As Miss Crankypants observed yesterday, the American Christian Fiction Writers conference (ACFW) is going on this week in Dallas, Texas. Many of these conferees are going agent shopping while they take in the seminars and workshops.
Writing Tip for Today: What should you expect when shopping for a literary agent? I’ve had a few agents, and these are the things I look for:
- Ease of Communication. If at first the agent intimidates you, you’re normal. But as you begin to get to know one another, you should feel as though this person is really on your side, is really enthusiastic about your project and seems to have an open accessible style. One agent I admire said, “I like to think of my clients as people I could be friends with.” It’s not necessary to be bosom buddies, but your agent works for you, so it should feel OK to contact or ask questions.
- Represents You, not Your Property. I’ve been a bit turned off by agents who kept referring to my writing as “property.” While it is intellectual property and the term is coming from the film industry, when I think an agent is more interested in my one book than my career as a whole, it’s a red flag. Ideally, you want an agent who is going to help you shape a career in writing, not just sell one book. And if your agent is new or you’ve not heard of him, by all means, ask for references and recent sales.
- Where’s the Balance? We’ve all heard the horror stories of both the agent from hell and the client from hell. Most of this thinking, in my opinion, comes from either misunderstanding of the author-agent relationship, or from having too much or too little on one’s personal writing plate. A writer who calls the agent ten times a day to get an update probably needs to tone it down and recognize that successful agents must have many writers in their quiver in order to make a living. High maintenance authors give agents headaches, and nobody likes a diva. Yet when an agent takes on one writer too many or isn’t properly connected with the right editors, authors feel neglected. Most industry contracts state that the agent will report to the author at least quarterly, but if it’s been three or four weeks since you heard anything from your agent, speak up. If that agent repeatedly puts you off or makes excuses, it may be time to shop for a new agent.