Purple Prose + the call

Queriers Beware!

When you ask most querying writers what scares them most, they’ll probably tell you rejections. Not so for me. My biggest fear is signing with the wrong agent. Now, I’m not talking about the agent who doesn’t sell your manuscript. In today’s competitive market, having an agent doesn’t guarantee anything. But a bad agent can be the ultimate doom to the book you’ve so worked hard on.
Recently, one of my friends ended her relationship with her agent due to lack of communication. In her gut, she knew this person wasn’t right for her. Turns out, her gut knew what it was talking about. Last week the agent quit agenting, and her clients found out about it through Facebook. Classy.
What most people don’t know is that I recently got The Call. Now, before you skip to the end and congratulate me, please bear with me for a moment.
I spoke with the agent, and while I was flattered by her interest in my novel, I knew she wasn’t the right one for me. She was moving away from repping fiction, and was focusing on non-fiction (which she has an awesome sales record for). Because of that, she only wanted to rep Still.
It was a hard decision, because of factors I’m not going to mention, but my gut told me I was doing the right thing. Plus, I want to deal with some issues that other agents had talked about. While I know it’s a subjective industry, I wasn’t ready for Still to be out there yet. And I need to deal with those issues before signing with an agent (or querying again).
So how can you avoid signing with the wrong agent?

  • Google the agent’s name and find out as much as you can about them. Yep, that’s right: Stalk them. This is your career we’re talking about.

  • Look up their name in P&E (Preditors & Editors) to see if they have a bad rating.
  • Check out writer forums such as Absolute Write, Querytracker, Verlakay’s blue boards (for kidlitwriters), and see what other writers (and sometimes clients) have to say about the agent.

  • If you get The Call, ask to talk to the agent’s clients. Though that might not always help. My friend did that and look what happened.

  • Know what you want in an agent. Maybe you’re fine if he only wants to rep the one book. Or maybe, like me, you know you want an agent for your career (but this doesn’t mean you can’t change agents at some point).

  • Have questions ready for when you get The Call. Check out this list from Literary Rambles.

  • Ask if you can have a list of the editors the agent is submitting to. The manuscript from one of the ex-agent’s clients was out on submission. Now the writer has no idea who the agent submitted to, which is going to be a problem if she wants to query other agents. No agent wants to rep a book that’s already been shopped around.

  • If you want to see the rejections, let the agent know that before you agree to representation. Some agents don’t like to do that, and you’re left in the dark as to what’s going on with your submission. I’ve heard this complaint a number of times. Of course, if you don’t want to see the rejections, then you don’t have to worry about this.

  • Listen to your gut.
Remember, just because the agent has a pulse, this doesn’t mean you have to accept the offer. Do what’s right for you. Your book and career will thank you for it.
Does anyone else have suggestions on to how to avoid signing with the wrong agent?
(Update: It turns out my friend’s ex-agent never submitted manuscripts from a number of her clients. This is why seeing the rejections and submission list is so important. If someone hadn’t phoned the president of the agency, the client never would have known. She would have written the book off. Now she has the option to query it again.)

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Queriers Beware! + the call