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How to Find an Agent © Phyllis J. Towzey 2014. Welcome to Module Four By now you’ve put together a list of at least 20 potential agents to target. In.

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Presentation on theme: "How to Find an Agent © Phyllis J. Towzey 2014. Welcome to Module Four By now you’ve put together a list of at least 20 potential agents to target. In."— Presentation transcript:

1 How to Find an Agent © Phyllis J. Towzey 2014

2 Welcome to Module Four By now you’ve put together a list of at least 20 potential agents to target. In Module Four we’ll discuss how to research and vet those agents before moving on to the query stage.

3 What we’ll cover How to begin the Agent Search: Questions to ask yourself How do you identify agents to target? Some bad advice and why it’s bad Doing your research

4 Module Four: Research The first question is, when should you be doing your research on your agent list? The answer is: BEFORE YOU QUERY I am shocked how many times on various writer loops I see writers asking for basic information about an agent – prefaced by the statement “I just got a request from this agent...” How did that happen? How could an agent you know next to nothing about send you a request? The obvious answer is, because you sent the agent a query!

5 Finding an agent is not fast It’s not something you want to rush into as if you were running out of time. It can take months – even years – to find an agent (sorry but that’s true) The way to shorten that time is to be efficient and methodical – NOT to race to send out queries to agents you haven’t vetted.

6 What no-no’s are you looking for when you research? Agents who charge fees

7 Show me the money An agent gets a % when they sell your book – NOT an upfront fee from you before they sell your book If an agent is working under any business model other than the one described above, you may be dealing with someone who is not on the up and up. The standard in the industry is for agent to get 15% of whatever monies you receive, in the form of advances or royalties, for the sale of your book.

8 Types of fees DO NOT consider an agent who charges clients: A “reading” fee (i.e. you pay them to read and consider your submission) A fee for editing services paid to the agent or to an affiliate An upfront charge to cover routine copies and mailing (this is their cost of doing business, not yours) A “marketing” fee or fee for other “adjunct” services It’s ok if the agent charges for these expenses: Out-of-the-ordinary mailing expenses (to be paid later from your sales proceeds)

9 What no-no’s are you looking for when you research? Agents who charge fees Scam artists

10 Scam artists will steal your money, not sell your book They are out to steal your money. They have no intention of selling your book. They will try to trick you into paying exorbitant fees, and make promises that are not true.

11 What no-no’s are you looking for when you research? Agents who charge fees Scam artists Conflicts of interest

12 Agent agentpublisher critique service editing service

13 Conflict of Interest There is a real potential for a conflict of interest if an agent also operates as a publisher. Historically agents who were also publishers were running scams – placing their clients in agent-owned vanity presses for a large fee. Today, with the increasing popularity of ePublishing, some reputable agents have moved into ePublishing in order to publish their successful authors’ backlists. There is nothing wrong with that. However, be very careful when dealing with an agency that also has a publishing arm. If the agent is making recommendations to you about whether to go with the agency’s publishing house or an outside house, there is a conflict of interest. Likewise, if an agent is offering you editorial or critique services through a related entity for a fee, be careful. Does your manuscript need that service? Or does the agent just need your business?

14 What no-no’s are you looking for when you research? Agents who charge fees Scam artists Conflicts of interest Ineptitude

15 Lazy, Inexperienced, or Just Plain Clueless Not all “bad” agents are scam artists or greedy fee-chargers. Some are well-meaning people who don’t have any industry experience and thought it would easy to be a literary agent. It isn’t. Others treat it as a hobby not a job, and are big on schmoozing at conferences but not so big on making actual sales. Their lack of experience can really hurt you, not only by slowing down your career by not knowing how to make a sale, but also by giving you bad advice, and, in the event a sale actually is made, allowing you to sign a really bad contract with a publisher.

16 Take a chance on me... Does this mean you should never take a chance on a new agent? No, but you should think very carefully about it, and consider the following factors – Does the agent have experience in the publishing industry? Often former editors switch careers to become agents, and get up to speed very quickly. Sometimes literary attorneys become agents as well, and do have related experience. Is the agent in a larger agency where there are mentors? In that case, lack of experience isn’t as much an issue. Does the agent have any history of sales? Are there published authors who are represented by the agent?

17 What no-no’s are you looking for when you research? Agents who charge fees Scam artists Conflicts of interest Ineptitude Just not a good fit

18 Different strokes for different folks Sometimes it isn’t a question of the agent being a “bad” agent at all. Another important role research plays is helping you learn more information about the agents you are considering querying BEFORE you send out that query. Your research could tell you any number of things – reading a blog by the agent might reveal that you don’t like their style of communicating, or reveal that they have an aversion to reunion stories set on beaches... which is exactly what you write. Research helps you narrow your list, removing not only the “bad” agents but also the agents who may be great for someone else, but just aren’t right for you.

19 A great resource: Writer Beware Here is one of the best sources I’ve seen for information on what to avoid when you are looking for an agent: beware/agents/ beware/agents/ Take time to read through the explanations and examples. It will be time well spent in preparing for what we’ll be doing next: learning specific steps to take to research your target agent list.

20 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors Predators and Editors is a website that lists and rates agents/agencies. First, go to the website then click on “Rating Criteria” and review the section on Agents:

21 Assignment Now, go back to the main link I gave you. ed.com/pubagent.htmhttp://pred- ed.com/pubagent.htm Agents and agencies are listed alphabetically on P&E (Agents are alphabetized by first name, not last name). I’m going to give you a list of agents to search. See what you can find out just by checking their rating: Chris Robins – Kristin Nelson – Jennifer Jackson Jennifer Etherton – Mary Louise Schwartz – Lori Perkins Desert Rose Literary Agency – Elaine English

22 What did you learn? Post to the loop and tell us what kind of information you learned about these agents BUT DON’T USE THEIR NAMES – USE THEIR INITIALS to identify them to the rest of us – remember, we are posting on an online loop and we don’t want to take the chance that our comments are taken out of context and copied If these 8 agents were all on your target list, would you have eliminated any of them already? Remember, our research is just beginning!

23 Assignment Now it’s time to use your list of potential target agents you’ve identified. You should have at least 20 names to work with. Go through your list and check every name on P&E. Did you find anything that concerned you? Did you find anything that encouraged you? Make a note and hang onto that list!

24 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors  AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler Now that you’ve checked P&E, Absolute Water Cooler is your next stop. Here’s the link:

25 AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler You can join this site if you want to post on it, but you don’t need to join in order to do searches It’s a discussion board / forum where people post about their experiences with various agents. To do a search go down to the very bottom left-hand side and you will see a block to enter a custom Google search inside the forum. All you have to do there is type in an agent’s name and hit GO. CAUTION: Search results are oldest first, so make sure you don’t read a few posts and conclude an agent is fine. They may well have been fine... in 2005! You need to read everything. Another CAUTION: These are comments by individual writers. Like literary reviews, they can be subjective. And they could also be biased. One negative comment shouldn’t make you eliminate an agent from your list. But if you read multiple bad posts about an agent, that’s certainly not a good sign.

26 Assignment Now, let’s take that same list of agents I gave you for P&E, and search them on AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler See what you can find out by checking the comments other writers have made about these agents: Chris Robins – Kristin Nelson – Jennifer Jackson Jennifer Etherton – Mary Louise Schwartz – Lori Perkins Desert Rose Literary Agency – Elaine English

27 What did you learn? Post to the loop and tell us what kind of information you learned about these agents BUT DON’T USE THEIR NAMES – USE THEIR INITIALS to identify them to the rest of us – remember, we are posting on an online loop and we don’t want to take the chance that our comments are taken out of context and copied This is particularly true of this information because it’s just hearsay from other writers – it may or may not be true If these 8 agents were all on your target list, would you have eliminated any of them already? Remember, we’ve got lots more research to do!

28 Assignment Get out your list of potential target agents you’ve identified. Go through your list and check every name on AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler. This may take awhile – sometimes there’s a lot to read, but it’s important to go through it carefully. Did you find anything that concerned you? Did you find anything that encouraged you? Make a note and hang onto that list!

29 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors  AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler  Loops... maybe Can you vet an agent by asking about them on one of your writers’ loops? Sometimes, but you have to be careful.

30 When you talk about specific agents on your writing loops Discussions can go from info sharing to gossiping And you never know who is lurking & repeating

31 A better strategy on loops Single out a few writers you know on the loop and whose opinions you trust and them privately Post on the loop at most a statement asking if anyone who’s had experience working with Agent A would please contact you OFF-LOOP.

32 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors  AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler  Loops... Maybe  Publisher’s Marketplace... Definitely

33 Publisher’s Marketplace As I mentioned previously, a membership to Publisher’s Marketplace is an invaluable tool in identifying agents who are actively selling in your genre. It’s also a wonderful tool for researching potential agents you’ve identified to query. If you’ve subscribed (as I recommended) you have the full searchable database available to you. Again, to subscribe to the paid membership, go to: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/register/

34 Publisher’s Marketplace Even without a subscription, though, you can still do a limited search of agents. It will pull up that agent’s page at PM (if they have one), and will also pull highlights from mentions in the free newsletter service, Publisher’s Lunch. To search, go to this link, and on the right-hand side, part way down the page, you’ll see a search box where you can type the agent’s name and see what comes up

35 Assignment Now, let’s take that same list of agents I gave you for P&E and AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler, and search then on Publisher’s Marketplace, either through your paid subscription (this will give you info on all their reported sales*) or through the free search (will still give you some information). * Note: Not every agent reports all their sales to PM. If the agent chooses not to report it, it won’t be there. See what you can find out about these agents: Chris Robins – Kristin Nelson – Jennifer Jackson Jennifer Etherton – Mary Louise Schwartz – Lori Perkins Desert Rose Literary Agency – Elaine English

36 What did you learn? Post to the loop and tell us what kind of information you learned about these agents REMEMBER DON’T USE THEIR NAMES – USE THEIR INITIALS to identify them to the rest of us. We can speak more freely about what the info means if we are not using their full names. If these 8 agents were all on your target list, would you have eliminated any of them already? And we’re still not done researching!

37 Assignment Now get out your list again of potential target agents you’ve identified. Go through your list and research them all on Publisher’s Marketplace Remember, you aren’t just looking for the bad stuff – you are looking for any relevant details about the agent Did you find anything that concerned you? Did you find anything that encouraged you? Make detailed notes and hang onto that list!

38 By now you should have some good info on your list The information you are compiling from your research doesn’t just help you eliminate agents from your list – it also helps you rank the ones you’ve selected in order of preference. Your research is helping you narrow down which agents might be the best fit for you. Those are the ones you will query first.

39 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors  AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler  Loops... Maybe  Publisher’s Marketplace... Definitely  Google

40 Hello again to our good friend Google It’s amazing how much information you can glean through a simple search on Google. Try Googling the same old 8 agent names I gave you before. Get creative. Add other terms to your search after their names. Even as simple as “positive” or “negative” can yield a result. Name+agent+adjective Chris Robins – Kristin Nelson – Jennifer Jackson Jennifer Etherton – Mary Louise Schwartz – Lori Perkins Desert Rose Literary Agency – Elaine English

41 Assignment Now get out your list again of potential target agents you’ve identified. Go through your list and Google them, adding adjectives to get narrower results. Remember, you aren’t just looking for the bad stuff – you are looking for any relevant details about the agent Did you find anything that concerned you? Did you find anything that encouraged you? Make detailed notes and hang onto that list!

42 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors  AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler  Loops... Maybe  Publisher’s Marketplace... Definitely  Google  Websites, Blogs and Interviews

43 Websites, Blogs and Interviews Go to websites, blogs and interviews to learn more about the agents on your list. A good first stop is the Agency website. Check if the agent has a blog as well. When you are Googling, pay attention to articles and blogs where the agent was interviewed. Those can give you better insight into the agent’s interests. See if other writers have blogged about the agent. But make sure you check WHEN the blog was written. Everyone loves their agent the day they sign with her/him. It might not be the same 2 years later!

44 How to Research Agents Here are some specific steps you can take to research your list of potential agents:  Predators and Editors  AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler  Loops... Maybe  Publisher’s Marketplace... Definitely  Google  Websites, Blogs and Interviews  Conferences

45 Conferences

46 Provide formal and informal settings to observe and interact with agents whom you have already identified You can listen to them speak on panels, or present workshops At smaller, regional conferences you may have a chance to interact socially Even if you are not ready to pitch yet, just observing (not stalking) an agent at a conference can help you decide if this is someone you might want to work with Remember – finding the right agent takes time. Start thinking about it now even if your book isn’t anywhere near ready to submit. Your job now is to gather as much information as possible about agents you may send a query to later.

47 Assignment Now that you have come this far in your research, review the comments you’ve noted about each agent on your list. Go back and pull out the full list of ‘wants’ and ‘don’t wants’ you put together in Module One, and compare that to what you’ve learned about these agents. Now organize the agents in a list from most wanted down, eliminating any agents you’ve now decided would not be a good fit for you. If your list has less than 10 names remaining, go back to Module Two and find more agents, then vet them using Module Four. When you have at least 10 solid researched agents on your list, you are ready to move on to Module Five.


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