Agent Questions Volume Fourteen: When to Get an Agent

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When do you start the process of getting an agent?

What should my expectations be?


In my opinion, when the book is fully written, then you begin edits and research for an agent. There are different ways to do this. One, you can look up,,, etc. Search Google. You will be lost in searches for quite a while. You do not want to submit to an agent until your book is fully edited. Agents expect to edit your work, but they are looking for a manuscript with one more revision, tops. They want to run through one round of edits with you and then pitch your book to publishers. They also do not want you to send them manuscripts in genres that they don’t read. When you go to the first site above, agents and editors list what they are looking for, so you know who to send your manuscript.

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Another way to find agents is to spend a day at the bookstore or library and pick up a bundle of books that are in your genre and relate closely to your book. (Keep track of the names as these books are also your comps.) Go to the back of the book, where the author gives thanks to their agent and publisher. Write this info down. These agents are getting things done, and when you get a new agent, you want someone who can put you in the bookstores and libraries. And when they ask what publishers you might be looking for, you have a list of those as well.

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When querying (see previous post about how to write your query), you will get many responses. This article by @YAFantasyFan (Kelly Peterson at Corvisiero Literary Agency) gives insight into some of the rejections you may receive:

  1. “I’m not connecting with your character.” Your character isn’t deep enough for readers to connect with emotionally. They may also not be making realistic and logical choices in the readers’ minds. Take another look at your character and evaluate their emotionality and choices.


  1. “I’m not connecting with your voice.” This could be a lot of things, but it’s usually a lack of fluency and an overuse of dialogue or description. There needs to be a balance between description, dialogue, and action, as well as fluency of words. No balance = no connection.


  1. “It’s just not pulling me in the way I want it to.” You’re probably starting at the wrong part of your story. Either it’s too much action or not enough. Or it’s too in depth or too much information or not enough. Or it could quite possibly just be your writing style. See above!


  1. “I didn’t love it the way I wanted.” This is subjective and usually just means it was good, but we didn’t connect with it enough to be emotionally invested in its future. Try looking over your character’s emotionality and drives and see what you can alter for deeper connection!


  1. “Your word count is too high for this age range and genre.” Literally, your word count is too high to sell. We’re sorry, but you’re unfortunately not Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J Maas, or George R. R. Martin. Please go back and edit your word count down and take proper time to do so.


  1. This isn’t for me.” If the agent represents the genre and age range, this usually means we’re not interested/wanting to be involved with something in your manuscript. Is it a YA Fantasy w/ a suicidal MC? Sorry, my avoidance of emotional turmoil marks this as a NO.


  1. “This wasn’t a good fit.” This rejection is very similar to “This isn’t for me” and “it’s just not pulling me in the way I wanted.” See above for further help with this rejection!


  1. “Unfortunately, the submission wasn’t a good fit for us at this time.” This is very similar to “This wasn’t a good fit” but can usually relate to the agent’s current list as well. Or maybe it’s an idea that just isn’t selling right now within the publishing cycle. See above!


  1. “While I found much to admire here, I wasn’t ultimately convinced I would be the best possible advocate for this project.” This is so subjective, and it usually means the agent just isn’t quite in love with it (see above) or doesn’t know how or to whom they would sell it!


10. “I love the concept, feel free to try me again.” Ah, this usually means that an agent loves your creativity and your concept, but that the writing just isn’t quite there. They see some sort of potential though, so they left the door open for you in the future.


11.”We found *insert thing in manuscript* problematic.” This usually means it’s not a good fit for the agency but using “problematic” is troublesome. Find beta and sensitivity readers if you don’t see the problems, and if they specifically point out the problem, listen to them.

**Side note: if this is own voices, it’s probably not as problematic as they would have it seem, but rather they’re telling you they don’t know how to represent your own voices story and the voices, realities, and power it could raise. Keep their thought. Let it fuel you forward.

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When you get a yes, and the agent calls you or emails with your acceptance, celebrate for a minute. You’ve managed to get representation. This is a big deal. When I would get a new author, I used to send them a checklist of things to do, or things I needed for the future. It looked something like this (some items have been deleted):

  Make sure to give Jenn all your contact info: mailing address, phone number, social media links
  Give Jenn your birthdate and Social security number for payment
  Send Jenn your bio for the website
  Send Jenn your author headshot (It’s okay not to have a professional one yet. It’s for the website, as well.)
  Make sure you have given Jenn a good query and 1-2 page synopsis- this will help with emailing publishers
  Also make up a short blurb about your book- a tagline, not necessarily your pitch- that will interest readers
  Give Jenn a list of your favorite publishers- find books in your genre at the bookstore, look in the front to
see who their publisher is, and look in the acknowledgements to see who their (acquiring) editor is.
  Put “Author of __[title]__, repped by @haskinauthor (on Twitter). Also add to Facebook, Instagram,
Pinterest, LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc.
  “Friend” Jenn on her social media sites, and/or add her link as your rep:
Google +
Instagram (book)
  Self-edit using Jenn’s links and pages of helpful tips
  Right away, start to build your platform- make your own social media site IDs- use Jenn’s list above for ideas
If you already have sites, but they are not “author” pages, change them or make new “author” pages


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Now that you have an agent and you know what they are looking for from you, what can you expect an agent to do?

  1. They will fall in love with your manuscript. They must have a “passion” for it, because they must be its champion in pitches to publishers.
  2. Free editing (Agents will most likely have edits for you, but they should be free. They may offer you referrals to outside editors, but you do not have to use them. It is your choice. In my opinion, paid editing is done BEFORE you submit to the agent to get the book in the best possible shape for publishing.)
  3. Give advice and answer questions. Your agent is your partner in the publishing industry.
  4. They should announce you on social media to the world and to their team. Your bio and photo on their website. Your agent is your champion. They will help you determine your correct genre, your marketing plan, and share with you any information about your publishing process.
  5. They will come up with a list of publishers (through acquiring editors) that are possibilities for you. Do your research. Know who the publishers are and if you want to be one of their clients. You researched your agent, so research your publisher. Do you like their covers? Do you like the other books they have out?
  6. Then they will pitch your book to the list of editors, but it is a SLOW process. They cannot pitch to imprints that are in the same house at the same time, so they pitch in rounds. If the editor passes, they are free to contact another imprint from the same house. The top 5 houses are: Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Penguin/Random House, Hachette, and Harper Collins. Publishers can take months to respond, and not all give reasons for their rejection. The road is long, be prepared.
  7. You should be able to be as involved as you want to be in the process. Let your agent know if you would like to know every response, or just a weekly update, etc.
  8. When you are accepted by a publisher, your agent will mediate. They will help you by negotiating the contract. You may ask any question you have about the contract and have it explained to you.
  9. The publisher pays the agent. Your agent generally takes 15% and will pay you the remaining amount.

10.It does happen that the agent cannot sell your book to a top 5 house. You have the option of accepting a smaller house, but make sure your questions are answered. In some events, the agent and author decide to “shelf” the book. This simply means putting it away for a bit because it either needs too much editing than there is time for, or more commonly, the market is already full of the type of book you have written, and it needs to wait awhile before being pitched again.

11.There are so many behind-the-scenes things that an agent does, I won’t list them all. They are ultimately the key to getting you published by a traditional publisher. Be you, be professional, be kind, and understanding.

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Remember to ask questions. Know what you want. Make goals for yourself, your book, and your career. Know if you want to publish for yourself, for your family, or if you strive to be a bestseller. It might sound silly but map out your success. Your agent is your partner and can help you achieve these goals, but you must make them first. I hope that answers your question. If you want to know more, leave me some questions in the comment section and I will try to elaborate.

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Good luck wherever you are in your publishing journey!!


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