Each agent has different skills, experience, and strengths, and specific types of writing he or she represents. Prior to approaching and pitching an agent, you need to carefully conduct research to determine which ones are the best fit for your style, personality, needs, and genre.
Questions to Consider When Evaluating which Agents to Approach:
How important is an agent’s experience?
An effective agent is one who has established strong contacts with publishers and editors, understands how to negotiate contracts and sell subsidiary rights, and who can work well with writers.
Would you prefer to work with a large, medium, or small agency?
Large agencies focus on commercial properties with additional revenue potential. Small agencies tend to be more receptive to first-time writers and projects that are less profitable.
Does the agent represent nonfiction and does the agent represent your specific sub-category within your genre?
It is essential to only approach agents who represent your genre and sub-category.
How many deals has the agent made in her career?
>An agent who has sold two books has less experience and sales ability than an agent who has sold 200 books.
How many deals has she brokered recently?
An agent who has only sold 25 books in her career, but 15 of them were sold in the past year, may be a better choice for representation than an agent who has sold 200 books in her career, but only sold one within the last 12 months.
What kind of publishers has she brokered deals with?
Ideally you want to work with an agent who brokers most of her sales with major publishers. Major publishers pay higher advances, print more copies of your book, acquire the best distribution, and have larger promotional budgets.
What kinds of advances has she negotiated?
Advances vary widely depending on the type of book, which publisher bought it, and the size of the author’s platform. Advances range from $5,000 to $500,000. If the agent you are considering consistently acquires advances in the lower range, she may lack experience or negotiating skills.
Do you recognize the authors the agent represents?
If you are assessing the viability of a new agent, you may not recognize the names of the authors she represents. But if the agent is well established you should know a few of the writers on her client list.
Are you a good match for the agent’s client list?
Are the agent’s clients synergistic with you and your work?
Is the agent receptive to new clients and new writers?
You need an agent who is actively looking for new clients.
Laura Cross is a writer/author, producer and founder of Rebel Seed Studio - an independent film production company, book publisher, and podcast network. Laura has worked as an author-strategist and professional ghostwriter of narrative nonfiction and how-to books. She is the author of the books EXPERT AUTHOR: Turn Your Expertise into a Profitable Business, Self-Help or How-To Book and BESTSELLER BOOK PROPOSAL: Develop a Winning Pitch, Acquire a Top Literary Agent and Land a Publishing Deal... Before You Write Your Nonfiction Book.