Monthly Archives: July 2010

Working with a Literary Agent

As you can tell, blogging is not something I do very often. Who has the time? Blogging really isn’t on my list of things to do, but I thought I would share a thoughts about my work today.

A Sports Illustrated writer said to me today ” You are the hardest-working¬† (and lobbying) book agent in the biz.”

That kind of praise is something a literary agent doesn’t hear that often. Yes, I have to admit that for the most part, being a literary agent is a thankless job. Sometimes we get acknowledged in a book, or someone sends you a cigar or some scotch, but for the most part we are alone in our tasks.

When you decide if you want to work with a literary agent, there are a few things you should think about.

1. Is this the kind of person I could work with for an extended period of time?  ( up to 2 years)

2. What do I like about this agent? Is it their contacts, or their clients, or the books they have sold? Is it their personality? Their sense of humour? What has drawn me to this person?

3. Sometimes an agent is brutally honest about a prospect’s work. Are you ready to take the good with the bad?

4. When you submit your work you MUST read the tips for submissions that are often displayed on their websites. If you don’t follow those checklists, then chances are you are going to get rejected. There is nothing an agent hates more than a slapped together story with a “could you read this” attached to it. My answer is “NO, I can’t read this because you don’t respect my expertise. If you ignore my standards and submission requirements, I don’t want to spend time with your work.” And even sending a bottle of scotch may not placate me.

5. Treat your agent with respect. Don’t blow off phone meetings, when you book a time to talk to your agent-BE there. There is nothing an agent hates more than calling a client and getting their voice mail.

6. Remember agents don’t get paid until you do. And that can be a year down the road.

So in short, before you contact a literary agent, be very clear on what we do. Working with an agent is tricky. They spend countless hours of unpaid work in the hopes that they can sell your work.So be nice.

And don’t just say you’ll send scotch- go ahead and actually do it.

My gatekeeper will accept all your gifts.

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