Does that sound harsh? I know it does when you first hear it. It is almost unthinkable because authors, especially new authors, want to get published so bad that they are coming from an underdog position. Would we dare ask for some background info on an agent that is interested? Well, I am telling you that you better. They are not all what they appear.I remember when I completed my first manuscript. It was one of the best moments of my life. The feeling of accomplishment was euphoric. Not to mention, how excited I was just to be done with the darn thing. Once I got over feeling all proud of myself, I realized that something must be done with it. So, I set off to get the work published. Mind you, at the time, I had no idea what that meant. Honestly, five years later, I am still learning. My lack of knowledge, at the time, left me wide open for all sorts of costly traps and shady characters.
I knew that I needed an agent, so I sought out to get one. Copying, labeling, and mailing off my query letters to any agent I thought remotely fit my work (another mistake). One day I got a great response. Someone was actually interested. I sent off my manuscript with a quickness. Did I mention, I had a nice check attached to it? Needless to say, my manuscript never sold.
Looking back, my novel never should have been “picked up” in the first place. I will admit that it was a complete mess and not even ready for my sympathetic mother to read let alone a literary agent. So how did it get attached to an agent? It didn’t. I, the doe-eyed new author, got swindled out of a pretty penny. However losing my money was not the worst thing that happened- it was thinking that I had a chance (I might have but not with my manuscript in the state it was in) or believing that I was on my way to success.
Every so often, this tip needs to be reiterated via bullhorn to all authors coming into the writing and publishing arena.
Research the agents that you are interested in and, if you are fortunate, are interested in you. Just like the “publishing” companies that send out those letters clamoring for your manuscript, think twice before you rush off and send that check. There is a great website that allows authors to verify agents and agencies for free. This is not a promotion for any of their other services, but just for their free agent verification service. I have used it several times myself and found it to be extremely helpful. I even found my disreputable agent on there. I was crushed. Naturally, I got over it.
Literary Agent Verification is found on Literary Agent Research and Evaluation, http://www.agentresearch.com/. They have quite a few paid services available on there as well. I know nothing about those. However, as agent verification goes, they are a great place to start.
Here are some other basic things to think about when fielding agents for representation:
- Check their client list
- Can you talk to anyone of their clients?
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they represent your genre?
- What deals have they secured?
Don’t get burned by many of the card carry agents or agencies out there solely set up to take your money. Be aware and soak up all you can about the writing and publishing industry.
View some of my other thoughts On Writing