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How To Avoid A Bad Literary Agent
What are the steps that authors can take to find out if an agent is legitimate and trustworthy? One of the ways that authors can find trustworthy agents is to query only agents whose reputation precedes them. There are several agents that moonlight as writers and even though they might not be out to swindle authors, their efforts are divided, hence they cannot be totally reliable. Any good agent has more than enough work as an agent and will seldom do other things.
Authors are supposed to check their agents’ record in terms of previous sales. Any successful agent will have a track record a mile long and they are easily recognizable by authors since they are eager to showcase their success stories. If an agent is reluctant to share his sales figures by saying that they are confidential or other such reasons, authors should avoid them.
Authors should know that there is a difference between an agency that has few sales records to show and one that does not want to share the information. There are many agents that are just starting and therefore have few sales records. However, this does not mean that they are bad agents. With such agents, an author can benefit from more personalized services and the agent’s undivided attention. A good way to evaluate such agents is to check their quality vs. quantity.
Overall, an agent must have a very high level of professionalism. Authors must evaluate every aspect of an agent’s services. Looking for typographical and grammar errors in the agent’s correspondence can enable an author to judge the agent. When an agent becomes nervous or angry if an author asks about fees and issues with contracts, the agent should be avoided. How much does an author have to try to contact an agent before getting through? All these are factors that can shed light on how professional an agent is.
Again, authors should not dismiss an agent simply because he/she operates out of a residential house. Whether or not an agent has a website or a fully staffed office is also not so important. All these might be interpreted as the agent being not good at what he does but they could also be a sign that the agent is keeping costs low to provide the best service at affordable prices.
Another thing to be on high alert about is ‘recommended services.’ If an agent praises an author’s work and reiterates that he can edit it to make it do better, it should immediately raise some red flags. This is especially true if an agent has already found an editor for the author. It might indicate that the agent demands some form of kickback for finding authors for an editor. Agents should also not push authors to hire illustrators because this responsibility is usually reserved for publishers.
Authors should also beware of agents that look for short story writers and poets. This is because agents rarely make money from such authors unless they are well-established. Agents that excessively flatter an author and make many promises are also to be taken with a pinch of salt.