Common blunders to avoid when approaching a literary agent
Common blunders when inquiring to agents include etiquette and patience. It is important for writers (especially novice writers) to know the background of an agency before she signs a contract. It is just as important to ask and allow time for answers. Impatient writers give agents the feeling the writer will be a future pain.
At least twice a week, I receive requests for information to which I reply with a list of publishers we frequently contact and recently published titles. However, it is a waste of time to request a list of clients. While we list rights on our website, we do not distribute our client's contact information. We respect the privacy of our clients and ask that potential clients respect our policy as it may apply to them in the future.
Seasoned writers are familiar with the questions commonly asked when seeking an agent, but for those not familiar, I will list them here.
1. How long have you been in business? 2. What sales have you made in the past year? (Don't ask for sales since becoming an agent. It is likely the list is long and the request will be cumbersome.) 3. What publishers have you dealt with successfully? 4. What will you do to market/sell my work? 5. Will you keep in touch with me concerning the status of my work?
Keep in mind, however, that while you may ask a million questions, answers do not guarantee representation or a good agent. There are also points that many believe are essential in a "good agent". Some points may be respectable or even impressive, but none constitute goodness, competence or success for you.
Myths A good agent... 1. Must be a member of the AAR. 2. Makes contact with clients every week/two weeks. 3. Answers queries quickly. 4. Will provide answers to all my questions. 5. Will provide a client list. 6. Will assist me in determining if I should query her agency.
Facts A good agent... 1. Adheres to the AAR Cannon of Ethics even if not a member. 2. Is busy and makes contact as often as possible. 3. Takes time to review appropriate queries and responds when interested and/or provided return postage. 4. Provides sufficient information to allow an informed decision to accept or decline an offer of representation. 5. Will not disrespect the privacy of clients. 6. Expects interested writers to know the market, a match and potential of her work before sending a query.
Obtaining a concrete set of Do's and Don'ts is not realistic. The decision to sign with an agency is part professional assessment and gut feeling. If you are contemplating signing with an agency but have reservations, I recommend going with your gut.
Until next time, Happy writing! ~Sheri Ables
Author (n): a writer who writes right.