I’m often asked about literary agents – usually by unpublished writers seeking recommendations, but sometimes by very experienced writers whose relationship with their own agent has run into trouble. So here are a few very subjective thoughts based on my own experience.
For a new writer, I think it’s highly desirable to have a decent agent batting on your side. Without this support, it really is an uphill struggle. Not an impossible struggle, but very, very difficult. Publishers take agented submissions much more seriously. It doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong to do so; it is the reality, with few exceptions.
For any writer, losing the editor who took you on to their list can be traumatic. It has happened to me more than once. But losing or falling out with your agent is even worse, and I know a number of authors who have found this a very traumatic experience. If at all possible, it is a good plan to find someone whom you can trust and who is on your wavelength – and stick with them.
I’ve been lucky with my own agent, Mandy Little. She took me on when I’d never published any fiction, at the end of the 1980s, and we’ve been together ever since. I have always had the feeling that she believes in me as a writer, and though I haven’t made her rich with commission – far from it – she continues to have faith that one day there will be a breakthrough. You never know!