Is Signing with an Agent Your New Year’s Resolution?

If you are currently without representation, signing with a fantastic agent is an excellent resolution to make!

Here are some ideas to consider as you prepare to approach agents:

  • Visit agency websites. Ask yourself:
    1. Does the agency have a website, such as
    2. Does the website appear professional? Is it easy to navigate?
    3. On the sites that list their clients such as we do, do you see yourself as being part of this family? If you do, excellent! But if no one else seems to be writing anything remotely like what you’re writing, you may consider if this particular agent has the right set of contacts for you.
  • Read and comment on agency blog posts. The fact that you’re reading this blog, even if you don’t leave a comment, means the world to us. If you read us regularly, please be sure to subscribe to the blog. We all work hard to bring you worthwhile reading every weekday; and when you leave comments, we know we aren’t shouting into an echo chamber. That’s not to say that you must struggle to think of something to say each day. But if a point occurs to you, please join us.
    1. Conversations make this blog more fun and informative for us and your fellow readers.
    2. Your name becomes familiar to the agent. So do your viewpoint and personality. All of this is beneficial when you are thinking of working with an agent.
    3. You become part of a community. I can see a fan base developing for some of our commenters. Many’s the time when my blog commenters have encouraged one another in their writing.
  • Ask your writer friends about their agents. Sometimes they may offer to refer you. If not, you can still query wonderful agents on your own.
  • Tend to your website.
    1. If you don’t have a website, please make haste to put one up as soon as you can. We don’t sign authors based on whether or not they have a website, but agents and editors do visit author websites.
    2. Keep your website updated. If you stopped blogging in 2018, remove the dates and start blogging again.
    3. Make sure your website is focused on your topic, especially if you are writing nonfiction. If you’re pitching a book on parenting, it doesn’t make sense for your website to focus on your car-maintenance business. If you do have a side business, we recommend keeping that separate from your author website.
  • Polish your proposal. Make sure your proposal is the best it can be before submitting to an agent. Be sure to include past books, even those with low sales numbers or those on other topics. We need to know your entire publishing history.
  • Have terrific photos of yourself available. Make sure you have high-resolution copies available, and a copyright release from the photographer. Pleasing headshots are useful for:
    1. Social-media avatars
    2. Your website
    3. Your proposal
    4. Flyers advertising your book signings
    5. Book covers
  • A manuscript. Editors and agents prefer a complete document over an incomplete work, particularly with fiction.

Enjoy the journey!

Your turn:

What are you looking for in an agent?

What tips can you offer for finding the right agent?



51 Responses to Is Signing with an Agent Your New Year’s Resolution?

  1. Avatar
    Malcolms in Africa January 9, 2020 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you so much for this! Great information! Finding an agent seems like such a daunting task– approaching a stranger with something as vulnerable as a personal memoir and asking them to consider its worth. You’ve made yourself so approachable. Blessings!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 9:59 am #

      Thank you!

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    Deena Adams January 9, 2020 at 8:48 am #

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m praying God will open the right door for me to find an agent this year. Blessings to you!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 10:03 am #

      I pray for God’s guidance for you as well. Be sure to mention your contest win when submitting. You can make that a separate category instead of burying it in your bio. (Admittedly I haven’t seen your proposal but I hope that tip helps.)

    • Avatar
      Audra Sanlyn January 9, 2020 at 11:55 am #

      Yes! You should definitely make that prominent in your proposal.

  3. Avatar
    Pearl Fredericksen January 9, 2020 at 9:44 am #

    Yes Tamela, thank you for telling us from the point of view of an agent exactly what you like to see. I am currently at a point where I am wondering about getting an editor. I’ve been told that I need a substantiave or content editor to help me with POV and bringing my writing alive with more dialogue and action. Hmm, not easy to know who to trust.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 10:06 am #

      If you have been told by people in the know that you need an editor and you want to enter traditional publishing, I recommend hiring one. Unfortunately, even working with a major editor won’t guarantee acceptance of your current project but the process will be a learning experience. I recommend perusing the other parts of our site to discover resources to help you find reputable editors. Steve Laube has done a great job in collecting this data. All best!

      • Avatar
        Pearl Fredericksen January 9, 2020 at 10:26 am #

        Thank you for the feedback! I will look up that resource list.

    • Avatar
      Linda Riggs Mayfield January 9, 2020 at 11:40 am #

      Pearl, I heartily support Tamela’s advice. I would add: Be sure to study the different kinds of editing and hire a substantive editor, not a proofreader or line editor. All have important roles to fill, but the differences are significant, and if your friends are right, you do need a substantive editor.

      I think editing can be critically important. I’ve been editing professionally for about 7-1/2 years and most of my clients are referrals from other satisfied clients, but I still have two professional editors in my short list of beta readers for my own books, and my articles are run past a different short list of other article writers before I submit them for publication. Those reviewers ALWAYS find ways I can improve the text! (One criticism that pops up regularly is unclear or distant antecedents for pronouns, so I’m working on that! :-)) I’ve received many manuscripts to edit–fiction, non-fiction and academic non-fiction, that contained great ideas, but the writing was weak. Weak writing doesn’t get accepted by agents or publishers, journal editors or deans, and the reading public doesn’t have much patience for it in self-published books, either. Whether you go with traditional publishing or self-publishing, a substantive edit of your book is an investment that will pay dividends.

      • Avatar
        Pearl Fredericksen January 9, 2020 at 1:32 pm #

        Thank you, Linda. I do appreciate your straightforward advice!

  4. Avatar
    Maddie Morrow January 9, 2020 at 10:03 am #

    Thank you! This is very helpful. I’m hoping to find the right agent this year. I would love someone who is a bit hands on, but I definitely need someone who knows the YA industry.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 10:11 am #

      Knowing the type of agent you’re looking for is a major step and shows you’ve already given the process thought. After you have determined which agents specialize in YA, I’d let them know your expectations when you approach the interview phase. Wishing you the best!

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 9, 2020 at 10:25 am #

    Wish someone would represent me,
    and bring all that this entails,
    so I’d be happy (with sincerity!)
    as a doggie with two tails.
    Then I’d get the book deals,
    and the groupies, too,
    and the free gourmet meals
    (my people will get back to you).
    I’d live upon the Texas ranch
    bought by those who like my writing
    and who, no doubt, would blanch
    at the folks I’d be inviting;
    surely would their psyches stagger
    at the Pope jammin’ with Mick Jagger.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 11:10 am #


    • Avatar
      Audra Sanlyn January 9, 2020 at 11:53 am #

      I’m literally picturing the Pope jammin with Mick Jagger right now…. Thanks for that.

  6. Avatar
    Debby Kratovil January 9, 2020 at 10:51 am #

    Yes, this is one of my New Year’s resolutions. Makes my insides turn to jello, of course. But I realize the worst news I can get is “not interested.” It’s not a death sentence! I’ve had plenty of pink slips in my other life (publishing in the craft arena) so I just have to put my big girl pants on and send it. Very, very close . . .

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 11:11 am #

      Praying for the Lord’s will!

  7. Avatar
    Leslie Nelson January 9, 2020 at 11:07 am #

    Such a great post and very timely as it absolutely is my plan to sign with an agent this year! I’ve been following your posts for about six months now and REALLY appreciate the wonderful advice and tips.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 11:12 am #

      I’m so glad my posts have helped you!

  8. Avatar
    Barbara Harper January 9, 2020 at 11:58 am #

    Thank you. This information is very helpful. I am hoping to complete my revisions and find an agent this year. As to what I am looking for in an agent, I want someone who will search out the best situation for my manuscript and help me understand contracts. I follow a couple of agency blogs, and it seems like every agent on them would do that. So now I am praying for direction in choosing the right one to approach..

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 1:02 pm #

      Praying with you!

  9. Avatar
    Audra Sanlyn January 9, 2020 at 11:58 am #

    Thank you so much for this information. I have loved getting to know this community of writers and I’m amazed and blessed with the encouragement I’ve found here.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 1:02 pm #

      I feel the same way about our community!

  10. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield January 9, 2020 at 12:18 pm #

    Tamela, this post is GOLD! This is not the first year that getting an agent was in my resolutions. I even took leaves of absence from several of my responsibilities for one whole year to dedicate my time to building a platform and finding an agent. Well, God promptly filled my newly available discretionary time with a newly arrived family in our city that was in great need of attention and help that only I could provide. Had I not stepped back from those other responsibilities, I would not have been so available to those parents and children and able to meet their needs, so I definitely saw God’s hand in it. But when that family got back on their feet and moved on, I still had virtually no platform and no agent. So in 2020, I’m again making the resolution to address my platform, get an agent, and sell a book, but based on past experience, I’m holding the resolution loosely.

    I very much appreciated your list–a good and needed reminder to go back and radically update my long-neglected web sites, a very good place to start! Thanks! I’m ready (again)!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 1:03 pm #

      I believe God will honor you for following His will! I’m sure you will have a wonderful 2020!

  11. Avatar
    Hope Ann January 9, 2020 at 12:46 pm #

    Great post! I’m hoping to find an agent this year though I need to get my manuscript to the stage that I’m comfortable presenting it. It’s currently in the middle of it’s third draft, so hopefully by summer. One thing I am doing in the meantime is keeping track of the agents and editors for all the fiction I do read, so I can start seeing what names pop up with what kinds of books and use that for reference as well.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 1:45 pm #

      Great strategy! Wishing you well!

  12. Avatar
    Rebekah Gyger January 9, 2020 at 1:12 pm #

    I took last year off of trying to get published so I could really work on my craft. But I’m hoping to start that process back up here soon!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 9, 2020 at 1:47 pm #

      Even though waiting can be frustrating, honing craft is always a good idea. Breaking into publishing has always been tough, and today’s competition is more fierce than ever. Godspeed to you!

  13. Avatar
    Ash January 9, 2020 at 2:28 pm #

    What should your webpage look like if you’ve written a fictional book? Also I’m always so confused how to promote my book before I even have a literary agent… I feel like it’s a little presumptuous of me 🙂 Any tips? Thanks so much for this blog post though. It was super helpful. And I know I’m commenting after you suggested commenting, but I still appreciated the post. I love this kind of very practical advise.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 10, 2020 at 5:33 am #

      Websites are personal, so make it your own. You can talk about your dreams and progress, and throw in few items about your life. Perhaps you have an office cat who can offer some amusement, for example. I recommend visiting sites your aspiring author friends have for more ideas.

  14. Avatar
    Felicia Ferguson January 9, 2020 at 3:42 pm #

    Thank you for such an informative post. I’m a successful freelance magazine writer, but now that my women’s fiction manuscript is finished and edited, I’m kicking my search for an agent into high gear. Praying for God’s perfect timing and divine encounters. Thank you, again!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 10, 2020 at 5:33 am #

      Praying with you!

  15. Avatar
    Jane Maree January 9, 2020 at 4:19 pm #

    This is so helpful! I’m hoping to approach some agents this year, so this is super relevant for me. 😏

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 10, 2020 at 5:34 am #

      May the Lord bless your journey!

  16. Avatar
    Yeshua Mike January 9, 2020 at 6:48 pm #

    Thanks for the info. I wanted to sign with an agent but decided against it and tried out writing for a music website and to my surprise my contents were approved by google search engines as featured snippets in search results. Betagbedu Music Website . That’s the website, they hired me and I was told to write contents for their approval on google adsense for monetization. I used to come read great articles here and thought of sharing my experience with you. Thanks a lot

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 10, 2020 at 5:35 am #

      Glad you found a career that works for you!

  17. Avatar
    Josie Siler January 9, 2020 at 9:45 pm #

    I just started seriously looking for an agent. I’m looking for someone who will represent both children’s books and nonfiction. There are not many, but I know God will lead me to the right agent at just the right time!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 10, 2020 at 5:35 am #


  18. Avatar
    Rita Galieh January 11, 2020 at 12:30 am #

    Thanks for your great blogs, Tamela. I adore writing historical romance and will be sending a query to you ASAP. As a full time carer for my husband, the research involved has been a blessing to me. I’ve learned to be resilient and so have my characters. And yes, nothing reaches a woman’s heart more than romance. Something I am blessed with even though my husband is terminally ill. He never quits telling me how much he loves me. And I’ve tried to capture that sort of cherishing love in all my stories.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 13, 2020 at 10:09 am #

      Wonderful! I look forward to hearing from you!

  19. Avatar
    Stacey January 12, 2020 at 12:05 pm #

    I really enjoy the posts on this website, and your agency has a great reputation in my circle of writer friends. I write women’s contemporary fiction and non-fiction and have published several books with two smaller publishers that do not require an agent. Would there be a benefit for someone like me to find representation? I’ve often wondered and I would welcome your thoughts.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 13, 2020 at 10:10 am #

      Great question! Only if you want to move to a larger house in traditional publishing, or a house that requires an agent before they’ll review.

      • Avatar
        Stacey January 13, 2020 at 11:08 am #

        Thank you for responding. I’ve been considering trying for a larger publisher, but I’ve been unsure what sort of extra expectations it would place on me if I was fortunate enough to publish with one. Are you able to speak to that? Do larger publishers require more from their authors?

        • Avatar
          Tamela January 13, 2020 at 11:34 am #

          Good question, but the answer would be more than I could reasonably address here. I recommend trying agents. Their answers should help guide you.

  20. Avatar
    Sarah Neisen January 12, 2020 at 8:36 pm #

    Thank you for the great posts Tamela. I’ve been slowly reading and taking notes as I do hope to find an agent this year. It’s a daunting task when contemplating all the steps necessary to make that happen, but I take a deep breath and read on.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 13, 2020 at 10:11 am #

      You can do this!

  21. Avatar
    arlene akin January 15, 2020 at 4:15 pm #

    So glad to have found this blog. Thanks for taking the time to grow the community.

    I have a question about the importance of the website. As a currently unpublished author would a website be a must have or a nice to have?

    It would be exciting to have that platform as I have SOOO much to say. But it is also a potential time suck.

  22. Avatar
    Brandy O'Banion-Baudoin January 16, 2020 at 2:52 pm #

    I’m researching agents as I read this blog post. Praying for God’s guidance for all writers with publishing dreams. I was just talking to my friend, who is a photographer, about getting professional photos taken. I need to freshen up my blog and social media. Great insight on each point! I definitely took notes!

  23. Avatar
    Waptric Music January 20, 2020 at 5:28 am #

    Thanks for This information is very helpful. I am hoping to complete my revisions and find an agent before the year runs out.

  24. Avatar
    Jacques LaFrance February 1, 2020 at 12:04 pm #

    Here I am a strict novice, looking for whatever help I can get promoting my new (third edition) book, Heaven Is Beyond Imagining. (I hope to submit my proposal today.) I have no webpage, never thought of one as being helpful, don’t know how to set up one, nor how much it costs, and whether or not I can afford it.

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