Choosing the right literary agent -Part 1

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH AGENT IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

In 2011, I went to a SCBWI Conference in LA, hoping to find an international literary agent. Before I went, I thought that I’d pretty much say, ‘Yes’, to any reputable agent who wanted to represent me – after all, opportunities like that don’t come an author’s way too often.

But in LA, where there seemed to be as many agents as kangaroos in Australia, it made me realise that agents come in so many forms and personalities – they’re not ‘one size fits all’.

‘In LA, where there seemed to be as many agents as kangaroos in Australia’ Photo by Alex Proimos/Flickr

I discovered that I didn’t just want any agent – I needed an agent who would push me to be a better writer. I needed an agent who would nurture my career. I needed an agent who had a proven track record in actually selling the kind of books I wrote. But above all, I needed an agent I felt comfortable with – one I could brainstorm with, one I could talk to about my vision for my book. I realised I needed an agent I could feel comfortable crying in front of (if I felt the need).

Choosing an agent was a lot more complex than I first thought. I didn’t want a cool trendy agent (I’m not cool and trendy), nor did I want one that had 40 bestselling authors on their list so they wouldn’t have time for me. I certainly didn’t want one who reminded me of my old headmaster and made me feel like I was ten years old again.

SCBWI LA 2011 with Sarah Davis, Susanne Gervay and Lesley Vamos

So I decided that the agent I was looking for must be warm and wise, must love my writing, and like me for who I was.

Meeting the agents in person in LA gave me a great opportunity to find out what I needed to know to help me make my decision.

QUESTIONS TO ASK POTENTIAL AGENTS

If you’re lucky enough to be offered representation by a literary agent, here are some questions you can ask to help you decide whether they are the right agent for you.

  1. How many clients do you represent? (If they have too many, they might not have time for you.)
  2. How many books have you sold in the last twelve months?
  3. Do you offer editorial feedback? This is important for me but might not be important to you.
  4. Do you already have a publisher in mind for my book?
  5. Do you represent all the genres I write in?
  6. Do you have international contacts?
  7. How regularly do you correspond with your clients and is this done by email, phone etc?
  8. Will you let me know where and when you submit my work?
  9. Will you forward on rejection letters to me?
  10. Are you a member of an industry organisation like The Australian Literary Agents’ Association?
  11. Can you provide references from your clients?
  12. If you’re not Australian, do you have connections in Australia so you can help me get my work published in my home country?

These are just some of the things I felt I needed to know about a potential agent.

You probably have your own questions. Literary Agent, Rachelle Gardner’s blog has a very comprehensive list of questions to ask an agent.

In next Tuesday’s post – FINDING A LITERARY AGENT PART 2 – EXPLORING YOUR OPTIONS, I’m discussing some pros and cons, and factors to consider when choosing your agent.

If you are looking for an agent, good luck with your quest. Remember that a literary agent is a very individual choice – try and find the agent who suits you both as a writer and a person.

Please feel free to share your experiences, tips and questions in the comments section of this post.

Dee