Home > Getting Published, Literary Agents > Researching Literary Agent’s Track Record

Researching Literary Agent’s Track Record

Googling “Literary Agent” brings up 3,060,000 entries, to give you an idea of how intimidating all of this can be to a writer wanting to get published.

Not that there are as many agents, but there are enough to confound the best of us. To make matters worse, there are scammers out there ready to help gullible writers part with their money.

Remember – you *never* pay an agent up front – not reading fees, not any other fees.You pay when the agent sells your book. The industry standard is 15% of your earnings (20% in case of foreign sales). See the “Literary Agent” section for a sample contract.

The agent doesn’t have to be a scammer to be bad. Plain incompetence on the part of your agent can easily destroy your career. So how do you begin to research the agent?

Click here for a great article on researching track records of agents by Victoria Strauss.

In addition to the sources Victoria lists, I’ve found the forums on Absolute Write invaluable. Just googling the literary agent often brings up a thread on Absolute Write.

  1. livinglearningeating
    July 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    The problem is that I know of plenty of great agents, but they aren’t too interested in me. Boo 😦 I’ve come so close, with several full and partial requests for two different manuscripts in two different genres, but they all inevitably pass.

    I don’t want to give up, though…

    • rasanaatreya
      July 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      Have you thought about self-publishing? A lot of people are going that route. If you decide to do it, beware that you can’t just publish and wait for buyers to find you. You have to market yourself. And before you do that, you need to make sure that your manuscript is as polished as can be, that you have a great cover for your book and so on. I’m working on an ebook about this. I’m curious – how did you find me? Good luck! Rasana

      • livinglearningeating
        July 19, 2011 at 11:19 pm

        I have briefly considered it, but am more comfortable with traditional publishing through a publishing house. I suppose I’m old-fashioned? For now, I’m just trying to stay hopeful and keeping my eye out for relevant literary agents. Do you recommend any?

        I found your site through a WordPress search using the tag ‘literary agents.’


      • livinglearningeating
        July 20, 2011 at 5:59 am

        Actually, how has self-publishing worked out for you? How do you get people to know about/review/buy your books? You’ve inspired me to be active about my dreams and just go out there and do it!

        I just made one of my novels (a ~37,000word middle grade novel that advanced in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) available on CreateSpace, but don’t know what to do now. How will people even know to buy it???

        Your advice is appreciated!

  2. rasanaatreya
    July 20, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I’ve been having the same problem as you. Literary agents request the entire manuscript, then don’t hear back. A couple did say that my book was good, but was very niche (rural Southern India) so it would be hard to place the book in this market. I’ve decided I’m going to try out self-publishing on Kindle.

    Good for you that your book made the break through award. Now the ball’s in your court. You need to start networking and marketing. First make sure you have the best cover you can do. Don’t go for a stock cover, hire (if you can afford it) a graphic artist to do your cover. Then get yourself a website. The look should be clean with the only focus your books. A terrific example is http://lethalbooks.com/. John’s Locke’s website. The guy has sold over a million copies on kindle so it is a safe bet he knows what he is doing. Set yourself up on twitter, facebook (fan page), get on LinkedIn, Shelfari, LinkedIn, Goodreads. Then, check out good books in your genre and check out the reviews. Offer your book to these reviewers for free, in return for an honest review. Research blog tours.

    Did I mention this is a lot of work? 🙂

    This should get you started. Good luck!

  3. livinglearningeating
    July 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Same – they all say they like it and it’s good, but they don’t feel as strongly about it as they would need to in order to represent it as strongly as they would want to. 😦

    I don’t mind lots of work (at all) but the problem is the money. I can’t get a graphic artist (or any kind of artist, really) so I have to go with the stock cover (a sunflower-themed one was the best that I could find…meh). And, as far as reviews go, I’m a bit wary of sending out free copies – it’s free to them, but I’d have to pay $15 per copy! Did I mention I’m a broke college student :/ ?

    Is there any way to market it without money?


  4. rasanaatreya
    July 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Since you’re in college, have you thought of asking a fellow student to help you out? Because stock covers don’t really cut it. The ways to market without money are the ones I’ve mentioned above – network, network, network. Marketing doesn’t being you have to be in someone’s face. You need to build a brand – the brand could be the name of your book (you have an awesome title, one that isn’t listed on 200 books on Amazon, right?) or the brand could be your name. Start off by associating yourself with the name on your book. I’ve exchanged a few comments with you but don’t even know your name. If I happen to see your book, how would I think – Oh, I know her! And perhaps buy your book? See what I’m saying?

    Regarding giving away books for review – I meant copies of ebooks. You do own digital rights to your book, don’t you?

    • livinglearningeating
      July 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      I don’t really know many art students, but I’ll have to give that a shot.

      It’s an ~37,000 word middle grade novel with a unique title, ELSBETT & ROBIN TAKE ON A-NASTY-SIA, and I’m Danai Sabrina Kadzere.

      That’s true – I guess I haven’t introduced myself yet (whoops)!

      You can find out more about it (and purchase a copy, if you know an 8–12 year old reader with a taste for adventure!) here: https://www.createspace.com/3651515

      I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m not sure if I have access to copies of e-books… I’m contacting them straight away to find out. If so, that’s definitely a great option. Thanks!

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