Mar 13 2009

Some Advice for Novelists Seeking Agents

Published by at 4:32 pm under Getting Published,Literary Agents

Unfortunately, many literary agents are dishonest and/or incompetent.  Here are some tips to help you select an agent that knows what he’s doing.

1.  Do not pay for reading fees, “processing fees,” or any other upfront fees. Competent and trustworthy agents are paid only when the book sells.  Usually they receive around 10%-15% of domestic sales and 20-25% of foreign sales.  An agent that is paid only upon publication has a strong incentive to sell your novel manuscript.  An agent that asks for upfront fees is admitting that he does not think he can sell the manuscript quickly.  He is probably incompetent and/or dishonest.  Move on.

2.  Be really careful if the agent refers you for paid editing advice or vanity-publishers. The agent is probably taking advantage of you to advance his own interests.  Many agents are given kickbacks for referring gullible authors to paid editors and/or vanity-publishers.

3.  Make sure the agent has both industry experience and a strong track-record of success. Alternately, does he at least work at a reputable agency?

4.  If his website or communications look sketchy or poorly-edited, he probably isn’t professional. If an agent doesn’t know how to spell correctly, why would you want him representing you?  There’s no reason to believe that his e-mails to publishers will be any more professional than his e-mails to you.

5.  If the agent asks for your query letter, move on quickly. According to Victoria Strauss, “if the agent uses your query letter, what do you need the agent for?”

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