Last weekend, a book buyer surprised me with this question: "Did your agent come find you? Or did you find your agent?"
I had this quickie mental image of my agent, Liz, going door-to-door in the neighborhood and asking, "Any writers in the house?"
But I bit back a chuckle. I suppose someday an agent might "come find" me or one of my friends. But right now, most of the authors I know actively sought out an agent.
When do you need an agent?
Well, it's sort of like, when do you need a real estate agent?
When you have a house.
For most of us--and remember, there's always an exception--until we have something to sell, we don't "need" an agent. So I pitched Liz at SleuthFest on representing me AFTER I'd finished writing what became Paper, Scissors, Death. Oh, yeah, it would be nice to have someone to help you decide what to write. Or someone to discuss this crazy business with us. But...until you have a manuscript to sell, you have little or nothing to show an agent. And agents get approached all the time (at least, this is what I've seen at conferences) by folks who have an idea for a book, but do NOT have a manuscript, much less a finished product.
Jordan Dane has some great thoughts on retaining an agent. Check it out at