A Big Thank You

A big thank you for taking time to check out my humble blog. A thousand views is a big encouragement to help me keep going to find the right literary agent and, eventually, a publisher. Before you congratulate me, among these 1,000 views are a few dedicated followers, including me. Perhaps this blog has had only 750 unique views? Still, it gives me an opportunity to share my writing journey. Yes, I could give up the search for an agent and self-publish again. However, I feel compelled to partner with an agent to help produce a book with a far greater reach. As my professional editor said, “I have a good feeling about this book.” I hope she’s right.

What makes a good literary agent?

I had to laugh when I made this new post. Why? because, I don’t yet have a literary agent for my new thriller. However, I worked closely with a publishing editor (MacMillan’s) and enjoyed this list—edited from an article by Nathan Bransford (link here).

1. Your literary agent should have a proven track record of sales and/or works at a reputable agency

This is far from the only criteria for determining whether you have a good agent, but it’s a mandatory starting place. A good agent should have either a track record of sales to major publishers or have a good deal of experience cutting their teeth at a reputable agency or both.

2. Your literary agent should be a good communicator

When you have a question, your agent answers. When you ask for something, your agent delivers. When you want to have a serious conversation, the agent is there to have it. A good agent doesn’t dodge, doesn’t hide, is straightforward with you and tells you things you may not always want to hear. If you feel like you are constantly pulling teeth to get the most basic questions answered, you may not have a good agent. The communications lines need to be open between author and agent.

3. Your literary agent should be able to explain every question you have about your contract or your royalty statements

Publishing contract clauses can be confusing, royalty statements borderline indecipherable. Your agent should know exactly what they mean and be able to explain them to you.

4. Your literary agent is completely ethical in how they approach their job

A good agent will act ethically and advise you to act ethically. If you see your agent act unethically it’s only a matter of time until you’re on the receiving end.

Know your rights as an author.

5. Your literary agent should pay you on time and send you contracts in a timely fashion

Most agents have clauses that stipulate that publishers send payments to them, then they take their commission and send you the balance. This is normal. However, that means it’s all the more important that they send your payments and contracts to you on time. Be very wary if you encounter delays.

6. Your literary agent charges you a commission of 15% on domestic contracts, 20% on foreign contracts, and deducts very transparently for reasonable expenses like postage and copying

No agent should charge you up front. They only make money when you make money and only charge you separately for things like foreign postage and manuscript copying.

7. You feel comfortable

This is key and was the determining factor when I worked with Macmillan Publishers. My editor was available, professional, keen and helpful. I trusted her. In the same way, you have to trust your literary agent. You have to have a good feeling about them. At the end of the day, having a bad agent is worse than having no agent. You have to be able to have faith that your agent has your best interests at heart and is good for your career.

Refreshing Agency Submission

It was refreshing to come across a literary agency who requested, along with my query letter, the full manuscript. Why so? Because, how often only the first few chapters or, say, 50 pages is asked for. By asking for the full manuscript an agent can flip through a few different chapters to get a better sense of the author’s style, etc. From a personal perspective, my early chapters are important to  give the setting and introduce characters, while later chapters add more depth and increased tension, etc. By asking for the entire book, it saves time. The agent can skim through a book that they are considering without going back to the author and asking for it, and perhaps raising false hopes for representation.

Well done to this agency for a full request!

I feel like a ribbon on a kite

The more I listen to (literary) agents the more I feel like a ribbon on a kite. Which way does the wind blow today?” Many will identify with this comment. After all, one day you Query Letter is not up to the task, the next your word count is too low; another day you chose the wrong sub—genre, and the next you made a grammatical error.

One thing you need to keep reminding yourself is that the ‘answer is blowing in the wind.’ Just hang on to that kite!

Like you, I am hoping that the wind will blow my way. I have published before, have self-published, have a couple of blogs going and believe in the book I have finished enough to stay clinging to the tail of the kite I am chasing!

Avoid Author Blues by having no fixed timeframe to find your literary agent

During the Vietnam War, POWs who said, “We will be out by Christmas” were more likely to suffer from severe depression than those who said (or thought) “We will get out sometime.” Now, as a writer, it can be a long time before you land a suitable literary agent. The moral? Don’t expect to find the right one in a specific timeframe. Just spend quality time to find the one who suits you, your book, and your future writing career. Good advice from the Vets.

The Search for a Literary Agent

Searching for a Literary Agent is a bit like looking for your home in a snow storm. Why ‘home’? Because I am looking for an agent who fits me—who enjoys my writing and connects with me and wants to promote my work; the kind of agent who would feel comfortable at my place, and enjoy my company and conversation. For the textbook I wrote, the agent (and publisher) was professional, yet warm, and had a sense of purpose with humour. I liked that and it helped me stay on track and meet deadlines. Do I have an agent for my new book? Not yet, but I am hopeful for one soon. You, dear follower, will be the first to know! Meanwhile, I keep looking, which involves researching potential agents—looking up their profiles and youtube videos and twitter accounts, etc. to find the right fit. More on agent searching soon!

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