by Tamela Hancock Murray
In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:
How do I find a literary agent?
1) First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.
2) Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.
3) If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.
4) Make sure to abide by the Agency guidelines when submitting your proposal. Attention to details can distinguish your submission from less professional offerings.
5) If you don’t hear from the agent after a couple months, follow up with a respectful email.
When do I need an agent?
1) You have completed a manuscript and it is, without a doubt, ready to be submitted to agents.
2) In non-fiction, you have established an outstanding platform of significance. For example an ongoing speaking ministry, a strong Internet following, and a demonstrable fan base – that will help convince an agent (and later, a publisher) your book will sell.
3) In fiction, your book is written to the current market. Contest awards of national significance demonstrate that industry professionals recognize your talent.
4) Through conferences and/or contests, editors have asked to see more of your work; this is a plus, though not essential.
5) You have been offered a book contract. (Just don’t accept the offer until you talk to an agent.)
Once I start working with an agent, how do I enhance the relationship?
1) Don’t be afraid of your agent. If you are, you will never have the ideal working relationship. When you need your agent, make contact. No exceptions. (We really don’t bite. At least not very often.)
2) Know yourself. If you want to trust an agent with secrets and be a personal friend, choose someone with the accompanying personality. If you are an “all business” type, choose accordingly.
3) If you feel your agent is ignoring you, let that feeling be known. When you do, the relationship will become stronger. As in any relationship, communication is a key.
4) Publishing is small industry. Never burn a bridge. The associate copy editor you scream at today will be the vice president of acquisitions tomorrow.
5) Always abide by the Lord’s guidelines known as The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).