Do I Really Need an Agent?
When I teach at writers conferences, I often get the question, “Do I really need an agent?” Well, you’ll be happy to know I can confidently and unequivocally answer that question in three simple words: Yes, no, and maybe.
When I wrote my first book, I knew I didn’t want an agent. I mean, why would I want to give a whopping 15 percent of my earnings to a total stranger when I could do it myself and keep all that money?
Then the rejections came–years of them–and I finally began to think that perhaps 85 percent of something would be better than 100 percent of nothing! So I started my search for an agent, and the only nibbles I got were from agents with shady reputations. And we won’t talk about that today.
Fast forward eight years to 2001 and I finally have a book contract for Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island–without the help of an agent.
So, did I do the right thing by publishing without an agent? I’ll never know. But I do know this: When it came time to write my first women’s non-fiction book, I didn’t even consider trying to find a publisher as an unagented writer. And I’m so glad I didn’t.
You’ve probably heard it said that finding a good agent is harder than finding a publisher. That may be true. But it’s also true that once you find a good agent, it’s a lot easier to land a publishing contract. Many publishers now use agents as their clearinghouse to wade through the junk to find the publishable writers. Those publishers know that a good agent will only take on good writers, so the fact that a reputable agent is presenting you lends credibility to your work.
A good agent will know who’s looking for what, what genre has the best chance at certain houses, and whether a publisher just signed a deal for a book similar to yours. Good agents have connections, know the latest scoop, and many of them have worked as editors themselves.
So let’s look at the three simple words and their meaning in response to the agent question.
- You most likely need an agent if you want to be published by a large publisher. Every now and then we’ll hear the story of an unsolicited manuscript being picked up by a large house, but most major publishers will not even consider an unagented manuscript sent in by the author.
- You need an agent if you don’t have the time, patience, or knowledge to reach multiple editors simultaneously.
- You’re most likely to need an agent if you’re not going to writer’s conferences where you’re meeting with editors face-to-face.
- You don’t need an agent if you’re interested in any form of self-publishing, such as POD, vanity press, or old-fashioned self-publishing.
- You don’t need an agent if the Writer’s Market Guide or the Christian Writer’s Market Guide state the publisher does not work with agents.
- If an editor at a writer’s conference tells you that he or she is interested in seeing your manuscript and then personally tells you how to submit it, you do not have to have an agent.
- You don’t need an agent for poetry or magazine articles.
- You may not need an agent for children’s material, especially shorter pieces like picture books and board books. Just be sure to do your research and follow the writer’s guidelines.
- You may not need an agent for a small press, regional press, or university press. Again, check the guidelines in the Writer’s Market Guide.
- Even if an editor offers you a contract without agent representation, you may want to consider seeking an agent at that point. There are many agents who would love to represent you in the negotiation phase when you already have a contract–and their involvement could mean a higher advance or higher royalty schedule for you.
As you can see, there’s no one-word answer to that question. So, go back and do everything we talked about in Giving Birth to Your Book, Part 1 and Giving Birth to Your Book, Part 2, then study today’s entry. I have a feeling you’ll know the answer to your question.
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Let’s celebrate with these Christian Writer’s Den friends!
1.Â Rebecca Lindsey (CA): My good news is that I have been published twice on an inspirational website called TheSeeds4Life. I also have consistently written on my new blog and picked up followers. I continue to work on children’s magazine articles and my YA girls novel. I’m working on building my platform steadily. Thanks, Vonda for your encouragement and God bless!
2. Jeanne Doyon (CT): Two articles have been reprinted. One in Reach Out Columbia Magazine called, “Going Tandem.” The second in Nebraska Family Times is called, “Gleaning by the Ocean.” I am thankful that words can be repurposed for His purpose. (Vonda here: Me, too!)
3.Â Maureen Hager (NC): My story “Quiet Refuge” is published in the new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses. I am so honored to pay tribute to an amazing nurse whose compassionate heart brought much hope and healing while recovering from a trauma.
Didn’t find your name in the Kudos Celebration this month? Be sure to check back next week when I have a new list of writing opportunities, conferences, and contests just for you!
Will one of these MoGo7000 Qualifiers win $100?
Congratulations to these writers who earned another chance to win $100 at the end of the year!
#8: Tim Suddeth – 23,419 words
#9: Susan Baganz – 18,270 wordsÂ
This is a good year for being in the running for $100 in cold hard cash. Donâ€™t be left out! Check out the MoGo7000 Challenge guidelines to see how YOU might be a winner. Itâ€™s all free!
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That does it for another 2nd Tuesday. Hope to see you back next week for a new bunch of writing opportunities, conferences, and contests!