Five Signs a Literary Agent is a Good Match For You

This guest column by Rose Jensen. She
welcomes your feedback at Rose.Jensen28(at)
Read her article on Essential Tips and Tools for Writers of the Future.

So you’ve got a great book and you want to get it published. You could try to simply market it, sell it and negotiate it on your own, but many new to the business simply don’t feel comfortable doing that on their own. That means that it’s time to find an agent but you don’t just want any agent, you want the right one. How can you know if a literary agent is really a good fit for you and the kind of work that you produce? Here are a five signs that things will work out between the two of you.

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      1. He or she commonly works with books like yours. Finding someone who is actually interested in the kind of work that you’re producing is essential. If you’ve managed to get an agent that commonly works with material in your genre, then you’re on the right track. He or she will have more enthusiasm and know more about what it takes to get your work in the spotlight than someone who doesn’t really focus on the type of work that you do. 
2. He or she pushes you. The best agents shouldn’t just let you be lazy and do what you want. While there should be a balance of power, they should push you to work harder, get more done and actively market your work if you’re not already doing that on your own. There should be a great give and take between the two of you, allowing you to maximize your potential.
3. He or she is excited about your work. Someone who is not really excited about the things that you’re creating isn’t likely to do too much to make sure that they ever see the light of day. In fact, they may languish on a desk somewhere for months. If your agent seems genuinely enthusiastic about finding a publisher and marketing your book, then you’ve found a keeper.
4. He or she is there when you need them. If you’re new to the game, you likely have numerous questions about how the whole process works, what you need to do and the kind of deals you should be willing to make. Your agent should be there to help guide you through the process, though hand-holding can’t always be expected. Find an agent who isn’t always mysteriously “out of the office” when you call and you might have a long future of working together.
  5. You actually get along. It might seem pretty basic, but some people assume that because it is a business relationship that they don’t need to actually like their agent. While it isn’t a necessity, this person is someone who is going to be representing your work and who will be tied to it for years to come—it’s much better to have that be someone you actually like and want around rather than someone you merely tolerate.

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4 thoughts on “Five Signs a Literary Agent is a Good Match For You

  1. Chuck

    DRP, I’m afraid most agents aren’t writing coaches. Some like Donald will help you shape a novel, while most others will not because they simply lack the time. If you DO get an agent who helps you a lot with craft and story, then consider yourself lucky.


  2. D. Robert Pease

    What about finding an agent that is a writing coach? I just finished reading "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass and as an agent it seems that he goes beyond these 5 criteria. He helps his clients write better. Guiding them to write the breakout novel. I haven’t seen a lot about that on agents web sites.


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