chip MacGregor

Chip MacGregor is President of MacGregor Literary. A longtime agent, he started in publishing as a copyeditor more than 30 years ago. He has been a publisher with Time-Warner, served as an editor at two different houses, and is the author of dozens of books. You can check out his blog at

To Agent or Not to Agent (Part II)

What should an agent do for me?
There’s no easy answer to that question, since every author is going to have unique of needs. But generally an agent will help you (1) evaluate ideas, (2) create great proposals, (3) introduce your work to key acquisition people, (4) sell your proposal, (5) negotiate a good deal for you, (6) ensure contract compliance, and (7) offer career guidance. He or she might also be there when you need someone to kick things into gear, or read a royalty statement, or assist with marketing. Your needs may be very different from your friend’s needs—and every agent is different. Some are great editors, others great contract people, still others basically sales people or negotiators. If you figure out what you need most from an agent, you’ll be better equipped to find the agent that’s right for you.

What should an agent not do for me?
Write your books. Handle your personal finances. Be your mom. Vacuum.

How do I go about finding an agent?
You can look in any of the “agent” books on the market, or meet agents at writer’s conferences or at ICRS. You can also send in your work, or stop by and introduce yourself. But the key thought is that you should create a good presentation—after all,

you are selling yourself. So put together a cover letter that tells about you, include your previous writing and book sales, and be ready to talk about yourself, your ideas, and your platform.

What questions should I ask if I run into one?
Here’s what to say the next time you spot an agent in the wild:
• How long have you been doing this?
• How many contracts have you negotiated?
• Whom do you represent?
• Which houses have you done deals with?
• Can you give me a book title you sold that you loved?
• Can you give me a book idea you sold that you loved?
• What would you say are your best skills?
• What’s unique about your agency?
• What percentage do you earn on a book deal? • Are there any hidden fees or charges? Any up-front costs?
• Do you charge back all your expenses?
• Have you ever worked in publishing or done any editing or writing?
• How do you approach career planning?
• Do you work by yourself?
• Are you full time?

That should get you started!