What to Look for in a Cookbook Agent

It’s been estimated that fewer than 5% of authors seeking representation actually secure an agent. Ouch. You already know it’s hard. But … Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’ll want to hire the first person who offers you representation. You do have choices.

Publishing your cookbook is exciting! You want someone who’s going to make the process not only as successful as possible but also as enjoyable.

So, how do you know who’s right? There are obvious traits and not-so-obvious ones you want to look for. Here are my thoughts.

Understands the Cookbook Writing & Publication Process

This is an obvious one. Under the cookbook writing and publication process, I’m including/assuming all the things. From book proposal through publication, from photo budgets to printing and promotion, your agent needs to know how to make you shine.

For example, I work intimately with my authors to get their book proposal where it needs to be. The better the book proposal, the better the book deal. I work people through a rigorous process here because I know it’ll lead to a more successful publication.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

A good agent is well connected. Editors are pitched to constantly, and the best way to get your voice heard is to have relationships with people. This shows up in agents who have solid, authentic relationships.

Values You As a Person

You’re a person. Writing a cookbook means pouring your heart and soul into this project. You’ll experience times of beautifully abundant inspiration and moments of seemingly endless frustration. In addition to the creative process, there’s just life. Kids get sick, schedules get upended, houses need fixing, the list goes on.

A good literary agent will put you, the person, first — before you, the author.

Defends Your Cookbook’s Vision

Fulfilling your vision is about compromise. A good agent is always in your corner (even when it comes to some tough love). You want an agent who goes to bat for you where it matters — and helps you see where and why it doesn’t. Their expertise and perspective comes from working with many different publishers, many different editors on many different books. Feeling empowered and supported is important. I guide my authors on when to hold a boundary and when to be flexible. It’s all in support of producing the strongest book possible.

Good Communication Skills

You want to know you can reach your agent when you need to. I’ll often get questions from people like, “How often should I follow up with my agent? When will I hear from them? Should I email or call them?”

In your first few exchanges with a potential agent, be on the lookout for their communication style. Ask them how they’ll communicate. Tell them your preference. Do you prefer email or phone? Get a feel to see if this is the right fit.

Agents are often criticized for being unreachable. Yes, we have lives, too. I’m not saying your agent needs to be accessible 24/7/365, but a good agent gets back to their clients in a reasonable amount of time.

(Yes, within 2 weeks, and yes, our agency replies faster than most. I have a lot of feelings about communication. Maybe I’ll go into those later.)

You Have to Fit — On Both sides

Your editor might change. Your publisher may even be bought, sold or merged. Ideally, your agent stays with you throughout your career. While you don’t need to be best friends (nor should you), there has to be a genuine, sincere connection. To reiterate, your agent is in your corner and is there to be your advocate.

I also believe you should like your agent.

Like involves trust, and there needs to be trust. Personally, I only want to work with cool people doing cool things. If we don’t start out with excitement and enthusiasm, the entire process isn’t going to go well. It’s why I’ll refer talented people to other agents simply when we’re not the right fit.

Which brings me to my last point …

Wants to Grow with You and Help You Build Your Career

Again, because you’ll want an agent to stay with you, you’ll want someone who believes in you for the long term. Growing with our authors is what I personally love the most. This is how everyone here at The Ekus Group works — while we’re working on your first book, we have an eye toward the second and third and how authorship fits into your career goals at large.

Any literary agent knows how to sell a book, but what matters is how is that agent representing you, what is their communication style and do they have the right relationships and reputation? There are qualities that can make or break the relationship you have with your agent.

Interested in Pitching Us?

Great! Start here.


By: Sally Ekus, Lead Agent

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