Tuesday, February 03, 2009

To Agent or Not to Agent, That is the Question

Question of the day: Do you think having an agent is critical in getting your book published? Does it make you more legitimate?

Ooooh, I want to handle this one with kid gloves. :) But, the quick and dirty answer to both of your questions is yes. And yes.

I'm pretty sure that I've talked about this before, but an agent, or at least a GOOD agent, goes way beyond just introducing your material to the right editors. A good agent helps guide the overall arc of your entire career, and at least for me, this is invaluable. Furthermore, a good agent helps you vet your contracts (look, when you're signing your life away, you want to know what the fine print reads), helps you negotiate said contracts, and often finds ways to garner your more buckaroos than you would on your own.

As to your second question, well, this is where it can get a little tricky because I know that there are plenty of talented unrepresented writers out there, and I'm certainly not looking down on any of them. But the bottom line is that, like it or not, landing an agent is sort of like competing in the Olympic Trials...it's a gate-keeping process that attempts to ensure (though it doesn't always) that the cream is rising to the top. (Wow, that's a bunch of analogies - sorry!) While not all good writers will get agents and certainly, some crappy ones will, for the most part, most writers who land agents have some sliver of saleability. I know that it's not necessarily what you want to hear. But I've always promised to be honest with you guys about the industry, and that's the truth. Having an agent helps prep you for the big leagues, and without one, it is very, very tough to make it there. Why? Because again, editors use agents as filters: they assume that if a writer has landed an agent whom they (the editors) respect, that chances are, they might like the submitted ms. And why wouldn't they? It's more efficient, and certainly, the system works.

Look, getting an agent isn't easy. It's not supposed to be though. We all go through the same process: I landed mine via a blind query. So did lots of other great published writers I know. So you have to get out there and do it because honestly, without an agent, I don't think you can ascend the ranks of the industry.

I'd love to hear how you guys out there landed your agents, and if you think they're a critical part of this process.


Unknown said...

Most houses only accept represented manuscripts. If you want to be published by any of these houses, you need an agent. The road goes through Agentville. Having an agent doesn't make you "more legitimate" but it does provide access to the most legitimate publishers out there. Why wouldn't you want that for yourself?

Trish Ryan said...

Finding the right agent is so worth the effort. In a way, it's like finding love...when you don't have it, it seems like it might never happen. But when you find each other, you're so glad you didn't settle for someone else!

Having someone to represent you, guide your career, and fight for your best interests is key in this business.

Lisa Cohen said...

I'm a brand-spanking-newly-agented writer. I can't speak to the career building aspects, since I've only had an agent for 2 weeks. (LOL)

But I can say, that having an agent has changed my sense of the writing process utterly. The stakes are definitely higher in that I'm no longer writing only for myself and I have deadlines. But on the flip side, I am also much more relaxed about my writing since I no longer have to spend psychic energy trying to convince someone to read my work.

Brenda Janowitz said...

I found my agent through a blind query, and I have to say, she is the greatest thing since sliced bread! Allison, I agree with you that having a good agent will help you to shape your entire writing career. My agent and I always have chats about where I want to go with my writing and she's always open and honest with me. Without her, I'd still be flailing about, working on three books at once, never finishing anything.

Anonymous said...

I hear you but if you can't get one I say self publish. Most likely if you are a new writer you are going to be marketing it yourself anyway so just go for it. Then all the money is yours and you shape your own career. I've gotten tons of press, have legit sponsors with big names doing book signing for me and I self published my novel, Social Climbers. It takes courage because everything is on me but I'm motivated to see it to the top.

suzanneelizabeths.com said...

I'm still querying / hoping to get an agent one day...but I have to agree, getting the right agent has to be an essential first step, since they will be guiding your career in many respects.

htownjenny said...

Does anyone who has found an agent credit blogging as part of the way they got representation? I am just starting to consider that avenue myself.