How Do I Know I've Found a Good Agent for My Book?

By Bill O'Hanlon

Two main ways:

1. Are they in New York? 99% of the best agents are in the New York area. Why? Because much of agenting is about relationships and most big publishers are based in New York City. The agents who live there lunch with editors, meet editors and publishers at literary events and often visit them in their offices to pitch books. There are a few exceptions to this general rules, but if you are a novice, I wouldn't take the risk without a lot of good reasons to make the exception.

2. You know someone who has used them as a agent and had a great experience.

Then look them up on the Internet and see what you can find about them.

If you get access to them, ask them for a list of books and authors they have represented.

Chat with them and discover whether you have compatibility with them and trust them.

It's still a bit of a crap shoot. You won't really know how they are until you deal with them for a while. It's a bit like a marriage (with kids, since if they sell one of your books, you're now joined for life, whether or not you move on to a new agent; they still have their 15% of the book they sold as long as it is in print and still bringing in income).

But, like a marriage, you can make changes, both within the relationship and by leaving it and finding another agent. So, if your agent wasn't that great, you can always move on, making it one of those ubiquitous "learning experiences" that life so often provides.

And an important note: In the publishing business, money always flows from publishers and agents to authors. An agent who asks you for money is almost never legit. Run, don't walk, in the opposite direction clutching your wallet or pocketbook.

Hope this helps in getting your book written and published.

Bill O'Hanlon, author of 28 books published by major publishers like HarperCollins, W.W.
Norton, Penguin, John Wiley and Sons, and other publishers. He appeared on Oprah with his book Do One Thing Different. His books have been translated into 15 languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish, German, Chinese, Bulgarian, Turkish, Korean, Indonesian, Italian, Croatian, Arabic and Japanese. His latest book is Write is a Verb, published by Writers Digest. His writing and publishing information site is

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