[FONT='Times New Roman','serif']Part 5: What do I do now that I've hired an agent?

Congratulations! You've hired an agent, which can be a big step toward
publication and moving up in the publishing business. But perhaps you're
still unsure about what you've gotten yourself into. Well, here are some
tips about your agent and what kind of relationship you may or may not have with her:

1. What DO agents do?
Editing suggestions -- Now this one has a few caveats. First, not
every agent will do editing on your manuscript. This is one of the
questions you ought to be asking during your interview process. And not
every author will want editorial input from her agent. As you grow as an
author, this may also fade away. Or as you work with an editor, your agent may no longer need to put in her two cents. But your manuscript will pass your agent's eyes first, and she can be a great sounding board and have some good ideas as an industry insider about improving your work.
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Pitching to editors -- Your editor will pick editors and publishing houses best suited to your voice, tone and type of romance. She may pitch your work over the phone and send full manuscripts. She may send partials. But she ought to sending out work on your behalf.

Being a sounding board/support system -- Your agent is not at your
beck and call, and you shouldn't trouble her with every writing hang nail,
but when you are having problems, your agent can be a sounding board before and after publication.

Negotiate your contracts and help mediate your problems if any
should arrive with your publisher.
As described earlier, your agent is a
buffer between you and your editor. She's the one who calls to say you just can't accept a term, or to work out the differences between two different publishing houses you write for. She's the one who can mediate problems and help you get the very best deal you can get.

2. What SHOULD agents do?

Keep you informed on submissions. You should always know when your submissions have gone out and to whom. You should know when there's been follow-up, requests for more material and rejections.

Giving you copies of rejections. You knew I'd say the "r" word eventually. Yes, you will get rejections, even with a great agent representing you. She should be telling you about them and sending you
copies for your records.

Keeping in touch with you. How often and how you talk to your agent is something you should lay out from the get-go, but you should hear from her on a semi-regular basis. Whether it's a weekly email or a monthly phone call, you want to know she's out there, working for you. And you want her to know that you're plugging away on your latest project, the revisions she requested or the synopsis you've been struggling with.

3. What should an agent NEVER do?

Charging fees before you sell. You shouldn't have to pay reading or editing fees to your agent. She shouldn't be recommending "editing services" to you. She shouldn't be charging you for information and feedback. Be wary of any fee you pay before contract. After the contract is when an agent should make her money.

Bulk sending your work along with other people's. Your work should be going out all by itself. Your agent shouldn't be sending your work thrown into a box with ten other writers and sent out to some random
editor. This is a sure-fire sign that you are getting ripped off.

Give your ok on anything before you see it and sign off on it. Your agent is negotiating contracts ON YOUR BEHALF. You should always get
the final say, the final sign off on everything. If she doesn't fill you in
on something she's doing, run like the wind.

The next lesson: What If I Need to Fire My Agent?

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have so far.