I’m going to be submitting to agents and editors in the next few weeks, after I’ve done a few more tweaks to my manuscript and managed to write a good query letter (which will probably take just as long as it took to write the novel), so it’s a good reminder from literary agent Kristin Nelson to beware when finding a good agent.
Kristin wrote a blog post this week reminding us about the great work of the Writer Beware and Predators & Editors sites. These sites are must-visits when we’re compiling lists of agents we want to send to.
When we’re looking for an agent to represent our work, we should not be looking for someone to sell this one project; we should be looking for someone who can be our partner, our advocate for the rest of our career — a long career. We should be as picky about who our agent should be as agents are about their clients. We should research lists of agents (start with the various books and web sites); research their latest sales on their websites (if they have one) and through Publishers Marketplace (you have to subscribe, but the small fee is worth it). Research the types of books they have sold already, who their clients are and what they’re looking for. Read as many interviews with them as you can find. Go to conferences and watch them speak. All this will help you figure out a good list of agents that you think you can work with. Also, don’t submit unless your type of manuscript is on their list of wants.
Now, figuring that out doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll automatically be a good match. The agents might not get into your work as well as you’d hope. But that’s ok, because someone else will. You just keep sending to others on the list. (This is, of course, after you’ve made sure your manuscript is in publishable state, after being read at critique groups, etc.)
Once you’ve done all this research, don’t burn your bridges if the agent you think you’d love to work with rejects your manuscript. Don’t do what some people have done to agent Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown. Don’t email the agent back cursing at the agent. For one thing, it’s rude and unprofessional. For another, you’ve lost your chance with that agent and potentially with others. They know each other.
Remember, this is your career, your book. And you want to give that book the best opportunity it can. Do your research, then be polite and professional. You’ll attract much more with honey than vinegar. It’s cliche but true.