by Tamela Hancock Murray
You’ve done your homework, including:
- visiting agency web sites
- talking to author friends about their agents
- interacting casually with agents on social media
- reading agents’ blogs
- attending writers conferences as your time and budget allow
This is part of the process in helping you choose the agent you most feel you want to work with.
When deciding, think about:
- agency’s reputation
- agent’s reputation
- authors the agent represents (demonstrated success with work similar to yours)
- personality (this is where social media helps)
Reputable agents welcome being researched because we stand on our record. Of course, every agent and agency who has been in business more than a day and a half has a few detractors. Most of the time, detractors are made either because the client and agent were a mismatch from the start and/or because of an unhappy situation complicated by misunderstanding. Good agents conduct themselves in an ethical manner and your research should reveal that the overarching agreement in the writing community is that their clients are well served.
Once you have decided which agent you think you want to pursue most, the best action you can take is to send the best possible query letter and proposal (following the guidelines found on that agency’s website). In the query letter, you may say that the agent is your first choice and you really want to work with her. If, considering that fact, the submission is exclusive to the agent, let her know.
As you wait, keep up your casual interaction, if any, with the agent online. This will not only keep your name in front of her without asking about your submission, but will demonstrate genuine interest in the agent. Still, time will drag because an agent’s first job is to take care of matters for current clients and even exciting proposals such as yours may have to wait. (See my earlier post “What is the Agent Doing While I Wait?“) So, it is fine to ask about an exclusive submission after three or four weeks.
When the agent is reminded she’s been given an exclusive, that fact should spur her to try to move forward with a decision. Or at least say why there must be a delay, at which time you can either choose to stay put or move forward to query your other choices. They don’t have to know they aren’t your first choice! But if someone else makes an offer of representation, you can in good conscience let your first choice know and let her respond accordingly. Please know that as much as agents love being an author’s first choice, sometimes we still have to decline. The factors in each of these decisions is always complicated and never personal.
Are you researching agents? What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered?
Why do you want to work with an agent?
What do you think an agent can do for you?