How Do You Pick Out an Agent?

Which agent will get your work through the door? (Photo taken at Missouri Botanical Garden by SueBE, 2012)

I so love marketing myself and my work that lately I’ve been noodling over trying to get an agent.  Seriously, we all know it isn’t because I love marketing, but simply because I understand what an agent could do for me.  The benefits — more sales, access to closed houses, better contracts — is obvious.   What isn’t obvious is which agents I should consider.

Researching agents is a lot like researching publishers.  Here are some of the things that I’m looking for as I read up on various agents…

Does this agent represent a variety of works?  This may not be a good thing, but I write a wide variety of material.  While the majority of my published work has been nonfiction, I’m also writing fiction.  Add to this the fact that my manuscripts cover child readers from the picture book crowd to young adult.  While an agent will probably tell me to focus, at least for now, I would like an agent who will take a look at everything before pointing me down one particular path.

In addition to genre, what kinds of books does this agent like?  The importance of this has become obvious as I look at the agents my friends are considering.  I’m seeing angst ridden YA novels which are just dandy if that’s what you write.  Me?  I do angst well enough once I leave my desk.  I don’t want to write about it too.  Sweet, precious picture books are another issue.  I’ve got a fairly warped sense of humor.  I suspect that I give the precious hives. I’m going to have to find an agent who can appreciate how I see the world.

What publishers are their clients published through.  Recently a friend was approached by an agent who only sold her client’s books to open houses.  Since these are houses I could approach on my own, this isn’t a huge benefit.  Yes, I’d still have someone to negotiate for me, but I want someone to approach a wider range of publishers goo.

So far, those are my biggest concerns.  Right now I’m reading about agents and requesting their books.  Once I do that, my list of priorities may change a bit.

What have you been looking for in an agent?