What I’m Looking For in a Literary Agent

Hello Dear Readers and Writers, and Happy June! Hope Summer is finding you happy and filled with sunshine.

In today’s post I wanted to share what I’m looking for in a literary agent.
I’m on the query trail, and I sat down and asked myself which essential points I’d like to find in a literary agent to rep my work?

I want to work with a Publishing Pro who knows the business of selling books. Because I’m a professional in my day job, and I treat my clients with care and respect, I want this sort of relationship with an agent as well. How do I define that best practice in my own approach to my work?

Here’s my list so far:

1. Communication – The best thing a collaborative partner can offer their clients is thoughtful, timely communication. We’re professionals here. Check in once in a while. Even bad news about nothing happening is better than no news at all. Who knows, maybe we can put our heads together and come up with a new plan.

2. Collaboration – I want someone in my corner who gets my characters, who wants to champion my stories, and see them in print. If I’m going to pay an agent fifteen percent I need to know we’re working together to see that happen.

3. Strategy sessions for marketing ideas – This is a business I want to cultivate and grow over time. Strategies to get these stories I’ve written to the correct market is a win-win situation. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than not having a plan.

4. Creative support – I want to work with an agent who tosses ideas around for future works, ways to draw in readers, and make these stories the best they can be.

5. Minimum industry standards – Contract negotiations with editors and publishers for the best corner of the market for my work. I want to work with a fearless agent who knows their way around the industry and earns every dollar for everyone involved in the production of creative work. Membership in professional organizations like AAR is something that turns my head.

6. Contract negotiations – I want to work with the agent who can negotiate the best deal possible. I’m committed to my side of the craft of writing, and I want to work with someone who’s committed to owning their side of the bargaining table. Who knows, maybe we’ll make a gazillion dollars, but most importantly I want a fierce negotiator who ensures my work gets delivered into the hands of readers who deserve to read my fiction.

7. Career building ideas – From conferences, to signings, to website design I want to collaborate with someone who sees a future in my writing career.

8. Kindness – This should really be listed as number one. Writers put their hearts and character’s souls out into the world for inspection. I want to work with someone who’ll leave me with a smile on my face at the end of the day despite the harsh realities of the publishing world.

9. Excitement – I’m thrilled to have received rejections from agents who weren’t on-board with my vision so far. I want to work with that one agent who’s over-the-moon excited about my work.

10. Great editing skills – I firmly believe no project is ever finished, only offered up as part of the Universal Story for all humans to recognize emotions and either challenge them, or agree with them. So, for me, having an agent who wants to discuss developmental editing is key. I’m always on board for spinning a sentence until it finds its power.

11. Other ideas – I’m leaving the last spot open for conversation, and additions. If you’re a writer, what other professional options would you want available when assembling your dream agent?


Published by Paula Millhouse

Author Paula Millhouse http://www.paulamillhouse.com Where Fantasy, Romance, and Suspense collide.

3 thoughts on “What I’m Looking For in a Literary Agent

  1. Paula,
    I would like one who has a plan for my career growth. Also, they would have to have a sense of humor.
    I’ve heard nightmares of agents being cruel sometimes. It seems those days are over. Lately, I’ve heard that they are curtious and pleasant.
    I hope to find out what their like soon.


  2. Paula,

    I don’t have a suggestion for slot 11, because I can’t get past the first one. I was talking with a young woman who is quite successful in what she does and she said the thing that separates her from her competitors across the board is that she answers her emails in a timely fashion. It’s stunning to me the number of businesses and people trying to make it in business who don’t take that simple step.

    I agree with you that it is by far the most important aspect.

    To give you an idea, we went to a company to buy 150 basketballs. What basketball company wouldn’t want to make that kind of sale? And yet, they didn’t return our phone calls, emails, or texts. And so we’ve moved on to a different company.


    1. Thanks for chiming in on this point, Samantha.
      It’s true – I can’t believe how often I run into such poor service. Is this a function of the digital age? If it is, I’m not impressed.


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