In search of the elusive, philologus procurator---
Species: Literary Agent.
Habitat: Anywhere there is an internet connection.
Before You Begin Your Hunt:
The two absolute essentials are Miss Snark & Research:
Read the archives of the late Miss Snark. Saturate yourself in her wit and insider industry knowledge. Once you have read the World According to Snark, you are ready for research.
Basic Goals of Research:
- What does the agent represent? Key words: WE ARE CURRENTLY SEEKING
- Does the agent accept unsolicited queries?
- How does the agent want to be queried (more on this later)
- Has the agent or agency made sales recently? This is your due diligence of the agency.
Where To Research An Agent:Absolute Write Water Cooler-Bewares & Background Check
Predators & Editors
And don't forget Word of Mouth
How to Query:
This is the time to follow the rules and not break them. As you research agents also research how they want to be queried. Don't assume. Submission requirements are varied. Here are several examples:
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC: Please send us a one-page query letter by email to firstname.lastname@example.org to gauge our level of interest. We do not accept snail mail queries.
Ethan Ellenberg Agency: For fiction, your submission should include:
a synopsis-the first 50 pages (approximately) of your manuscript -a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE). Also, please do not call to check up on your submission; due to the large volume of submissions we receive, we cannot track them individually. If you included a SASE, you will receive a response.
Wendy Lawton: Accepts Adult Fiction & Non Fiction. Books & Such will accept e-mail queries. We do not accept e-mail queries with attachments, or unsolicited phone or postal mail queries.
Rachelle Gardner: I am closed to queries in July and December. Please do not submit during these months, as your query will be deleted without response. I only accept queries by email, NO snail mail. I represent books for the Christian market (CBA) as well as for the general market, and I accept queries for both.
Don't Query Unless You Are Ready to Submit.
The same is true for pitching at conferences. Don't pitch unless you have a completed manuscript. Be prepared for requests for exclusives.
"We would love to read the first three chapters and a synopsis of your novel on a two-week exclusive basis - with a view toward representing you."
Offers of Representation.
Congrats!! You have landed the BIG ONE!
Discussion questions once you have an offer of representation:From the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc:
- Are you a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives?
- How long have you been in business as an agent?
- Do you have specialists at your agency who handle movie and television rights? Foreign rights?
- Do you have subagents or corresponding agents in Hollywood and overseas?
- Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will the other staff members be familiar with my work and the status of my business at your agency? Will you oversee or at least keep me apprised of the work that your agency is doing on my behalf?
- Do you issue an agent-author agreement? May I review the language of the agency clause that appears in contracts you negotiate for your clients?
- How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf?
- Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers?
- What are your commission rates? What are your procedures and time-frames for processing and disbursing client funds? Do you keep different bank accounts separating author funds from agency revenue? What are your policies about charging clients for expenses incurred by your agency?
- When you issue 1099 tax forms at the end of each year, do you also furnish clients upon request with a detailed account of their financial activity, such as gross income, commissions and other deductions, and net income, for the past year?
- In the event of your death or disability, what provisions exist for my continued representation?
- If we should part company, what is your policy about handling any unsold subsidiary rights in my work?
- How do you handle submissions? Will you stop submitting my work after a certain time or number of rejections?
- Do you want to represent just this book or are you interested in my other work?
- Do you place a minimum time requirement on our relationship? Can either of us terminate the agreement at any time?
- How would our relationship be terminated if I’m not happy?
- If we part company, what happens to any outstanding subsidiary rights?
- How do you help your clients with career planning?
- How frequently do you update your clients or keep them informed of the work you’re doing? How do you prefer me to communicate with you?
I hope this provides some helpful tips to get you started.
Okay, hunters...back to the tents; we'll start our search again, tomorrow.
Since this post was written I have received notes from several published authors who usher very important addendum information for all you new writers who are earnestly seeking an agent.
1. Yes. A LOUSY AGENT is worse than NO AGENT.
2. Be VERY CAREFUL about selecting an agent. This person is representing you LEGALLY. It isn't something you do casually just to get a thrill saying you're "agented." Like getting married, you don't cheat on your spouse. You can get divorced. But you don't cheat. Remember that anything your agent sends out or you send out while you are under contract with them is THEIR submission even if you'd break ties with them. Only if you get rejected where you submitted and then you break ties with your agent do you have the right to shop that project around to another agent.
3. DUE DILIGENCE is the most important thing you can do besides writing the best story you know how. It's your career and no one cares more about your career than YOU.
We offer some other helpful posts that feature agents and agent-tongue-in-cheek, to answer any other agent questions you may have.
Question & Answer with Marlena Fortune
Marlena Fortune Returns
Marlena Fortune Answers Your Questions
Interview with Literary Agent Rachel Zurakowski
Wendy Lawton: Welcome to Seekerville
Welcome Guest Blogger and Agent Extraordinaire, Natasha Kern!
Janet Kobobel Grant of Books & Such Literary, Welcome to Seekerville!
More info here.