Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Part 2
Reasons Why and How to Find & Hire the Right Agent for YOU.
A SlantedK Presentation
By Rita Emmett


The real question is, “How do you find a good, reputable, ethical, hard working agent?”
  • Ask around. If you know anyone who has been published, ask who they might know. Maybe their agent isn’t accepting new talent, but they might be able to give you a lead. A referral from someone who is happy with an agent is a terrific way to find one.
  • At the library or in a bookstore, look through other books in the same category as yours and read acknowledgments for agent names. 
This will tell you several important facts.
1. because the book got published - the agent is hardworking.
2. the agent is kind of nice. The author acknowledges her or him.
3. the agent handles the same category as your book. Go get 'em!!
  • Join or attend a writer’s group and ask for leads. Call your library, local bookstore, or English department of a nearby college; they often know of local writers’ groups. Search the web. There are varieties who meet online. 
  • Search the Association of Author’s Representatives. (
  • Agents who choose NOT to belong to this organization might be unethical and might charge you to read your manuscript. Do not pay an agent to read your manuscript. Another unethical practice you might come across is an agent who says he or she charges only 10% of what your book makes (instead of the usual 15%), but they will charge $300 (or more) per year for marketing and mailing costs. If you pay $300 in exchange for that 5%, do the math. Three hundred dollars is 5% of $6,000. Your book would have to earn an additional 6 grand in order for that 5% your agent is “giving up” to total $300. With this deal, your agent could sit around doing absolutely nothing or work at a full time job doing something else, while collecting $300 per year from a whole bunch of hopeful authors. Be careful.
  • Search online at and
  • Writer’s Market ( This books comes out every year. It lists book publishers, magazines and literary agents and tells you what subjects they deal with, their requirements and information about their pay rates, royalties and advances. The book costs $29.99 (US). 
Most libraries have a copy but it’s a reference book so you have to work with it there, you can’t check it out.  You can also find all this information on line, but I’m a “low-tech woman in this high-tech world” and haven’t figured out how to do that or how much it costs.
One more great thing about this book is that in the front are all kinds of articles about how to approach agents or publishers. I spent a few Sunday afternoons at the library reading these articles from several previous years’ Writer’s Markets, and it was a terrific mini-education.

  • Look through Insider’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman or Literary Agents: A Writer’s Guide by Adam Begley

Before you ever search for an agent, please understand that this is NOT a situation where you "run your idea past her" and ask "So waddya think? Will that be a good book?"
You need to believe in your book with all your heart and soul, and you have to persuade that agent to believe in it also. That way, the agent can start trying to persuade publishers to believe in your book. But the belief, the conviction, the passion must all begin with you.

First, do your homework.
  • If you’ve never taken a writing class and you think you need to brush up on grammar, punctuation or something, do it.  You don't have to pay for College credits. You can take a continuing education course OR ask your local library to offer a writing class.
  • Know formatting. What is single spaced (your letter) or double spaced (your proposal or manuscript), how your margins are set, and so forth. This is something else you’d learn in a writing class or it is spelled out in any writer’s guidebook. I used The Author’s Handbook by Peterson & Kesselman-Turkel, but it’s old and might be out of print. If you don’t own a good writer’s guidelines book, ask your reference librarian or someone in a writers’ group to recommend one. Buy it. Keep it nearby. Use it.
  • Everything you send must be professional & tightly written on clean, good quality paper, 12 point type (Don't try to "trick them" by using a smaller font; !2 pt  is easier on the eyes)
  • Track down names (don’t send to “Dear Agent”) and make sure everything is spelled correctly, especially the names.
  • Before anything, go to their web site. They will tell you how they want you to approach them -- by phone, text, email or snail mail. Read what they want and give them what they want. 
  • Always include an SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) if they want it snail mailed.. Some consider it to be a nice gesture to paper-clip the stamps to the envelope, so if they decide to NOT return it (that’s a good thing!) they can use your stamps for something else.
  • You have the right to ask for names of happy customers. Call them and see what their experiences with this agent have been.
  • Learn about query letters. Study them on line, in class, in a writer's group. Read articles about how to write one. Some of us feel that we spent as much time on our query letter as we did writing the book. That may be an exaggeration, but those of us who say that are the ones who persuaded an agent to represent us. And it is the query that does that job.

That's it. I hope this helps you have a better idea of what agents do and don't do, how to select one, and how to approach them. Wishing you every success in writing.
Rita Emmett
Don't consider your wastebasket to be an enemy 
who gobbles up your important data; 
consider it to be a friend who must be 
nurtured and fed.
A SlantedK Presentation
By Rita Emmett

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