Web-Savvy Agents: 5 Ways to Cull The List

HEY PEEPS! Been, like, a long time…


Heather and Dana have been holding down the fort while I attempt to finish my WIP. Always take longer than you think it will.

spank the bad computer



Today, let’s consider the social-media-savvy agent. You know the one I’m talking about. He or she blogs three times a week, besides giving interviews on other Big Name blogs and writing guest posts for authors. Also Tweets four times an hour, and participates in every literary-themed hashtag. Posts photos all day on Facebook, linked to her Instagram account, of course. Owns a constantly evolving Pinterest page and Tumblr–or maybe two Tumblrs. Holds weekly Google+ chats.  Writes and illustrates picture books, and also, is the president of sixty-seven professional organizations. You wonder how in the heck he/she has time to agent!

Answer: he/she doesn’t.

Don’t let a large web-presence fool you. Just because an agent is well-known, it doesn’t mean he/she is effective. You are not looking for a kidlit biz personality, you are looking for someone who can SELL YOUR BOOK.

How to tell a gadfly from a professional? Shucks, I’m glad you asked.


  1. HIS CLIENTS ARE SELF-PUBLISHED–If an agented writer publishes a book and you find out in the small print that it is self-published, your Spidey Sense should definitely tingle. What, exactly, did that agent do for the writer? True, a writer might have decided to self-publish on her own. But if the AGENT had her self-publish because he was too inept to sell the book traditionally, what in the heck do you need that agent for? In these times, a self-published book here and there isn’t the red flag it once was. And an agent who advised self-publishing as a strategy will admit to the world up-front that they are announcing a self-published book. But if he fudges that particular detail, or the majority of his clients have no traditionally published books, watch out.
  2. HE DIDN’T SELL HIS CLIENTS’ TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOKS–I have run into a couple of situations where the agent’s clients had written traditionally published AND self-published books–but on further digging, I found that the traditionally published books occurred when the client had a DIFFERENT agent. THIS agent had not sold to any publishing houses, for his clients.
  3. THE CLIENT SOLD HER OWN MANUSCRIPT–Perhaps the author met her editor at a conference, and sold her manuscript herself. Unless you’re an insider of some sort, that’s a bit hard to find out about. An easier situation to figure out is the author who wins a huge contest that guarantees her attractiveness to editors–especially the ones who were judges. An agent who is picked up AFTER a major award is not necessarily suspect, and neither is an agent who uses her author’s connections to sell a book. But if it’s coupled with other warning signs, think.
  4. THE AGENT’S GO-TO PUBLISHERS ARE LIMITED–If an agent’s stable of authors are only published by small presses, consider things carefully. Most small publishers a.) consider unagented authors b.) pay very little, which is not worth most agents’ time c.) don’t budge on the contract terms, so an agent can’t do anything for you anyway. That is not to say an agent doesn’t occasionally sell to a small press, but if he ONLY sells to small presses, does that mean he doesn’t have any large-press contacts?
  5. THE AGENCY THE AGENT IS AFFILIATED WITH IS SHADY, OR HE IS A ONE-MAN OPERATION–First, a good agent will not work at a shady agency. You know, the kinds of places where they’re more interested in selling manuscript services than books. True, an agent might wise up and move elsewhere, but until that happens, steer clear. The second scenario you generally want to avoid is a one-man operation, especially if it’s a baby agent. I would have no trouble signing with a new agent if he had been interning at the knee of a high-powered agent, and the agency promotes him. I would know he’s getting coached, and if he got into trouble, he’d have back-up. A two-year-old agent who strikes out on his own? I dunno. He’d have to be one big rainmaker, before I’d take that leap.

Many, many excellent agents have largish web presences, and that is a good thing. This post is about not being lured into signing with a bad agent because he knows how to tweet.

I love professional agents. They are unsung heroes, and can make the difference between having a writing hobby or a career. Sub It Club members, let’s make sure that we deal only with the best.

6 thoughts on “Web-Savvy Agents: 5 Ways to Cull The List

Add yours

  1. Oh gosh, is this post EVER pertinent (like my big word?) to my life at this time. I have one to add. The agent signs lots of writers, but keeps them doing revisions all the live long time. Great advice. *waving*


  2. Robyn, that is a great point. In fact, maybe the topic of another blog post…

    Theresa, I hear ya. Most people don’t want to be negative, which in general, is a good policy. And, it can be hard to figure out if a griping ex-client is making a reasonable claim, or if in reality, the ex-client was the problem. That’s why we writers need to make sure we’re connecting, so we’ll know whose opinions to trust and which professionals are truly professional!


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