In The Know: Pt. 4

First, Happy Memorial Day! I'm so glad that our country has set aside a day to honor those who've laid down their lives for our protection.

Back to our scheduled post...

When I began to query agents with my manuscript, I went straight down the agent list on the RWA website. After all, if they were RWA approved then I shouldn't have any worries, right?

Wrong. I got a full request from an agent who repped nothing I wrote. Furthermore, that agent had some iffy comments said about her and I only discovered these things after sending her the full manuscript.

It's so incredibly important to be in the know when it comes to agents. I've heard it said a million times (and you probably have too): a bad agent is worse than no agent.

There's a lot of things that can constitute bad. Lack of communication, disorganization, or even worse, someone who isn't really an agent at all. Most of you probably read agent blogs so you're ahead of the game. You know we don't pay agents to read our manuscript. I hope.

Awhile back, I was studying the agents attending a small Christian conference, and I noticed one in particular charges people just for a reading. I had to shake my head because there are many new writers who will attend that conference and think it's normal to pay that agent.

Research! Read their blogs. See what they've represented.

Any advice on choosing the right agent? Have you had a good experience thus far?


Jody Hedlund said…
If we're targeting agents who rep inspirational, then we're pretty limited. I think we need to just be persistent and help those agents get to know who we are, and then hopefully over time we'll attract their attention in one way or another.

Hope you've had a great weekend!
Jessica Nelson said…
That's true Jody. There are so many great agents out there who specifically will say they DON'T rep inspys. It is limited. I guess that's where conferences can come in handy.
Amy DeTrempe said…
I couldn't agree more about researching agents. It is so easy to get excited about a request and/or offer of representation. But before taking any action, I think an author should take a deep breath, think on it, pray on it and research before they commit to anything.
Danyelle L. said…
Amen! Preditors and Editors has been a great help in making sure. It's also good to check blogs, as well as the blogs of some of the authors they represent. :D
Cindy R. Wilson said…
Thanks for the post! I don't think it can be said enough that you have to do your research. I totally agree that no agent is better than a bad agent. It is much wiser to take the time to figure out what you're getting into and who you're getting into it with than to just jump in at the first sign of interest.
All sound advice! This is a great series, Jessica.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Amy,
Your very right, and all that stuff you listed (praying, etc.) is definitely best done before the query is sent. There are people out there who think nothing of stealing or taking advantage of someone.
Thank goodness for the internet.
:-) If there's bad news about someone, it can be found. LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Great advice Danyelle! Some authors will post about their agents and it's always good to get a first hand account. It helps to determine whether someone is a good fit.
Preditors and Editors is a great resource! I like Absolute Write Water Cooler too (different than P&E, right?)
Jessica Nelson said…
I know Cindy, yet it's so tempting to jump. LOL! Any request I've had I've dived in without thinking. I'm trying to do better now. :-)
Are you thinking of getting an agent soon?
Jessica Nelson said…
Thanks Janna! :_) Hope you're having a wonderful day.
Deb Shucka said…
Thank you for this helpful post. I've been researching agents since last winter, in preparation for querying. Every time I read something like this, it helps me remember that I'm the one in charge of the process - that it's my choice - that I need to be careful whom I query.
I'm partial to agents who have a website (so I can do the research). I wonder though if I am a little too picky. I'm trying to figure out at what point I should submit to more agents...

~ Wendy
Terri Tiffany said…
When I first submitted to the only two agents I have yet submitted to (lol) I asked around to other writers to see who they had. I read the agent's blog and website and then I submitted. It really didn't make much of a difference for him cause he passed me off and I never got a response. :( the other lady, I sent to because I saw her pictures and some information of her online and she repped what I was writing. She askef for a partial and then I got a curt "no thank you." So, I guess it is best to do our homework and then pray and pray when and if someone says yes!
Jessica Nelson said…
Deb, that's so true. We are in charge of who we choose. It's up to us.
Have you started querying yet? Good luck!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Wendy,
I like agents who have websites too. I think Publishers Marketplace (or something) lists what agents sell. If you're a member you can see who's doing what. Also, sometimes I just google the agents name and find interviews. Good luck! And thanks for commenting. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Wow Terri,
You only sent two queries and got a request? That's pretty good. :-) Homework isn't fun, but it'll prepare us for the test, so I agree with you. :-)
brenda minton said…
A word about Agents..
When I made the decision to get an agent (about five years ago) I kept a few things in mind. First of all, I didn't immediately jump to a big name, because big name agents are sometimes so busy with big name authors that the new authors get put on the back burner. Not always, but that's a question to keep in mind.
Another thing, personality. YOURS. What do you expect from an agent. I'm not really in need of hand holding, but I did want an agent that I clicked with on a personal level, and an agent that would 'get' my personality. I knew that I wouldn't do well with a 'too serious, non-communicative' agent.
Fortunately my agent is perfect for me. We've had a great relationship and I don't see that coming to an end.
Unknown said…
I've been finding agents on mainly because I'm not sure where else to find them...BUT I look at every agents website and background and books they represent.

I know it sounds kinda cheesy, but I'm not looking for just any agent. I want one that I can relate with and one that fits with me AND my book. I can't imagine making it through the publishing world with an agent that shares nothing in common with me and what's more doesn't really like the genre I've written about!
Jessica Nelson said…
Great point, Brenda! Thank you so much for commenting.
I would love to have an agent I just click with. :-) So what your saying is we should know our expectations and ask ourselves whether a prospective agent is likely to meet them?
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi MaryBeth,
I don't think that's cheesy at all. It kind of goes with what Brenda said too. I completely agree with you.
When I first started looking for agents for my first novel I did a bit of research on the Internet and stumbled across After finding that I never looked back - it was just such a great site for both research and keeping track of which agents I had already queried and what kind of responses I received. I just can't recommend them highly enough!
Angie Ledbetter said…
Research research research. Good reminder, Jessica.
Jessica Nelson said…
I've heard so much of them but haven't used them. Sounds great! Don't they show response times too?
Hi Jess -

When I hired a contractor to fix my roof, I contacted the Better Business Bureau, asked for references, etc. Why would I exercise any less caution with an agent? The key is check them out as thoroughly as possible.

And don't forget to pray.

Susan :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Susan,
Great idea checking with the DBB! LOL Wish we would've thought of doing that with some of our household stuff.
All of you are so right about praying. That's something I have trouble with because I want to just jump right in, then when something goes wrong, God hears from me. And I feel bad too, talking to Him after the fact instead of before.
For me, I think it's going to come down to first narrowing the list via word of mouth and blog checking and then actually seeking out agent appointments at conferences to get a feel for if our personalities and goals match. I'm hugely insecure in this field, so I'll need someone who can handle a weakling like me.
Jessica Nelson said…
You're not a weakling. :-) You're just learning to trust your voice.
I'm so excited to meet agents and publishers! You're going to ACFW, right?
I have not gone on many agent websites or blogs, but those I have have proved remarkably helpful to me. I'm finding out who represents what I do, and who is not a good fit for me. After awhile, you get a feel not only for the genres they like, but their personality and heart.

And there is also the "Editors and Predators" website.
Jennifer Shirk said…
Editors and Preditors is a must and any word of mouth of info you can get.
Unfortunately it's getting easier and easier for agents and even publishers to get RWA "approved".
Warren Baldwin said…
Nope ... I'm not offering advice, I'm looking for some, so thanks for these posts! wb
Hey Jennifer!

I am a new kid on the scene who is looking for encouragement and advice. So I apologize for not having advice, but I do thank you, Jennifer, that your spirit is willing to offer what you know.

Pen Pen said…
Happy Memorial Day to you too!! I had a touching one with my Dad- who went down to the airport to welcome soldiers home in Georgia just days ago. He said once that when he came home for his mother's funeral during Vietnam, he got off the plane with people throwing eggs at him and screaming in his face that he was a murderer. He hopes that he changed that for some of the Iraq vets he welcomed off the airplane. I'm so proud of him :)

Anywho-- In my querying -that is still going on right now, I've noticed that the best thing I did was check out new books that I liked and searched to find out who that author's agent was. Of course, I also went on-line and read the blogs and such, but the best agents I found were initially chosen because I liked some book they represented. --and people need to really look at the agent's website, cuz- sometimes- an agent will work with a group of agents that say on their site that they accept unpublished authors, but -in reality- only ONE of the agents in that group does. There were a couple of places where that wasn't exactly made clear, and it was confusing for me.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Jen,
I like to read agent blogs too. There've been some agents I've ruled out just because of the tone of their posts. We wouldn't fit. So you can def. hear their hearts with this.
Jessica Nelson said…
I didn't know that about RWA. I thought everything was reputable on their list. Hmmm... Well, I learned the agents weren't so I guess that would go for publishers too.
Jessica Nelson said…
No problem, Warren. I'm still learning so much too. Any advice is helpful.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Proverbs,
We're all newbies once. :-) I'm not a newbie anymore, but I wouldn't say I'm a veteran either. Thanks for stopping by!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Pen Pen,
Wow, that's awesome about your dad, and so sad people treated him that way. What a wonderful example of courage he is!

I get confused by some websites too. Like when they don't make clear if they want something as an attachment or in an e-mail. Oh well. We do what we can, right?

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