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Finding and Working With an Agent - Duane Newcomb

In the early years of teaching writing and working with clients I came up with a fairly simple method of placing your book with an agent. This has worked well for both clients and students. Here are the steps.

1. Put together a good proposal and a sample chapter or two. Essentially this is your sales brochure. This is the critical step. The proposal must be well written and professional, so take some time and do this well. See our website for tips.

2. Write a one-page letter of inquiry describing your book briefly and ask if you can send your proposal and sample chapters.

3. Make yourself a list of agents you feel might be interested in your book. You will find a list at the Association of Author's Agents, Box 272201 Ansonia Station, New York , NY 10003 , You will also find a list of agents and the kind of books they are looking for in the Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents. From this book, make up a list of agents who say they take books similar to yours. Do this carefully.

4. Send your letter of inquiry to all the agents on your list. Many agents don't want to look at material you've sent to other agents. I prefer, however, to get the job done as quickly as possible. Submit only to agents who say they welcome submissions.

5. Before agreeing to let an agent represent you, investigate him or her. Ask for a list of clients and talk to a few if possible. Ask if the agent is open to phone calls. Agent relationships can be good or bad you need to feel comfortable before signing an agreement.

6. Insist on a written agreement but sign a contract or a letter of agreement for one book at a time with a time limit of not more than one year to sell the book. Don' t let an agent send out your proposal without a written contract.

7. Ask the agent to keep you informed of all the correspondence they get from a publisher. Some authors have this written into the contract. If your agent does not do this get out of the agreement as soon as legally possible. Most agents charge 15 percent for domestic sales. Agents charge a 20 to 25 percent commission on foreign sales. 20 percent is usually standard.

8. When you find an agent you can work well with. Give that agent everything you do.

Article by Duane Newcomb, courtesy of The Professional Authors Newsletter
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