The best literary agent for you might not be the first person to reply to your query. Read this article to avoid getting stuck with a dud… instead of a dream agent.
I know it’s hard to imagine, but it’s quite possible that the first book agent to offer you representation might not be Mr. Perfect or Ms. Incredible. That’s what happened to one of my author consulting clients now long ago. Scroll below to find out what happened, so you can avoid putting yourself in a similar position.
This article is part of a 7-part series to help you find the Best Book Agent for You.
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The Best Literary Agent for You – Who Is It?
If you’re an aspiring author you’ve probably spent your fair share of time fantasizing about what it’s going to be like when you finally get that fateful call from a literary agency offering you representation:
- Lots of gushing about your work
- Questions about other books you might be working on (or thinking about writing)
- And plenty of speculation about the the kind of advance and awards your book might generate
But what do you do if your first suitor turns out to be something of a loser? It’s easy to think that this would never happen to you, but I’ve seen it happen to lots of authors. More than I’d like to admit.
Who’s the best book agent for you?
Probably not this guy…
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Here are some scenarios I’ve seen:
- The hot shot author representative (number one on your wish list) offers to represent you, but during your first phone call you discover he has an ego the size of Texas and he’s rude. Not the best book agent for you.
- You submit your book to a top ten literary agency, but the best book agent at the agency passes you off to a new junior agent who offers to represent you. Is this the best publishing agent for you?
- Instead of the best book agent at one agency, you accidentally query an inexperienced agent… because you weren’t careful enough during your research. She’s sweet, but only sold a few books to publishers you’ve never heard of. Probably not the best publishing agent for you.
- After a well-established agent offers you a contract, you do a bit more Googling. That’s when you find out he used to work for an editing company with questionable business practices (twenty years ago). Definitely not the best book agent for you.
What would you do if you found yourself in any of those scenarios? Not the best publishing agent for you, but a publishing agent? I know it’s not fun to think about, and you want to tell yourself that it will be different for you. But there’s a chance that you’ll find yourself in a similar situation.
So now is the time to prepare…
What would you do if it wasn’t the best book agent for you that came calling? I’m guessing that you’d probably have a lot of interesting dialogue with yourself…
A bird in the hand is better than one in the bush.
I don’t want to settle.
But it’s so hard to get an agent.
Am I being too picky?
What if I pass on this offer and it turns out to be the only one?
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Case Study – The Best Literary Agent for You
The last time I had to guide an author through a situation like this was a few weeks ago.
She was a novelist.
I helped her write an irresistible query letter, and it was working. Nearly two dozen literary agencies requested sample chapters and/or her complete manuscript over the course of several months.
But none of them took the bait (I’m good, but I’m not God – no matter how good my query letter is, the book still has to do its job).
Finally, after six months, the author got serious interest. Instead of a top book agent, it was someone relatively new. I gave my client (like I always do) a special list of questions to ask that would give us a better idea of the agent’s track record and potential for future success.
My author was underwhelmed.
Turns out the publishing agent had been around for seven years, but only sold fifteen books, mostly to small publishers. The agent also mentioned on his website that he’d worked previously for an editing company. Some Google searches revealed that the editing company had a lot of complaints about questionable business practices.
What would you have done?
My author was 80% through her list of prospective agents, and this was the first literary agency to offer representation.
Was this then the best book agent for the author?
You tell me.
My author pleaded with me to tell her what to do, but that’s not how it works. Deciding whether to work with an agent should be a very personal decision for the author. If I influence an author too much, it will be my decision instead of theirs. Down the road, if the author second-guesses herself or has a bad experience with someone (even it’s someone considered “The Best Literary Agent” …she’s going to blame me.
That doesn’t work for me, because I like to be loved.
So… what did I do?
Well, I talked through all the pros and cons of the author’s situation… helped the author decide if it was the best book agent based on her unique goals and values. She turned down the offer for representation. Even though she didn’t have another eligible agent interested. Even though she knew that signing with that particular agency might be her only shot at success.
What happened next?
I’m not going to tell you, partly because I don’t know (the story is still unfolding). And partly because it doesn’t matter. If and when you find yourself in a similar situation, you’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons of taking the offer… or holding out for someone else who might turn out to be “The Best Book Agent for You” that you were originally hoping for.
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Conclusion – The Best Literary Agent for You
Is the best book agent for you the one that’s offering you representation?
Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.
It depends on how confident you are in your work, and whether you’re willing to hold out until someone better comes along. Of course, that also assumes that someone better is going to come along.
And no, you can’t go back to the agent that you originally rejected several weeks/months later and ask him to take you back.
Publishing is no different than dating.
Finally, if you find yourself wondering whether it’s a good idea to accept an offer from someone you think is the best literary agent for you (or not the best literary agent for you), and you want my help to decide… I can do that.
Click here to schedule a one-hour consulting session with me and hire me as your Publishing and Book Marketing Coach. Just don’t ask me to make your decision for you.
Click here to read the next article in this 7-part series,
and see the 50 Best Literary Agencies.