No Agent Is Much Better Than A Bad Agent

This business is a slippery & ever-changing monkey. You practically need an agent to write a query these days. The competition is fierce, and the players (those who will persevere anyways) are on top of their game. They read, they know market trends, and buzz words. They talk the talk, write with the jargon, know the agents. You see, as big as publishing is, there are still only so many major houses and a notable number of successful agencies. Its the “Around the World in 80 Days” concept. Yes, publishing is a huge organization with thousands upon thousands of aspiring writers, BUT, if you do your homework, you’ll see that that same organization is a small albeit loosely framed network. Spend a few months online and you’ll recognize many of the players.

Here’ the big dilemma for aspiring authors. How can you get an agent to love your writing? Write well. That would be the short and sweet of it. So, that means an inner talent, lots of classes or reading about writing, practice, honing your craft, work with beta readers and crit partners, and don’t give up. Okay, suppose you do all that and still no takers? Give up or move on? Depends on how bad you want to see your name on a book  you didn’t pay to get printed.

Now suppose someone bites. Suppose you get an offer from an agent you’ve never heard of, or one with a poor track record, hey maybe no track record, then what? What’s a writer to do? You can’t get your material in front of editors without an agent.

The agents out there – especially the big name Uber-agents, are always blaming authors who sign with these unknown or new agents. They say its up to us to pick the perfect match- the perfect agent for our work. That can be tough if none of the Names wanted it. Right? The Big agents say research the agents representing your genre and target them. Writers may do all that and still be left with a lot of rejections and silence. Their advice is to write something else, live, learn, and move on.

I say, maybe – but who am I?

You don’t have to be a big fish to play the game. You don’t have to be tied to a monstrously successful agency or book to do well for your client. I think the Big Name’s advice was right on with “find a fit.” Find an agent who loves your work and who will champion it for you. Find an agent who has your career in mind. Signing with a new agent or with someone who has little to no track record isn’t the worst thing that can happen to your career, and it might be your best. If they love your work and make time to champion it for you, you might have struck gold. Maybe you will be their first big sale. Maybe.

However, be careful out there. A woman in my writer’s guild recently signed with an agent who posted all her novels on Amazon with her (the “agent”) as the author. The whole thing was an ugly scam and attorneys had to get involved. The author never received any money from sales either. So, do your research, check Preditors & Editors, and sites like the Absolute Write Water Cooler, look for interviews, and other comments made by authors who’ve had interaction with agents. Be sensible and protective of your future as an author. Agents can be a savior in this business, but a bad agent is much worse than no agent at all.

Comments? Anyone have a bad experience or advice to writers seeking an agent?

1 comment to No Agent Is Much Better Than A Bad Agent

  • valerie haight

    Julie,
    Thanks for the wonderful advice. There is so much to keep up with and so much to be aware of (and wary of!) it’s hard to keep up, but checking out the two websites you mentioned above should help a lot! I do feel like giving up sometimes and for me, it’s hard to find the right fit when all we have to go on is a biography on a website. Is it really enough? Or am I doing it wrong? Thanks for the insight, your spin on a common prob is always fresh and appreciated.

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