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Choosing the Right Agent

In this extract from the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, literary agent Gill McLay identifies some of the ways you can discover which agent might be the right one for you to approach and to sign up with if you are offered representation...

One thing that everyone needs is an agent who is nice to work with, but also one who is an effective and strong deal-maker. When selecting your agent, there are some key things to consider:

1. How many clients do they have and who are they? If you feel that you will need and want a lot of hands-on support with your writing, a large agency may not be for you. If you are a confident writer and want someone who has big agency presence, then maybe the children’s agent in a bigger agency would suit you.

2. Do they have clients that write in the same genre as you? This is a great indicator that they have strong contacts with the right commissioning editors and can sell this genre. But if they have lots of authors in this field, will you be competing with other clients within their agency? The balance needs to be right. So do look at their client list.

3. Where are they based? These days this seems to matter less and less but, if they are not near you, how often could you and they travel to a mutually sensible location (e.g. London)?

4. What sort of agent are they? Do you want an editor or commercial management? Do you have one book that you need an agent to sell, or do you have multiple ideas that you want someone to help you develop?

5. Can you relax and feel comfortable with them? You need to be able to communicate well with your agent. Is this someone you can work with? The relationship will become really important as you set off on the rollercoaster ride of getting published; you need to be yourself and have complete trust in your agent.

Always trust your gut instinct. If this is your gut instinct. If this is the agency and person you can imagine working with, then take the next step and sign up. Getting published is a long process, success doesn’t come overnight, so who you share your journey with is important. Big agency or small agency, it’s all about best fit an only you can decide which is right for you.

After graduating with a Publishing and Marketing degree from Oxford Brookes University in 1996, Gill McLay has worked in the world of children’s publishing ever since. Working with small independent publishers, Barefoot Books, to large global publishers, Egmont, Gill has a huge amount of industry knowledge. The Bath Literary Agency was set up by Gill and John McLay, and is run by Gill McLay.

The Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2019 publishes 26th July. Buy your copy now