A Partnership

At our agency, we’re your partners, not your dictators.

An author can argue that there’s no point in hiring an agent if you don’t agree with their strategy. To avoid disagreement over where your work is submitted, discuss all your plans with your agent, not only when you decide to work together but throughout your career.

We provide counsel based on our knowledge and experience. That’s a good reason to sign with an agent whose background and past sales history match what you’re writing. For instance, while I enjoy reading biographies, life stories are not my wheelhouse as an agent. Novels, including romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and select nonfiction projects are all well within my range.

Likewise, when you choose a literary agency, select one known for what you write. For instance, an erotica writer would be out of place with us. Believe it or not, we occasionally get submissions in that category. But an author with an excellent novel or nonfiction manuscript ready for the Christian or clean secular market would do well to sign with us.

Once you sign with the agent who’s right for you, whether that agent is with us or with a different agency, realize you are still in a partnership. I think back to when I was writing many books a year for publication. I didn’t seek a magical or mysterious process where I would send my book to an agent who would tell me nothing about any movement until I saw a contract. I can be magical and mysterious if you like; but so far, all the authors I know want every particle of information possible about what’s happening with their books as I market them. I keep my authors informed.

I also talk to the authors about where we’ll be submitting. More than once, an author has expressed appreciation for me sharing and keeping them in the loop. Some seem surprised that I don’t dictate every move.

Yes, there is a level of trust in asking an agent to manage your career. But if you’re worried that you’ll have no say about where your manuscript is submitted and why and what happens during the process, I hope this post has eased your mind.

Your turn:

What is the most mysterious aspect of hiring an agent?

What is keeping you from approaching agents?

What do you like most about your agent?


54 Responses to A Partnership

  1. Avatar
    Richard Mabry March 26, 2020 at 5:43 am #

    Tamela, how do you handle the author whom you can’t place–do you continue contacting them on a periodic basis, or eventually let them drop?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 6:59 am #

      I handle situations like this on a case-by-case basis, although I do try to keep in touch with all of my authors.

  2. Avatar
    Angie Dicken March 26, 2020 at 6:06 am #

    I am so grateful for your communication during the submission process, and your steadfastness in answering any of my questions, big or silly! Haha! Thank you for your dedication to authors and books!💛

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 7:01 am #

      Well, Angie, the comment I left for you got placed at the end of the queue. I’ll say it again — you are so kind and I’m glad you are a Tamelite!

  3. Avatar
    Lynn MacKaben Brown March 26, 2020 at 6:07 am #

    I once signed a contract with an agency that was crazy about my book. Then nothing. No updates. No communication. How am I supposed to pray for that project? We agreed to part ways. The next agent I sign with will be easy to communicate with and have a track record of updating clients.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 7:02 am #

      Lack of communication is the number one reason I hear as to why an agent/author relationship breaks down.

  4. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray March 26, 2020 at 6:40 am #

    I don’t feel any loss of control. My sense is that my input is valued, but I also know that I’m nothing that even approaches being an expert in this industry, so I value all input and feedback I get from the agency.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew March 26, 2020 at 6:46 am #

    The road to publication’s long,
    and the learning curve is steep;
    so that I do not get it wrong,
    I really need a Partner Sheep,
    one who’s steady as a rock
    and will never tell me lies;
    safe at home within the flock,
    wool won’t be pulled over my eyes.
    The only crook that we shall see
    will be our Shepherd’s (He sees clearer!)
    and my Partner Sheep and me
    will never have to face the shearer.
    With my Partner Sheep comrade,
    good will rise from ash of BAAAA-D.

  6. Avatar
    Bryan Mitchell March 26, 2020 at 8:39 am #

    This is new to me, working with my first literary agent on my first novel. After we made a few adjustments on the story, he’s submitting to publishers. Communication has been good. I know there is a bit of a waiting game at this point. What I like most is the opportunity to work with him. I’ve had close calls to having representation, but this is the first. Besides waiting to hear back from publishers and what publisher may be interested, the mystery for me is what the relationship between me and publisher will be like, especially with their editor(s). I’ve heard some authors feel blindsided by the final product while others worked seamlessly with the editors through the process.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 9:27 am #

      I hope you have a good match when you’re published. You can always go to your agent if you have issues.

  7. Avatar
    Diane E. March 26, 2020 at 8:43 am #

    I love your post about get an agent. I am new to writing. I have a lot of book ideas and. I can wait to share my book with the world. Currently, I am working with my publisher.She great. Its just hard for me to make decisions I have no clue about. I am praying I find an agent soon.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 9:33 am #

      God bless you on your journey!

    • Avatar
      Pamela D Wright March 26, 2020 at 12:59 pm #

      Tamela, I am delighted to have been taken on as a client and I love the fact you know the agonies writers go through when creating and then marketing a manuscript. Having an agent who is on top of details and doing the hard work while I do the writing is pretty much a dream come true.

    • Avatar
      Linda Riggs Mayfield March 26, 2020 at 3:40 pm #

      If you already have a publisher, why are you seeking an agent? The agent’s primary job is to find a publisher for the author’s books. What would you expect your agent to do? ‘Just curious.

      • Avatar
        Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm #

        Linda, I’m glad you posed this question because you gave me the chance to address the common misperception that an agent’s primary job is to find authors a publisher. In fact, an agent helps authors with career management and is an essential partner guiding the authors through their projects, contracts, deadlines, relationships, and other seen and unseen parts of an author’s career. An agent is your best friend in the industry.

        • Avatar
          Karen Ingle March 30, 2020 at 1:04 pm #

          My first foray into ghostwriting acquainted me with the value of an agent’s work in “career management” and guidance through the “seen & unseen.” The author I wrote for needed a strong partner in all these areas. I look forward to this kind of partnership with my own agent in the future.

  8. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver March 26, 2020 at 8:48 am #

    Tamela, it sounds as though you’re easy to work with, and so are the others at the Steve Laube agency. Blessed are those who get one of you for an agent.

  9. Avatar
    Marilyn Morris March 26, 2020 at 9:24 am #

    What is the cost of this service?

  10. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson March 26, 2020 at 9:29 am #

    I love that my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray, responds promptly to emails, answers questions, and encourages her clients. She understands life happens and is supportive during times of writers distress. It’s also our responsibility as writers to respect her position and communicate with her as well. No question is a dumb question. Thank you, Tamela, for your kindness and patience!

  11. Avatar
    Naomi March 26, 2020 at 10:49 am #

    Thank you for all your publishing tips! I purchased the Christian Writer’s market guide and the list of agents is so helpful. I’ve already put out feelers for who works with my genre. (Biblical Fiction) Now I’m doing another polish and then will jump into the world of submitting.

  12. Avatar
    Donna K. Stearns March 26, 2020 at 11:58 am #

    I’m not quite ready for an agent. I am still developing my nonfiction manuscript. I’m also not sure if I need one or two agents. I have a biblical fiction manuscript almost ready. I need to do more research into who handles what. Also, price is another issue to consider when the time comes.
    Thank you for the informative post.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 26, 2020 at 12:02 pm #

      I recommend finding an agent who handles both fiction and nonfiction. Most of us agents handle both. You are correct in that it’s wise to research before sending queries. Let each agent know about both projects and then the agent can strategize with you. As for price, the agents I know all work on commission so you shouldn’t pay any fees. Hope this helps.

  13. Avatar
    Bernadette March 26, 2020 at 1:08 pm #

    Thank you for this article. I do not have an agent. I sent my first novel to one person. I lacked confidence. I still do, but just finishing my book helped me conquer a lot of fear and self doubt. I almost feel ready to try again. Plus, I’ve been tucked into CWI for awhile now, and my writing has improved. I’m really grateful (never say really) for all you folks do to help writers.

  14. Avatar
    sara March 26, 2020 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi, Tamela, I actually find it quite daunting that your agency presents Christian books, I especially admire that about you guys.
    With that being said, I’ve always wanted to work with your agency. But I realised to do that I will actually have to finish my manuscript first. So I hope you’ll wait for me.

  15. Avatar
    Crystal March 26, 2020 at 6:21 pm #

    I plan on submitting my novel in the next few months to your agency. I am working as hard as I can to get it as polished as possible before submitting. You all are my number one agency that I hope to be blessed to work with so I hope you like it! It’s young adult fiction and I do at one point mention the name of Jesus specifically in my novel. I have found that this seems to be either frowned upon or just not typically done even in many Christian books. I was wondering what your thoughts were on this. Thanks!

  16. Avatar
    Crystal March 26, 2020 at 6:22 pm #

    Christian fiction books, to clarify.

  17. Avatar
    Peggy Booher March 26, 2020 at 6:46 pm #


    I’m not seeking representation, but I certainly appreciate your attitude about communication. It’s a breath of fresh air. I’ve worked for years in the retail field, and communication in most of the places I worked was poor–it doesn’t matter whether the store was large or small. Many employers don’t stop to consider lack of communication directly contributes to employee morale, and plays a role in the amount of sales.

  18. Avatar
    Lydia Nolan March 27, 2020 at 12:14 am #

    Hello Ms. Murray:

    Thank you for your blog “A Partnership.” If I may, I would like to answer the three questions you posed at the end.

    1) The most mysterious aspect is how an agent can reject or approve a writer’s work when the agent has only had a small window of acquaintance, and from that small window be able to know, to which publishing house the writer’s work should go. This seems to me to have to be very precise in order to effect a positive outcome.

    2) I am terrified to approach agents because with so much instruction such as “How to Submit a Query,” and that sort, and with such a small window of opportunity, I become stymied and procrastinate, then, do nothing.

    3) I have not sought an agent yet, for the reasons above.

    I even toiled over this reply. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 27, 2020 at 6:02 am #

      Lydia, I understand that too much information can indeed stymie an author. I’m so sorry you have had that experience during your research.

      Please submit to us. Know that the following do NOT have to be perfect:

      1.) The subject line
      2.) The query letter
      3.) The proposal
      4.) The manuscript

      What we want is enough information to assess our ability to market your work. If we need more information, we’ll ask for it. I can’t guarantee we’ll offer representation if you write to us. However, I can guarantee we cannot offer representation if you do not write to us.

      I recommend setting a date of April 1 and certainly no later than April 15 to submit to an agent — any agent. After all, since you don’t have to file taxes until July, that’s the perfect date!

      Let me know how it goes.

  19. Avatar
    John Murray Jr. March 27, 2020 at 7:51 am #

    Ms. Murray:

    Thanks so much for your post and comments. I just finished writing my second novel and would love to submit it to you.

    My question is, if I have the whole manuscript completed, do you still only want the first 3 chapters to review? Will it look like I cannot follow directions if I send you the whole thing or would you like the option to keep reading (in the event you simply cannot put it down :))?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray March 27, 2020 at 7:52 am #

      I’d love to see the complete. Thanks for asking!

      • Avatar
        John J. Murray Jr. March 27, 2020 at 2:22 pm #

        Thank you for the response.

        I have been reviewing and working on the cover letter and proposal most of today in order to send it to you.

        Since my book is already completed, do I still need to create the chapter by chapter summary and analysis set forth in the standard proposal guidelines? I do not want to leave out something important. However, since my book is a relatively quick read (approximately 25,000 words), I also do not want to delay sending it to you if this is something that is unnecessary in this case.

        • Avatar
          Tamela Hancock Murray March 27, 2020 at 2:58 pm #

          I can look at what you have on file, John.

          • Avatar
            John J. Murray Jr March 27, 2020 at 3:25 pm #

            I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean I should submit the manuscript and cover letter without the chapter by chapter portion of the proposal?


  20. Avatar
    Crystal March 27, 2020 at 11:31 am #

    I have a question. I was originally planning to submit to your agency through the process of good old snail mail but given the current circumstances would you advise against that? I don’t want to get lost in the e-mail shuffle but with things being as they are, what would you recommend? Thank you!

  21. Avatar
    Crystal March 27, 2020 at 4:49 pm #

    Great! Thank you!

  22. Avatar
    Sy Garte March 28, 2020 at 5:32 pm #

    I am late seeing this (computer troubles) but I thought I would reply, even if no one sees it. I haven’t worked with you Tamela, but I have heard great things about you from others. I was signed by Dan Balow and am now with Steve, and I just want to say that this is a first class and caring agency. That should be obvious from your compassionate, sympathetic replies to all queries here. It has been a great joy to be represented by this agency.

  23. Avatar
    Mysti Zumach March 29, 2020 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi Tamela! I recently met Bob w/ your agency at the WCCW Conference in Livermore. He was so kind and approachable, and the reason I’m on your site. My apprehension in approaching an agent is not knowing how to describe or classify my novel. It’s my first manuscript (still in revision). What I do know is that it’s contemporary with a strong female protagonist and a number of psychological twists (it deals with identity). It’s also urban as the world begins on the streets of Oakland. I was told to read Louise Penny for her psychological mysteries but we’re not in the same vein. If this sparks ideas for material I should check out for comparison, I’m all ears. Or any advice you have on what to call it, or how to know would be most helpful.

  24. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. March 31, 2020 at 7:21 am #

    Tamela, the most mysterious part about hiring an agent is wondering what’s happening with a manuscript. What kind of feedback is the agent getting on my work? What adjustments can I make to make the manuscript more marketable? How can I help?

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