Guest Blogger, Michelle Fayard - How to Tell if an Agent is Right for your Book

Michelle is excited to do a free critique of a query letter or the first 250 words of a manuscript to a random commenter. Comment within one week, and be sure to include your e-mail address. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.

How can you really tell if an agent is the right one for your book? Do you pick an agent with a great client list, or will they be too busy for you? Or should you pick a new hungry agent with less experience?

Although there is no right way to spare ourselves this decision agony, the following has been successful for me. Whenever I read a book that resonates with me strongly, I do some research to see if I can learn who the editor and agent are. Then I see if they accept the genre I write. If so, I start reading books by the authors they’ve repped. I also rely heavily on and to get a feel about what others have experienced with my prospective leads.

I also look to see if they’re an editorial agent, as that means a lot to me. I’d also ask how many other authors they’re currently repping, because that probably would better address the concern of whether an agent with a great client list would have time for me; their client list could be hot, but the agent could have time to take me on.

I wouldn’t mind having a new agent if they met all of my other criteria; most new agents are in an agency with other, more-experienced colleagues, so I feel comfortable that my agent would be able to pick their brains if needed. Besides, passion and energy mean a lot.

Other questions to ask could include:

  • What publishers do you have in mind for my book?
  • How frequently do you update authors and what is your preferred communication style?
  • Why do you want to represent me? What do you like best about my work?
  • Would you be interested in repping my future novels?

In the end, I believe it is a matter of instinct. And the great news? Research has proven that 75 to 80 percent of the time our instinct is spot on. Believe in yourself, because you already are a winner no matter which agent you choose.

Pre-published author Michelle Fayard has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer and editor, and her nonfiction articles have been published internationally. Michelle lives in Northern California with her husband, Marcelo, and their 12 rescue cats. The first three queries for her historical young-adult novel, The Underground Gift, have resulted in a request for a partial and a full.

To read the first five chapters of The Underground Gift online, visit and click on Work in Progress.

I'd like to extend a great big thank you to Michelle for her very insightful comments and for taking the time to guest blog. Good luck to everyone who enters to win a free 250 word critique from Michelle, a very qualified editor and writer. Contest ends July 31, 2011.


  1. Michelle,

    A lot of good info here, thanks. I am self publishing right now but hope to move to an agent and publisher in the near future. I would love to have your critique.


  2. I bookmarked this page because this is advice I really need in my quest for an agent. Michelle's suggestion of reading books they rep is wonderful idea; that takes your research further than simply making sure the work is in their genre and should give a feel for what they like. And so far I've just been concerned with hooking an agent, I'd never really thought of all the questions I should ask them. :)

    Jeanne, Thanks for posting this informative interview. :)

  3. Thank you for stopping by! I really do appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment...I read each and everyone of them. I hope your day is a good one and that you will come back again soon. Have a lovely weekend!Take care. Nelson Souzza :)

  4. Michelle, have you ever had to walk away from an agent after signing? What questions should someone ask before thinking of doing that?

    Thanks! harkness2009[at]hotmail[dot]com

  5. Good tips, Michelle. I'm filing this post away for the future.

    Meanwhile, this blog site is a nice discovery.

  6. I read this articles and I think to myself...FINISH your book! Because I look forward to the day I can worry about agenting.

    :) Is that sad?

    One thing I worry about is that my book does not fit neatly into a genre. I think that's going to hurt me finding a publisher and agent. Its a very non-traditional book.


  7. Aine, I'm so glad this post has some takeaway messages. When will your first book be coming out? Self-publishing is a lot of work and you have my respect for taking on the role of wearing all the hats. Wishing you much good luck with this critique contest!

    Tina, you just made my day saying you bookmarked this page! I think it's perfectly OK to not immediately know what questions you'd like to ask prospective agents and editors; that flows naturally after you've done some research about them. And who knew research could be as fun as reading a bag full of books?

    Nelson, what a beautiful comment, and I hope this finds you having an outstanding day too! Jeanne, you have just about the nicest followers I've ever met. This is a tribute to you and your writing skills.

    Pam, this is an experience we hope never will happen, but it can, just like it does sometimes after accepting an offer for a day job. I am grateful not to have had this happen with my historical YA, but I would walk away for the right reasons. Your question would make for an excellent blog post as well, but here are some key points:

    - When signing with an agent, be sure to request an out clause, which will give you the option of terminating the relationship, e.g., after six months or a year, if things aren’t working out the way you’d hoped.
    - A key warning sign is you have questions your agent either can't or won't answer.
    - If your agent's other clients are getting deals while but you remain unpublished, ask why the agent thinks your book might be failing to draw the attention of editors.

    I sure hope this isn't a situation you're facing. If so, remember that 75 to 80 percent of the time our instincts are spot on, so believe in yourself and do what must be done.

    Elizabeth, it's always a day brightener to meet a new blogging friend, and I'm glad you discovered Jeanne's site. :)

  8. Tirzah, thanks for stopping by. When I have more time to devote to reviewing, i'll have to check out your book. Is it up on tNBW? Funny, but I don't think I've ever reviewed you.

  9. Tizrah, I love an oxymoron like "good worrying," when it comes to a book contract, that is. :)

    I like to think about your book this way: An agent and editor are going to snap it right up, because it will have cross-marketing potential. And since agents and editors usually like more than one genre, you'll be appealing to more of their likes. As long as it has a plot they can hang a marketing plan onto and an audience that will love the plot, hopefully that will be all that really matters.

    By the way, I love the book covers you designed for Jeanne; they are among the most beautiful I've ever seen. It must have been a difficult decision not to run the art of Lola with the brick background.

  10. Michelle -
    Blood's Voice is already released as an eBook and the print should be within a month. I am awaiting the final date. Thank you for your comments!


  11. Ah Jeanne, it's up on TNBW. My poetry gets in the way of the novel. I write eight chapters, take a break, write eight chapters, take a break. At this rate, I'll finish some next life. :))) Its a dark comedy/adventure/sort of chick lit. Think of it as a adventure novel for grown-ups. The best kind of fluff for a vacation read. I see the book as a dirty little treat women will read and snicker about and hand around to their friends. Hah. You see I have few literary pretensions.

  12. That is so nice of you to say, Michelle. I've gotten into cover design the last year and I love learning how to do new things for covers. Why can't ever author, self-published or traditional, have a cover that gets the author excited about their book again (after the 92nd edit). :)

    But the problem with my book, Michelle, is that it is not a plot driven book. Its hangs on the main character. Its dark humor/adventure.

    Basically my main character is a nut. :) This is her first person account of how she ended up in jail and why she's happy about it. HAHAHAHAHA. It involves things like a wig wearing pimp taking hormone therapy and car chase involving my main character (shirtless)driving and singing 80's rock music while she waives the cops around her speeding, stolen van full of explosives.

    But it doesn't much matter until I finish those last 8 chapters, now does it?

    Finish your book! Nothing can be done until you do that. :)

  13. Oh man, I feel like so much research has to go into this part of the process. I'm more than a little relieved I'm still in the editing phase ;)

  14. Aine, congratulations on the releases dates of Blood’s Voice! This must be your best summer ever.

    Tirzah, you had me hooked from your first sentence, “This is her first-person account of how she ended up in jail and why she's happy about it.” With a hook and voice like that, why wouldn’t agents and editors be delighted to rep your book?

    Juliana, I’ll agree it sounds overwhelming and intimidating, but it helps cut down on the number of rejections, a worse “evil.” :)

  15. Hi Jeanne. I came here through Michelle's blog. :D Great tips Michelle. Thanks so much for sharing them. I always research the agents who represent authors of the books I love. I've still got a lot more research to do before I start querying my YA Fantasy novel.

    I love to win that critique. :D
    email: cherylanneblogs (at) gmail (dot) com

  16. Cheryl, it always makes my day when a post on Bird's-eye View leads a follower to a new blogging friend. I hope you'll enjoy Jeanne's site as much as I do. I'm also happy these tips were useful. It's nice to know there are others out there that "stalk" agents and editors as the two of us do. :) Wishing you much good luck in the critique contest!

    By the way, in early August I'll officially kick off the 500 Followers Giveaway Challenge on Bird's-eye View. Every time I welcome another 100 followers, each person is automatically entered in a new drawing for items ranging from books to critiques of query letters to the full manuscript. This guest post helped inspire the idea; thank you very much, everyone!

  17. Great post! I would love to win a critique. I have published 2 children's travel adventure books and have a picture book I am now looking to find a publisher for. I can be reached at My web site is to learn more about me and my writing.

  18. Interesting post! I chose self publishing for my first book, and although I love some of the freedom it has given me, I would like to go the traditional route for my future books.

    :) Ang


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