Friday, March 11, 2011

Do I Need an Agent?

Do you have any preference with working agented or unagented authors / illustrators, or does it all depend on the actual personalities involved?
It's about the personalities, and the skill sets.

If you're the kind of person who has little hissy fits throughout the bookmaking process--hissy fits you feel you must share with your colleagues (as opposed to the more recommended sharing with your friends/family), you need an agent. Agents can offer you a sympathetic ear if your process involves venting before finding a way to compromise.  Your publisher will get tired of you quickly if THEY have to babysit.

If you're the kind of person who is always, always behind deadline, you need an agent.  An agent can keep reminding you, cajoling you, nagging you, whatever you need.  Again, this is just part of some people's process.  But your publisher doesn't have the time to do this, and so your book will be late, and the publisher will be unhappy.

If you're the kind of person who thinks you're just going to show the contract to your husband, who is a lawyer, you need an agent.  There are as many different kinds of lawyers as there are doctors.  Bringing a publishing contract to a tax or estate or criminal lawyer is akin to taking your foot problem to a cardiologist.  YOU'RE GOING TO GET BAD ADVICE.  The frustration this will cause your publisher is not worth it... to the publisher.

If you are the kind of person who doesn't know how to negotiate, and ends up agreeing to a crappy first offer, or alternatively thinks you're going to negotiate a $10,000 advance up to $100,000, you need an agent.  An agent knows how to negotiate and what's reasonable to expect in the market.

If you want to be published at any of the houses that don't accept unagented submissions, or even at many of the ones that do, you need an agent.  An agent knows not only the publishers, she knows the individual editors and which ones will respond best to your manuscript. 

And let's not forget that if you want a guide through the booby-trapped and pathless jungles of a publishing career, you need an agent.

However, if you are an intrepid explorer yourself, of a patient and workmanlike nature; if you enjoy the research involved in plotting your own path through publishing, and are flexible about learning more as you go along, then you may not need an agent.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you want to sell subsidiary rights (audio, film, foreign/translation), you probably need an agent.

If you don't understand the nuances of options, multi-book deals, and non-compete clauses, you need an agent.

Trevor said...

If only getting one was as easy as knowing you need one.

Anonymous said...

I am with anonymous atop this commentary.

I don't require any of the things EA suggests... but I DO Love you so much EA!! Yessireeeeeeeeee)

The problem is 'do I have any of the qualifications that said agent would "see... predict... know what to do with and want to sell..."'.

Also, Trevor is correct... it is what the agent sees in you ... for them.... two way street that part... but

I WORK in business... and I "get it"

Anonymous said...

If you're a pb author who writes four or five mss. a year, you shouldn't have an agent. An agent will think you're too prolific and won't want to represent all of them.

Dancing Duck said...

Trevor-- if only getting one was as easy as getting published.

In my experience. And that of other authors I know. YMMV.

Diana GutiƩrrez Toledano said...

well, this was an useful and interesting post (not that I need an agent).

THE INTERN said...

"booby-trapped and pathless jungles" ...sounds like the ranch where INTERN is living now.

you also need an agent so you can post "THIS IS ME AND MY AWESOME AGENT DRINKING COSMOS!!!" photos on your website!

catdownunder said...

I have to agree with "Trevor". Getting an agent is difficult. Getting the right agent is very difficult.
It is obviously not impossible because people do manage it but it is still a veritable minefield!

Nicole MacDonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole MacDonald said...

Weelll yeah I might need one but until the right one comes along I'm not going to fret. My first novel is doing well making me a nice amount of pocket money and I hope to save enough to get bk two professionally published. Not really sure how much an agent could help me at the moment actually..

The Arrival, Book 1 of the BirthRight Trilogy available now

Editorial Anonymous said...

We miss THE INTERN.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Agreed, miss THE INTERN.

I don't think I have hissy fits or much of the above list - but I am still SO very thankful I have an agent. Not as a filter, but much needed advisor and confidence booster. Agents rock.

Catherine Stine said...

I have an agent, and that's good. But don't just jump at the first one who likes your work without checking the agent out very carefully. Some are great, other not so much. Or an agent might be above board but not have much experience in repping your genre. Develop a question list for them as to how they work.

Eileen said...

A good agent can be a great business advisor. And for all of you in the search- hang in there. I was a slush pile find by my agent (six years ago now). It does happen.

Anonymous said...

If you want to hear back from editors up to a year faster...you need an agent. If it helps you be a better writer when people believe in you (not just your husband and mother, but people in the business,) you need an agent.

Anon. 7:06, I see what you're saying, but I think agents can help you develop relationships with multiple editors, at which point you can hopefully sell more than one pb manuscript a year. Do you see this maybe happening down the road?

Ebony McKenna. said...

I would rather spend time writing the best novel I can, than swotting up on what an agent does and trying to that job too.

Much better that I stick to writing and leave the agent to do the agenting.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I need an agent. Not because I want love in support, but because
1. I hate pitching manuscripts
2. I hate keeping track of submissions
3. I hate haggling
4. I always sound dumb on the phone
5. I want to use my free time to WRITE, dangit.

Which is why I'm currently preparing to write queries again. Because I want an agent so that I will never have to write queries again!

Literaticat said...

I wrote about this a few months ago too - http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2010/11/do-you-even-need-agent.html

I am not calling you a COPYCAT, btw. ;)

Ishta Mercurio said...

I'm so with Deirdre! I want to use my time to write the best books I can. I don't want to spend it learning about foreign rights, contract negotiation, and the like.

On the other hand, I've heard from many in the industry that if you write PBs (which I do, as well as chapter books and YA), many agents will want to see you published before they will want to work with you. What say you, EA?

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I agree with Trevor: There's needing and agent. And then there's actually getting an agent. I'm looking for one now.

winterscribe said...

I have an agent I really like. Since she began representing me two years ago, she has sold one PB to a big house that works only with agents.(I let her negotiate contracts on 2 I had previously submitted on my own.)The books won't be published until 2013 and 2015. She focuses on just one ms. at a time. I sold a dozen books before I got her.)Is it okay for me to continue to submit work on my own to smaller houses that don't demand agents?

Editorial Anonymous said...

"Is it okay for me to continue to submit work on my own to smaller houses that don't demand agents?"

That should be something you and your agent agree on. DON'T go behind her back and hope she doesn't find out. She may mind you doing this, and she may not mind, but she will DEFINITELY mind you doing it without telling her.

Mimi said...

That's excellent advice. Thank you. I will hold off until I talk with her . . . she's become very popular and busy. I will wait until she gets in touch with me to raise the subject.

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