An agent’s job is part project manager, part contracts consultant, part therapist, part editor, and always full-time advocate. We try to be so many things for our writers and all agents have particular strengths in one part of that equation.
However, what we all have in common is treating our writers’ careers like a business.
When we sign up new authors this is what we ask ourselves:
“How can we help you make a living from your writing?”
Not only do we have to fall in love with a manuscript, connect with the author personally, sell ourselves to the writer as their champion, and know how to sell their book–we have to have a strong vision for their career and know that we are the best agent to help them secure that future.
That’s why you hear agents saying “it wasn’t for me,” or “I liked it but I didn’t love it.”
We have to be looking two books, three books, or a series ahead. It isn’t just what’s on the page today, but if we think they can grow into an author we can help for years to come.
HOW CAN YOU SHOW AN AGENT YOU’RE A CAREER AUTHOR?
- In the author bio paragraph of your query letter tell us you are working on your next book.
- Have a short synopsis of your next book prepared if an agent asks.
- Know where you see yourself in 5-10 years as a writer. Writing the same genre? Switching gears? Still writing?
- Network with other writers and show a public commitment to your own success.
- Make sure your social media bios include the word writer and your posts link to writing or creative topics from time to time.
- You don’t have to have an MFA, but attending writing workshops or joining organizations is helpful. There are so many: SCBWI for children’s books, WFWA for women’s fiction etc.
- Knowledge about how the industry works. This is my top book on the business: INSIDE BOOK PUBLISHING. This will provide you with more than you need to know.
- Know what you want from an agent (other than the basics): publicity division, film/tv specialists etc.
Interested in the relationship between literary agents and their clients? Not sure what that entails?
Check out the series I wrote for The Write Life:
Last week’s post: 6 Things to Expect from Your Literary Agent
This week’s post: 6 Things Not to Expect from Your Literary Agent
Head over to The Write Life and share your comments.
Yes, even you self pubbed authors need an agent now more than ever.
There’s no disputing that you can publish your own book, get a deal by yourself meeting an editor at a conference or submitting to certain publishers that are open to the slush. I see more and more in our query inbox that an author has an offer from a small print publisher or digital first start up but want an agent to help with the process because they realize they are in over their head. They ask questions like: Is the publisher good? Should I have submitted to them on my own in the first place? I’ve written on why you shouldn’t submit to agents and small presses at the same time already, but this is about why you need an agent first.
6 Reasons You Need An Agent Now More Than Ever:
1. Access to ‘Big 5′
Yes, you can submit to small publishers by yourself, but you will never have access to all the big 5 publishers without an agent. Every writer I’ve ever met has wanted to be published in print. There are writers that are ‘okay’ with digital first publishing, but they all want to build to a career in print.
2. Complex Contracts Continue reading
Agent Janet Reid wrote a great blog post about agent burnout among other things. One part that stuck with me was her comment about agents reading things that aren’t client work.
I can understand when writers see their agents talking on Twitter or Facebook about books that aren’t theirs and they think: “If they had spare time, why weren’t they reading my manuscript?” But one of the most important things an agent can do is read and READ A LOT.
Why you want an agent who reads:
1. They know what’s selling.
If we don’t read published books, how up-to-date is our taste? How do we know what is working in the market? I call it ‘cleansing the palate’ and it’s a much needed respite.
2. They know what’s successful. Continue reading