A few months ago I sent a sample (three chapters) of my YA fantasy to The Publisher Of My Dreams. Last week, I was both surprised and delighted to receive a phone call from said Publisher requesting the full manuscript.Of course I obliged, mailing the package as fast as was humanly possible.
Now, I am fully aware that a request to see the entire manuscript is in no way a guarantee that my work will be published. But at the same time, it's as good a sign as I could possibly have hoped for, and I find myself wondering about my situation should I actually be offered a deal. You see, I have no agent... and no clue as to how a Publishing Contract works should one fall on my doorstep. I'm not saying for a second that The Publisher would try to take advantage of me, but I'd like the benefit of someone who knows what they are doing in my corner. If I were to receive an offer, would it be considered a slap in the face to The Publisher for me to then approach an agent? I really don't want want to ruin my chances by committing some stupid faux pas.
I've offered on books that then suddenly developed an agent. In all honesty, I am a tad irritated when this happens, because I'll often make an unagented author a better offer than I would an agent. Agents always haggle, no matter what the starting offer, so you have to leave room for negotiation.
But I put that irritation away. I understand that (a) it's damn difficult for new authors to get an agent (if they want one) before they have a publication deal, and (b) everyone deserves to come to the negotiation table with the knowledge they need in order to understand the contract.
It is, in fact, in the publisher's interest (assuming it's a legitimate publisher) for authors to understand the contract they're signing. The fewer misunderstandings down the road, the better.
So go ahead and get yourself an agent. Do also read Negotiating a Book Contract or something similar, because no matter how great your agent, you should still know what you're signing.