Researching the Legitimacy of Agents

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 27 2020

I can’t imagine how daunting researching agents must be. There is a glut of information on social media, websites, and books which actually makes it harder than it should be. Before you know it you’re overthinking every query and submission you make.

It almost makes you wish back to pre-internet days when snail mail and the giant copy of LMP from the library were your only resources.

The big concern with finding an agent isn’t so always who to query, but how to find a good agent to work with. As we know from recent experiences even those who seem great on paper can turn out to be lemons.

Knowing if an Agent is Legitimate

What’s the best way to research agents before querying? Not just agency preferences, but legitimacy.  A few bad actors have made authors afraid of unintentionally signing with an agent who looks legit, but isn’t.

–From email

When it comes to hiring any professional sometimes the only way to really know is experience. Whether it’s an agent, a contractor, or accountant even the most detailed research and comprehensive Yelp reviews can only reveal so much.

When an offer comes in, do your due diligence. Read up on the agent, research their deals, read message boards and talk to other authors. Most importantly, interview the agent extensively and listen to your gut. If it feels right, it probably is. If something is telling you not to sign, don’t. No agent is better than a bad agent any day.

When Your Gut is Wrong

What if, after all of that, things still go wrong? Because as we know from past experiences, that can happen. Maybe everyone else had a great experience when suddenly, for some reason or another, the agent went rogue. We can’t predict other people’s behavior no matter how hard we try and even the most perfect fairy tale can go bad.

If you find yourself in a situation like that the only thing you can really do is get out and move on. No agent will judge you for having been a victim of a bad agent. And no publishing career is without bumps in the road. This is all this is, a bump.

4 responses to “Researching the Legitimacy of Agents”

  1. Avatar Janet Bryce says:

    Thanks Jessica Faust, you always have good information and advice.

  2. I’m very careful now. I had this type of experience with an editor… bump! It was frustrating but lesson learned. I do my research now. Good article.

  3. Avatar Susan Johnson says:

    Where can a new writer find a great agent and publisher? I am on disability and elderly. Besides doing my research where do I go to get the best advise about both?

  4. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    That’s why resources like Query Tracker are so good – you can see what other writers’ experiences have been. Plus, if you get an offer, ask if you can contact some of their author list. The answer should be yes (consider it like a referee check).

    (and apologies for the late response – was on a wonderful writing retreat with limited internet for 3 weeks *best. experience. ever.* – and came back to a parallel universe 2 weeks ago that has taken some adjustment!)