5 Things to Know Before Getting an Agent

Studying_Scott_AkermanI’ve talked a lot on this blog about the process of getting an agent, working with agents, how to query, and how to research agents. But today I’d like to discuss five things writers should know before getting an agent, based on some misconceptions I’ve seen some writers share and my own experiences working with my agent.

  1. Sales aren’t guaranteed

Signing with an agent is not a guarantee that you will go on to sell your book—or any book, for that matter. It doesn’t automatically get you a publishing contract. I know many writers whose first book sent on submission didn’t sell. Of course, if an agent takes you on as a client, it means that they believe in your manuscript and believe that they can sell it. But that doesn’t mean they can guarantee you anything. In fact, if an agent is promising you a book deal before you’ve signed with them, that’s a major red flag; legitimate agents won’t try to guarantee you a publishing contract just for signing with them.

  1. Agents don’t replace critique partners

Some agents are editorial agents, meaning they work with you on several rounds of edits before the manuscript goes on submission. But that doesn’t mean that your agent replaces your critique partners or other early readers. Your agent doesn’t want to spend time fixing your messy first drafts or correcting numerous errors. Even after you’ve signed with your agent, every subsequent manuscript you send them should be as polished as you can possibly make it first. It isn’t your agent’s job to make your manuscript presentable.

  1. Your agent has other clients

Agents are incredibly busy, and they have multiple projects for multiple clients going on at the same time. What this means for writers is that sometimes you have to be patient with your agent. That’s not to say that an agent shouldn’t pay attention to your work, but it’s also important to be respectful of your agent’s time and have reasonable expectations.

  1. Your agent might not love everything

This can seem incredibly scary when you work with an agent, but it’s true: your agent isn’t guaranteed to love everything you write. Just because they connected with one project doesn’t mean they’ll love another, especially if they’re wildly different works. Signing with an agent isn’t a promise that they’ll love every single thing you ever write. How you and your agent choose to handle this when/if the issues arises is entirely up to you, but it’s good to prepared for this going in.

  1. It’s a business relationship

Some authors talk about being friends with their agents, and some even post things like gifs and inside jokes on social media, which can give other writers the impression that agents are always best friends with their clients. And while it’s true that some writers and agents are friends, it’s important to understand that this is first and foremost a professional relationship, and writers are expected to conduct themselves professionally. I know some writers who were disappointed when their agents weren’t able to chat with them on social media or become their best friend overnight, but that’s not an agent’s job. Ultimately, this is a business relationship.

What do you think? What else should writers know about working with agents? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in professional editorial services for your query letter, manuscript, or other submission materials? Check out my Services page for more information about what I offer.

This post is part of my Submission Tips series. For information about submitting to literary agents, publishing houses, and more, check out other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts.

Related Links:

5 False Publishing Myths

5 Signs Your Manuscript Isn’t Ready

What I Wish I’d Known While Querying

The Traditional Publishing Process Part 3: Working with an Agent


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