Beware of any agent who…

  • Charges a reading fee. Although some reputable agents do, most don’t.
  • Refers your work to a vanity (or subsidy) publishing house under the guise of securing a publishing contract for you. You could have done that for yourself, and instead of offering you money, the vanity publisher will expect to dip into your pocket.
  • Is overly eager to represent your work (this goes with publishers as well.) The fact is that while agenting can be a lucrative profession, it’s a tough business. Even if you end up becoming the next Nora Roberts or Nicholas Sparks, the agent is going to have to put in some hard hours selling your manuscript. Of course the agent should be excited to represent you, but one who seems overly accommodating may have something else up his or her sleeve.
  • Is not very enthusiastic about your work. This is the flip side. The agent has to be excited; if not, you’re both wasting your time.
  • Is quick to suggest that you need to pay them to edit your manuscript. There are so-called agents out there who respond to your material by saying, “Great story, but you need to pay us $2,000 to sharpen it for you.” Be wary. Keep in mind, however, that a reputable agent may suggest that you need to seek a professional in editing your manuscript. (The agent may ask to give input on the editor’s work or to review the editor’s qualifications, but this action is done more for your protection.)
  • Charges fees to provide “agent evaluation,” which is simply information on various agents’ latest deals. This information is available for free through Publishers Lunch at Also, various industry sites list all the recent deals, so there’s no need to pay for an outside service to provide information.