Returning to the subject of literary agents, the question of how to get one arises. First of all, there are a couple of 'dont's'. Firstly, conventional wisdom is to never deal with an agent who charges up-front fees. Conventional wisdom is right. Agents make money (conventionally 15%) out of selling your book. The ones who charge up-front fees are making money out of - well - up-front fees and not out of selling books. Avoid! Secondly, there are some agents about who are frankly sharks. They are careful to avoid the up-front fees tag and advertise extensively on webpages connected to literary agents. Warning signs are buttering up the 'new' unpublished writer, an enthusiasm for electronic submission and a technically correct trumpeting of 'no advance fees'. The sting comes later with fees for activity, 'independent' editing fees and links with vanity publishers. 'Writer Beware' maintains a list of these agencies (Thumbs Down Agencies List). Take a look. The most notorious of these agencies, run by a convicted conman, regularly rebrands itself and has appeared under a series of names. I wrote about two years ago, asking that dismal volume the Writers' & Artists Yearbook why their webpage carries an advert for these sharks. Still no answer and I notice that it continues to do so. The answer would appear to be that the adverts are placed by google. Perhaps a protest to google would be in order from the distinguished people at the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook but apparently not.
Okay, that's what shouldn't be done. How should the great unpublished go about finding an agent? Firstly, do your research. There is no point in approaching an agent who only does children's literature as regards your thriller. If the agent says they are not taking on new clients he/she can be taken to mean it. Secondly, there is no need to spend money on the dismal volume mentioned above or equivalents whether printed or online (some bodies charge for lists of agents). It's all there online and for free! Just googling 'literary agency' will produce an avalanche of links. For more systematic research, two resources should be mentioned. Gerard Jones's website, everyone who's anyone - http://www.everyonewhosanyone.com/ - is pretty much what it says on the tin and much more. The website does two things - firstly it is a vast resource base as regards US/UK/Canadian agents and publishers and secondly it is Gerard's rage against the machine. Gerard does anger bigtime and conducts a one man guerilla war against the publishing industry. He not only posts agent/publisher contact details (not all of whom are best pleased at being so posted) but also his exchanges with them. Some are hilarious. My personal favourite is an exchange with an agent called Warren Frazier who requested his manuscript and sat on it for months without responding. It can be found (if you are impervious to language that would make a Tourettes sufferer blush) about a third of the way down under Part 2 of US Adult Trade Literary Agents. The 'Thanks' at the end is a nice touch.
As regards Gerard's anger, he has been writing for something over thirty years. He has had one book published. It is called Ginny Good (cover above) and it is - well - very, very good. It ought to have been a best seller but wasn't. Go cheer the old boy up and order it. You won't be disappointed.
Everyone who's anyone is now under maintenance only but a new resource has burst forth - Litmatch - which I mentioned in the first part under this topic. It is run principally by a writer called Christopher Hawkins and again is free. It also is accumulating a database of agents but tries a new approach in that it attempts to match agents to projects. It is at a relatively early stage of development but looks very promising. Go see.
As Forrest Gump didn't quite say 'and that's all I've got to say about literary agents'.
At least for the moment.