Agent Advice

In our Agent Advice feature, some of the best literary agents in the country answer the questions most frequently asked by writers about how to get published.


I’m building up my publishing credits, maintaining a blog, coordinating a monthly writers group, and working on finishing up my novel. I have confidence that I can finish the book within six months. At what point should I start looking for the agent to represent me? Should the book be finished first, or should I remain open to editorial suggestions? I’ve read articles about how to approach agents, but very few on when.

You should wait until you’re really finished (and have set the book aside and finished it twice more!) before querying agents. This may sound like a Zen koan, but you should be...

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Does a writer need to have an established list of publishing credits to be considered by a decent agent?

If you’re writing nonfiction, then the answer is usually yes. You need to show credentials in your field, and such credentials often come in the form of previous publications....

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I’m always reading about how writers should choose agents based on their client lists: If an agent represents an author you like or who writes like you do, it might be a good fit. But I also hear agents say they’re looking for something new, something unlike anything they’ve ever read before. Which is it?

Both are true. Aside from the obvious exceptions, you shouldn’t worry too much about how an agent will compare your book with what he already represents. You should instead...

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What kind of publicity is a publisher apt to offer a midlist author? Can this be negotiated, or is the author still going to pay out of pocket for a ten-date tour in key cities?

It varies widely, but most midlist fiction authors won’t be sent on ten-date tours. They’ll be encouraged to give readings in cities where they live or where they can guarantee...

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About three months ago, I sent a synopsis of my novel as well as a cover letter to six literary agents whom I researched and found to be interested in the kind of fiction I write. I haven’t heard from any of them and I’m wondering when I should follow up with queries about my proposal. I don’t want to be pushy, but at the same time, life’s short.

It’s fair to follow up with them if you haven’t heard back after six weeks; it’s likely an oversight. Send an e-mail that says you are checking in to see if they had a chance...

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With the help of my agent, I published my first novel with a respectable press two years ago. I’m writing my second novel now, but I also have some short stories that I’d like to submit to literary magazines. Should I bother my agent with these submissions or just send them myself?

It really depends on the agent. The best thing to do is simply ask your agent how she would like to handle it. If the work in question is a story that has been excerpted or...

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