by Priscilla Y. Huff
A recent article in “Galley Cat,” e-zine of Mediabistro.com debated whether authors will need agents any more, now that they can upload their manuscripts to various services and sell them directly to readers (http://tinyurl.com/yzaja6k). My own experience is that I have had one agent. She was professional and negotiated a new revision for one of my books; and contract for a new book. When I decided to venture into different areas of writing, though, I chose to approach publishers on my own. I am fortunate that I also have an excellent lawyer who has advised me on the content of several writing project contracts. My published writer-friends do and do not have agents and each has his/her own opinion on the subject. You will have to conduct your own research and decide whether or not to seek an agent to represent your work. As to what to expect from an agent:
Agents will expect authors to know what types of manuscripts they represent (See “Suggested Resource"). Find out before you contact an agent if they handle your genre of writing.
Agents are the mediators between publishers and editors and you like to stay on good terms with both parties; so the agent will do her best to see that each side is satisfied. She is not going to alienate them with antagonistic tactics on your behalf, because she wants to maintain a good rapport with those in her industry.
Do not expect frequent updates from agents. Some stay better-connected with their authors than others; but most are occupied with additional writers and reading manuscripts from new clients and other business matters. They will contact you when they have or want information.
Having an agent is not a guarantee that she will find you a publisher. If your manuscript has not sold in a year or so she may no longer want to search for a buyer for it. Then it’s back to you to decide to approach another agent or to market it on your own.
Agents are not publicists. They search for publishers and negotiate contracts, but it is your responsibility to create your book’s marketing plan. Competition is fierce for paying readers. As you write your book, you should also be planning talks, workshops, a web site, and other promotional tactics to sell your book’s copies. This also increases your chances of receiving a book contract when a publisher knows you, the author, will actively help promote it. No matter how good an agent is, she still has to have quality work to sell. Hone your writing skills to produce the best writing you can do and that will gratify your readers. If you do that, your book will practically sell itself with the “buzz” of excited readers’ word-of-mouth referrals.
**Based on the article “What Your Literary Agent Won’t Do” by Fern Reiss, CEO of PublishingGame.com (www.PublishingGame.com) and Expertizing.com (www.Expertizing.com); and author of The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.
Additional Suggested Resource: Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents 2009 (19th Edition)
Who They Are! What They Want! How To Win Them Over! by Jeff Herman