The Agent Mystique
by Diane Bator
One of the highlights of this pandemic for me is the ability to sit in on various writing seminars. The most recent one I heard was on how to find, work with, and keep an agent. Very relevant since writers online are always asking if they need one and how to find one.
A big question on Facebook recently is: Do I need an agent?
The easy answer is Yes and No.
Your need of an agent is directly proportionate to whether you want to be self or traditionally published. For the traditionally published path, an agent helps to edit, arranges sales, negotiates contracts, deals with the financial end of things, manages your author brand, becomes your writing partner, is your marketing team, will be the liaison with the publisher, and is your biggest cheerleader.They can also help get your foot in the door with larger publishers and have your book polished and at its best before submitting queries for you. Generally, agents receive 15% of sales once you publish and start to get paid.
If you plan to self-publish, having an agent offers several benefits. They can help with getting professional covers, editing, and walking authors through the publishing process. Agents who will work with self-publishing authors may have a standard rate for their services.
Many small publishing houses don’t usually require authors to have an agent to submit. Anyone can write a book and query as long as they follow the specific instructions on each publisher’s website. Some of these smaller publishers, but not all, offer editing services.
Self-publishing venues allow anyone to upload a novel or novella. Some may offer editing services for a fee. Mostly they will publish exactly what a writer uploads.
How do I find an agent?
There are many great resources for finding agents. Before you start to research, be sure you know what genre your book is and what your word count is. Most agents will not even consider a book that is over 90,000 or 100,000 words. Publishers won’t accept them unless you have a proven publishing record or are Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
Some resources to use are:
· Query Tracker
· Writer’s Digest
· Writer friends or your favorite author
· Pitch fests
· Writing organizations
What do I need to do to query an agent?
READ THEIR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES just as you would before querying a publisher.
For many agents, the submission is simple. They may ask for a brief, concise pitch about your book (like what you would write on the back cover), some information about you and your publishing background if you have one, and how to contact you if they love your pitch and want to read more. Some agents may ask for 10 – 50 pages to get a feel for your style.
What do I do if an agent wants to represent me?
First of all, Congratulations!
1. Thank them then jump up and down like a maniac while you celebrate your good fortune.
2. Ask for a sample contract so you can see exactly what they are offering you, how much their commission is, and what your responsibilities are to them.
3. If you receive more than one offer to represent, compare notes between them. Just because one agent offers a better deal, you might be drawn to working with a different agent. Follow your gut! The same advice goes for publishers. The publisher who offers the most money, may not be the best fit. Find an agent and a publisher who LOVES your work.
Do I have to make the editorial changes the agent suggests?
Absolutely not. At the end of the day, it’s still your work and if they are uncomfortable making changes to the manuscript, they have the final say.
Keep in mind that your agent will have more experience with what will sell and what publishers are looking for.
Be flexible, but don’t lose your voice. After all, that’s why they signed you!
What if my relationship with my agent doesn’t work out?
Breaking up with an agent happens. Having open and honest communication with your agent is key since they are the liaisons between authors and publishers.
Sometimes things just don’t work out. In my case, my first agent and I parted ways. She found me a couple great publishers (I’m still with BWL Publishing!), but the second publisher changed one of my books to the point it wasn’t the same story anymore. She suggested I shelve it and write a completely new book. I heard the same story from a couple other authors.
Once that publisher dropped me, so did the agent. We parted ways amicably and are still friends.
There are thousands of agents and publishers out there. Be patient! It may take time to find the right combination. Or you might get lucky and find just the right agent who can link you to just the right publisher.
Just don’t give up!
Hope this helps!