Overcoming the Fear Factor: Finding the Perfect Agent

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Some writers are terrified at the prospect of finding an agent.

We think literary representation is the one factor that will get us published when the key is writing an outstanding book. But let’s say we’ve already written a fabulous project, what is the agent/author relationship?

What does an agent really do for a writer?

  • Submit your work to the proper editor for your manuscript.
  • Follow-up with editors.
  • Negotiate a contract. This is where an agent is worth his/her weight in gold. We writers are creative and usually not comfortable in talking contract terms.
  • Update us with industry trends and changes.
  • Interpret and communicate royalty statements.
  • Be our best cheerleader.
  • Advise us in every facet of our writing career.

My agent, Janet K. Grant of Books and Such Literary Agency says this about an agent: “Writers write books. Publishers publish them. But publishers have a big sea of writers to draw from, and someone needs to serve as your swim instructor, telling you who are the sharks and who are the dolphins and helping you to determine which you want to swim with. That someone is your agent.”

Where do we find an agent? Listings are in The Writer’s Market Guide or The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. There you find the stats. Sometimes a recommendation from another writer is helpful. But the best way to meet a potential agent is face-to-face. Attending conferences like the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference and workshops where agents are present puts us in the spotlight. We perfect our pitch, practice, and present it to a perspective agent. It doesn’t end with a single meeting. That’s why I’ve attached a handout to help the serious writer find the right agent.

A writer’s job is to submit a polished manuscript, properly edited, and in the requested format of the agent. Even if we’ve met the agent, we make sure we have the correct spelling and address of the agent. Lack of professionalism is a tag none of us want.

And if we’re rejected, we consider it redirection. We do our best to find out why the agent declined representation and make changes before submitting again.

And we always:

  • Keep perfecting our craft
  • Keep learning
  • Never give up.

The following are interview guidelines to help the writer find the perfect agent.

  1. The agent reads every word of the writer’s work.
  2. The agent provides career counseling.
  3. The agent provides timely reports of submissions and editor feedback.
  4. The agent attends large conferences and participates in workshops.
  5. The agent cares about his/her clients.
  6. The agent responds timely to a writer’s inquiries.
  7. The agent is highly respected in the publishing world.
  8. The agent is knowledgable of the publishing world trends.
  9. The agent is up-to-date on social media, marketing, and promotion aids.
  10. The agent doesn’t just like our work but loves it.

What is one tip you can give to help a writer secure an agent?

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her DiAnn Millstitles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

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2 thoughts on “Overcoming the Fear Factor: Finding the Perfect Agent

    • Warren, and if your mentor was truly on her toes and involved in the writer’s career, she would provide a list of recommended agents. 🙂