All this week I’m going to post notes from my AACBWI Workshop, HOW TO LAND AN AGENT: STEP BY STEP. These are the seven steps that I implemented to get my own agent.
*Post Update* – This is how I obtained my former agent. However, when I do start querying agents again, I will definitely use these steps again. :)
To kick things off, let’s talk about what an agent does, dispel some myths, and alert you about red flags.
What does an Agent Do?
At the basic level, the agent acts as the liaison between you and traditional publishing houses. They represent your work. Agents are paid a fixed percentage (15% is usual) of the proceeds they negotiate on behalf of their clients.
More and more publishing houses are becoming “closed,” which means that only agented submissions are accepted. So if your goal is to be published with a traditional publishing house, you may want to look into getting an agent to represent your work. An agent can get your novel into the hands of editors. Plus, most agents have relationships with several publishing houses, and may be better equipped to send your work to where it may be positively received.
Let’s get some agent myths out of the way.
Only the good agents reside in NYC.
With technology, most agents can now reside anywhere. There are several reputable agents in California, Colorado, Atlanta, Chicago, and all in between. A characteristic of a good agent is his/her contact list. With the Web and technology, an agent can now do business anywhere.
Established agents are better than new agents.
If a new agent is just starting out AND is with an established agency, you may have a better chance of getting their attention than trying to get an agent with an established roster of clients. New agents are looking for clients to establish a presence in the industry and are sometimes more persistent with getting a sale.
You can only get an agent through a referral.
A lot of writers believe that you can only get an agent by “who you know.” But if your work is great and your query letter is tight, you can the attention of any agent. The goal of agents is to sell work, so if you have a good product, they will be more than willing to sign you. When I first made contact with my agent, I just mailed my query letter and 3 chapters. No one introduced me and I was an unknown, unpublished author. So it can definitely happen.
Agent Red Flags
There aren’t any mandates of being an agent. Almost anyone can say they’re an agent. Most reputable agents are members of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR), although there are ethical agents who aren’t members. So here are some red flags to look for when dealing with a potential agent.
Agent who requests reading fee.
Anytime an agent asks for a “reading” fee or an “evaluation” fee, it is a major red flag. You shouldn’t pay anything up front for an agent’s services. The agent should only get paid when you get paid.
Agent who offers editorial services for a fee.
If agent wants you to give them a fee to edit your work, this is also a red flag. A lot of times, scam agents always never sign you after you have paid them for the “edits.” Or they sign you and they do nothing with your work. Most of the time, you may not even receive your editorial comments at all.
Agents who won’t give you a client list.
If an agent cannot or will not show you his/her current roster of authors, then this is a red flag. Obviously the agent has something to hide or worse, the agent has no clients at all.
Agents who won’t reveal sales.
If an agent cannot or will not share with you the most recent sales or if the only sales are several years old, this is another red flag. More than likely, the agent doesn’t have the contacts to successfully submit your work and probably just accepts clients but doesn’t submit any work. Or the agent is ignored by editors because they have not built any relationships.
Agents who solicit services without prior contact.
If you’re ever approached by an agent (usually by email) that you’ve never met or have never heard of and you can’t find any reputable information on the agent, this is a red flag. More than likely, it’s probably a scam for your money.
So that’s it for the kickoff. Tomorrow, I’ll share Steps 1 and 2 of How to Land An Agent.