7 Types Of Literary Agents Writers Should Avoid | Writer’s Relief

Aug 2, 2023 | Book Publishing, Literary Agents, Other Helpful Information, Writing Tips

Most literary agents are hardworking, sincere individuals who want to help writers get their books traditionally published. But, as in any industry, there will always be some people who don’t have your best interests at heart. At Writer’s Relief, we know there are agents who are trustworthy and reliable—and other literary agents who might not be the best choice. Here are the 7 types of literary agents that writers should avoid.

Steer Clear Of These Types Of Literary Agents

Scammers. These agents are more interested in milking you for cash than helping you get published. They may charge you for things that reputable agents typically don’t charge fees for. Reading fees, for example, are nonexistent in book queries. Good agents will never ask you for money just to review your manuscript. Reading, evaluation, and marketing fees are not the standard and are even looked down upon by the publishing industry.

Extortionists. When an agent decides to take on your book and offers a contract, they should not ask for money up front or for an absurdly high percentage of all profits associated with your book. Reputable agents will not request more than 15% of all profits. Anything more should immediately raise a red flag and warn you that the agent is working for money and not for their authors’ best interests.

Newbies. Working with a new literary agent isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But a newbie agent may not know the ropes well enough to give you the best opportunities. All agents were once new, so don’t be afraid to query someone who’s just striking out on their own. But make sure that the new agent has experience within the publishing industry or works with a reputable agency.

Fame chasers. These are the name-dropping agents who love having the title “literary agent” and any perks that come with it, but who really aren’t interested in doing any actual work. Good agents will put their clients first and will be realistic about their clients’ potential. When you research an agent who’s a “fame chaser,” you’ll notice that there isn’t much of a track record to review.

Slackers. A reputable agent will promptly reply to your emails and provide updates on how your book is doing. If your agent lets your emails sit in their inbox for weeks before replying, or they give you vague excuses as to why you aren’t seeing any progress, then they aren’t taking you or your work seriously. The best agent-author relationships are partnerships that have openness and honesty.

Inboxers. An agent’s responsibilities include active communication and outreach to editors and publishers. If your agent simply sends your query off in an email, hoping a publisher will show interest—and only halfheartedly follows up—it’s unlikely this literary agent will deliver on any publication promises. A good agent should be your boots on the ground, arranging meetings, following up, and making as many phone calls as it takes to get your book published.

Jailers. These agents make excuses, not progress: the dog is having puppies, the rent is due, they’ve misplaced their Oxford comma and can’t find it, or their plate is sooooooo full are just a few of the reasons why they haven’t been able to focus on your project. While things do happen, it becomes a problem when the excuses stack up one after the other and never stop. Meanwhile, the agent is essentially holding you and your book hostage. Of course, book deals don’t happen overnight, but you should see some level of commitment and attempts at promoting your book.

If you do your research, you should be able to determine if a literary agent is right for you. But if you don’t want to spend all of your writing time researching and vetting literary agents, the experts at Writer’s Relief can do all the legwork and busywork for you! Our researchers will target the best agents for your writing style and genre. You can rest assured the literary agents carefully selected for you by our team will be professional and reputable. Learn more about our services, and submit your writing to our Review Board today!

Question: What other types of literary agents should writers avoid?