View Full Version : Should I get an agent?

12-05-2004, 07:00 PM
I can't think of a better place to post this, so if there IS one, please move it, Victoria.

Now that my book has been accepted for publication, I have a contract, it's fair, I didn't see any of the red flags I have been told to watch out for, and straightforward. I understood everything that was in it. Well, now should I get an agent?

What does an agent do, besides sell books and negotiate contracts? Does he set up appearances, do press releases, stuff like that?
Just wondering if it's worth getting one for a book through a small publisher?

Thanks !

James D Macdonald
12-05-2004, 07:14 PM
You should get the agent after the offer but before signing the contract. What can an agent do with a contract that's already been signed?

Just wondering if it's worth getting one for a book through a small publisher?

At this point, probably not. Before selling your next book, probably.

12-05-2004, 11:45 PM
Actually, I haven't officially signed the contract yet, I've only seen a review copy. But, as I said, I didn't see anything strange about it.

And that's what I was thinking, James. Before the next book. Thanks.

12-05-2004, 11:48 PM
>>Just wondering if it's worth getting one for a book through a small publisher?<<

I agree with Uncle Jim--you don't need an agent at this point (also, unless your publisher paid you a competitive advance, it's not very likely an established agent would be interested).

For your next book...In my opinion, if you want to sell fiction to a large publishing house, you need an agent. The number of imprints that will work with unagented authors is small and always dwindling, and those that are willing to look at unagented submissions give them very low priority and take ages to respond (I get sooo frustrated when I see posts from writers who've been waiting a year and a half, two years, or even longer to hear back from Tor or Baen, when they could have used that time to search for a good agent who'd be able to get an answer in a matter of weeks--assuming, of course, that the writer's work was marketable). Yes, novelists still do get bought "over the transom", but not terribly often. Again assuming that your work is marketable (and I say this because, quite honestly, most people's is not), your odds of success are infinitely improved by having a reputable agent.

If you want to stick with independent publishers, you don't need an agent, at least at the submission stage, because so many of them are still willing to work direct with authors. Many indies do pay competitive advances, so if you were to get a contract offer from one of these you'd then be in a good position to find an agent to negotiate the contract for you.

>>What does an agent do, besides sell books and negotiate contracts? Does he set up appearances, do press releases, stuff like that?<<

I think that the industry is slowly starting to move in that direction, and in the future we'll see more and more agents taking steps to give their clients the publicity push that their publishers may not provide (although I'm sure that if this happens it will work out heirarchically, as it does with publishers, with more lucrative or more exciting clients getting the push and others left to sink or swim as they may--thus not addressing but only worsening the plight of midlisters). But right now, most agents only agent, and an agent who claims to do PR should be regarded with suspicion--it may be a way to pry open your checkbook.

In addition to placing your book(s) with a publisher and negotiating contracts and advances, an agent sells subsidiary rights (foreign rights, dramatic rights, and so on--for some writers, this is very lucrative), serves as your advocate with the publisher, tracks and manages publisher payments (and pursues them if they don't pay), works with clients to develop projects, provides career guidance and advice, and may help you polish your work for submission. Once you've a commercially published book or two under your belt, your agent can sell work for you on the basis of a proposal and a sample, which means you aren't writing on spec anymore. This comes with its own challenges, but the security is nice.

One of the best things about having an agent (IMO, anyway) is that it makes it possible for a writer to do less thinking about the business side of writing. That's not to say you don't need to keep on top of things, but it does free up a lot of time and energy.

- Victoria

12-06-2004, 02:28 AM
Wow, thanks Victoria, that was a very through and useful answer!

James D. Macdonald
11-02-2005, 03:42 PM
Great advice from Victoria on when and how to get an agent.

Christine N.
11-02-2005, 03:59 PM
Whew! UJ, resurrecting this thread. I can't believe how much has changed since I posted THAT!

For the sake of posterity - I do like my publisher, they've done a great job getting my first book ready to see the world. AND I have also started looking for an agent for my next book. I would like to move up the ladder a bit, see what an agent can do for me. Two have partials, and I have a short list to query if those reject me.

If not, I can always just stay where I am - I'm pretty sure they'll accept the next book. :)

James D. Macdonald
11-02-2005, 04:02 PM
So, Christine, looking back from a year later, what advice would you give to a newbie who has the same questions you had?

11-02-2005, 07:41 PM
Sort of an aside, in the past week I've gotten the same advice from two different sources. One was a reputable agent. Another was a publisher that only takes agented submissions.

Both suggested trying to get published without an agent. It seems...to condense the info, with a bit of reading between the lines, that the good agents are so busy that it is extremely hard for new authors to get signed on. They want someone with experience.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to get an agent right out of the gate, but I thought it was interesting that both an agent and publisher told me the same thing within days.

The agent also told me that if I got an offer of publication for my manuscript that she'd negotiate the contract for me. Not the same as an offer of direct representation, but at the same time, it is nice to know I have a professional to turn to if I do get an offer.

Christine N.
11-02-2005, 07:48 PM
Ok, first of all, don't be afraid of going with a small press. I learned tons and tons about the process of bookmaking. Do your homework, as always, keep vigilant and avoid the scammers, but small presses really sometimes can get your foot in the door.

And with that experience under my belt, I'm ready to move upward. I aspire to bigger things :)

That's the second bit of advice - don't get too far ahead of yourself. Don't do things just because you think you 'should', or because 'everyone else is'. All things in their own time.
Sometimes the road less traveled really DOES make all the difference. Like so many others, I was disheartened when I got all those agent rejections, of course. but I stuck to it. I am much more comfortable now in this game than I was a year ago - I see all the newbies coming up behind me and wonder if I was that neurotic? LOL Yes, of course I was. Now this business feels more like a comfortable sweater than a new shoe.

Everything Victoria said still applies - it's great advice.

Listen to the advice of people on this board. Surround yourself with people who have been there and learn from their experience.

The last thing I learned... that it's prudent to really find a 'short list' of agents that you think a) your project would fit and b) you think you would like to work with. Agents come in all shapes and sizes, all personalities. Scattershot querying is not the way to go.

I certainly feel much less stress now than I did then. LOL. The first book is off the block, and I am more confident that I really can write something that other people want to read :)