Not all literary agents are created equal. Agent Kristin Nelson and author Karen Dionne have seen the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. In this article series, “Think Like an Agent,” they pool their expertise.
Of all the skills a literary agent is required to have, the most important is the ability to negotiate well on behalf of the author client. Authors hire agents to protect their business interests in publishing. In my mind, and other folks may disagree with me, all other skills are kind of moot without this one.
This is why a literary agent has a job.
To say this another way, your agent might be a great communicator or team builder, give great marketing feedback, have good relationships with editors, have good taste in picking projects (all wonderful skills to have), but if they aren’t also a good negotiator, then just how valuable are these other skills to you and your career? A good agent will have the complete skill set.
All this begs the question: How do you know if your agent is a good negotiator? Here’s how: