Most major publishing houses now require an agent. Each agent has his/her preference at how to be contacted. Sally E. Stuart in the Christian Writers’ Market Guide 2006 lists many agents who will work with Christian writers and how to contact them.
Times have changed. In the past few Christian publishing houses worked with agents. The major houses worked with well-known writers, met new writers at conferences or recommendations from authors they knew, and accepted queries, proposals or manuscripts over the transom. Now few of the major publishing houses will accept unsolicited materials.
How to Get a Good Agent:
You can get information from Writers Market Books, and Agent Directories. Check out potential agents at their local Better Business Bureau. Ask for a list of books and authors they have represented. Query some of the authors in care of their publishers. Were they satisfied with their agent? Go to writers’ conferences to meet agents. Listen to any tips the agents may give you. Have a query letter ready to hand to the agent. Check the internet. Most reputable agents will have their own website. Be professional, courteous, prayerful and make sure you meet their qualifications as a potential client. [Check the lists of literary agents on the new WIN website: www.christianwritersinfo.net, in Literary Marketplace, or in Christian Writers Market Guide.]
“It begins with a one-page, direct and concise query letter. This illustrates the writing ability of the one composing it. Discussion of important elements: genre, professionalism, concept pitch, and craft. Our agency receives approximately 500 queries a week; we’re looking for the writers who stand out above the pack,” Agent Deidre Knight told her workshop at Mt. Hermon.
The query letter is probably the single most essential piece of writing you’ll craft as a writer—as least as important, some would say, as your book itself. In one short (oh so short!) page, you’re expected to hook an agent’s interest, inform him about your project, tell him why you’re the perfect person to write it, and leave him hungry to hear more from you. (Agents, Editors, and You, Writers Digest Books, 2002).
Working with an Agent
Be sure you are comfortable with the stipulations on the Agents Agreement or Contract you will be asked to sign. Does the agent offer regular reports about to whom your manuscript has been submitted? Will they provide copies of the rejection letters? Agents will advise you on contract negotiation and often can go after a better deal than the original offer. They keep watch on your royalty statements.
What to Expect in an Agent
To point out any weak points in your book proposal or manuscript that would not get it a favorable reading at the publishing house. To know the market well and the competition for your book; able to recognize trends, needs and areas of speciality at the publishing houses where your book might fit. To market your book, getting it around to publishing houses in a timely manner. To know the customary range of advances from publishers, as well as how and when to approach them with your project. To help guide your total writing and speaking career.
How to Judge an Agent
The agent and writer should have a friendly rapport with each other. Consider the size of the agency. The big agencies are concerned mainly with the big name writers and can give only limited time. The small to mid-size agencies are apt to give more concentrated attention to each writer.
Deidre Knight at the Knight Agency
She says, “The agent helps plan your career. It’s great to sell one book to a house, or even to sell a few to several houses, but an agent’s job is to see where you’re going in the next month, three months, and five years. An agent works with the author in forming career direction, i.e., balancing that writer’s dreams and goals with the reality of achieving them. The agent cannot super-impose their own objectives¯they work together with the writer to achieve goals. It’s a team situation of working toward a future together, whether the writer is unpublished or successful and multi-published.” [Deidre Knight gives helpful tips on her website: www. Knightagency.net. Janet Kobobel Grant from Books and Such talked to me at Glorietta Christian Writers Conference.]