So here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how desperate you are to get published, don’t ever let yourself get talked into using an agent who demands fees up front, or suggests (politely or otherwise) that you use a book doctor. Most of those are scams, pure and simple. A good agent—the kind of agent you want to have—will never ask for money up front. Good agents get paid through commissions. You sell a book and they take a certain percentage of your advance and royalties. Nowadays, that’s about 15%. It’s worth it, from my point of view. Very worth it. There are some who disagree—they compare all agents to thieves and hold their editors in less regard than the devil—but that’s another story, and not very relevant. The thing to remember is that even though you need an agent, you must main your integrity (and your finances) in the getting of one.
Furthermore, it’s not entirely necessary to have an agent to get published. I did not have one. I sent my manuscript out to the slush piles and got picked up that way. And then, with contract in hand, I contacted my agent of choice.
Of course, I’m an eternal optimist.
This rant has been inspired by a very good article by Paperback Writer, which all of you aspiring writers out there should read.
Some other good sites to look at are:
Neil Gaiman’s exhaustive article on agents
Definitely check out the Passionate Pen’s Agent FAQ, as well as their list of agents who specialize in romance and/or fantasy. Actually, that entire website is a good one to scour. They even have a list of questions you should ask should you actually receive that wonderful call from an agent you’ve contacted. I found that site very helpful when I was sending out my manuscript.