Finding the right literary agent is important for many reasons. The main one being, you need someone who shares your vision and will help you get the best deals possible for your work. Especially if you’re new to the publishing game and don’t yet know what a good deal looks like. Because trust us, publishers will take advantage of your naivety if they can.
And while it’s equally important to learn how to write a good query letter to score an agent, you need to know what to look for in finding said agent to query in the first place. Luckily for you, we’ve done some research on the topic and have come up with some simple things you should look out for. Let’s get started on finding you the right agent!
1. Make Sure the Agent is Even Accepting New Clients
The first thing you need to do when whittling down your list of agents is to make sure they are even taking in new clients. A lot of top-tier agents are booked solid. Others only accept new clients during specific times of the year. The last thing you want to do is waste your time and effort querying agents who aren’t looking for talent in the first place.
If there is a particular agent you’re really interested in but who doesn’t seem to be taking new clients, just keep a close eye on them while you continue your agent search. If you can get them during the right window you might have some luck. But don’t put all your cards on the table hoping to score big with that particular agent. It’s better to score an available agent than wait out one who is all booked up with no feasible “open” period in the near future.
2. Make Sure the Agent Represents Your Genre
There’s no real point in querying an agent who only represents Romance authors while you only write Horror fiction. And when it comes down to it, this is probably the number one reasons most agents reject an author’s pitch. In desperation (or lack of research) an author will hit up multiple agents without even considering who represents what genres.
One of the most important things you must do before starting your agent hunt is to put your book into a genre. No, not every book will fit into one specific genre. But breaking down the synopsis and the themes of the book into a genre will make selling it easier—as well as letting an agent know right off the bat what they’re dealing with. When it comes to the genre of your book, there’s no need to fancy it up. Keep it simple until you score an agent. Then let them help you decide if labeling the book in more than one specific genre is a good idea or not.
3. You Should Know What You Want Out of Contract Negotiations
One of the main reasons for getting an agent is to handle contract negotiations. After all, this is their bread and butter. If they want to get paid, they first need to make sure YOU get paid. But that doesn’t mean you should go in blind and let them do all of the work for you. They, and you, need to know what YOU want out of the negotiations.
Before going in you should know what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice. We all want a big pay-day and that wonderfully fat book advance. But what else? There are so many other things to consider when negotiating: foreign rights, movie rights, TV rights. You must know what you want to keep and what you’re willing to let the publisher keep. If you let this all be known to your agent (who should fill you in on how it all works) they can work out the best deal for you. If you go in without a plan, you might end up with a crappy deal. Remember, the publisher is out to make money. And they sure as hell don’t do that by paying their authors.
4. Look for Anything that Might Better Connect You to an Agent
As with any relationship in life, establishing a personal connection will benefit you far greater than if you treat your agent like a resource rather than a person. This doesn’t mean you have to become best friends with your agent, but being friendly certainly won’t hurt. And this personal connection goes for the work your presenting as well.
Say your novel is about baseball. And what do you know, the agent you just queried just happens to be a huge baseball fan! This small connection can be enough to bring them over to your side and think about giving you a chance. And there are all kinds of connections like this to be made. Just do your research. A little social media creeping can go a long way in helping you figure out which agents on your query list have certain things in common with you. If you’re able to establish a certain connection with an agent, it’s much more likely they’ll take you on as a client. And maybe you’ll even become friends and work together for a long time.
Well, there you have it folks. I hope this quick read helps your narrow down your list of agents and pick the right one. It can be a tedious task trying to score an agent, but it is definitely worth the effort come pay-day. As always, keep on writing.
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