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GETTING AN AGENT

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 16, 2010

One of the popular questions every author is asked is “How do you get an agent?” Here are some tips to start your journey.

Complete your manuscript in the proper format.

Be prepared to suggest possible markets to an agent. Also have two or three bestselling authors to compare your work to in terms of genre and tone.

Where do you find an agent? Attend writers’ conferences with editor/agent appointments. Study the Guide to Literary Agents by Writer’s Digest Books.  Check out the online resources below. Note the acknowledgments in books by your favorite authors. Or enter writing contests where editors and agents are the final judges. When deciding which agents to query, make sure they represent the genre you write and that they take on new authors. Be sure to check their submission criteria.

http://www.querytracker.net

www.aar-online.org

www.agentresearch.com

www.sfwa.org/Beware

www.writers-free-reference.com/agents

www.anotherealm.com/prededitors

www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22

www.publishersmarketplace.com

www.agentquery.com

 Write a snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and category for your book, your writing credits, and a few sentences about your story. Include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This letter should be no longer than one page.
If you hear nothing for months, send a follow-up letter or email to ask if she received your letter. Be courteous and respectful of an agent’s time. If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note.

Always include an SASE in your correspondence.

Never pay an agent any fees.

Once an agent has read your work and you are seriously considering retaining him if he makes an offer, here are some questions to ask.

How many clients does the agency represent?

How many clients do you handle personally?

How long have you been an agent?

Are you a member of AAR?

What is your particular area of interest?

How many new authors have you sold in the past year?

What is your average response time for reading a proposal? A completed manuscript?

When is the best time to call you? Do you prefer email?

Who answers the phone: you, a receptionist, or a machine?

How long does it take for you to return a phone call?

How do you feel about multiple submissions?

How long do you wait after sending an editor a manuscript before following up?

Do you contact your clients to update them on the status of their projects, or do they have to contact you?

How many rejections would it take on a manuscript before you stop marketing it?

Do you handle foreign sales? Film/TV?

Do you offer a written or verbal contract?

What percentage do you charge? (Most agents charge a standard 15% commission)

What happens if you die or are disabled?

Do you deposit money received into an escrow account for clients?

How soon do you pay clients after receiving a royalty check?

How do you keep track of submissions?

What do you expect from your clients?

Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry, and hopefully you’ll acquire the agent of your dreams.

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