My question concerns agents who are not members of AAR: is there a legitimate reason why an established, successful (i.e. lots of sales on PM) agent would not be a member? I have just started getting some interest on my query and want to make the best possible choice when choosing an agent. One who has asked for a full is not a member, but seems legitimate in all other respects. Is the lack of membership a red flag?
No, it's not. I hate to say that because one of the things I value about belonging to AAR myself is that it has membership requirements. An applicant must have sold a certain number of projects in a certain amount of time and have several recommendations from current AAR members. I've been pleased to write several of those letters recently for young agents.
But there are reasons a successful established agent would not be a member.
Some agents qualify for AAR membership and just choose not to belong. Agents are generally of an entrepreneurial bent and getting all of them to agree on any one thing is text book definition of herding cats.
At the query and full stage, I would not let lack of AAR membership discourage you from querying.
And if an agent offers representation and is not a member of AAR, you're well within the bounds of decorum to inquire the reason.