Three Questions About Agents

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 websites 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 nonfiction, you have established an outstanding platform of significance. For example, an ongoing speaking ministry, a strong internet following, and a demonstrable fan base 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 key.

(4)      Publishing is a 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).


19 Responses to Three Questions About Agents

  1. V.V. Denman July 15, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Wow. That is very encouraging, Tamela. I was under the impression it was taboo to approach an agent with the same book twice. I imagine much would need to be taken into account before doing so. And the manuscript would need to be near flawless.

    Thanks for the advice, but especially for the encouragement.

  2. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. May 7, 2020 at 6:22 am #

    Thanks for the information and the supportive comments, Tamela. It’s good to know how to approach a prospective agent.

  3. Loretta Eidson May 7, 2020 at 6:44 am #

    You always have such great information. I’m so thankful I have the honor of working with a fabulous agent! You’re the best!

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser May 7, 2020 at 6:46 am #

    I have the best of agents,
    whom I found not long ago;
    he’s got a lot of patience,
    but his drive will sometimes show
    that I produce what he expects;
    the marrow and the juice,
    for he’s ready to reject
    a half-baked wan excuse.
    He makes me want to do my best,
    and sometimes he’s surprised,
    but he knows that for the rest
    he’ll have to roll his eyes,
    yet he’ll stand with me (to my relief!)
    before the Editor-In-Chief.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 8, 2020 at 6:57 am #

      Andrew, I am so happy to learn, and through such lovely poetry indeed, that you have found an agent! Way to go! Keep us posted about your book.

  5. Roberta Sarver May 7, 2020 at 7:15 am #

    Tamela, you’ve done such a great job reassuring us that agents really are interested in what’s best for us. That’s what I like about the Steve Laube agency; you’re all that way. Thanks!

  6. Carolyn Hill May 7, 2020 at 7:30 am #

    Thanks Tamela. Great advice and I’m so happy I have you.

  7. Martha Rogers May 7, 2020 at 8:00 am #

    Excellent post, Tamela. One reason I love this agency is the great advice and information as well as the warm, personal relationship with you. All the agents are great supporters of their authors.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 8, 2020 at 6:59 am #

      Thank you, Martha. I’m honored to have shared a lovely friendship with you for decades! You are always a blessing.

  8. Amber Schamel Lemus May 7, 2020 at 11:01 am #

    Great reminders. Thank you for answering our questions, Tamela.
    God bless!

  9. Karen Sprague May 7, 2020 at 4:05 pm #

    Hello Tamela. What do you think about having a literary agent based in California or New York? I haven’t been able to find a literary agent in Albuquerque or Santa Fe.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 8, 2020 at 6:54 am #

      Karen, with teleworking being the norm for many agents, including myself, location doesn’t determine effectiveness.

      Rather, look for someone you’d like to work with. Look for a person who can bring your work to editors who want to learn about you because your book is the type they want to publish.

  10. Laura May 19, 2020 at 8:55 am #

    Hey, Tamela! Great blog. Thank you.

    I have a question. Will Steve Laube schedule appointments at Realm Makers this year? I was informed he would, but he’s not listed on the site as doing that.

    Thank you for your help.

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