Monday, June 20, 2011

The Lit Coach's Top 11 Agent Dos and Don'ts

Rather than a full-length post on yet another aspect of confidence in the writer's life today, I'm feeling a need to be listy. I love "Top 10" lists and I'm feeling nostalgic about my literary agenting days. Plus, I thought of a "Must Not Do" so awesome I had to throw it in. So I give you...

The Lit Coach's Guide Top 11 Agent Must-Dos and Don'ts

11. Don't ever think it's a wise idea to have your parent, spouse, partner or business partner contact your agent to negotiate ANYTHING. Unless they are your writing partner and their name will also appear on the agency agreement, it's best to negotiate your own terms. Even so, if there are more than one writers on your book, there should be one person assigned to communicate with the agent. If you feel you need a third party to negotiate on your behalf, hire an attorney who understands intellectual property and/or entertainment law. Does this happen? Unfortunately and surprisingly, yes. And it makes the writer look completely unprofessional. Having your parent negotiate the terms of your agency contract is allowable if you're under 18.

10. Do your research on agents you feel would be right for your book and approach only them to start. It's been said over and over again. And I'll say it again until people figure out I haven't been agenting for several years...but again, thanks for thinking of me!

9. Don't sign with a bad agent. No agent is ALWAYS better than a bad one. The best agents are listed on AAR.

8. Don't approach agents with a badly self-published book that has not been professionally edited (or at least proofread by someone terribly well-read other than yourself), has not had a cover professionally designed and has not experienced at least modestly successful sales in less than 6 months time.

7. Do continue to build your platform by freelancing, submitting to literary journals, guest blogging, etc. This is still the best way to build your platform and lure an agent.

6. Don't expect your book to be your platform if you have yet to build your expertise as an "expert" or "advocate." Agents won't be interested. Publishers will definitely not be interested.

5. Do value your talent and your time and find an agent who does, too!

4. Don't sign with an agent who insists on an iron-clad agency agreement longer than a year. You can always re-negotiate after a year provided both parties are still in love. Also, ethical agents don't charge for reading, editing and critiquing services - all part of the job.

3. Do write the book you want to write and expect your agent to provide feeback to help direct you. Don't confuse this with writing the book your agent wants you to write.

2. Don't turn toward your agent for validating hand-holding when you need a confidence boost. She has work to do and clients to serve. Sure, agents care for you, they provide you valuable professional perspective, but it's not their job to validate your place in the literary landscape. They liked your work and they liked you...why else would they enter into a professional relationship with you?

1. Do plan a budget for your book PR efforts. You'll need money to buy your own promotional materials, web design, ad space, supplementary PR by an independent book publicist (highly recommended), scores of copies of your books to give away and to cover your travel expenses. Plan on $5000 on the very low end; $10,000 is more like it to get you started. Of course, more is better, but don't let those numbers scare you.

Knowing what to expect with your author/agent relationship is the best way to instill confidence in your writer's life. If you have Agent Dos and Don'ts to share, let's hear them!

Have a fruitful week, writers!


Not sure if you're agent ready? Email me to explore and arrange your agent-readiness session.

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