How To Locate An Agent
I’ve learned that many people ask this question before they are ready for an agent. These authors want to have their books published but have learned almost nothing about the business or how to craft an idea for the market. One of the best things you can do for yourself to find an agent (or a publisher) is to get published in magazines. The experience of writing for magazines is invaluable and will help your writing career—and help an agent be interested in your work.
No matter where you are in your writing career, whether you are advanced or beginning, it’s difficult to find an agent. Having a connection with that agent is critical. One of the key factors is whether the agent charges you for the services or whether he gets his income from selling your book manuscript. If the latter, then it’s more likely they are a solid agent. If they are charging you to market your book, then I’d be suspicious because they could be making their money from simply charging you (and many other would-be authors).
Have you ever seen the ads for literary agents in writing magazines who charge reading fees? If you wonder if people prey on unpublished authors, then you need to read Jim Fisher's book, Ten Percent of Nothing, The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell (Southern Illinois University Press, June 2004). Fisher is a former FBI agent and this book reads like a fascinating novel. You will learn about a frustrated science fiction novelist, Dorothy Deering, who was burned by two fee-charging literary agents who did nothing to locate a publisher for her work. As an ex-con, Dorothy saw the money-making potential in starting her own fee-based agency. She believed there were thousands of writers who had stars in their eyes about publishing and who couldn't get the attention of traditional publishers. These writers would be willing to pay money to have their work marketed to publishers. This simple concept of fee-based reading and marketing of manuscripts began one of the biggest publishing scams in American history.
Thousands of would-be writers paid millions of dollars to Deering, a former bookkeeper who had no professional experience as a writer, editor, agent or publisher. Fiisher who worked for the FBI for over twenty years, was drawn to this story after learning of a friend who lost money in this scam. The author exposes an ugly side of American publishing and the book emphasizes the warning signs to any would-be writer so they will not be drawn into such practices.
I recommend anyone in publishing get a copy of Ten Percent of Nothing, The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell to help their own education about the importance of using common sense and also avoiding fee-based agents. You will learn from Jim Fisher that Dorothy Deering ran a publishing hoax. She never sold a single manuscript to a major publisher and bilked millions of dollars from her clients that were spent on personal cruises and expensive cars and homes. Dorothy Deering went to prison for her scam but others have taken up this confidence game within publishing and writers need to know about this little talked about aspect of publishing.
I work with a number of terrific agents—as an editor and as a writer. It's interesting to me the depth we go to when we check out a good car dealership--yet how we don't do our homework sometimes with an agent. I understand part of it--as writers, we want anyone who wants our work--but that might not be the wisest route. Anyone can suddenly become an agent and that agent might not be the right one for you.
I've got some great basic information about this topic on Right-Writing.com including: The Safest Way to Search for An Agent and Do Literary Agents look for new authors? These two articles will give you a start in the journey to locate an agent. I hope it helps.