Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thinking About An Agent

This is a question most writers are confronted with whether they want to be or not.  Do I need an agent?  Is now the right time to get an agent? If not an agent, then what?

Well, I could write a book on the subject, but this is a blog post so I'll try to keep it fairly short and clean, give you a few tips and get your thinking started.

To begin you need to determine whether you need or want an agent and if now is the time.

Under that heading, as a new writer, you need to consider:

1. Do you  have a completed manscript?
2. Do you have the patience & ability to read a legal contract all the way through & understand what you've read - or the resources to have that done?
3. Are you thick-skinned and not easy to intimidate?
4. Are you willing to decide to walk away from a deal if it isn't the one you want?
5. Are you sure and comfortable handling business meetings regarding your artistic work?

If those questions are mostly yes, you might want to go it on your own, handling your own marketing for now.  But of course that can change later so....

If you've decided it's time to find yourself an agent here are some basics:

Hit the books.

Libraries are great resources and of course the Web. Check out Publishers Weekly to see which agents make the big deals and ones who represent the sort of work you do along with which may be looking for clients.

Writer's Market  has a great for pay site that can be very helpful.  You can also find a hard copy of Writer's Market (current ed) at your library, or buy a hard copy online.

Check out magazines for writers or ones that are genre-specific. Agents have been known to advertise in such places.  Try checking out your library or local bookstore for magazines that might fill the bill.

There's also a book called "Guide To Literary Agents" put out by Writer's Digest Books.  Also available at libraries or bookstores.

Another approach beyond the books and research is the personal touch.  If you know another author see if he or she can recommend anyone and if so, if that agent represents your genre.  If that is the case and you want to connect, write a very short, professional query letter and send it off.

If you don't know another writer, check with librarians (amazing what they know), or writing instructors at local colleges, etc. Maybe take a course to improve your writing while you're at it.

Even more personal if you have the time and funds, check around and arrange to attend writers' conferences, conventions or seminars. Literary agents often attend, interested in finding new clients and to represent their current clients. 

A few words on professionalism here if you're going to do the personal contact route. Remember to dress nicely.  You don't have to be formal, but don't be raggedy either.  Sorry, first impressions do count. Be polite at all times, not aggressive or demanding. They don't owe you a thing.  Try to have a private meeting if you discover an agent who particularly apeals and who reprsents your kind of work. If you're that lucky, be brief, think in terms of the famous 60 second elevator speech, explain your project (which manuscript should already be finished or so close to it as to effectively be there).  If you connect, don't thrust your manuscript under the agent's nose.  He or she probably doesn't want it right then anyway (how would you like to tote home many weighty manuscripts in a suitcase from a conference?)  Ask if they'd like to see it or a partial and where you can send it. Then be sure to include a cover letter to remind the agent where and how you met.

Remember this is a business arrangement, the agent is not your baby sitter or hand holder no matter what you've seen on TV or in the movies. Check out your potential agent as best you can. Ask what fees are charged. Most agents still charge between 10 and 15% of the income for domestic sales and 25% for foreign sales. An agent shouldn't charge for things like domestic phone calls or his or her own bookkeeping, but they do charge for special expesnses like overseas calls and photocopying unless you have an agreement otherwise. Ask.

One more thing to keep in mind about agents.  Yes, it's true they work for you. And most of them work very hard. BUT, they have to cultivate relationships with editors and remain on their good side in order to sell books. That can make it a situation where loyalties can be a bit confused.

In closing you can check out the Association of Author's Representatives as well.  The website offers info on agents.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Other Posts Of Interest:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...