Can you identify any resources for aspiring authors seeking an agent? What should an author look for in an agent?
(A continuation of Terry’s response from part 1.)
For resources, one of the best resources is my free list of over 400 agents (names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and websites). There is an article from Victoria Strauss about The Safest Way to Search for an Agent. The article has many other valuable links and resources to follow. This page is on a site I own. I have hundreds of free articles on this site including many about agents in the fiction and nonfiction areas. Also I have a blog about writing and publishing called The Writing Life. This site has over 1,100 searchable entries. For several years I was a literary agent and have worked with agents for many years. In the right hand column, scroll down and you will find a simple search tool that allows you to search the blog with key words like: agent or literary agent. You will find many entries with my advice and teaching in this area.
As for what to look for in an agent, writers need to understand that finding the right agent is like looking for a marriage partner. It has to be the right relationship. Every writer is different as far as what they need and expect from their agent. Do you expect a lot of feedback or no feedback on your proposals and submissions? The Association of Author Representatives has a terrific list of possible questions for agents (and answers). While the author will not want to ask every one of these questions, it will give you some good ideas about what to ask a potential agent. In this world where there are few agents and many authors, here’s a little detail that writers need to remember: the agent works for you. Don’t allow an agent to reverse those roles.
You mention that endorsements are a crucial component in a book proposal. Do publishers expect endorsements with the proposal, or do they simply want to know about who you might approach?
Publishers do not expect a proposal to include endorsements. Most proposals do not have endorsements. I write about endorsements as critical way authors can help their proposal gain acceptance. If you have secured actual endorsements in your proposal, it is a key way you can “rejection-proof” your proposal or distinguish it from the many other proposals on an editor or agent’s desk. Some of my agent friends receive 100 pitches a day. The challenge for the writer is to make their submission stand out (in a positive way—there are many negative ways to stand out). If you have the actual endorsement or foreword (which is at least 1,000 words instead of a two sentence endorsement), I’ve sold proposals to publication boards because the proposal included a foreword form a well-known author.
The publisher wants to know who you can actually approach—a realistic list where you have some level of connection to the person. I’ve seen many authors include a list people who would be almost impossible to get like Billy Graham or Charles Swindoll. Do these people give endorsements? Yes but they are constantly asked and rarely give them (something every agent and publisher knows so if you tout the fact you can get it, make sure you can actually back up that claim.).
Combining the last two questions, is it customary for a literary agent to utilize his/her relationships to help the author solicit or obtain top-name endorsements? Or is that considered the author’s sole responsibility?
I have seen some literary agents use their own author relationships to help an author get top-name endorsers but it is rare. Normally it is the author’s responsibility to gather these endorsements. The key from my perspective is to ask these top endorsers in the best possible way to receive a “yes” response. For my latest book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, I asked over 30 people in the publishing community. I fully expected about 50% of them to turn me down—even though I made it easy for them to say, “yes.” Twenty-five of them sent endorsements that fill four pages in the front of the book. You can see these endorsements in my free sample.
If you are wondering about the right way to ask for an endorsement, I would return to my blog and use the search tool for the word “endorsements.” One key entry is called The Power of Asking. As another resource to reach celebrities, check out Contact Any Celebrity. Using this link, you can get a free 30-day trial.