One of my students recently came to me asking about finding an agent for her work. She is working on a pair of nonfiction manuscripts for teens and several fiction picture books. Should she look for an agent? Should she look for an agent who can represent both types of work? I thought our discussion might benefit other writers.
What Are Your Goals?
The first thing to consider are your goals. In part, this is a question about where you want to submit your work. Look at your dream publishers. Do they take unagented work? If so, you don’t need an agent.
The same holds true if you want to publish online or use some kind of hybrid model. If you can do it without an agent you don’t need an agent.
Do You Want an Agent?
Even if they can submit their work without an agent, some authors just aren’t comfortable reviewing contracts or approaching publishers. If reviewing contracts is what bothers you, you can pay a lawyer to do this for you.
Some authors simply want someone with marketing know-how and access to closed publishers. If that describes you, look for an agent.
What Do They Rep?
Once you’ve decided that you need an agent, you need to start looking at various agents and what they represent. I find agents by reading newsletters, interviews, and blogs.
If an agent intrigues me, then I look at what they represent. If you write more than one type of book, you can try to find someone who covers both of your interests. Other people work with multiple agents, each agent representing a different types of book.
That doesn’t interest me, so I’m taking the first approach, trying to find someone who represents everything I write. Failing that, I’ll look for an agency that represents all that I write.
As with many things in publishing, there is no one answer. You simply have to find the answer that works for you.