read by editors because agencies do not want to work with these individuals.  Manuscripts are usually returned unread.

An inexperienced agent is just that.  They usually follow the law and try and do everything right but have most likely never worked for an editor or a publishing agency before.  These inexperienced agents don’t understand what happens behind the scenes nor do they have any real contacts in the publishing world.  Many actually use the same type of query letters to try and generate interest for your book which is something that you could do on your own.

How to Contact a Literary Agent

As in any business, people are different and have different preferences.  Some agents prefer only e-mail correspondence and others accept only regular mail.  Some agents are okay with both types of correspondence.  Doing some upfront research on agents and going into their personal websites can provide you with details as to their correspondence preferences as well as more insight as to their agent credentials.  There are several websites that provide this type of information.  Listed below are a few to help begin your research efforts.

Query Tracker – This database allows you to view statistics about an agent or publisher – free.

Agent Query –  This database allows you to view statistics about an agent – free.

Publishers Market Place – This allows you track information about agents, editors, deals and current news.  There is a monthly fee to join but an extremely helpful database.

Pred-Ed.com – This site provides recommendations on agents and editors.  This is an extremely useful site when doing your research.

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