Monday, September 15, 2008

Is an Agent Worth It?

Question of the day: I am seeking representation for my first novel. I have three agents considering it, and in the meantime have discovered that "a friend of a friend" has a connection with a large publisher in my genre. Based on my friend's recommendation, the person with the connection has offered to make an introduction. Not currently having an agent to guide me through these waters, I'm a little nervous. Any advice? I don’t want to pass up an opportunity, but also don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize getting an agent. Thanks very much.

Congratulations on all of your success thus far! It sounds like you have several lines in the water, and that's always the best place to be.

My very specific advice, in this situation, is to take advantage of the introduction because, hey, it's not going to hurt you to know more well-connected people in the business, but at the same time, keep very actively pursuing an agent. Here's why: even if this publishing house does make you an offer, you should have an agent in your corner to look over the contract, renegotiate the terms and yes, take it to other houses. Because why would you settle for one offer when you could have multiple offers? Further, the chances of this actually panning out with this house aren't so, so high. That's not meant to be disparaging, it's just honest: the vetting process at publishers is tough - a lot of people have to read your ms and nearly all of them not only have to like it, but agree that it can be marketed and sell to whatever demographic they deem fit, and it's not easy. So even if the editor at this house loves it, that doesn't mean that it will sail all the way through to an offer.

So why not keep working at it from all ends? (That's what she said. Er, sorry! I couldn't help myself: I'm dying for The Office to return!) A good agent will do more for you than just take your ms out to editors and houses. A good agent will protect you from bad offers, make better ones for you, steer you toward editors who will be good matches, advocate on your behalf on everything from good cover art to more in-store co-op, and everything in between. And yes, of course, you can take this offer to an agent once you have it in your lap, but in the meantime, I'd keep plugging away. It's always better to have more options than fewer, right?

Readers, what say you? Would you advise her differently?


Anonymous said...

You nailed it, Allison. Great advice. That way this author can not have all eggs in one basket. It always helps to have multiple routes to pursue. So pursue them all! Go for it. And good luck.


Trish Ryan said...

Great advice. An a reputable publisher will be happy to work with your agent, so it's a win for everyone. Allison is right--it's super-helpful to have an agent on your side.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much, Allison! (And Trish L. and Trish R.!) This is extremely helpful. As a new writer I'm always a little paranoid about taking a wrong step.

Congrats on your upcoming release!

Brenda Janowitz said...

You always have such a way of giving a thoughtful analysis! A writer DEFINITELY needs an agent. That's all I'll say because you did such a good job of explaining why!