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How To Identify Real Literary Agents

If you are an author looking for a literary agent, it can be a daunting task to differentiate between the good and bad ones. The following are some things you should look out for when looking for an agent.

Real agents rarely advertise: The literary world is full of talented writers and these writers are the ones that look for agents. Real agents therefore don’t need to advertise. If you see an ad for a literary agent, there is a good chance that he/she is not good at his job.

Real agents don’t ask for any upfront fees: A few years ago, many authors used to be duped by agents who were asking for reading fees to evaluate manuscripts. Those days are gone but scammers of today have become more innovative. Modern scammers disguise upfront charges with fancy names such as “administrative fees,” “contract fees,” “evaluation fees,” “editing fees,” etc. The fact that an author has to pay upfront fees for whichever reason should make him cautious about dealing with the agent.

These agents claim that they don’t charge fees and many authors don’t consider paying for a “critique” to be an agent fee. However, real agents shouldn’t ask for any fee for whichever reason. Some so called agents charge outrageous fees. It is not uncommon to hear an agent asking an author to fly to a different city to take some “publicity pictures” to be sold with his books and ends up selling no books.

Real agents, just like real estate agents, earn their money through commissions. An agent is supposed to get paid when your books start selling. A commission is deducted from the sales to pay the agent and real agents use this business model. They don’t have any business asking you for money when you have not sold any books yet.

Real agents provide you with their previous successful book deals: A real agent should give you a list of the books that he/she has helped to sell. He should also tell you the publisher of the books. A real agent does not sell books to vanity presses or publishing houses that take writers who don’t have agents. Real agents sell your books to publishers that pay you advances and royalties. These publishers distribute your books to brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Real agents join the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR): To join this association, an agent must have a proven track record. He must have sold some books in order to qualify as a member. Sometimes agents/agencies join this association even if they have questionable behaviors so you should trust your gut feeling about an agent.

Real agents prefer physical meetings: If an agent insists on electronic interactions only, you should be very wary. A real agent should have a real snail address, phone numbers, and an email address. A real agent should talk to you by phone or meet you physically.

Real agents don’t edit books for a fee: A real agent should help you to polish your book before taking it to a publisher without asking for payment. This service is covered by their 15% commission.