The Author-Agent Partnership: Finding the Right Fit

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

What should a writer look for in an agent? What does an agent look for in a client? It’s tempting for a writer to go with the first offer of representation because it means you’ve crossed the first big hurdle toward getting your proposal to a publisher. And frankly, you don’t know how long it will be until another agent expresses interest. But wait. There is a better way to approach it.

An author-agent partnership is a big decision. Like authors, each agent and agency has it’s own set of hallmark values and approach to the partnership. This is one of the best reasons for you to attend one or two writers conferences, if possible, before you make a decision about the agents to whom you want to submit your proposal. You have the opportunity at conferences to meet with a number of agents in-person and compare your reactions to each in close proximity. Another helpful option, especially if travelling to a conference isn’t possible, is following and commenting on a variety of agency blogs to observe the interaction and agents’ responses.

Either way, if you’ve done your homework beforehand, that is, you (1) have visited agency websites to get a feel for each one’s personality and climate, (2) have ascertained the agents who represent the genre of your books, and (3) have researched industry news feeds and publisher websites so you can present yourself professionally and use industry terminology knowledgably, you will be able to enter into conversations confidently. When you do have an in-person or phone meeting with an agent, approach it as a two-way interview. Q&A_ar126290102239305

Yes, that’s right. You should be interviewing the agent too. But first, you the writer need to evaluate what it is you want in an agent. For example, some agents prioritize business and immediate returns for writing projects that provide you and the agent with ready income. Others approach agenting from a long-term perspective, which means they invest in building relationships, mentoring, and career planning for the long term. Books & Such fits in the second category. Neither type is intrinsically good or bad, only different. It depends on what you want from your author-agent partnership. Virtually all agencies serving the Christian market follow industry standards for commissions, making that aspect a neutral factor. Having researched agencies and visualized the type of agent you want, you’ll be in a good position to target those agents to approach.

Here is how an author-agent meeting might look from both perspectives:

FIRST IMPRESSION (if in-person)

Writer: Does the agent seem to be genuinely interested in putting me at ease? Does the agent seem attentive to me and interested in my introduction to my project, or is the agent already showing signs of a lack of enthusiasm?

Agent: Professional appearance? Does the writer show confidence via eye-to-eye contact, friendly smile, and firm handshake? Does the writer appear to be prepared for this career step with a compelling elevator pitch (aka 30-second pitch)?

GETTING ACQUAINTED

Writer: What kinds of questions is the agent asking me about my writing background? Does the agent appear to share my passion for my genre or topic? How is the agent directing the conversation? (You’ll begin to get an idea of his or her approach to agenting.)

Agent: Is the writer prepared with adequate answers to my basic get-acquainted questions about the writer’s commitment to improving craft or ability to give his or her nonfiction topic a fresh angle? Do I like the answers?

GETTING TO THE MEAT

Writer: If I need an encourager, am I getting the sense this agent provides that? Is the agent offering constructive feedback and information? Am I getting the sense this agent is forthright and honest in the feedback, but kind in the delivery? (These clues will inform you if this is the type of agent who is willing to invest time and thought in you, which may be an important value to you.) Do I see indications that our personalities are connecting and complimentary? (This is important in any author-agent partnership.) Is the agent up to date with industry changes? Has the agent adequately responded to my questions about his or her core values? (To discern the agent’s values and beliefs, describe several hypothetical situations and ask the agent how he or she would deal with them. By the end of the meeting, you should have a sense of what the agent values so you can determine if they are a match for yours.)

Agent: Does the writer’s responses to my questions about level of craft, branding, and amount of work necessary to be considered by publishers indicate the writer is teachable and willing to do what it takes? (This is a high priority for a long-term author-agent partnership.) Do the writer and I share the same core values and beliefs? (This is all-important, foundational really. The author and agent must value similar character traits to have a positive partnership.) Do I get the sense this writer and I would not be compatible in other ways, that we’d frequently be pushing each other’s buttons? (For example, some are slow and methodical; others are quick to act. While not a deal-breaker, you’ll need to work harder at your relationship.)

What are you looking for in an agent? What does that sweet spot look like to you? If you’ve had a bad experience in the past, what did you learn from it? Conversely, share your good-fit experience.

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72 Comments

  • It’s tempting to want a agent who makes me feel comfortable, who thinks my work is wonderful, who defends and protects me. Really? My mother has that covered.

    I need an agent who makes me uncomfortable when necessary and tells me (kindly, I hope) what’s wrong with my work. The whole process carries the risk of rejection, and I hope my agent can deliver bad news gently–and grant me a few minutes to pout before we get back to work. Likewise, I want an agent who delivers good news joyously and grants me a few minutes to dance in the streets before we get back to work.

  • Mary, you’ve truly provided food for thought. Most authors are so anxious to gain representation that they don’t consider that it’s a two-way street. We don’t necessarily need to show up at the door with flowers and chocolates, but we do need to be truthful in the way we present ourselves. Although breaking up an author-agent relationship is easier than breaking up a marriage, it can be no less traumatic. It’s best for both parties to be certain. Thanks for sharing these insights.

    • Interesting point about ending a relationship with an agent.

      I would bet that an early-career author who unilaterally severs a relationship with an established and reputable agent would have trouble finding another stable.

      Not that agents gossip about clients, but the absence of one from an agent’s list would be noted, and if that name came up in future requests for representation, it would raise some hard questions.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Richard, you are so right. Agents are experienced at thoughtful consideration before committing to a partnership. When authors also participate in the process from their vantage point, the potential for a mismatch or non-parallel expectations is minimized.

  • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    Obviously I want an agent who knows her stuff and is professional, but I also want someone who loves the same kind of books that I love. Someone who gets excited about historicals and loves the snappy dialogue of a snotty teen protagonist. I want someone who can take a look at my writing and give me the observations of a professional eye. Am I ready to find readers, I want to know.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Kristen, you have a good start in knowing what you want in an agent. As you communicate with agents, whether face to face or electronically, look for those who will be forthright about things like current market demand, manuscript feedback, strength of your audience and of your brand. That is a constructive author-agent relationship.

  • The most important factor for me is a sincere faith. I trust everything else to fall into place behind that.

    It’s not that I don’t trust atheists…but I don’t. I’ve seen enough of the world to believe that anyone who’s trusting in “the accumulated grace and wisdom of man” is seriously deluded.

    And someone who looks inward for spiritual guidance is like a driver who paints over the car windows and drives by the GPS in their cell phone.

    Anything else, I’m really flexible. I can get along with just about anyone, and don’t need a lot of handholding. But the issue of faith, well – that makes or breaks the deal.

  • To find a Christian agent willing to offer guidance … I’d be one blessed girl. That sweet spot looks blessed.

  • Great post, Mary. I love how you shared the perspectives and considerations author and agent are (should be) considering when interacting with each other.

    I’m with Andrew in that a sincere faith in Jesus is the most important quality I want in an agent. I know myself well enough to know that having an agent who can help me see the the areas of my MS that need some work would be a plus. And if they do it with kindness, even better. :) Working with an agent who operates with honesty and integrity are important too. Having an agent who knows the market and where my stories fit best is obviously a plus.

    This may sound like a given, but being represented by an agent who believes in me/the stories I write and encourages/pushes me to get better would also be great.

  • It’s funny; Wendy’s April Fools post actually made me appreciate Books & Such all the more. By saying all the things she did in jest (especially #1), she was saying that’s NOT what you guys stand for. When the time comes, I want to secure an agent with the strong commitment to professionalism and faith that your agents have.

  • I’ll have to bookmark this post to refer to again later. Face-to-face meetings make me nervous and even when I’m prepared I can’t always remember what I want to ask. These will help refresh my memory.

    Honesty and integrity are tops for me. I can’t work with a person who doesn’t display those traits in words and deeds. I’m definitely looking for an agent who enjoys historical novels, but I don’t seem to have a trademark style, so that might be an issue. The boys I write tend to be sweet and kind, but the girls are spunky. Maybe I have my own decisions to make before further exploring for representation.

    • Anita Mae says:

      Cheryl, I know Mary hasn’t responded to you yet, but your comment touched me. When I signed with Mary, I portrayed myself as a writer of western historicals with a tagline of Faith and Romance Woven Under Western Skies. I have my own brand on the back of my business cards. Janet Grant introduced Mary and I because she said Mary likes westerns. Yet I met Mary through a project with a 1910 setting and nary a cowboy in sight. And since then, I’ve reached my dream of being published – not with a western historical, but with an Edwardian story set in Ontario, Canada.

      What I’m saying is that in my opinion, you need to pick your genre, but you don’t need a trademark style – your voice is your trademark. Your style will change over the years as market trends change. Being a historical writer covers a wide spectrum as it is without throwing character traits in the mix thereby limiting yourself.

      Again, this is only my opinion, but by being adaptable you also give your future agent a greater vision of your potential.

  • My Mom told me that when I was born, I had an expression that seemed to say “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”
    Which is very much me. Because I try hard to do what needs to be done.
    But what is also very much me is “Just because it is accepted, does not mean it is right”.
    I grew up dealing with racism so blunt and course that, outside of hurting my family, nothing riles me more than injustice based on colour.
    I write about a time in history that is not widely known, and reprehensible to almost anyone who hears of it.
    I knew I’d need an agent with an air of elegance and nerves of steel. But who would push me hard and expect my best. Who would encourage me when things got tough, and remind me that God did not give me this passion because I was meant to waste it by being mediocre.

    Right before you offered me representation, you said “I cannot let go of the story.”
    And that is why I know we’re a God given “good fit”. Because you get it. You get my inability to let go of this story.

    I am so thankful for you, Mary, because I know I’m in good, Godly hands.

    • That’s exactly it. The inability to let go of a righteous story, and the guts to work through it to represent you, and the people on whose behalf you write.

      It isn’t all business. It’s honor, and I am so happy you found that.

      Well-said, Jennifer!

  • Christine Dorman says:

    Mary,

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. The detail of the things to consider when interviewing and being interviewed by an agent are quite helpful.

    What I would look for in an agent is someone who is interested in long-term relationship, someone who is willing to to mentor me (including telling me what doesn’t work in my writing), someone who is experienced and has established relationships and a good reputation with editors and other industry professionals,and definitely I would want someone who was enthusiastic about my manuscript. I don’t want to be accepted as a client just because the agent is new and is building her client list. While I don’t need an agent who’ll hold my hand and reassure me, I would like to work with an agent who is approachable, someone I feel comfortable bringing my questions or concerns to (for example, someone I can talk to if I feel the proposed book cover is misleading). Finally, I would like to have an agent who looks at more than just advances when working to get a contract. For example, I would prefer, (if it is offered) to get a contract which gives a lower advance but includes a commitment to a second book rather than one that has a higher advance and no expressed interest in developing a relationship between the author and the publishing house.

    Thank you for your reminder that the interview is a two-way process and the partnership is a two-way decision. I have to admit, though, that just as with a job interview, if I had an offer of representation from an agent, I would have a bird-in-the-hand impulse and a fear that I wouldn’t get another offer. Of course, the only way to proceed in that situation (for me) is to pray for guidance and wisdom.

    Blessings.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      You have a realistic and specific view of what you’re seeking in an agent, Christine. It’s clear you’ve been doing your homework to learn realities of this industry. And now what a blessing it is that, as Christians, we can pray for God’s wisdom and guidance and have peace and confidence he will provide it.

  • I’ve realized recently that it will be important to me that my agent have an understanding, or belief in, the leading of the Holy Spirit. And that the agent have an understanding of someone (like me) who has a gentle nature and who listens (and sometimes has to wait) for that still, quiet voice to lead her in her writing.

    • My comment above is in reference to Mary’s statement in her post, “Do the writer and I share the same core values and beliefs? (This is all-important, foundational really. The author and agent must value similar character traits to have a positive partnership.).” I so agree. As I’ve been working on my craft I’ve continued reading the blogs of several agents in the industry, and have decided that it would be very important to me for my agent to share or, at the very least, have some understanding of my values and my beliefs.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      True, Angela. Without shared values and beliefs, both author and agent would have to work–struggle–extra hard to make the relationship work.

  • Angela Mills says:

    This is very helpful! I kind of feel like I know the agents I want from reading their blog, but meeting face-to-face will reveal so much more. Having a relationship with God is a must. I didn’t want to write for the secular market because my faith seeps into everything I do and I would like an agent that works the same way. I’d also like someone that will guide me in this business and excitement for my story would be great. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a house cleaning agent, either :)

    • Write for God, Angela, and let the secular market come to you.

      And let them find salvation through your witnessing for Christ.

      • Angela Mills says:

        I actually considered that, Andrew. I was very torn when I first started writing fiction with the thought of getting published someday. I studied both markets and everything I write is better suited for the Christian market right now. I hope it will encourage believers, and of course we all hope our books will become crossover hits and reach unbelievers as well. But I do think Christian fiction is primarily read by Christians and that’s where God has me right now. In every area, I strive to be a witness and hopefully my writing will do that, too. Either way, I’d want an agent that shares my faith :)

  • Paiva Lewis says:

    I’ll be honest; my agent and I do not have the relationship I’d always imagined I’d have, but it’s actually okay. He got me a six-figure, two-book contract, and in the end, that was what I really needed, not a friend.

  • Sarah Sundin says:

    Great post, Mary! This is why I’m such a fan of writers’ conferences. When you sit down to a meal with an agent and see them in action, when you hear them respond to questions in panels, an when you hear them teach – you get a great sense of their priorities and personalities.

    Since I attended Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference for *many* years before getting my first contract (via a submission at Mount Hermon, by the way), I knew immediately that I wanted Books & Such to represent me because I was so impressed with what I’d seen at MH. And I was so thankful when they agreed to represent me :)

    • I agree Sarah. Sitting down with an agent across a rotund table and visiting over the roar of the voices in the dining room is nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at once.
      And next week, I will place my introverted self in that scenario repeatedly. :-)
      It’s good to remember that the faculty is watching us as well.

  • I appreciate your thoughts here, Mary, and the comments as well. I particularly value your advice that the author is interviewing the agent as well. Thank you.

  • In reading the comments, it occurred to me that the basic quality I’m looking for in an agent is courage in the service of Christ.

    I write God-centered books, and that isn’t going to change. Not the “Santa-God” that captures much attention in Christian media, but the real deal – the God who became man and who died for us.

    He saved us, and He set an example for us to follow. In the words of the dude who wrote “The Impossible Dream”, we are called to “march into Hell for a Heavenly cause”.

    That’s what I want to witness in my writing. Faith that keeps going when faith is the only thing someone’s got left.

    Experience, connections, and a pleasant manner are nice – but the steel core of a faith that never lets go of the mission is vital.

    • And Andrew, this reminded me of reality TV, too. I once had a chance to be part of a popular TV reality show … and every single part of God was cut out. The whole process felt so fake … good intentions, but so fake. And everyone there had no story without God … so it was sad that everything God was cut from the show. Sad, sad.

      We have to know what we need … stick to it. Don’t compromise. Thank you!

  • My first conference was a whirlwind experience and I had two requests for my manuscript from editors right away. At the conference, a friend introduced me to her agent, and the agent became very excited about my story idea. She asked for a copy of my first three chapters (which I had with me), and said she would be contacting me. The day after I returned from the conference, I had a call from the agent. She said she read my chapters and wanted to discuss representation. I agreed to talk to her, but I had already done my research and knew what I wanted in an agent and what I didn’t. After talking to her, I sensed we wouldn’t be a good fit. I wanted more of a mentor, but this agent was brand new on the scene and we are about the same age. She works for a small agency, but I wanted one that was more established and had a better track record with authors I know. I fully believe this agent is capable, and will someday be very successful, but I wasn’t willing to take a chance. Instead, I turned down her offer, and kept praying that God would lead me to the agent that was best for me. I knew I was taking a risk that I might not get another offer, but I was willing to take that chance. About six months later, you called, Mary, and through our conversation (and after talking with other authors you represent), I knew I had found the agent I wanted to work with. I’m so thankful I had the courage to say no to the first offer, and wait for the second. I’m also thankful I had done a lot of research and I knew what would be best for me. This post is a wonderful reminder to all the un-agented authors out there. Know what you want in an author/agent relationship, and be willing to wait for it.

    • Thank you, Gabrielle. Sometimes we feel like we are at the mercy of others. So I can see how easy it would be to grab that first offer of representation. We have to remind ourselves that God is in control. I love your story … thank you for sharing it.

    • I always love to read your story, Gabrielle. It’s an example of doing it right, waiting for God’s timing and trusting Him in the waiting. Thanks for sharing it again. :)

    • This is a great reminder to not put all our writing dreams in one agent basket.

    • I agree, too, Gabrielle. Patience and trust that all is happening as it is supposed to are key.

      I am putting together proposals on some of my work now, and hope that my proposals will be received well. If the timing is right, and the agent is willing to form a working relationship, and publisher interest is there, all will be well. If not, I go back to the writing desk and work a little (maybe a lot) more!

  • Elaine Manders says:

    I’m in the doing-the-homework stage, but other than author’s recommendations, I haven’t considered how to connect with the right agent. Your post has pointed me in the right direction. Yes, I want to work with someone who shares my values.

    • Elaine, participating on this blog is a great start. There are numerous other agencies that have weekly agent blog posts. Reading these provide opportunities for us to observe agent/author interactions, ask questions, and find helpful answers.
      In my humble opinion, this blog is one of the best.

  • Anita Mae says:

    I made my list of what I wanted in an agent. I was very specific. And then I targeted one agent after another (4 in total) because I thought they had what I needed. Well, they may have had what I wanted, but only God knew what I needed. If you’ve noticed, many agents don’t respond if they’re not interested, but just leave you hanging. So I prayed while I waited, pursuing doors as they opened. And closed. One door stayed open and I sat on a short list, waiting and praying, while continuing to write and submit, attend conferences, and blog. I didn’t understand why God would make me wait, but I had handed Him my writing career years before and I wasn’t about to take it back because I didn’t like His timing. I had faith that if I continued to do my part and get the stories written, He would take care of the distribution.

    And then came the day I mentioned in an above comment when Janet Grant contacted ME and introduced me to Mary. Janet thought Mary and I would be a good fit. Even then, after numerous emails I had a list of questions ready for Mary when we had our first phone conversation. And you can bet I prayed over the decision because it had seemed too easy. Two years later and the thought of God’s gift still stupefies me. Matt 25:21 says in part “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things…” Wow. I’ve been blessed, and I thank God for Mary every single day because I know her actions are faith-driven too.

    I guess if there’s a lesson here, it’s this…wooing an agent you think is the right one is okay, but if it doesn’t work out, either that agent wasn’t the one God had planned for you, or the timing isn’t right. Attending conferences, networking, leaving blog comments, etc are all good, but the best thing you can do is have faith and show God through your writing for only you can do that part. God will give you what you need when you need it. In His timing.

  • Mary, have you met all of your clients in person at some point during your representation of them?

    When a manuscript is under consideration with an agent, and the author is waiting to hear for certain if representation will be offered, the author shouldn’t become impatient, because the agent’s contracted clients come first. As it should be. This is the kind of agent I would like to work for.

    As you stated Mary, we all want to enter into a committed writing partnership with a reputable agent, so their thoughtful consideration and big picture view of the industry is golden.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Jenni, there are several fairly new clients I haven’t met in-person yet. But Skype is the next best thing and I use it frequently.

      And thank you for your perspective on writers being patient while waiting. Delays in responding to submissions weighs heavily on all of us here because we have great respect for writers’ work and aspirations.

  • I think the there most important characteristics I’d like an agent to have are integrity, compassion, and common sense. For years I wouldn’t submit anything to agents I’d met personally and considered friends because I thought it would spoil the relationships. But now I realize those important characteristics would protect the personal relationships and allow a good professional one as well. And they’d assure that the agent did a good job.

  • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

    Thank you all for your helpful contributions to the discussion. I’ve been unavailable most of the day, but I’ll respond to questions as I’m able.

  • I think the most lovely thing about agents is that often, they believe in your writing nearly as much as you do. They’re willing to put all kinds of energy and hours into getting your work out there.

    I will just say that good and frequent communication is key. Pay attention to how the agent communicates BEFORE you sign the dotted line. Some prefer phone, some email, but some don’t contact clients much at all, and that can be utterly frustrating for an author ready to push with all he/she has.

    I’d also say different agents have differing gifts and connections. If you are looking for editing, look for agents who are editors. If you’re looking for a salesperson with lots of connections, research who has them.

    And in this changing industry, I’d recommend an agent who knows something about marketing. Agents can help guide authors through platform-building and basically structuring the path of their careers. You want to make sure your agent knows the latest changes in the industry and isn’t hesitant to share those with you.

    Most of you know I’ve had three agents over the course of the past six years. Often, as authors, our needs and career paths change, and we might have to find another agent. I think as long as you both sever the relationship as amicably as possible, it doesn’t have to be a drawback as you seek a new agent.

    At this point, I’m an indie author and I’m not looking for an agent. But I truly appreciate the agents I’ve had and I recognize how much they believed in me. It’s a true bolster to have as an author, and I do miss that sometimes.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Wise thoughts, Heather. I’ll add to your comments about communication, that expectations of frequency may differ at the outset. If authors don’t feel they’re hearing from their agent as often as they’d like, don’t immediately jump to negative conclusions. Emails travel both ways; the phone rings at both ends. Feel free to email your agent if it’s been a while. Travel schedules, contract negotiation, client emergencies, and reading manuscripts can pile up at times. It would be helpful for agents and authors to establish a communication pattern early on. You gave me a good reminder. I know I’m often guilty of forgetting to do that.

  • . . . of course they have to like dogs or the deals off.

  • Anna Labno says:

    “Agent: Professional appearance? Does the writer show confidence via eye-to-eye contact, friendly smile, and firm handshake? Does the writer appear to be prepared for this career step with a compelling elevator pitch (aka 30-second pitch)?”

    Not all writers are outgoing. An agent might miss a lot by judging by the cover, not what’s inside.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Anna, you are right that if an agent judges only “by the cover,” the agent may miss a gem. Fortunately there is no requirement that writers must be naturally outgoing in order to be considered, but rather it’s a matter of being able to demonstrate professionalism in professional settings. It requires skills that if not natural to a person, must be learned. There are books on the topic and coaching classes available. A major reason for this need is that publishers recognize their authors reflect on the publisher’s reputation.

  • Thanks for an incredibly helpful post. I’ve bookmarked it to return to it for a re-read.

    I’m currently stuck on one of your preliminary points: homework includes “you…have ascertained the agents who represent the genre of your books.”

    I write Christian non-fiction, which is very broad. However, I’m an Associate Professor of Church History at a mainline seminary, and I write from my academic background for non-academic readers. As I read agent blogs and websites I really don’t find many people like myself listed. Most academics write books for other scholars and don’t go through agents. Those who do write for non-academic readers don’t seem to note agents in their acknowledgements.

    So… how does one go about finding people who agent writers like me? Of course non-academics also write on my topics (my first book was on prayer) so should I be going strictly by genre?

    Any tips would be most welcome!

    • Anna Labno says:

      Gary,

      head to conferences and make as many appointments you can. Smaller conferences are much better at handling appointments. Big conferences are limited to how many appointments you might have and who do you want to meet. Appearances on line are misleading. Look at the person’s heart then knowledge. Since you can check credentials on life before making any appointment, look for the heart. It can’t lie.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Gary, you’re right that many academics who write for non-academic audiences don’t have agents. Their name and reputation as an authority on a subject may be enough to get a contract without the help of an agent. However, agents are always interested in proposals from authoritative sources if it is a fresh angle on topic of interest to the lay audience and written in a conversational, non-academic voice.

  • Anna Labno says:

    What I look for? I value a person’s heart most of all then knowledge.
    What turns me off? Agents who act like snobs, who know it all and look down at people sitting in front of them. Writers grow, but the impression of the agent never cease. It’s a two way road.
    Not every person might be ready to submit during a scheduled appointment. Writers make appointments to interview agents ahead of time. Agents need to be respected for their time. But the same goes for writers who paid to be there.
    I’m not ready to submit. But I meet with agents because I want to know them first. And after scheduling some appointments and attending workshops, I know which ones I will submit to when I’m ready.
    Mary gave a great advice. Head to conferences to meet agents. That’s the best way to really know the person’s heart.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Anna, it’s unfortunate if an agent appears to come across as a snob or know-it-all. Most agents serving the CBA market are kind people with hearts for Christ’s mission. At the same time agents are professionals and the business half of the writing life cannot be avoided. I’m glad you mentioned that agents need to be respected for their time. Just as for writers, agents invest in time and money to attend conferences to meet with potential new clients. All the while their work continues to pile up back at the office. I say this to paint a picture that agenting is the way we make our living. There are times outside of actual scheduled meetings that writers can introduces themselves and get acquainted with agents: during meals, observations in workshops, in the hallways, etc. But scheduled meetings are designed for writers who have projects ready to pitch.

      • Anna Labno says:

        Mary,

        One well known editor told me to make as many appointments I can to get to know people. And I admit I did that at conferences. (I’m so glad I did.) And another well known agent told me that at the end it really comes to who you know.
        I’m so glad I met with agents during apointments even though my project wasn’t ready. I know who likes my style and who doesn’t. That’s gold.
        After each conference, I grow my list of people I might like to work with in the future.
        And yes, there are agents who like to mentor writers if they like what they see presented to them.
        At the end I look at that. If the agent I met wasn’t too busy and invested time in our meeting and kept in touch after the conference was over, that’s the agent I will consider.
        That’s me. I won’t consider an agent who’s too busy and wants to make money right off the proposal. Because at the end for me a relationship is more important than a business transaction.
        I respect all agents for what they do. And it’s nothing wrong to approach meetings from different angles.

  • Selena Fulton says:

    When I do find an agent, I want one that is as excited about my work as I am, because that’s the way they will represent my work to editors.

    I also want one who will be honest with me. Honesty is very important to me.

    Wonderful post.

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