Recently one of my writer friends got a message from an agent. This agent had seen her work on a Twitter pitch event and wanted to consider publishing it. My friend sent me the agents name and wanted to know what I thought. So I did a quick Google search. Sadly, I did not like what I saw.
It isn’t like I’m the boss of all things, but there are things your agent should be able to offer you.
What experience does the agent have? I’m not saying that this person can’t be a new agent. But did they work at a publisher? Are they a former librarian? If they are subbing work for children, experience as a teacher might help. They may also have interned at an agency.
But if there experience is unrelated to publishing, they aren’t going to be able to help you shape your manuscript. They are also going to be lacking in knowledge about how publishing works. They may not have very many . . .
When an agent has a contact, this is likely to be someone that they know personally. They know that Maya likes books with cats while Jenna loathes all things feline. It also means that when the send a manuscript to someone, this person is more likely to pay attention.
A new agent may be lacking in contacts but if they are part of a larger agency they can benefit from the experience and the contacts of their fellow agents. That’s good because it is often easier to sign on with a less experienced agent.
One of these things is the ability to submit work to closed houses. Before you submit your work to an agent, check out their recent successes. Then check out the publishers they list.
If every single publisher is small or regional, if they don’t offer an advance, if they are open to queries from writers, think again. I’m not saying that an agent can’t sell to a small, regional publisher. They are NOT forbidden to sell work to publishers that have open submissions.
But if this is all their sales, you can do that yourself.
An agent doesn’t have to have 30 years of experience and 300 sales to be worth your while. But they do need to bring something to the relationship that you don’t have on your own. Just a little something to consider as you are scouring the internet for agents who are accepting clients.