Choosing the Best Agent

Selecting the best agent is pivotal to the career of any author seeking a traditional publisher. A few traditional publishers accept unsolicited (read: unagented) proposals, but as submissions increase thanks to efficient technology and the growing number of aspiring authors, those publishers are becoming fewer. Most traditional publishers prefer agented submissions. In fact, at many conferences, editors advise new authors to find an agent before submitting to them.

But don’t hop on board injudiciously. Not choosing an inferior agent to start with is better than picking up the pieces of a mishandled career later. To help avoid this, you can:

  1. Keep reading this blog. Being here helps you get to know us and gives you a chance to interact with us. Thank you for being part of our blog community.
  2. Interact with us on social media. This is another excellent way to see what we’re like.
  3. Visit the agency’s website. Would you like to be listed as a client there? Why or why not?
  4. Consider what type of books the agent represents. Most agents seek work across the spectrum, but you may want to consider if an agent specializes in your category of project. What is the agent’s brand? Also, some agencies (like The Steve Laube Agency) represent only Christian and clean general market books, while others represent both inspirational and erotic works.
  5. Attend top conferences. Conference directors strive to maintain their events’ reputation and tend to vet publishing professionals they invite to be on faculty.
  6. Ask friends. Asking your friends about their agents is another excellent way to find out information. But be aware that everyone has both advocates and enemies. Don’t let one negative review, particularly if the author seems quite angry and emotional, ward you off a good agent forever. And listen to the adverse reviews to hear what they really mean. There’s a huge difference between, “That agent ripped me off,” and “That agent and I didn’t agree on strategy.” See if you can find a number of people who genuinely like the agent. When the agent is otherwise well-respected and honest, his strategy may be wrong for your friend but perfect for you!
  7. Consult The Christian Writers Market Guide. This book is the definitive resource for accurate and up to date listings of reputable agents. It’s also chock full of other great information!

Finding an agent can be a scary process but we’re on your team. Talk to us and let’s get your career moving!

 

Your turn:

Where did you find your agent?

What tips can you offer?

 

 

 

 

55 Responses to Choosing the Best Agent

  1. Malinda Martin August 2, 2018 at 4:51 am #

    Thanks so much for the information. As always, very helpful!

  2. Martha Rogers August 2, 2018 at 5:14 am #

    I will never forget meeting you at the ACRW conference in Kansas City. Your hats and your great smile attracted me right off. I was too timid and too much in awe to do more than chat at the meal table with all the other authors around as well. When I finally submitted to you, I was beyond speechless and thrilled you signed me on. What a blessing that has been. I had another agent several years before and he didn’t work out at all, so finding the right one is so important.

    Your advice is spot on, especially the one about attending conferences and getting to know the agent. Don’t be afraid to approach them or to make appointments. Great relationships can come if you research and find the agent right for you.

    Thanks, Tamela for being a great agent and a good friend.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 8:08 am #

      Thank YOU, Martha! I am so glad you signed with me, and I value you and your friendship!

  3. Elisabeth Warner August 2, 2018 at 5:19 am #

    I don’t have any experience with that yet, but I’d like to follow this comment thread and see what I could learn from my fellow authors.

    Based on your information, Tamela, it sounds like I’m doing everything right so far. It’s only a matter of time! Thank you again.

  4. Beth Fortune August 2, 2018 at 5:25 am #

    I always enjoy reading this blog gathering information for the future. I’m not at a point yet where I need an agent, but I’m learning, preparing and praying. And, it’s just fun to hang out with all of you!

    Blessings!
    Beth

  5. Kass Fogle August 2, 2018 at 5:25 am #

    Great tips and reminders, Tamela. An authentic connection is as important as the professional relationship. Thank you!

  6. Damon J. Gray August 2, 2018 at 5:26 am #

    Tamela,

    I cannot answer the first question, as I remain “un-agented,” at the moment. What I can tell you is that I turned one agent down after reading several of his blog postings and speaking with him for about 20 minutes on the phone. Red flags abounded, and the knot in my stomach was intensely prohibitive. Just the thought of trying to work with this man made my anxiety level rise.

    I have been told elsewhere to accept any offer from an agent. Even as this person said it, I thought it bad advice. You have confirmed that, and I thank you.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 8:09 am #

      Damon, I am so glad you listened to your gut, and that you gained value from this post. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Darlene L Turner August 2, 2018 at 5:30 am #

    Great advice, Tamela. We can’t rush the process. I know for me being patient and waiting for the right agent was the key. And that was you! So glad God put us together! You’re the best.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 8:16 am #

      What a lovely thing to say, Darlene! I’m glad you waited and so happy to have you with me!

  8. Michele Morin August 2, 2018 at 5:53 am #

    A follow-up question:
    Is it better to seek an agent at the beginning of a book’s development or to wait until there is a solid piece of work that’s ready for a proposal?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 8:17 am #

      The agent will need something solid to look at to submit to editors, so if you’re submitting “cold” over email then I would advise waiting. If you have ideas to share at a conference and just want to use those appointments to meet agents, go ahead and do that and let them know you’ll have a proposal ready later.

  9. Crystal Caudill August 2, 2018 at 6:09 am #

    Thanks for the information, Tamela. I am in the process of searching for the good fit. I have narrowed down my list and have asked those who are represented by them about how the agent interacts with them, if the Lord appears to be a major part of their life and interactions, and how they deal with problems when/if they arise. Now that I have a good idea, I am registered for conferences so I can meet them in person and determine if our personalities are a good fit even before submitting. It’s easier for me to vet first than say no after being offered a contract. Not that it has happened yet, 😅, I just know myself. I am not arrogant enough to believe that just because I submit a proposal that I would get an offer, just cautious of the what-if they do say yes. I don’t know if that makes sense or is even wise, but I have four conferences in the next 10 months, so we will see how it goes.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 8:19 am #

      Sounds perfect to me! If you want to meet with an agent more than once over the course of the conferences, that’s a good idea with any agents on your short list. The more interaction, the better.

  10. Rebekah Love Dorris August 2, 2018 at 6:21 am #

    This is a valuable post. Thanks so much for writing it. I can imagine it’s uncomfortable to say, but we so needed to hear it.

    Can you give some examples of how a less-than-stellar agent could snarl up a career?

    God bless!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 12:29 pm #

      Thanks for asking, Rebekah! Over the years, some fraudulent agents have been exposed. Most agents are not fraudulent, but they can make mistakes. Those might be:

      a. representing authors they shouldn’t represent
      b. not submitting manuscripts to the right editors
      c. not knowing the market well enough to know where to submit
      d. not knowing the industry well enough to manage an author’s career

      There are other ways, but those are a few I can think of at the moment.

  11. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 2, 2018 at 6:32 am #

    Even though my star is fading, I’m not quite ready to give up. You may yet hear from me, Tamela, for I have paid attention, and you are at the head of my Awesome Agents shortlist.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 12:29 pm #

      Well, I can see your star glistening all the more brightly thanks to such a kind spirit. Thank you, Andrew.

  12. Nancy Massand August 2, 2018 at 6:36 am #

    Thank you , Tamela. I’m in the process of researching agents and don’t have one yet. My book is now being evaluated by an editor of a small house because my exerpt won a contest which she judged, so she requested a full ms. I would prefer to have an agent, but so far the ones I want have told me to come back when I have a media platform or at least a social media presence.. Your agency’s website advises the same. I’ve found this blog and all your agency’s “how-to’s” so helpful in building this.

    One tip I can offer fellow newbies is to find a published author you really like and participate in his/her Facebook or web page discussions. Ask the author to recommend an agent. That’s how I found this blog! My contact recommended the Steve Laube agency because you are honest and forthright. I have found this to be true and plan to query once I work more on my platform. Thanks again for all you do.

  13. Daphne Woodall August 2, 2018 at 7:09 am #

    There are so few Literary agencies that offer unpublished writers advice on a regular basis. This blog is valuable, honest and greatly appreciated. It’s like going to a conference for free. I’ve been reading “The Christian Writers Market Guide” for years and it should be on the shelf of any serious writer who wants to publish their work. Thank you Tamela!

  14. Linda Riggs Mayfield August 2, 2018 at 8:13 am #

    Wise words, as always, Tamela. Finding the right agent has been a daunting and still-in-progress effort for me for quite awhile. After my first conference, top-of-my-list agents and one editor requested full proposals and said they “loved” (one’s actual word) my writing, but still declined to represent or publish. Two said my fiction series won’t sell because of the historical context thread of the beginning of Mormonism. One who wasn’t put off by that context gave me a year to build a significant online platform before she would sign me and I wasn’t able to do it.

    So doing the research and attending conferences is the great START we all need, but there can still be a lot of work and waiting before signing with an agent, even when that part goes well. That’s when the prayer and trust get you through! I’m starting the process over again with a novel I finished and set aside before I started the 1830s series. Maybe an agent will “love” it, too, and my effort to build a platform will be successful this time! As the Lord wills! 😊

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Linda, the fact that you have been identified as talented is fabulous, and an indication that you are doing right to stay the course. I know it may not feel this way, but the agents are doing you a favor to send you back out so that you can return with the best possible novel and platform to present to editors in this competitive market. Keep it up!

  15. Ann Coker August 2, 2018 at 8:44 am #

    This week’s topics on the Agency blog have been on target for me as I prepare for the Writers Conference at Taylor University. I have a one-on-one session scheduled with one agent there. Also I’ve sent in a book proposal to another agent for a different book. The Steve Laube Agency blogs have been so helpful. Thanks for your guidelines.

  16. Wendy L Macdonald August 2, 2018 at 8:57 am #

    Dear Tamela, I appreciate your comforting and validating words “finding an agent can be a scary process.” When I’m ready to query again, I’m going to submit to my shortlist of favorite agents and leave the outcome to the Lord.
    I trust He will open and close doors according to His will. I’m a lousy guesser at what His plans are.
    But I do know He wants me to keep writing. 🙂
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  17. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D August 2, 2018 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Tamela:
    I found my agent at the ACFW conference in Nashville two years ago this September. I interviewed with four agents, three of whom were very nice. The three nice guys asked me for my manuscript and then two of them turned me down. Again, they were nice, well-respected agents, but I agreed that we weren’t a great fit. (We liked one another but the chemistry wasn’t completely there. I still like them but agree with their decision.)

    The fourth agent and I hit it off immediately. We were (and still are) on the same page and agreed with the way my branding should go. He has worked very hard for me and I’m happy that we’re a team.

    One bit of advice I would give is: Don’t be in such a rush to sign with an agent that you overlook how you and the agent gel. This may be easy for me to say, since I already have an agent, but someone told me at that conference that getting an agent is like getting married. You want to make sure he or she is the right one for you. (I could digress here and talk about the importance of conferences, as well!).
    Best,
    Sheri

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 2, 2018 at 12:37 pm #

      Great advice, Sheri! I’m glad we have this blog so those who aren’t able to interview at conferences at least can get a feel for what the four of us are like.

  18. Joey Rudder August 2, 2018 at 9:46 am #

    Thank you, Tamela! Your posts are always so encouraging and helpful, taking some of the “scary” out of the process.

    I’m hopeful. 🙂

    Blessings to you!

  19. Janice August 2, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you, Tamela, for this timely advice. I am glad you made the point about the types of representation that agents offer. The Bible says to not be unequally yoked, so if Christian writers take God’s word seriously that will narrow the agent pursuit. Also, I would never have thought of having two appointments with the same agent. I understand the value of an agent’s time, and think of how tiring it must be to have so many appointments in such a short time frame. But you have made me understand that with trying to make the best decision, more information gathering is preferrable for what may become a lifelong relationship. Thank you.

  20. Jennifer Mugrage August 2, 2018 at 1:11 pm #

    I agree that this blog and other agents’ blogs are super helpful.

    But what is this about a “short list” of agents? Just how short is this list? I understand we may need to query 50 to 100 agents before getting a nibble.

  21. Melissa Henderson August 2, 2018 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you for this information Tamela. We met a couple of years ago at the ACFW Virginia conference. Even though I didn’t have any stories to submit then, you visited with me and provided great encouragement. I will be looking for an agent soon. I have several projects almost completed.

  22. Angela Carlisle August 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm #

    I only recently signed with my agent, but we met through a conference – actually my first one. We talked and she showed interest, but I realized that my fiction project wasn’t nearly as ready as I had thought before the conference. Fast forward a year with a lot of learning, a lot of work, and a lot of binge reading blog posts, lol. We talked again at the same conference this past spring and signed soon afterward. I am a huge proponent of conferences for many reasons, but the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with editors and agents is huge. There is so much you can learn about someone in a setting like that that would be difficult to get from an online bio.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 3, 2018 at 5:43 am #

      Yes, if you’re able to go to a conference, that’s wonderful. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for an author to go because of time and budget constraints. Whatever works!

  23. Cherie August 2, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

    Thanks for the great article. Timely for me since my manuscript is almost complete. My list is short, and I met a few agents at writers conferences who showed interest in my work in progress. When the time is right should I submit simultaneously or not? How does that work?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 3, 2018 at 5:45 am #

      Yes, you can submit simultaneously. You can mention that in the letter. You can submit the first three polished chapters and proposal and work on polishing the rest while you wait for responses. All best!

  24. Mark Moss August 3, 2018 at 7:58 am #

    Very useful and timely information. Thank you. As has been mentioned, the Steve Laube Agency is currently highlighting subjects like this. You guys must be busy.

    I also appreciate the comments others are making and your follow up. You have a ministry just by listening to us.

  25. Steven Fantina August 3, 2018 at 9:11 am #

    Among your advise, you say “attend top conferences.” How can a new author determine which conferences will be the most helpful?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 3, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

      For Christian fiction, ACFW. For Christian nonfiction, but also fiction, Blue Ridge, Florida, Mt. Hermon, for romance, RWA.

  26. Steven Fantina August 3, 2018 at 7:01 pm #

    Thank you, Tamela

  27. Seralynn Lewis September 1, 2018 at 10:20 am #

    Even with the internet, researching agents is hard work. Especially if you want an experienced agent who will advise you with truth and kindness. I’ve been researching for a while now and one of my writing partners is actually an author your agency represents. It’s been a joy working with her. Before she told me who her agency was, I had already earmarked your agency as being at the top of my “wish list”.

    I will be attending ACFW conference in Nashville later this month and have signed up for a meeting with you but recognize I may not get an appointment based on ACFW’s website.

    Nevertheless, I do have a completed manuscript and look forward to the possibility of meeting you.

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