In seeking an agent, one of your first concerns will be in finding one who is ethical and well-respected in the industry. Unfortunately, writers—due to there overwhelming desire to get published—often fall prey to unethical and unscrupulous agents. I have heard more than one horror story of authors who have paid agents thousands of dollars in hopes of getting a book published.
Before you start looking for an agent, it will help to know what is acceptable and unacceptable in this usually unfamiliar arena. Although there are agents who handle Christian books exclusively, there are also secular agents who are willing to or routinely handle Christian manuscripts. Although we would want to believe that the “Christian” agents would be beyond reproach, that is not always true. It is that trusting nature of the Christian that leaves him vulnerable to agents out to prey on that trust. Keep in mind that anyone can be an agent—or call themselves one. It takes no education, experience, or license of any kind.
As more and more people are pursuing their dream to write a book, the need for agents has grown as well. Unfortunately, as that need has increased, so has the number of would-be agents out to fleece the uninitiated. The watch-dogs in this area report that a good number of those who claim to be agents use it only to collect up-front fees with no intention of ever selling a book. It is such schemes that make it all the more important that authors know what to expect when approaching an agent.
Fortunately there are certain criteria you can use in evaluating a perspective agent. Anyone who signs on with an agent without doing their homework would be lucky not to get stung in the process. Since an agent is going to handle all the money that comes to you from a publisher, you had better know that they can be trusted.
Tomorrow we'll look the questions to ask.