My Opinion of Literary Agents

Okay, so I hope I don’t get in trouble here. I”m going to tread lightly because the publishing community is not as big as you think it is and yes – editors and agents do talk and if you make a negative impression it can have a ripple effect!

Most authors would love a big publishing contract and an advance for the fabulous novel they have penned. Many of us know that either you need to get to a conference or send a ton of perfectly penned query letters.

So if you query an agent via email or snail mail, how are you going to know they are the right agent for you? I mean, sure, they need to love your work, but the fact is, at some point you may need to talk or even meet this exalted personage that would hold your career in his or her hands. Are you going to trust them based on a great blog?

Here’s my opinion having met some agents over the past year and having friendly (meaning I wasn’t pitching a book to them) conversations with them.

When you get an agent – YOU are hiring them. Yes, they have to decide to take the job and you need to make sure you hire someone who is going to do it well, but more important, I think, is: you need to like them. They need to support your goals and desires as an author.

Last year I pitched at some conferences and sure it would be nice to have an agent selling my remarkably brilliant books on my behalf. But I encountered the reality. Some agents are just not nice. Either that or it was a serious personality mismatch. Or maybe they were just having a REALLY bad day. One gave me a fake smile as she nodded her head and gave me her advice. It was obviously not a match for either of us. Another was worse. She wasted no time trashing my work (without reading a word of it) and telling me I would be better off self-pubbing because no one would want to buy it except in e-book form. (this was a non-fiction book proposal). The woman was snotty, condescending and my hackles (whatever those are) bristled with irritation.

Someone else contracted the book and I’m happy with that publisher. Up side – I don’t have to share my royalties with an agent.

I’ve met other agents who are not a fit for me with what they contract – but they are super people and if they did match up with what I write – I would be thrilled to work with them because they were genuine and interested in who I was as a person – aside from any book. I don’t expect an agent to be my best friend, but I would at least like them to “get” me and even, say, like me? I wouldn’t trust someone who couldn’t accept my quirky personality and that I couldn’t hold a civil conversation with.

Don’t let your pursuit of an agent lead you to jump where you don’t have some level of ease in relating with the individual. Sure, reputation is important, but this is a relationship that you hope will go on for  quite some time and you are paying that person to work for you. If they don’t really like you, can you expect they will do their best for you?

Do you have an agent? What do you think is key about that relationship? Are you looking for one? What has been your experience with the process so far?

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4 thoughts on “My Opinion of Literary Agents

  1. My third book is about to be released (July 16th). I don’t have an agent. Never met one, never subbed to one. It’s only my publisher and me. It’s a small house, but they are brilliant people who lavish attention and enthusiasm on my books and me. I’d make the same choice again, if I had to. Getting no advance and going the slow way with someone you get along with, who LOVES your books, is so, so much nicer than being one of many at a big house, or with an agent who only sees the $$$ in your work. (If you want to know, my publisher is US based Buddhapuss Ink LLC. their offices are my new home.)

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