Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Agent or No Agent?

Well it finally happened! I got word that the junior editor is recommending my book to the senior editor (who already knows me and how I work). OOOO, pinch me! I'm trying to keep my head on straight and my feet on the ground, knowing that the final answer could still be a "no," but things are definitely looking up.

So, do I really need an agent or not? A very dear friend got an agent after she started working with a publisher who was definitely interested. She's so glad she did because not only did the agent negotiate a slightly bigger advance (commission aside), but she ironed out the trickier issues of foreign rights, media rights, awards clauses, etc. She loves her agent and feels she earned every penny of her percentage. (By the way, my friend is a lawyer who is already pretty savvy.)

I'd be curious to know how many writers out there got an agent before they signed their first contract. Are there any driving reasons not to get an agent. How would an agent respond to what would seem to be an "urgent" query? How do you compose such a query?


  1. First, congrats on the interest on seeing your ms. As to your other dilemma, there are always two sides and I've heard all kinds of arguments for both. I've known authors who didn't get an agent until after they were accepted by a publisher, some who have even had a book or two published before getting one; and I've known authors who have had an agent from the get go. True it is agent's job to negotiate the best deal for the author but from what I've heard if you are only planning on having more than a couple of books published, then you need to get an agent. On the other hand, if you only plan on having a couple of books published, then it would probably best serve you to have a lawyer who deals in contract and copyright laws just to go over the contract and let you know what you can negotiate for and what can be changed and stuff like that - because no sense in paying an agent for only a couple of books. If you have an agent in mind who is taking new clients, then I would approach them saying that a publisher is interested in your work, having gone through the junior editor and now is at the senior editor's desk and you are in need of assistance or in need of an agent as soon as possible - there are ways surely that the "urgent" query letters are done but I am not one to know since I do short stories and most of them are for contests. Good luck, hope you get the agent for you and the manuscript gets published - E :)

  2. I am SOOOOO excited for you!!!!

    I remember in Philly, agent Stephen B said if a writer gets an offer on their own, he wouldn't get an agent bc "the hardest part is done -- selling your book!" Yet overall, he believes agents are a good thing, and once you sell that first book, go ahead and query with that into in your letter and see who bites for book #2.

    HOWEVER, as Elysabeth said above, I've also heard success stories of those who got a pub offer, so before accepting anything, the author quickly equeried with the subject line of "Offer on table" and then just sent it to the couple agents they KNEW they wanted to work with. And then in discussions, the author made sure the agent ALSO wanted to rep her other works.

    SO -- yikes! It's your call! Since you are in writing for the long haul, you prob WILL want an agent at some point (???), but when seems to be really independent on circumstances.

    Sheesh -- sorry such a useless response, but I'm so excited for you I couldn't not post! :)

  3. Thanks so much, gals! It's just so great to be able to share my excitement. Deena, I do remember Stephen B. saying that. I was just going to dig out my notes because I really liked him. Right now I'm doing a lot of reading to get more familiar with some of the contract issues that might come up. But I am thinking of handling this one on my own. Maybe if this one gets picked up, SB will want to represent me!

    Ok...back to dreamland...

  4. My advice - if you get an offer, let them know you want some time to think about it, and get an agent. The business is becoming more and more competitive. It's getting harder and harder to get your work read by publishers. So, don't think about this one book, think long term. Also, there are things that can happen along the publishing road where your agent can step in and help.

    With an offer on the table, agents will get to your manuscript quickly. They'll still need to love your book, and your writing, so they will happily work with you for years to come. But it's a primo place to be in - having an offer and going after an agent at that point!

    GOOD LUCK - this is VERY EXCITING!!!

  5. A friend of mine got the publisher through a conference and when she got the offer she queried an agent via email with "Contract in Hand" in the subject line. She had no problem getting the agent!

    I also got my publisher via a conference. That first contract negotiaton was difficult for me. I hired a literary attorney to negotiate the second and third contracts for me.

    Am presently struggling with whether I need an agent. I think I would recommend one unless you are business savvy and also well versed in the publishing business. The contract is a foreign language in itself!

    But of course, you do give up that income. Just be sure you really do like the one you get.


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