This week I'd like to introduce you to my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray and the Hartline Literary Agency. I have been with Tamela for many years now. She is a friend as well as an advocate for my writing and my goals. Finding a good and reputable agent is imperative in this competitive world of publishing. Many publishers won't even look at your work unless you either have an agent or have made contact with them at a writer's conference. With hundreds of proposals and manuscripts to wade through, editors don't have time to look at everything. Having a good agent can give you a leg up in the ever mounting slush pile accumulating on an editor's desk and allow for a careful and considerate perusal of your work.
Good agents never ask for fees up front. They usually take 15 % only after they have sold your work, but this depends on the contract which can be individualized, depending on the agency. Check also with places online like Predators and Editors and AAR to see if an agency is listed. Predators and Editors in particular will tell you about unscrupulous agencies to be wary of, especially those that ask for "readers fees". Agents should be working for your interests. Make sure they agree with your goals and truly wish to represent your work in a timely fashion. They need to believe in you and want to see you succeed. Check the agency web sites for other authors they represent and don't be afraid to talk to those authors about their agent.
Having a good agent is a way to get noticed in a crowded market and can land you that elusive contract you have been seeking.