10 Things to Expect From Your Agent

People are always asking me, What are the signs of a good agent? What should I expect? Always one to provide answers, here is my list of the 10 main things you should expect from your literary agent.

1. Expect your agent to have a cell phone from all four major carriers so no matter which one you have, you can talk for hours every day for free. Communication is key!

2. During contract negotiations, expect your agent to use whatever means necessary (i.e. bribes, white lies, threats, and crocodile tears) in order to extract every last penny from your publisher.

3. Expect your agent to shop your project for as many years at it takes to sell (up to 25 years or the death of the agent, whichever comes first). Publishing trends are cyclical after all.

4. Expect your agent to only be interested in the book you’re pitching right now. They don’t care about your entire career and don’t want to hear that you have other book ideas—at least until they’ve sold the one in their hands. (See #3.)

5. Expect to provide your agent with a list of the publishers you want them to submit your book to, as well as each editor’s name, email address, phone number, and most-frequented coffee shop. (You can’t assume they know this stuff just because they call themselves an agent.)

6. Expect that your agent will be totally money-focused and contract-minded. Agents don’t care about the craft of writing and most of them don’t really like to read anyway. It’s just business to them.

7. Expect your agent to charge you a fee for reading your work; another fee for offering any editorial advice; and a third fee for emailing that advice back to you. (Exception: The Really Good Agents prefer to simply bill you an inflated hourly rate just like a lawyer does.)

8. Expect that once they’ve sold your book, your agent will immediately un-friend you on Facebook and Twitter. (Until you have another book to sell.)

9. Expect your agent to spend their cut of the advance buying a full-page ad for your book in the New York Times. After all, isn’t that what an agent is for? Marketing?

10. Expect your agent to send you flowers, chocolate and other gifts at least once a week.

Oh, yeah… in case you haven’t caught on yet…


Go back and read 1 through 10—and understand that these are NOT what you should expect from an agent!

Tomorrow I’ll post the real list of What to Expect.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. quietspirit on April 2, 2009 at 4:23 PM

    This is waaay funny. I knew something was going on when I read #1. I thought this was an Internet joke. It got funnier and funnier. Then the punch line came. This is priceless.

  2. Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie on April 2, 2009 at 7:00 AM

    >You covered it pretty well.
    Are we expecting too much? 🙂

    Thanks for an education that arrives with grace and humor: May all of us be teachable!

  3. Meg on April 1, 2009 at 10:57 PM

    >I got confused with number 1 wondering how the heck an agent could afford all those plans much less keep track of them. Kept reading till the end though. Good one!

  4. Rachelle on April 1, 2009 at 5:36 PM

    >Andrew, the title of the posts (today and tomorrow) says “YOUR agent.” I’m not talking about unagented authors bombarding an agent with manuscripts. I’m talking about an existing agent/client relationship.

  5. Jaime on April 1, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    >I just went into cardiac arrest and my coworker had to use the paddles to revive me. Sheesh!! Warn a person before you pull such a prank! 🙂 LOL good one!

  6. Andrew on April 1, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    >Actually, I liked No. 4. I’ve read about unpublished authors flooding agents with manuscripts, and how irritating it can be…so is this not a good way for a first time author to approach it?

    What say ye, Rachelle?

  7. Avily Jerome on April 1, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    >LOL! Very fun! thanks for the laugh, Rachelle!

  8. Marybeth on April 1, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    >But I was excited at the thought of paying an agent a fee every time we talked. Especially after endless hours on the cell phone that was on the exact same plan as mine! Don’t forget to charge your clients when they want to include you in “Their Circle” 😀

  9. Dawn on April 1, 2009 at 1:14 PM

    >You forgot to include that a good agent will provide a nanny, maid, and cook for a month prior to all deadlines – out of her own pocket,kind heart, and desire to see you succeed. 😉

    Oh, by the way, my kids are all grown, so I’ll save an agent the cost of a nanny! What a deal.

    Loved the post!
    I needed a good laugh today. 🙂

  10. Chatty Kelly on April 1, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    >I read #1, and thought “surely she doesn’t really have 4 cell phones???” and then I got to #2, and scrolled all the way down to the bottom to find the punch line. good one.

    I AM looking forward to tomorrow’s post however, and that is no joke. 🙂

  11. Jennifer Roland on April 1, 2009 at 12:30 PM

    >Loved it!

  12. T. Anne on April 1, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    >You had me until chocolate 😉

  13. Janeal C. Falor on April 1, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    >I’m still pulling for #10 myself. Chocolates especially!

  14. Lea Ann McCombs on April 1, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    >Oh darn! You mean that was a joke? I was just getting all excited! Especially the one about you shopping my book for the next 20 years! LOL

  15. lynnrush on April 1, 2009 at 10:48 AM

    >LOL!!!!!!!!!!! Oh yeah, this was funny!

  16. Krista Phillips on April 1, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    >Very funny!!! Look forward to the real post, but thanks for the laugh!

    (and I personally think blogger is being mean today given april fools… my word verification is ‘tramp’… seriously!)

  17. Lady Glamis on April 1, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    >LOL! I look forward to the real post. 🙂

  18. Carol on April 1, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    >#1, 2, and 3 sound like good ideas to me. Although surprised, I didn’t catch on until #5, where the part about the coffee shops finally made me stop and think.

  19. Perry P. Perkins on April 1, 2009 at 9:17 AM

    >Oh Man!

    I was just going to ask for that agents email addy!

    LOL. Thanks for the laugh, that was awesome!


  20. Kerry on April 1, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    >can we have brunch, too? every other day?

  21. Liz on April 1, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    >Thanks for the laugh! You’re the first one to “get” me on April Fools day. At first I thought “wow, I didn’t know an agent would do that!” Then “I think she’s being sarcastic and bad-tempered!” I’m looking forward to hearing what an agent will REALLY do tomorrow.

  22. Meg Trotter on April 1, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    >lI was sitting here, scratching my head while reading the list thinking, “Whaaat? She can’t be serious…”
    Good one!

  23. Anna on April 1, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    >hee hee… :)))

  24. Rachel on April 1, 2009 at 8:39 AM


  25. Sharon A. Lavy on April 1, 2009 at 8:05 AM

    >I really was getting into this until I reached #4. What a way to burst my bubble!

  26. Danette on April 1, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    >THAT was a good one! I was like, wha? Huh?


  27. C.J. Redwine on April 1, 2009 at 8:01 AM


  28. BJ on April 1, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    >So, you’re saying we *shouldn’t* expect chocolate?

    Dang 🙁

  29. Litgirl01 on April 1, 2009 at 7:52 AM

    >LOL!!! Too funny! Can’t wait to read what we should REALLY expect.

  30. Julie Gillies on April 1, 2009 at 7:46 AM

    >Hilarious, Rachelle. Happy April Fools Day!

  31. Yvonne on April 1, 2009 at 7:42 AM

    >ha, ha, ha…you got me! I forgot it was April Fool’s Day. I thought you were being extra “snarky” today!

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

  32. Angie on April 1, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    >I was fully aware that today is April Fool’s…but you still had me! Good one.

  33. Janny on April 1, 2009 at 6:37 AM

    >Awww, I want my presents!!!!


  34. Marty on April 1, 2009 at 4:23 AM

    >When I read #1 I was amazed that agents had four cell phones, the “Communication is key” phrase hooked me. After that I was afraid you had lost your mind! Funny April Fool’s. ;D

  35. Nixy Valentine on April 1, 2009 at 4:14 AM

    >By the time I got to #3 I was thinking.. umm.. Rachelle has lost her mind.

    Very funny!

  36. Megan on April 1, 2009 at 1:39 AM

    >hahahaha you had me up to abut number 7!:P

  37. Kim Kasch on April 1, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    >A full page ad…?
    Wait . . .
    That idea isn’t half bad


  38. Maggie May on April 1, 2009 at 1:05 AM

    >WHat!? And here I was waiting for my lace teddy, vodka, flowers and NYT ad.