What Do You Want in a Literary Agent?

What Do You Want in a Literary Agent?

For those of you who are querying agents, have you thought about why you’re doing this? Knowing why you want an agent and what you expect out of him/her could help you decide who to query and whose offer to accept when the time comes.

Take a look at the following questions and see what you’re really looking for in an agent.

Note: There are no right or wrong answers and no score at the end. These questions are to help fiction authors think about what it is they need in an agent/author relationship.

1. Do you want an editorial agent? If so, why? If not, why not?
Some writers want to have an editorial agent who will help them polish their work before they submit to editors. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to send the agent your first draft. You still have to do most of the editing work yourself. However, some writers don’t want their agent to critique their work because between the agent’s opinion and the editor’s feedback, it can feel overwhelming with too many cooks in the kitchen.

2. Do you want a new agent, an established agent, or someone in the middle?
New agents are still learning and might not have the connections that others have. However, they’ll have a lot of time and will be hungry. They’ll work extra hard for you to prove themselves and build their reputation. If they’re with an agency (and not on their own), other agents there might mentor them and be available when they get stuck. An established agent might be able to get you a better deal, but he/she might not have time for you. Which brings me to my next question.

3. Are you looking for a partner who will work with you? Or do you prefer to have someone to work for you? What’s the difference? Working with you means you and the agent will discuss options for your career. Working for you might mean you’re more interested in having the agent focus on the sales and royalty collection while you concentrate on your writing. In other words, some people want to communicate with their agents and others don’t want to be bothered unless something important comes up.

Note: Just a reminder, there are no wrong answers. You need to understand what kind of a relationship you want with your agent.

A part of understanding who will be a good fit for you is to know your vision for your career. Granted, this might change, but it’s good to have an idea in mind.

4. Are you planning on writing solely in one genre? If yes, why? If not, why not and in what other genre(s) do you want to write?

5. Do you want to only be traditionally published? Or do you want to be a hybrid (both traditionally and self-published)?

6. Are you able to produce one or more polished novels in a year? Did it take you ten years to complete the first book, and will it take another ten to finish the next? In other words, are you looking for an agent to represent this book and this book only? Or do you want someone who will be there during your career and help you sell as many books as you can pump out?

What other questions should you ask yourself before querying an agent?

Editing Update: I’ve added a new service to my website: developmental editing. I now offer three types of editing services for full manuscripts: a manuscript evaluation report, developmental editing, and a developmental/line editing combo.

My next available slot is February 13. Book now.

Lynnette Labelle
2016 Daphne du Maurier 2nd Place Winner

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