I had just started working with a food blogger on a book proposal when she got a call from a literary agent, who said he might be able to get her a book deal.
That’s exciting, but how do you know if it’s true, or if this person has the right credentials?
Literary agents, just for review, represent writers. Once you write a book proposal, they find a publisher and negotiate the book contract .
My client had a long talk with the agent and he seems like a good match. I checked him out too. Now, what if you get the call? Here are 5 tips to increase your chances of working with a worthwhile literary agent and getting a book deal:
1. Listen politely and do not commit. Sure, you’re honored and humbled (my two favorite blogger terms to make fun of), but you probably don’t know this person, so you don’t yet know if you want the agent to represent you. Maybe you haven’t even thought about writing a book. Thank the agent, seem interested, and say you’ll get back in touch soon.
2. Ask the agent if he or she represents food-based books. You want an agent who has expertise in your area. If you forgot to ask during the call, check the agency’s website to see if he or she has represented cookbooks, food memoir, reference books or guidebooks — whatever type of book you want to write. If your search comes up blank, be skeptical. In your next call, politely ask about the interest in your kind of book if it is not something the agent has represented before.
3. Ask more questions. You’ll be entering into a business relationship with this agent, and you want to be informed. On this or a subsequent phone call, ask such questions as:
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you represent authors who might have competing books?
- Do you have an author-agent contract?
- Will you send on rejection letters to me?
- Are you a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives?
After the call, do a search on the agent’s name and agency name and learn as much as possible, if you haven’t already.
4. Be clear about fees. Most agents charge a flat 15 percent of whatever money you get from a publisher. Some charge for office expenses and faxes, but these days, most work is done online, so there’s not much to charge for anyway. If the agent says there’s a fee to work on a proposal, steer clear. That’s supposed to be part of their fee. (And if you want help crafting an impressive book proposal, that’s my territory.)
5. Don’t promise to write a book proposal within a few weeks. If the agent wants to work with you, you’ll need to write a book proposal they use to sell your book to publishers. Book proposals are long, strategic documents that take months to write correctly, if they’re going to get into the 2 percent that succeed. Rushing it is a sure way to get into the great majority that fail, not to mention disappointing yourself and your new agent.
(Photo from freedigitalphotos.net)
You might also like:
- Most Book Deals Originate with Publishers Not Authors, Says Cookbook Agent
- Want to Write a Cookbook? Top Editors Reveal Best Subjects and Formats
- Five Tips on What Makes a Killer Cookbook Idea
- Finding an Agent for Your Book