For the next few posts I’m going to share some things I’ve learned while searching for literary agents, and hopefully give a few tips that might help you in your own process.
Some people have asked me why I wanted a literary agent, and some even inquire with a level of concern, like I’m being duped or something. While it is true that you don’t have to have an agent to publish a book, and it is also true that there are “literary agents” out there who do little more than take your money, (more on that at another post) there are several factors that played into my decision to find a literary agent. I did not take this decision lightly. I did a great amount of research and weighed my options on both sides. Here’s why I decided to go with an agent.
1. Open doors. Many of the major publishers won’t even look at unagented manuscripts, for legal reasons among others. I want as many doors open to me as possible.
2. Faster process. Without an agent it can take several months and sometimes even years for editors to respond to your submission, because unless they’ve requested your manuscript you go to that deep and dreaded slush pile. An agent can put you on the fast-track, and get those response times down to weeks.
3. Connections. Most of the publishing world is in New York. I don’t live there and I have no contact with any editors out there. But my agent does. She knows the publishing industry. She has regular face time with many publishing professionals and she knows what editors are looking for. When we discussed my manuscript she rattled off several names of editors and publishing houses she thought would love my manuscript. That’s an invaluable resource.
4. Contract expertise. Today’s publishing contracts are complicated, with many clauses and much lingo, and often there are things in them that really aren’t in the author’s best interest, or at least things they don’t understand until it’s too late. I don’t speak publishing/legal lingo too well. I wanted someone who could translate for me and point out the spots that may not be in my favor.
5. Negotiations. I suck as a negotiator and I tend to be rather cowardly when I have concerns or requests. An agent is often the go-between and they’ll fight for what’s best for your book and your career.
5. A life long coach and advocate. Getting published was not the be-all-end-all for me. My agent took me on not just for one book, but for my writing career, which I hope will be long and fruitful.
I’m still a relatively new client, but so far my agent, Michelle Andelman, has been a dream come true. I feel confident in her expertise and advice. She’s smart, prompt, organized, and the agency as a whole has many resources that can help me in navigating the very complicated and ever-changing world of publishing. It’s nice to have someone in the business who’s got your back.
Next post: How to search for literary agents