It’s actually good experience to go through the process of landing a contract at least once by yourself to know what an agent is supposed to do. It also puts you one step ahead of the rest. At one point, agent Rachelle Gardner posted on her blog that she had over 200 submissions she was considering, most of which were by unpublished authors. You can bet that anyone with published credits stood out from the slush pile.
It’s to your advantage to earn publishing credits before you contact an agent. How? Search your market guide. Look for publishers who say 50% or more of their product list is with first time authors. They’ll be open to hearing from you.
Once you experience some publishing success and know how signing a contract works, you can certainly try to acquire an agent. There are numerous benefits to having one, such as representation, constructive feedback, and legal advice.
Meet with various agents—look for conferences that offer private appointments—or get to know them better by reading their blogs. Interact with them by posting comments on their blog and get to know their personality. You might find that you really connect with them…or don’t!
If you’re a beginning writer and you’re sending out simultaneous submissions to publishers for your manuscript, include several agents in your mailing list as well.
An agent won’t just want someone who can write, however. Agents are on the lookout for writers who also have a platform. They know that it’s one thing to get a book published. It’s another thing to get it to sell. While you’re looking for an agent, also start building up your platform. Teach writer’s workshops, build a blog, and schedule book signings for the books you’ve already had published. Make an agent want you as much as you want an agent.