What Do You Expect?

women kickboxingI might be getting myself into trouble by asking this but…

What is the most important thing you expect from a literary agent?

(Let us know if you have an agent, or if you’re seeking one.)

Have a good weekend!


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!


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  7. marion on September 7, 2011 at 4:29 AM

    [Very late post. Sorry!]

    Hand-holding. Since it’s my first novel.

    More precisely, the agent has two hands. One hand holds my hand, guiding me through the dark jungle, only letting go to pick off a leech or swat away a tsetse fly or two.

    The other hand holds a machete, with which the agent carves out a path to the perfect publisher for my novel!

  8. E.W. Saloka on September 4, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    Bookbaby already published my ebook to kindle. What does an agent do when the book is aleady listed for sale through the online retailers? I do like your articles and receive the email daily. I find it very helpful.

  9. Shannon Taylor Vannatter on August 30, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    Keeping me in the loop. Letting me know when they’ve submitted my work and to who. I’m currently looking for an agent.

  10. Maril Hazlett on August 27, 2011 at 10:57 PM

    Um. I think my answer to this is different than it might have been six months ago.

    On one hand, though, it’s not. If I work with a literary agent, I would expect from them what I hope they would also expect from me: professionalism, partnership, communication, commitment, a high level of skill, persistence, etc. They also obviously need the good agent skills that I will never have, ie, a clue about markets, the right networks, etc. I think it’s most important that the agent believe he or she is the right person to sell my content to the right distributor, who in turn can reach the right audience for my work.

    Past that, though – publishing is obviously in major transition. Who will be in business five years from now (agents and publishers both)? Even beyond the traditional v. indie questions, is this all really about books anymore? Or is it more about producing content and managing rights? Will agents need to tap different markets? Telling stories is telling stories, but there are so many formats available, and I’m sure we are just at the beginning. What if I decide I want to work with a team on ebook designs that push content past the norm? Is an agent the right person to be involved in that? Am I really looking for more of a publishing consultant and rights manager? What’s the right fee structure for that? How do you work the contract?

    I don’t pretend I know the answer to any of these questions, or that they will emerge anytime soon. I had indeed planned to look for an agent for my fiction work, but I seem to be holding off, hesitating. Instead I have returned to a couple of (very!) niche nonfiction projects that wouldn’t have a prayer of attracting an agent or publisher’s attention. My plan is to self-publish them and gain some much needed experience in marketing and building a platform, working with book designers, graphic artists, edistributors, etc.

    By this time next year, maybe I’ll have a better idea of which way to go on the fiction.

  11. Megan on August 27, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Definitely honestly. My writing is so close to me that I’d never leave it in the hands of someone who didn’t truly believe in it like I did, and wasn’t willing to tell me the truth about it.

    I’m a YA writer, and I don’t have an agent. Yet.

  12. Dee Krull on August 27, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    The most important thing to me is rapport and honesty.

    There are a lot of good agents out there but unless we have a good connection to each other it wouldn’t matter how good either of us are.
    I am a new fiction writer. I am in the layout process of my book which should be out before the end of the year. I am looking for an agent.

  13. Dee Krull on August 27, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    The most important thing me is rapport and honesty.

    I know there are a lot of good agents out there but if we don’t have a good connection it will be hard for both of us.
    I am a new fiction writer. At this point in my process my book is in layout and will be published before the end of this year. I am looking for an agent.

  14. Sally Apokedak on August 27, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    I have an agent.

    In every relationship, we need to constantly be revising our expectations, I think. Maybe we need to ignore our expectations and look at what we can live with and what we can’t live without.

    You marry a man expecting something and you fast realize he exceeds your expectations in some areas and he falls short in others. I think some of that comes into every relationship.

    What I can’t live without is good communication. It just makes the relationship, any relationship, too difficult.

  15. error7zero on August 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Just give me the time of day.

    No agent. I quit looking a year ago to work on writing and code into HTML several pieces (for ebook).

  16. Robin Gilbert Luftig on August 27, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Rachelle –

    Wow, You really DID open yourself on this …

    I am currently looking for an agent. I have written and self-published a book, and am overwhelmed with all the work that is involved with both processes. Writing and Publishing are two totally different animals. I find that I do not have the time to write if I am trying to market my already-published book.

    Characteristics and skills that I am looking for in a literary agent are:

    – someone who I can trust and who wants me to succeed as a writer
    – someone to battle through the process of landing a solid publisher
    – someone to help me walk through the process of marketing; I’m willing to do what is necessary, but I’m afraid I’m missing important points of the process

    I look forward to discussing the possibility of creating a working relationship as noted above with you in the near future.

  17. Danielle on August 27, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    Hmm… after reading the many comments above, I can see why it might be tough to be an agent. No offense, but a lot of you seem to be looking for ego gratification, someone to hold your hand, a feel-good cheerleader or a mother. All that and sell your book, too.

    I don’t need ego strokes from my agent, though I wouldn’t want one who disliked, disdained or was uncomfortable with the content I write. My ego is just fine on its own, thanks. I know the quality of my own writing. I strive to improve it without needing honey with the hints. Just the honest opinion, if needed, and I’ll think seriously about it.

    The bottom line, this is a business arrangement, not a Make Me Feel Loved relationship. I expect an agent to cut me a better deal, to our mutual advantage, than I could manage on my own. If they do the best they can with my book, we both benefit. I expect them to have the connections and know their business well enough to be able to make the best of what they have to market, i.e. my book. That’s satisfactory to me.

    Other than that, I expect two-way pertinent communcation, because disclosure and communication builds trust and keeps the writer in the loop.

    As for having an agent… looking for one. Just sent in a query to this agency and one other.

    Great blog, Rachelle.

  18. Rachel (pixydust) on August 27, 2011 at 3:34 AM

    This is one of those questions…

    I was actually just talking to an agent about this at SCBWI-LA and it made me realize: so many of us writers forget that this publishing game isn’t just about us–what can you give me? Sell my book. Help me with my work. Be nice to me. Teach me.

    And this publishing road is a long one. So, I guess I’d say I want an agent who will make an awesome partner–a pivotal part of my team, who I can have a good relationship with–mutual respect and good communication–someone who’s easy to work with and professional (a given), and willing to do as much work as I am.

    I’m seeking representation.

  19. Anne Love on August 26, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    Heart of mission to publish good work that increases God’s Kingdom.

    Honesty–even brutal honesty. Business/marketing/sales savvy. Expect them to read/know my voice/work, but don’t need someone to hold my hand. Be available, keep me abreast of developments, but I don’t need excessive contact. Balance. Representation. Don’t want someone who represents erotica–just on principle.

    I’m looking for/researching agents. I had 3 editors interested in my pitch at ACFW last year, but God didn’t see fit to orchestrate an agent connection yet. So, I’m researching while I wait on Him, and wondering if its best to have agent first vs. editor interest first. I figure God first will work out the details.
    –Anne Love

  20. Wendy on August 26, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    No longer seeking one.

    Found what I’m looking for. 😉
    ~ Wendy

  21. Laura Parker on August 26, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    An agent with the guts and knowledge to give-it-to-me-straight.

  22. Bonnie Lacy on August 26, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Honesty. Yes, I want to be published, but I want an agent that will be honest with me and help me make my writing the best it can be. I also like what someone here said about partnership. It’s not all about me.

    I am submitting to agents now – still looking! Just need to change specifics according to website guidelines.

  23. Lawrence J Caldwell on August 26, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    If the photo is any telling, I would NOT want a butt whooping from my agent. Nor would I commit such upon them. A strong line of trust is all I ask for.

  24. Gerri Bowen on August 26, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Love my voice and my work, and go to bat for me.

    Yes, looking for an agent.

  25. Katherine Hyde on August 26, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I do have an agent, and I expect her to sell my book or die trying (just kidding about the dying part).

    There are lots of other nice things agents can do, such as give career advice, edit your work, etc., but most of those you could possibly get from someone else. An agent is the only one who can sell your book to a publisher, and thus that is her most important job.

  26. Caleb Bartholomew on August 26, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    I want an agent to be part of a group of reputable agents with a sworn code of conduct like AAR.

    I am in the beginning stages of looking for an agent for my WIP which is one chapter away from being complete. It’s a 90k “soft” thriller or mystery called “Heavy Traffick”

  27. Addison Moore on August 26, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    I need someone who will help me plot revenge against my enemies, but mostly I just need chocolate. Once in a while I need some sage advice about publishing. Thanks for being that person for me.

  28. Chad Swayden on August 26, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    A partnership. That’s it. I need to team up with someone that knows the business, that can guide and help navigate me through the publishing process while I concentrate on writing. A partnership based on trust and the single desire to put out the best product possible.

    No I don’t have an agent but am looking for one.

  29. Walt Mussell on August 26, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    I want an agent that I trust enough to listen to, even if I disagree. (Granted, given how little I know about publishing, I can’t imagine disagreeing on much of anything. 🙂 )

    I’m seeking an agent.

  30. MIchael Ehret on August 26, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Belief in me, my writing, and my goals for my writing. (But feel free to challenge me in all of those areas.)

  31. Kati Rounds on August 26, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    I want someone who takes me seriously and is honest about my project. An agent is someone who is representing a person, and should reflect the same excitment and passion as the author. If I found an agent that accepted anyone who submitted, I would not accept them as my agent. I want someone who will tell me what is good about the book and how it can be better. I want someone to tell me if I really am up to par, or if I am spinning my wheels. I am in the process of submitting my manuscript. Six submissions and two rejections so far.

  32. Marleen Gagnon on August 26, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    First would be honesty.
    Second to work well together.
    Third sell my book to a publisher for the best contract we could get, assuming (and I use assuming cautiously) the book is ready.
    Fourth career guidance.

  33. Sylvia A. Nash on August 26, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    I’d love to have an agent who had all of the qualities above.
    At the top of the list, though, would be someone who believes in me and my work but pulls no punches in telling me how to make it better.
    I do not have an agent–yet.

  34. Lisa Marie on August 26, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    I just signed with the most wonderful agent ever this week, and I am thrilled! I’ll echo what other posters have said — good communication skills are crucial. This trait isn’t something that I’d considered before; however, after interacting with my agent, I now appreciate it more than ever. I’m clear about her expectations of me, and vice versa. It makes discussing revisions, deadlines and overall goals within the broader scope of my writing career extremely easy. 🙂

  35. Theresa Froehlich on August 26, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    These are the things I need from a literary agent:
    1. Treat me like a real person.
    2. Communicate promptly.
    3. Champion my book to publishers (assuming it is good content and good writing.)
    4. Coach me (or hold my hand) through the publishing and marketing processes.

  36. Theresa Froehlich on August 26, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    These are the things I need from a literary agent:

    1. Treat me like a real person.
    2. Communicate promptly.

  37. Alexis Grant on August 26, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Guidance and advice. And hopefully selling manuscripts!

  38. Valentina Hepburn on August 26, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    I’ve written one novel, Cloudburst and part way through my second, A Girl Called Random. I found it hard to leave Cloudburst and start another novel because I have yet to find an agent who believes in Kate and Emma the way I do. Maybe the agents I have chosen haven’t actually read the manuscript. Who knows. I love Kate and Emma to bits because I know them inside out and I’m beginning to feel the same way about Taryn Random and the bunch of survivors she lives with. If I could find an agent who loved them all as much as I do, I’d be very happy,

  39. Joanne Sher on August 26, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Looking for an agent.

    I want an agent who truly believes in me and my work foremost.

  40. Susan Husk on August 26, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    My literary agent should be so convinced that my manuscript should be published that she/he cannot bear the thought of not seeing it in print. She/He should ferociously protect me through the legal wranglings and negotiate the best offer, knowing when it is time to take the deal as is. He/she should be available and reliably straight forward.

  41. Russ Evans on August 26, 2011 at 2:34 PM


    I have been looking for an agent for quite a while…

  42. David Todd on August 26, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Given that the most difficult thing for an unpublished author to know is if their work is ready for the big leagues, just getting an agent answers the biggest question. No agent will take you on if you and/or your work aren’t ready.

    After that, I suppose it would be career advice and guidance, which is also difficult to get. Selling the book ought to be in there somewhere, but that’s almost understood.

    • David Todd on August 26, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      Forgot to say I’m unagented, but have a partial out with an agent right now.

  43. Mike Markel on August 26, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    The two things I expect from any service provider: competence and diligence.

  44. Cynthia Herron on August 26, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Someone who puts Christ first and who is God-focused. Someone who is an expert in her field. Someone who’s compassionate, honest, a dream nurturer, a career shaper, and a believer in my work. Someone who inspires me to be my best and work my hardest. These are the qualities I prayed for and found in the agent God has blessed me with.

  45. Sue Harrison on August 26, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    I have a terrific agent. My greatest HOPE is that she will sell my novels. My greatest NEED is that she guide my career.

  46. John Nemo on August 26, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    In today’s publishing environment, I’d want an agent to sell ME on why I should even use one. I’m convinced that the marketplace has changed irrevocably, and that with self-publishing being easier than ever, the emergence of e-books and devices like Kindle, truly you can be a success now as a self-published author. Granted, it takes a TON of work/effort, but in reality you’ll have to do that anyway as an author even if you do have an agent and publisher. (Unless you’re already a big name author, that is.)

    If I’m doing the lion’s share of the work in the online trenches (building and engaging my community of fans/friends/supporters), why share the profits when I can sell my e-book on Kindle for .99 cents and make a killing (like John Locke did) assuming I build up my personal brand and community?

    Traditional publishing contracts mean I usually get $1 or $2 a book anyway – why not sell it for that much online and keep nearly all the profits? Plus CreateSpace/Lulu sites make it super easy to sell hard copies via Amazon.com and online retailers as well.

    I’ve worked with literary agents in the past and especially in Christian fiction. My books are a tough sell (sports-themed Christian fiction) but I wrote what I loved before I knew how hard it would be to sell it.

    Would love to know Rachelle if you see literary agents becoming obsolete in the future outside of those who can deliver big authors to big houses.

    Because the more authors learn about the power of Social Media and self-publishing and e-books, I can’t help but think more and more will shy away from agents and traditional publishers. It just isn’t worth it anymore. The game has completely changed, and the blueprint for success is there if you’re willing to put in the work.

  47. Voni Harris on August 26, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    To me, the most important thing about an agent is that they want to see me grow as a writer. That would entail some of the things mentioned already, as in honest lines of communication, belief in my book, career guidance. I don’t want to be looking for a new agent every book; I want to have a solid relationship with an agent.

    (I am looking for an agent)

    Voni Harris

  48. Reba on August 26, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Whoa, big question.
    The first thing I expect is honesty, that is also what I expect from myself toward the agent. A person can be honest and be kind.
    Short and simple….I expect the agent to do what he/she says he/she will do.

  49. Casey on August 26, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    It’s odd/ funny that you should post about this topic this morning because as I was doing the breakfast dishes I was thinking about this.

    What would I want in an agent? I wouldn’t expect my agent to be my editor, BUT I would want my agent to at least give my writing an over-view/ read through/ assessment and not just view the proposal so that I would be assured they are representing the very best that I can produce.

    What if I could a better job and they could point that out? I wouldn’t want my writing to weaken their crediability OR mine.

    I guess you could argue that I wouldn’t have an agent if I wasn’t ready. But as humans we can NEVER reach ‘complete’ perfection. There will always be something to fix. I would like (which is one of several things I would want to talk over with an agent) is how they would veiw preparing my writing to be submitted.

    Just my $.02

  50. Hart Johnson on August 26, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    I have double agents (partners who cover different genres) and I count on them for LOTS of stuff, but I think the key is their knowledge of houses and editors that would be good matches for my work. One represents my mystery, the other my YA–both genres I feel are still best sold to big publishing houses.

    I also count on them for the legal stuff, but that is prioritized over other stuff mostly because it is the domain I am least competent in. Even though they are great about other things, I am capable of evaluating a marketing plan and have a pretty good idea on my career path if need be, but that legal stuff goes way over my head.

  51. Clarice James on August 26, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Wow, Rachelle, you are brave to ask both those questions; but since you did, I will be brave enough to answer. 1) I want my agent to love their work as much as I love mine and to trust me to market my work with passion. 2) Yes, I am seeking an agent, a very particular agent. Since I previously worked with one of your clients (B.C.), I’ve asked him to review my proposal prior to sending it to you.

  52. Terri Thompson on August 26, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Knowledge about publishers, markets and writing. I also hope for an agent who believes in my work but is not afraid to give constructive criticism. Open communication would be critical.

    I’ll be looking for an agent for my Native American Women’s fiction novel by the end of the year.

  53. Bonnie Ferrante on August 26, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I expect an agent to get me the best possible contract with a reputable, successful publisher. I don’t have an agent yet; I’m still looking.

  54. Reba J. Hoffman on August 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Partnership. Plain and simple. To be the member on my team who helps me be better than I could be alone as a writer. My agent partner would show me where I miss the mark, areas I can improve, where the opportunities are. They would also help me make the right decisions regarding my prose and our future together.

  55. David Barry DeLozier on August 26, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    To love, love, love my writing. If they do, I think everything else will take care of itself.

  56. Beth K. Vogt on August 26, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Support: which can look like insight, encouragement, a kick in the pants when needed, or a pat on the back. Maybe even an occasional meeting at the local Starbucks!

  57. Eileen Astels on August 26, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    For me, it would be an agent who champions my stories.

    I’m hoping to be seeking an agent soon.

  58. Dana McNeely on August 26, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    The most important thing I will expect from my agent is that she likes my work and uses her knowledge, contacts, and perseverance to get it published. I know it must be a partnership – I need to provide a polished manuscript and incorporate suggestions for improvement. I will be looking for such an agent when I complete my current Biblical fiction later this year.

  59. Jill on August 26, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Career advice and mentoring. Is it common for an agent and writer to part ways once the initial contract expires? I would hope an agent wouldn’t give up hope in me and my future projects. But maybe the writer gives up hope in the agent, instead?

  60. Cariad Martin on August 26, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    Someone who is on my side, with relevant contacts that apply to my work, and a progressive, modern approach to the lit market. Probably most important someone that I can talk honestly with, & don’t feel pressured or uncomfortable.

  61. Neal on August 26, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    What am I looking for in an agent?

    Someone who would never send out a standard rejection letter that makes it sound like saying no is causing them physical pain and sleepless nights and which begs you to please, please go on without them, when a simple ‘not for me but best of luck elsewhere’ would do just as well.

    Someone who’d love the MS, but would be honest about the bits that are bad and the ideas that just don’t work.

    But mainly, anyone that’ll take me.

  62. Marcy Kennedy on August 26, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    The most important thing is to find an agent who has my long-term best interest at heart because I think that’s going to lead to everything else that I need in an agent:

    –it means they’ll point out any weaknesses they see in my novel so that I can fix them and have the best possible product
    –it means they won’t sacrifice my career prospects for the sake of one sale (you mentioned this in your recent post on advances)
    –it means they’ll show honesty and integrity
    –it means they’ll answer my questions to the best of their ability

    I don’t have an agent, but am about to start looking for one, and that’s what I hope to find.

  63. Ruth Seeley on August 26, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    My perspective is a little different, as I’m a PR person who works with authors. I expect an agent to be as passionate about his/her authors as I am. I expect an agent to have a basic knowledge of PR and book marketing to the general public, and to respect my knowledge of what sells books to the consumer, not just to the publishing company. I also expect an agent to understand that selling the book to the publishing company is the beginning of the process, not the end, and to share my commitment to the author, not just to one book. Most authors these days end up with multiple publishers who focus only on a single title. It’s the agent’s and PR person’s job to focus on the author’s long-term career. And I don’t see anywhere enough of that going on, frankly. (Sorry for the rant – there are a couple of agents I’d like to smack for doing none of the things I’ve outlined above.)

  64. Elaine on August 26, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Words that come to mind are: advocate, ambassador, mediator, negotiator, diplomat, confidant, promoter, colleague, cheerleader, critic (truth in love) and sister or brother in Christ!

    Many hats for one person, but I need all the help I can get:) Currently looking for this multi-hat person!

    And, thanks,for all your practical and insightful posts. Always a blessing!

  65. Andrea Nell on August 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    An agent should not take on a client unless they have a reasonable belief that the work can be sold in a timely manor and the time to make it happen. I’ll understand if publishers just aren’t biting, but I expect the agent to regularly bait the hook (so to speak). I want someone with honesty, integrity, professionalism and expertise in the market. I expect regular communication. I want to know what he/she expects from me. I am currently seeking an agent.

  66. Jaime Wright on August 26, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    warmth and honesty. I would hope to work with an agent who is warm and open while honest with the hard cold facts. Does that make sense?

    • Jaime Wright on August 26, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      oops – somehow my last part got cut off. I am currently seeking an agent … (one who drinks coffee is preferable because then we’ll understand each other) 😉

  67. Donna Pyle on August 26, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I expect to have the privilege of soaking in, relying on, and trusting your wisdom and experience in this industry that I do not possess. I’m so grateful for you!

  68. Brianna on August 26, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    My expectations are low. I expect them to do the job to the best of their ability and hopefully I’ll sell 100 copies of my book.

    I do not currently have an agent. My book is undergoing a major rewrite and should not be seen in public at this time.

  69. Patricia Stoltey on August 26, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    I’m just beginning the search for an agent. What I want most is access to the publishers who only take submissions from agents and a knowledgeable representative to help negotiate contracts.

  70. Robert Lynch on August 26, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Oh, and I will be looking for representation soon!

  71. Robert Lynch on August 26, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    I once gave a listing for a house to a real estate agent friend. Bad choice. She didn’t know my neighborhood or the local market. One year wasted! The next guy sold it in a month.

    I want an agent who will turn down my manusript–even if she loves it–if she doesn’t know the market for my book. I do not want her to use me to branch out in new directions. I want an agent who will give me the best chance for success.

    It would be nice if she’d tell me I’m the most brilliant writer she has ever encountered, as well.

  72. Sundi Jo on August 26, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    I expect to have a clear line of what their expectations are for me and vice versa.

    That way there is no confusion in the middle of the process.

    I am currently looking for a literary agent.

    Thanks for your blog. I’m new to it thanks to Michael Hyatt.

  73. Amber on August 26, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    I know this sounds obvious, and I’m not trying to be snarky, but the most important thing I’m looking for in an agent is the ability to sell my book. I would love it if they would give editorial guidance and communicate often, etc. But really, without the first thing, none of the other things matter at all.

  74. Susan Bourgeois on August 26, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    I guess I look at this process as a business. To me, it’s not personal. She doesn’t even have to like me. It’s about my book.

    I don’t expect my agent to do all the work. I feel my work in my book should make it easier for her to do her job well.

    I trust that she will look out for my best interest throughout the process of signing a contract. It’s what she does for a living.

    She doesn’t need to tell me I’m great. I realize she has numerous other commitments.

    My speciality is marketing. Once I have a publisher I will immediately become heavily involved on my own and with my family to market the book.

    I know my agent will use all of her professional abilities to sell my manuscript.

    I will respect her knowledge and expertise in the areas of her vast experience.

  75. Jennifer Fromke on August 26, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    I read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley last spring. The protagonist is an author and her agent is what I might call “the dream.” They are close friends (best friends), a highly successful team, and they work effortlessly together. They share genuine concern for the personal aspects of their lives and yet, professionally they challenge one another toward greater excellence.
    I do not have an agent yet, but I am realistically not expecting all that. My top desire in an agent: I’d like her to be my champion. And I would champion her right back to anyone who would listen.
    Of course, her ability to sell my manuscript would come second, but you cannot sell something you don’t believe in.

  76. Kurt Corriher on August 26, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I want an agent who knows the market well, knows where my book will arouse interest, and relieves me of the burden of finding a publisher so I can concentrate on writing the next book and on promoting those already published. And yes, I’m looking for a new agent, my former agent having decided to abandon fiction.

  77. Carol McClain on August 26, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    I am looking for a partnership–I want my manuscript sold, of course. However, I also need someone who believes in me as a writer.

    A partnership goes two ways–my best-selling novel (I am a writer, and I dream) can bring in a great commission.

    We need to mesh a colleagues.

    And as an aside, I do hope to meet up with you at ACFW.


  78. L.H. Dougherty on August 26, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Must have clean, white socks and a love of dogs.


  79. Susan Bourgeois on August 26, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    I expect my agent to immediately recognize my extreme talent as she reads the first two sentences of my query. LOL!

    Overall, I expect my agent to grasp what my story is about(it is not difficult). My title will give her a huge clue. I would hope that she would begin to consider which publishers would be best to approach.

    I have to have an agent that understands the plan I have not only for the book but all that comes with the brand.

    It would not be hard for me to convince the agent.

    I do not have an agent because the manuscript is not complete.

    I can’t wait to send out the query once the manuscript is polished and complete.


    I am not delusional…

  80. Alisha on August 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    I like what C said. Along with all of the qualities and abilities mentioned above, I think having an agent who has a similar personality to me and understands my quirks, shortcomings, etc. would be a real blessing. Something about connecting on this kind of level is appealing. So, all of the above, plus honesty wrapped in compassion- that’s the total package.

    And I am looking for an agent!

  81. AngieKinsey on August 26, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    Honesty. Anything else I can work with or around. Without honesty there can be no relationship, business or otherwise.

    I am seeking an agent at present.

  82. BrittanyM on August 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    Well, I want an agent to pitch my novel to publishers who don’t allow unsolicited submissions. I want them to use their vast knowledge of contracts if the manuscript sells. And I want them to advocate for me and help me make money. I really just want the agent to be a talented business person.

  83. Cathy West on August 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    What an interesting question! I admit that when I was querying agents, I never really thought this through. To me, landing an agent was like the golden ticket, and I suppose in my naiveté, I did expect publication would happen shortly thereafter. I have since learned that you can have the best agent out there (and I believe I do 🙂 ) but this does NOT guarantee immediate publication. In my case it took a few years. Like others have said, communication and honesty is important, if not vital, and it goes both ways.

  84. Karen Nolan Bell on August 26, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Since I am new to the agent thing, I can only surmise the most important thing for me is an agent who is honest, hard-working, a pro, and a friend. I need someone who will respect me as much as I respect them and will guide me through this new adventure in my life. I am passionate about my writing and I would like them to be passionate about it too.

    I am patiently praying and searching for the perfect partnership.

  85. Janet Bettag on August 26, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    I think the most important thing I would expect from an agent is that he or she truly believe in me and my work. The idea is for the partnership to be mutually lucrative and supportive, I think. If the agent doesn’t deep down “get” what I’m doing, how can he or she help me make my product the best it can possibly be and really sell it?

    I am actively seeking an agent for two endeavors. I have a completed non-fiction manuscript that tells the story of my survival and recovery from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. This book is is intended not only to support and encourage other folks whose lives have been impacted by such a devastating event, but also offers practical advice and inspires people to live their lives to the fullest regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

    My other project is a work-in-progress. It is a paranormal mystery that delves into the interaction between the living and the dead in a small town where the sense of history is palpable and the village’s secret magical energy is the key to survival.

    Any takers? LOL

  86. Jill Kemerer on August 26, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    1. Faith in my writing.
    2. The skills to sell my books.

    Great question, Rachelle!

  87. Jane Steen on August 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    A solid business partnership with a knowledgeable professional. So I’d be looking for all the things I usually want in a business relationship: integrity, clear communication, the ability to strategize and set realistic goals and deadlines. Someone who’d do everything he or she contracted to do, and who’d be ready to tell me if I’m slacking.

    What I would NOT be looking for is someone to hold my hand and tell me I’m fantastic. I want to be challenged and made to work harder, to get the most out of whatever potential I have.

    I anticipate I’ll start looking for an agent soon. I have a WIP nearing completion (2/3 through its second full revision) and plan on starting the next book in November.

  88. Peter DeHaan on August 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    I don’t have an agent and when I do look for one, I hope for an agent whose career will outlast mine. I will view my agent as a partner, where we will work as a team to produce the best possible books. I will do what my agent says, only questioning things for the most critical of situations. Though I don’t expect my agent to be my best friend, I do hope for a personal relationship with him or her. Of course, I will expect my agent to find publishers for my books, but I will take a long-term view of this, opting for what is best for my career, my agent, and even the publishers. I have more book ideas than I have time to write them, but with the ideal agent we will get the most done in the time God gives us.

  89. Joseph Baran on August 26, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Honesty and time, most of all. An agent should be honest in his/her ways dealing with the writer and should allow time, even if it’s only a few minutes since they are speed readers, to actually read the query email or letter and sample pages instead of just pressing the delete key and/or sending the form rejection letter. Everyone wants to be treated with respect, even the unpublished writer.

    As soon as my query letter is finished, I will be shopping for an agent.

  90. Emma Wilhelm on August 26, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    The #1 thing I expect is open communication. There are many other important factors, but this one is essential! I am currently seeking representation.

  91. TNeal on August 26, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    An agent needs to know the publishing industry, not the whole but in part. The bigger the part the better but no one knows it all.

    An agent needs to connect with his or her client. I don’t need rah-rah (I’ve got a dog who meets and greets me with more enthusiasm than I deserve) but I do need a sense of we’re-in-this-together connection.

    Communication is key. Less is stress. None is done.

    So, Rachelle, how does a good-to-great agent communicate even when you have nothing to communicate?

    I do have an agent.

  92. Essie Holton on August 26, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Just a brief list:
    Knowledge; honesty; fresh, viable ideas; understanding; passion

  93. tara tyler on August 26, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    to be chosen, the rest will work itself out =)

  94. Sarah Thomas on August 26, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I’m definitely seeking an agent! And what do I expect? How about a mutual love of red wine and chocolate? Okay, that would just be a nice extra. The main thing I expect is an agent with industry knowledge and experience that she’s willing to use to educate her clients.

  95. Ann on August 26, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I’m looking for honesty and integrity. Tell me what does and doesn’t work about my story, be patient as I learn the process, and be as committed to seeing my manuscript published as I am.

    I will begin the query process as soon as I write a synopsis. Currently I’m working through your blogs on how to create one.

  96. Roslyn on August 26, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    The most important thing I need from an agent is honest direction and guidance. The literary field is massive and can seem to a new author overwhelming. Just guidance/mentor to help muddle through all the “big” stuff, so I can focus on writing.

    • Rosslyn Elliott on August 26, 2011 at 10:41 AM

      Hey–nice to see another Rosslyn/Roslyn in the area. 🙂 I meet someone else who shares my name about once every ten years!

  97. Beth MacKinney on August 26, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    That’s hard to answer for several reasons, mostly because I’m not an agent and don’t have one, so I don’t know everything they actually do. I would think, however, that the most important thing would be healthy publishing relationships, because without those, it doesn’t matter how much the agent knows or how diligent he/she is. Those good relationships, built over years of being in the publishing business, should be a result of a person who has integrity, is diligent, is wise, is a communicator, and is knowledgeable.

  98. Ladonna on August 26, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    That they have a knowledge of the industry, but more importantly, they are honest.

  99. Marla Taviano on August 26, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Ideally, I want my agent to be optimistic but realistic. I want her to give me advice that I know I can trust. I want her to be brilliant and connected but down to earth. I want her to believe in me even when the odds are stacked against me.

    Thank you so much, Rachelle. You’re the best agent ever.

  100. Kay Camenisch on August 26, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    The most important thing right now is for an agent to be a bridge between me and the publishers. Right now, that means to know the market well enough to find the right publisher for my particular book. When that happens, the most important thing will be to understand contracts and how to represent me through the process. There are other things I want as I look for an agent, but for now, my number on desire is to find a place for my book.

  101. Naomi Rawlings on August 26, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    That she works hard for me, which also means she has time to communicate with me and to give writing advice.

    I’ve heard horror stories of agents who don’t even read their clients work before sending it off. I’ve also heard stories of agents who are impossible for their clients to communicate with in a timely manner.

    My agent has been wonderful to me. I’m constantly amazed my how hard she works for me, a newbie author who isn’t bringing her the world’s largest commission.

  102. Thad Bergmeier on August 26, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    Two things:

    First, honest feedback. I am not looking for someone who just wants to say “pass” and be done. But I want someone that will talk to me. I want someone that will give good criticism, not negative. I want them to gracefully answer whether or not there is potential with this project?

    Second, open door to publishers.

    I might be looking in the near future for a literary agent.

  103. Sharon A Lavy on August 26, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    I am looking for an agent.

    What am I looking for? Teamwork in Career building. (for both of us)

    What am I doing about it? Learning the writing craft.

  104. Katie Ganshert on August 26, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Her name must be Rachelle Gardner….

  105. J.D. on August 26, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I’d like to have someone who believes in me, someone to help me row this boat. I am seeking that agent.

  106. Heather Sunseri on August 26, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    Honest and open communication.

  107. Anna Banks on August 26, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    I have an agent. I originally had four offers of rep, but I went with my current agent because of her enthusiasm for my book–and her offer of rep after reading only 75 pages!

    I’d have to say that’s what I’d look for in an agent–his or her love for my work. Their enthusiasm will naturally bleed into their pitches to editors, which is a very good thing! 🙂

    Happy Friday all!

  108. Wendy on August 26, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Seeking one.
    I expect to establish a trustworthy partnership with a hardworking business professional invested in advocating for me. My agent, with strong connections in the industry, will share my vision for my future writing career, offer encouragement and guidance, and make wise decisions regarding my work.
    My agent will also know me and my love of laughter and won’t be afraid to tap into that resource when things get crazy in this industry as they likely will at some point.
    (Loved Keli’s answer!)
    ~ Wendy

  109. Sherri on August 26, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Looking for an agent…

    First I need someone who will take a chance on me, not just with my first book, but with all that will follow (how’s that for optimism?).

    Second, I need someone who will help me meld the ministry aspect of how I see my writing with the realities of the business world of publishing.

    Third, I want someone with whom I can develop a lasting and growing relationship. That encompasses a lot of things.

    Fourth, and most important,I want someone with a heart for God.

    Finding someone like that strictly through emails and brief query letters surely must be a God thing! 🙂

  110. Nicole Basaraba on August 26, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    I think the most important thing for me in an agent would be one who treats me like a partner. One who would see me as a team member because even if the book needs several rounds of revisions or for some reason it just doesn’t sell, at least the pleasant working relationship would always result in a happy ending.

    I’m only working on my first novel and its incomplete so I’m not currently querying agents, but I’m getting myself familiar with the agents out there.

  111. Elanor Lawrence on August 26, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    This may be overly simplistic, but I expect the agent to be able to sell my book to one of the big six publishers. It’s not that I’m interested in money or fame or anything (if I was, I wouldn’t be a writer) but my goal has always been to sell a book to a big publisher, and I want an agent who helps me achieve that.

    Currently, I’m finishing up the first draft of my fourth novel, which is the first one that I think has potential to sell. Hopefully I’ll be querying within the year, after all the edits are done.

  112. Diane Bailey on August 26, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    What I want in an agent: !. great Knowledge of the field, 2. a good reputation in community, 3. an excitement for my project, 4. accessibility,

    I do not have an agent but need one for my next project. Doing thre research now.

  113. Jeffo on August 26, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    At the risk of sounding like an insane egomaniac, I expect an agent will make me feel like I’m the most important client in the world. We’ll both know it’s not true, but I’ll never know it from his/her treatment of me (unless I start *acting* like I believe it, in which case they’re free to put me in my place).

    I am not yet seeking representation, but plan on doing so before the end of the year.

  114. otin on August 26, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    I guess the most important thing that I expect is for someone to believe in me and someone who wants to work with me as a partner. I am still looking…

  115. ISOKARI on August 26, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    In the bid of looking for a publisher, I was directed to Amazon where I found outfits who help to do similar jobs as literary agents and finally get books printed, i.e. FriesenPress, Createspace, etc. I have passed on the manuscript to one and they are having a go at it. The book should be ready in the next four months. I was to understand that is self-publishing. Is it correct? What is the difference between a literary agent and these publishing outfits?

    Currently I am on another book and will want to be guided properly. Your answers will help me to decide which way to go with the current work, despite the offers I have.

    • T Denise Clary on August 26, 2011 at 10:09 AM

      Yes, Createspace and the like are considered self-publishing.

      When you seek a literary agent, you are seeking “Traditional” publishing by a Publisher (they do the work for you as oppose to publishing your manuscript yourself — i.e. self-publishing). The literary agent is your representative in the process. Similar to a legal matter when you hire an attorney to represent you in court as oppose to you representing yourself before a judge.

      Hope all that makes sense. Best wishes to you and your writing endeavors!

      T Denise Clary

  116. Neil Ansell on August 26, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    I would say the key thing is critical support. My agent has more confidence in my future as a writer than I do myself, but has the gumption to tell me when I drift off track. I always come away from mettings or calls with her feeling freshly inspired.

  117. mark williams international on August 26, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    At this stage in the Transition the most important thing an agent can offer any writer is an awareness of the opportunities being opened up in the new digital publishing world and a willingness to embrace those changes.

    Sadly these are few and far between if agent blogs are anything to go by.

    On the bright side, this blog is one of those few.

  118. Natasha on August 26, 2011 at 5:40 AM

    Show me the love 😉

    Actually, I think it’s important for an agent to love their job more than they love my work. I think the more enthusiastic you are about the logistics of what you do, the better you do it. It’s also important to keep the author informed regularly.

  119. Donna Hole on August 26, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    Everything; I guess.

    I want someone who believes in the worth of my story concept, and in me as an author for more than just the one story.

    I’m currently seeking an agent.


  120. Sophia Chang on August 26, 2011 at 4:46 AM

    I’d love an agent who’s a loyal shark with a huge amount of integrity that I trust to fight for our side of the publishing contract – very much like the theatrical agent I had in NYC.

    (currently seeking)

  121. Keli Gwyn on August 26, 2011 at 3:43 AM

    I want an agent who sees the promise in my work but helps me make it even better, who offers feedback with a mix of candor and compassion, who understands the intricacies of publishing contracts and gets me the best deal possible, who keeps me informed, and who provides career guidance.

    I have an agent who does all that and more. 🙂

  122. Jen on August 26, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    Ari Gold?

  123. Rick Johnson on August 26, 2011 at 2:47 AM

    Career guidance, knowing they have my back, honest feedback, support and encouragement, and to empathize when I am throwing tantrums and ready to quit being a writer.

    Have had a great agent who does all that and more for the past four years. 🙂

  124. T.M. Burnstad on August 26, 2011 at 2:46 AM

    I am currently seeking an agent and I hope that when I do find THE agent she/he will be as passionate about my work as I am. Since this whole publishing thing is very overwhelming, I hope to find someone who is well versed in the business and will give me guidance and support through my (hopefully life-long) career.

  125. Nancy Kimball on August 26, 2011 at 2:44 AM

    Most important, to position my manuscripts as strongly as possible to be traditionally published.

    One of the things I do best is letting other people do what they do best.

    I’m seeking an agent.

    Manuscript is ready. Query letter is ready. Synopsis is almost ready. A wise man once told me that perfect is the enemy of great and great is the enemy of good. It’s time to pull the trigger, once I’m satisfied with the synopsis.

  126. Shannon Young on August 26, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    I agree with what others have said about wanting an agent who is persistent, understanding, communicative, etc. I think I would also want my agent to be proactive about selling my book in other regions and languages. I interned with a London literary agency that was very good about searching for publishers in Europe, the US, and even Asia when the project was right.

    I am finishing the first draft of a travel memoir, so I’m still at least a few months away from the querying stage.

  127. Aimee L. Salter on August 26, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    Accessibility (within reason) and a knowledge of the industry / my genre which allows them to give me career advice beyond a single book.

    I had an agent. With our contract ended I’m now querying for a new one.

  128. Loree Huebner on August 26, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    Honesty in all aspects of our agent/author relationship.

    I am looking for an agent and will begin the query process very soon.

  129. T Denise Clary on August 26, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    Should be as passionate about the book as the author is!!

    Reminds me of a story Pastor Joel Osteen from Lakewood Church tells often to his congregation. When they were looking for a new building and were interested in the Compact Center in Houston, their attorneys were advising him it wouldn’t be possible…Well, he got rid of those attorneys with the bleak attitudes and hired attorneys that saw and believed in his same vision…Long story short, they are in the Compact Center!

    T Denise Clary 🙂

  130. C. on August 26, 2011 at 1:23 AM

    That they love, love, love my book and want to help make it the best little book it can possibly be.

    I also have a preference for someone with a very wicked sense of humor and the same kind of fatal flaw(s) I give my characters.

    In fact, the above describes my agent to a t.

  131. Jo Eberhardt on August 26, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    Really, the same things I look for in anyone with whom I have a personal or professional relationship.

    Honesty, Integrity and Passion.

    But if I have to pick the top of those three things, it has to be honesty. To me, that encompasses honesty in her dealings with me, honesty in her dealings with publishers, and honesty as to her own skills, experience, and abilities.

    I’m almost ready to start seeking an agent.

  132. Angie Dicken on August 26, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    I am looking for an agent. What I hope to find in an agent is someone who will push me to strive for excellence. Not that I don’t already have my own internal drive to do my best, but having a professional steer me and support me seems like the next step in this dream of mine! 🙂

  133. Kariss Lynch on August 26, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    Oh, to answer the other question…I am seeking agent representation for my first novel.

  134. Kate Larkindale on August 26, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I guess the main thing I’m looking for is support and guidance. There’s so much I don’t know about this whole publishing game, and agents do know, so they can get me through the minefields with minimal injury and scarring.

    And yes. I’m looking for one!

  135. Kariss Lynch on August 26, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    I want an agent who will support what I hope to accomplish in my writing career, fight to help me maintain a strong message, and tell me when I am being overly zealous with the other two.

  136. karen on August 26, 2011 at 12:31 AM

    I agree with Dawn. Those are good attributes along with a passion for the work they do. Since this is my first novel and it is getting close to completion, I have been doing quite a bit of research on literary agents,publishers and the publishing process. I also don’t mind if it is someone that is new to the profession but I do want them to be knowledgeable in their field. And yes I am currently looking.

  137. Anthony on August 26, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    I need a clear explanation of the pros and cons of the publishing contract after she graciously has an editor interested in buying my book project.

    I am seeking an agent.

    • Sherrie on August 26, 2011 at 2:57 PM

      I agree with Anthony. Also I want my book to be translated into Spanish, but not just any Spanish; I want it translated into Salvadoran Spanish since my story takes place there and they have a very unique vocabulary. I would hope my agent, when I get one, realizes the reader potential of a story that takes place in Latin America, both in the English speaking world and the rest of the world.

  138. Heather Gilbert on August 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    Oops, forgot to add that I had an agent, contract expired, now looking for another one for a different book.

  139. LupLun on August 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    Enthusiasm for my story, and the ability to sell it well.

  140. Nancy S. Thompson on August 26, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    Many things, but most importantly, to sell my manuscript. (I am actively seeking representation for my psychological thriller.)

  141. Deborah Byington on August 26, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    I would expect my agent to guide me and do his or her absolute most for the best offer as well as best advice to get my manuscript into the hand of the right publisher. I’d expect them to know the business well but would also appreciate a little kindness and compassion. After all, criticism is tough but easier to take with a little honey. (And no, I don’t have one but am looking)

  142. Krista Phillips on August 26, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    This is probably a simple answer, but for the MOST IMPORTANT thing… I guess I’d say selling my manuscript to a publisher.

    Now, there are other things, obviously, that are very important (career guidance, contract negotiation, communication, help dealing with publishing house, answering questions about the process, etc.) but all of that is kind of unimportant or null without a sold manuscript!!

    And I have an agent… a pretty good one at that:-)

    • Camille Eide on August 26, 2011 at 3:09 AM

      I have to ditto Krista verbatim. Along with New Intern’s fix me, love me and tell me I’m special. Can’t hurt. 🙂

      ….aaaaaannd it doesn’t hurt to have an agent who is worth her far more than her TBR pile’s weight in gold, widely respected and highly esteemed as an expert in the publishing industry. Since not all agents fall into this category, I guess it can’t be a requirement. It’s just a wildly awesome bonus.

      I have such an agent. 😀

  143. Heather Gilbert on August 26, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    Knowledge of the market, inside and out–knowing exactly where my book would fit. Promptness in updating me on the publishers’ feedback. Some measure of belief in what I’m trying to do w/my books and some knowledge of how to market them. Editorial advice without beating the creativity out of me. And please, please, call me someday, don’t just contact me by e-mail. Sounds like a lot, but really I think a good agent will have these qualities without even trying.

  144. Dawn on August 26, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    The most important thing I expect from an agent is a clear and honest line of communication.

    I am soon to be looking for one.