Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Reasons to Have an Agent

This has been a hot topic of conversation among the writers I know for quite some time now. 
With a lot of unpublished hopefuls, we want to know if it's worth getting an agent.  

They get 10-20% of your book deal depending on what you employ them to do.  Maybe even a little more if they are helping you sell your book internationally.  And the question has been, "what exactly do they do for me?"  

So for those of you who aren't sure, here's what I've discovered:  

1.  An agent believes in your work.

2.  An agent helps get your manuscript ready to send to a publisher.

3.  An agent peddles your book around to the right people.  They know what publishers are looking for and they have the contacts to get your book into the right hands of larger, legitimate publishers.  An editor is more likely to notice the work of someone who has an agent, and even more likely to read the piece if it's an agent they know. 

4.  An agent negotiates your book deal.  They understand the ins and outs of the publishing world much more than we ever could.  The very first writer's meeting I attended, the leader of the group said that even if the agent doesn't initially get your manuscript into the publisher's hands, that they are still worth their weight in gold in the actual negotiations of the deal itself because they know about contracts and how much your book is worth to them.  

5.  An agent helps their authors have a voice.  I was just reading a post on Nathan Bransford's blog about book covers and how authors usually don't have a say of what their cover looks like.  This brings up an interesting point that once the publisher purchases your book, they own it and from what I've been learning, they could make edits to an author's story without their knowledge or approval.   

There are agents that aren't so good, of course.  And some that are downright con-artists.  The best thing to do is research before you sign with anyone and make sure the agent you're considering actually has a track record, and isn't making money by charging you fees, but by selling your book.  A great place to start is here, on the Writer Beware site.

After you've become your own, successful brand, you may not need to have an agent to represent you.  But for a first-time author wanting to be represented by a big publishing house, it's essential. 

The more I learn more about this strange world of publishing, the more I will share with you. 
What do you want to know about?  

Thanks for reading! 

I'll also do a follow up blog on reasons to go with a publisher- rather than self publishing or partner publishing as a new author.  

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