In Search of an Agent

09 Jun

Having just completed my first manuscript, I’ll be looking for an agent soon. In preparation, I’ve participated in a couple workshops on the topic, and today I’m going to blog about some of the things I’ve learned. This is not an all-inclusive list, but I’m including points I either didn’t previously know, or things I thought everyone knew but apparently do not.

  • You should research agents you plan to query to make sure they handle your genre.  Seems like a no-brainer, right? I’m told this is one of the primary reasons manuscripts are rejected.
  • Know that a worthy manuscript may still get rejected.  A rejection may not be a reflection of your writing. For example: your manuscript may be too similar in style to another client’s.
  • Do not compare yourself to Faulkner or Woolf in your query letter.  Have you ever noticed the guys who claim to look like Russell Crow, never look like Russell Crow? Same for writing.
  • You should complete your first manuscript before contacting an agent.  After that you may be able to sell based on a synopsis or outline, but the first one must be complete.
  • It’s OK to send submissions to multiple agents. You should mention you are doing this in your query and customize your query letter to each agent by explaining why you selected them.
  • If an agent asks you for an exclusive, give her two weeks and then follow-up with a call before pursuing other options.  The reason an agent asks for an exclusive is because she likes what she’s read so far, and doesn’t want to invest time reading the entire manuscript if you’re going to sign a contract with someone else.
  • Most agents will accept electronic submissions.  Think of the trees you’ll save.
  • You should never pay an agent to represent you—no reading fees, no editorial fees.  It used to be standard practice to reimburse the agent for postage, photocopies, etc., but with e-mail, you no longer have those expenses either.
  • Don’t sign a long-term contract with an agent.  You want to make sure your agent is going to be a good fit, and that he’ll return your calls.
  • Don’t be a diva.  Respect your agent, and remember that you are not her only client.

When an agent agrees to represent you, it is an honor. That person believes in you and believes in your work. The agent/author relationship is just that—a relationship. So, take your time when doing your research, and select an agent you will enjoy working with for many years to come.


Posted by on June 9, 2011 in Idaho, literary agent


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19 responses to “In Search of an Agent

  1. Janis McCurry

    June 9, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    Great comments, Carley. It’s a business pursuit and you have to do your homework.

    • Carley Ash

      June 9, 2011 at 5:36 PM

      It is a business. My next task is to learn IRS Schedule…(groan)

  2. Steph Bochenek

    June 9, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    Great blog, Carley. I’m saving this list for later reference.

    • Carley Ash

      June 9, 2011 at 5:37 PM

      Thanks Steph.

  3. Amanda Bonilla

    June 9, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    Great post! Good luck with your queries!

    • Carley Ash

      June 9, 2011 at 5:38 PM

      Thank you Amanda. I’m very excited to be at this phase.

  4. Peggy Staggs

    June 9, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    Great advice. It’s good to remember writing is a business.

    • Carley Ash

      June 9, 2011 at 5:39 PM

      Thanks Peggy.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    June 9, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Thanks Carley – this is a good reference list.

    • Carley Ash

      June 9, 2011 at 5:41 PM

      Thank you Liz.

  6. Anita Calhoun

    June 9, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    Great tips, Carley. thank you

    • Carley Ash

      June 9, 2011 at 7:57 PM

      Thanks Anita, and thanks for checking out the Gem State Writers blog.

  7. Katie Lynn

    June 9, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    As always great advice.

    • Carley Ash

      June 10, 2011 at 6:14 AM

      So kind. Thank you Katie.

  8. Mary Vine

    June 12, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    Congrats on finishing that manuscript! Thanks for the list.

    • Carley Ash

      June 14, 2011 at 5:39 PM

      Thank you Mary.

  9. Jay Squires

    June 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    I loved your advise. Like all good advise it resonates deeply with good old common sense (that I just didn’t seem to think of before I happened upon your blog). Thanks for compiling your list, thereby giving my dozing brain a gentle whack! And don’t let anyone tell you differently: you photograph remarkably like a young Barbra Streisand!

    • Carley Ash

      June 14, 2011 at 5:43 PM

      Thanks for joining in on the blog and for the nice compliments…If only I had Barbra’s voice.

  10. lynn mapp

    June 16, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    Hey Carley! I somehow missed your blog. It must have been posted as school was ending and I was crazy with paperwork. I haven’t been looking for an agent, but…I think that’s about to change. Thanks for sharing this information.


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