In my never-ending quest for fortune and glory, I’ve had to look at a lot of agents. And there are a lot of agents out there, many who are fabulous, some who are…not so much. It can be a daunting process if you’re not sure what you should be looking for, but here are a few characters to watch out for, and maybe avoid.
DOCTOR PEABODY – THE OLD FASHIONED GENT.
Nothing against old-fashion gents. Or ladies, for that matter. Doctor Peabody has been an agent since before your mum was born, and he likes to do things properly, in the old-fashioned way. This means that, while the Good Doctor will be scrupulously polite and professional, he doesn’t have any truck with newfangled things like “websites” or email, and good luck with trying to talk to him about social media, e-book platforms or DRM. Even with the help of the whizzy world-wide web, publishing moves at a snail’s pace. Unless you are an old-fashioned guy (or gal) who likes getting all your communication by letter and doesn’t mind printing out enough mss paper to deforest a small African country, this agent might not be suitable for you….
Unwilling-To-Share Ursula wants to have an exclusive look at your novel, but Ursula also has a “no response means no” policy, and a response (or not response) time of 6-24 months. Which means, in effect, that if you send it to her, you can’t really send your book anywhere else for TWO WHOLE YEARS, just in case she says yes. She could have decided to say no within 30 seconds of opening your email, but she won’t tell you that… Only try Ursula if you have infinite reserves of patience.
“Pleas send your manuscript in 12 point time new roman as a File attatchment….”
Beware of spelling mistakes, typos, poor grammar etc on an agents website (yes, I have seen some howlers. No, I’m not sharing names). If an agent or publisher hasn’t taken the care to proof read what’s on their site, they’re not the best advert for their books which, you would hope, would be well written and spell checked at the very least. Typos on an agents website are a warning that they might not be as meticulous as you’d like them to be.
(Typos on an author’s blog, btw, are fine 😉 Just so you know….)
THE NIGERIAN LOTTERY LITERARY AGENCY INC.
Beware of any website that asks you for money for any reason. Double beware of ANY publishing related website that asks for money up front. In fact, unless you have taken the deliberate decision to self-publish through a reputable source like Createspace or Lulu, if any publisher or agent asks for money up front, run for the hills, because it’s a scam. Whatever they promise for your £300 / £500 /£1000 – YOU WILL NOT GET IT. A reputable agent (and contrary to this post, there are many, many reputable agents out there) will take an agreed percentage of your earnings, WHEN you earn them. The golden rule – money should flow (or trickle) towards the creator. You, the writer, should never be obliged to pay out to be published unless you have chosen to do it yourself. No matter what friendly Mr Bright Hymen Coolbaby tells you, giving him £500 will not get your books on to the shelves of Waterstones, but it will help him buy a new yacht, the Gullible Sucker. And why should he have all the yachts?