Choosing and Courting Your First Choice Agent by Tamela Hancock Murray

NCWA blog welcomes Tamela Hancock Murray from The Steve Laube Agency!


You’ve done your homework, including:

  • visiting agency web sites
  • talking to author friends about their agents
  • interacting casually with agents on social media
  • reading agents’ blogs
  • attending writers conferences as your time and budget allow

This is part of the process in helping you choose the agent you most feel you want to work with.

When deciding, think about:       

  • agency’s reputation
  • agent’s reputation
  • authors the agent represents (demonstrated success with work similar to yours)
  • personality (this is where social media helps)

Reputable agents welcome being researched because we stand on our record. Of course, every agent and agency who has been in business more than a day and a half has a few detractors. Most of the time, detractors are made either because the client and agent were a mismatch from the start and/or because of an unhappy situation complicated by misunderstanding. Good agents conduct themselves in an ethical manner and your research should reveal that the overarching agreement in the writing community is that their clients are well served.

Once you have decided which agent you think you want to pursue most, the best action you can take is to send the best possible query letter and proposal (following the guidelines found on that agency’s website). In the query letter, you may say that the agent is your first choice and you really want to work with her. If, considering that fact, the submission is exclusive to the agent, let her know.

As you wait, keep up your casual interaction, if any, with the agent online. This will not only keep your name in front of her without asking about your submission, but will demonstrate genuine interest in the agent. Still, time will drag because an agent’s first job is to take care of matters for current clients and even exciting proposals such as yours may have to wait. (See my earlier post “What is the Agent Doing While I Wait?“) So, it is fine to ask about an exclusive submission after three or four weeks.

When the agent is reminded she’s been given an exclusive, that fact should spur her to try to move forward with a decision. Or at least say why there must be a delay, at which time you can either choose to stay put or move forward to query your other choices. They don’t have to know they aren’t your first choice! But if someone else makes an offer of representation, you can in good conscience let your first choice know and let her respond accordingly. Please know that as much as agents love being an author’s first choice, sometimes we still have to decline. The factors in each of these decisions is always complicated and never personal.

Your turn:

Are you researching agents? What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered?

Why do you want to work with an agent?

What do you think an agent can do for you?


This post first appeared November 1, 2012 on The Steve Laube Agency blog. Used here by kind permission.

Tamela Hancock Murray, a full-time literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the industry for over 15 years. As an award-winning author, she published 17 novels, 12 novellas, 5 nonfiction books, and numerous articles. An agent for the last 11 years, she represents many top authors and is known for discovering and developing new talent. She and her family live in Northern Virginia. (


6 thoughts on “Choosing and Courting Your First Choice Agent by Tamela Hancock Murray

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I’m in the early stages of researching agents, and I have bookmarked this for future reference. I didn’t really know how the exclusive option worked, and I appreciate your advice!


  2. Great post, Tamela. I’ve always hesitated to initiate contact with an agent because I didn’t want to be a pest. It’s good to know that’s acceptable.


    • I will do my best to pay attention to any writer who seeks me out at a conference, and I think other agents do the same. My logic is that the writers are there at great trouble and expense, and listening to them is courteous and professional. I also figure writers have looked at my bio online since I’ll be at the conference and are seeking me out because of genuine interest in representation — or at least casual interest. Since you seem to be asking what to do if you meet an agent on the fly — first, I suggest trying to pull her aside a bit. If you have time, let her know what type of book you are working on. Even if I’m rushing off to teach a workshop, that’s enough information for me to give a green light to see a proposal. Be sure to have a business card handy, too. I hope this answers your question. If not, let me know and I’ll try again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s