Since I’m looking for an agent, I’m paying more attention to what other people have to say about their own agent searches. There are a lot of great agents out there but there are also people who call themselves agents but don’t get the job done. Here are some warning signs.
First things first, just check for “official” recognition. As with many professions, agents have a professional organization. Is the agent or their agency a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR)? Go here to search for agents or agencies.
Does this agent charge a reading fee? If so, scratch that name right off your list. Money should go to the author not the other way around. The agent gets paid when he or she sells your work, not before then. Reading fees are a bad, bad sign.
Who do they work with? This is a two-fold question. First things first, I’m suspicious when an agent won’t name clients. That makes me wonder if the so-called agent has clients.
But also check to see who publishes their clients work. You want an agent who can open doors that you can’t. A friend of mine was offered representation by an agent who would only submit her work to open houses, places that will take unsolicited material from the authors themselves. Again, that’s a good time to say adios.
Also, pay attention if someone to that uneasy feeling that you get when you look into someone. A friend recommended an agent she had met at a conference. Remember, anyone with a checking account can attend a conference. I checked the agents website and . . . something just wasn’t right. It didn’t feel professional. I never could put my finger on it but it turned out that this person was taking in manuscripts and then nothing. No one really knows what happened but she wasn’t sending work out, had no relationships with publishers, etc.
I don’t think I’m an overly suspicious person but there are people out there who are more than ready to take advantage of an unsuspecting writer. Check an agent out and if they aren’t listed with the AAR, want money to read your work, don’t seem to have clients or ins with publishers or just make you squirm, pick up your things and leave the table.