So, on Monday I promised you a post about some of the things to look for in an agent. I'm not going to attempt to talk about EVERYTHING there is to know on the subject in one post, because it would take waaaay too long. There are some great resources out there if you do your research, including agency blogs. But I will touch on some of the "big" ones (at least for me). Also, thank you for your comments and questions - there were some really good ones. I will definitely have a lot to think about for Friday's answer post. And make sure and spread the word, you can still enter the contest by commenting on Monday's post for the chance to win one of two query critiques!
So, on to the post. Here are some of the important things to look for in a prospective agent.
First of all, make a list. Actually write it down, figure out what questions you want to ask and have them with you. On paper. Not just in your head. I had a list of questions printed off for when I got the call, and I'm glad I did! I never would have been able to remember everything I wanted to ask otherwise. Having all of those answers was very important when I was trying to make my decision.
Now that you have your paper and pen (or laptop) handy, here are a few things to think about asking:
What are your thoughts on my book? What did you love? What didn't you like and think needs revising? (Or something like this... basically, you need to know what his/her vision is for your book and what they have in mind for revisions.) If you sign on the dotted line without even knowing what you're getting, the revision process with your new agent might end up being brutally painful. You need to agree with your agent's vision for the book--or rather, he/she needs to have a similar vision to yours. If you feel extremely uncomfortable with what they think you need to do with the story, they might not be the right fit. When I say uncomfortable, I mean as in they don't understand my book at all -- not, whoa, that makes sense but it's going to be really, really hard. If you agree with what they have to say, even if it's hard, that's not a deal killer. Their job is to make your writing better so it will sell.
What is your communication style? (prefer email, phone, etc.) How often can I expect to hear from you while we're revising, or on submission? You need to be honest with yourself about how much communication you need from your agent, and how you want it to happen. If you really only like to talk on the phone, and want updates often, but your agent is all about emails and only when absolutely necessary, that might cause you a lot of stress and put a strain on your professional relationship. Make sure your agent communicates in a way that will keep you calm and satisfied. Now, obviously, you can't expect to have their whole world revolve around you. They actually have a job that involves (gasp!) many other authors that also need their time and attention and you might not always be the top of the list. But when it's really important, you should be. Knowing what to expect up front can really help you plan on what will work best for both of you. Your agent will appreciate knowing what you like and hope for as well, so he/she can do their best to communicate well with you.
What are you plans for revising my book? Where do you envision yourself submitting it? How widely do you plan to do your submissions? These type of questions will help you get an idea of what the agent's plans are for your book. If he/she doesn't really have any editors/houses in mind already, that should be a warning sign. Most agents will already know who they're planning on submitting the book to when they offer to sign an author. The reason they want to sign you is because they believe they can sell it. Also, by asking how widely they plan on submitting, you can get an idea of their submitting style. Do they like to submit to only a few editors at a time? Or to 10 editors or so every round? What would you prefer? Talk it over with them, to make sure you feel good about their plan.
So, these are just a few of the things that I would say are the most important things to find out about a prospective agent. Remember, at this point, you are "hiring" them. You are choosing the person who will work with you, and hopefully fight for your book(s) until they sell. Choose wisely. So what do you think? How's your list coming along?