This week’s topic is, well, topical.

Over the past days I’ve talked to a few aspiring writers who have asked for advice on the agenting process. Very smart of them to seek out information. This is a big decision in a writer’s career, one that can’t be underestimated.

An agent is your representative in the business world. They are your face to publishers, media, foreign scouts and other literary agents. Your relationship with an editor and publishing house is liable to change, but you want to choose an agent who can stick with you for the duration.

It’s imperative that you research, before and during the agent querying process. Here are a few of the things to consider as you evaluate the agents on your list.

Does the agent handle your genre? What have they represented—and sold—recently? Does the agent have contacts with foreign publishers? How about film? If the agency is large, find out what the advantages—and disadvantages of a large agency are.

French cover. Just because.
If you move to the next step and receive interest from an agent, have a conversation –or more than one—to get a sense for how you might work together. Is the agent an editorial agent, i.e. can you expect to receive editorial feedback on your manuscripts, and if so, how extensive is that feedback? Talk about your career—long term. How do you see yourself evolving after this manuscript? And what about after the deal? How will your agent support your career once the deal is closed? Finally, if you can, talk to other clients and find out what their experience has been like.

I don’t have correct answers for you. Every agent is different, and every writer has different needs. But by asking these questions you will begin to understand where your comfort level is with various aspects of the business, and with the prospective agent.

I also recommend meeting an agent in person, if possible. Writing conferences are great for this. It was how I met my agent a few years ago. There’s no better way to get a feel for someone than by having a face to face, and it’s also a great way to rise above the dreaded slush pile. Most agents will take a writer who attends conferences and workshops more seriously, and I know quite a few writers who have been offered representation during conferences.

If you can’t meet an agent in person, there are many great resources—online and in print. Take advantage of them.

Most of all, keep at it. This is a business that rewards professionalism, talent, and tenacity. Stick with it, and you'll have an advocate who supports your dream. 

And there is nothing wrong with that.

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