Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What To Look For In An Agent

Let's assume you are deciding you want to take the publishing route that brings an agent into the equation. You know you will need someone to guide you through the maze of editing, publishers, marketing, revision and so forth. But... when you start your search, you are now confronted with mammoth books, huge lists and more opinions than you would get from the in-laws during the holidays. Honestly, it is enough to make you want to curl up and cry.

Yes, I am not going to sugar coat things, it is not an easy task, but it is a necessary task.You can make your life a lot easier if you would just take your time just consider a few things before diving in.

First of all, you have to start with your own needs. As an author, you will need things that other authors might be able to do on their own. This might be because of your genre you write in, or it might be due to your experience level. Start building a list that might look at a things such as:

  • Do you need a lot of attention.
  • Do you need a full support team to back you?
  • Is your writing so controversial that you will need a team of lawyers backing you?
  • Do you need line editing? Content editing?
  • Do you need an emotional shoulder to cry on?
I think you get the idea.

Now, when you have that list figured out, it is time to start looking for the agents that represent YOUR genre. This is why we join those larger writing groups such as Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America. They have already simplified your list a lot with list of authors that do represent your genre. But we have to take it a step further. Although you might find an agent that represents fiction, does that agent represent something more specific (women's lit, LGBT, interracial...). This can be even more specific such as agents that have sub-genres they may or may not represent. For example, I represent romance but do not represent science fiction romance. Another colleague of mine represents women's fiction but isn't that knowledgeable about the traditional romance area.

Once you have that list composed, start looking for the personalities that are going to fit you the best. Remember this is a marriage and you want this relationship to last a long time. At this point, it is time for a little "stalking." Follow these people on social media. See what they talk about. Read their articles. Go to conferences where they are speaking. Get to know these people.

At this point, let me remind you that getting opinions from other people, while on the surface may seem like a good idea and I am not discounting it, may give you some false perceptions.

  • You will find that most negative comments only come from people who had a bad experience. This is not a trend.
  • The agent's clients will likely only give favorable responses. 
In other words, just because this agent works for someone else does not mean that person will work for you. The reverse of this is also true. Just because one person didn't find the right match does not mean this person isn't a good match for you.

There is something I want to note here. This beginning list does not focus on sales, years of experience, their client list, or their mass-popularity. New agents have to start somewhere. Small boutique agencies might be just what you need. And sales figures depends on the genre the agent represents, the name of the author and the general reading climate. The agent might have a little wiggle room in some areas of the contract, but the agent isn't going to land 6 and 7-figure deals for everyone they represent.

Just take your time through this. Make it a right decision!

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