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 un-agented writer. And I'm so glad I didn't.
|You've probably heard finding a good agent is|
harder than finding a publisher.
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 un-agented 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 to conferences, take classes, be part of a committed critique group and review today's info. I have a feeling you'll know the answer to your question.