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All You Need To Know About
Agents - For Now
by Sophfronia Scott
The agent issue is such an emotional one for writers.
Having one is a huge validation. I was fortunate to sign
with an agent while still writing my first novel and it
was wonderful being able to work and know that someone
was waiting for what I was writing.
But the eagerness to have that feeling often pushes
writers to make poor decisions when it comes to the hunt
for an agent. With some thinking, solid preparation and
research it is possible to hook up with an agent and have
a satisfying relationship with him or her. Here are five
crucial points to help you with the process.
Do You Need An Agent?
You've probably heard the oft-cited fact that most
publishers these days don't read unsolicited manuscripts.
But that only means that the editor hasn't been contacted
beforehand. If you send a query letter and the editor
asks to see your book or book proposal, you can send it
without going through an agent.
However, if the editor does want to make an offer, they
will suggest that you get an agent. An agent will help
you get the best deal possible and, in the best of
worlds, an agent will also be interested in helping you
develop your career as a writer. If you can get an agent
before the submission process, I think that's even better
because the agent can help you put your manuscript in the
best shape possible before it gets submitted. As they
say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
With that in mind...
You have to be writing at a top level to grab an agent's
attention. Unfortunately, a number of writers tend to
skip that part. You may be eager to get an agent, but if
you're continually sending out subpar material, you'll be
seen as a writer with poor skills and poor judgment and
someone not to be taken seriously.
Granted, I know you want to know that you're not writing
for nothing and an agent would provide that validation,
but at some point you have to make the decision that
you're writing for the long haul and working on your
craft. If you can do that, getting an agent will not be a
Find the Right Agent.
When you're ready to make the search, DO NOT get a bunch
of names and do a mass mailing to anyone with the title
"agent". You'll only get a bunch of rejections
from agents who don't handle your material or aren't
looking for new clients. If you do a little work, you can
find out what kind of writers an agent represents and the
type of material they favor. Writer's Digest publishes
the Guide to Literary Agents (see below) where you'll
find complete listings.
Here's another great tip: if you join Publishers
Marketplace, you can get a daily e-mail listing of what
deals have taken place in the book industry. You'll see
what kind of book sold, what editor bought it and the
agent who represented the author. This is good
information because you'll see immediately who is
representing your type of writing and--more
importantly--who is buying it!
No, You Don't Have to Pay an Agent!
I get asked about this a lot, usually by writers who have
already been taken advantage of by agents who charge
expensive "reading fees". A good agent makes
money when you make money (usually a 15 percent
commission). You'll want to ask some questions. If an
agent makes most of his money from writer fees and not
from actual sales, you'll want to move on. A good way to
weed out this group is by checking out members of the
Association of Author's Representatives (AAR). Members of
AAR are forbidden from charging fees.
An agent is much more likely to pay attention to a
manuscript from someone they have met personally. I know
networking and meeting agents can be hard if you live in
the mountains of Arizona or on an island in Puget Sound.
But consider it part of your work as a writer to get out
to a conference at lease once or twice a year to meet
agents, editors and, of course, other writers! I'll let
you know when good ones are coming up.
An agent is NOT a magic pill. Even the best agent can't
work miracles with mediocre material. It will ALWAYS be
your job to do your best writing.
Copyright 2005 Sophfronia Scott. All Rights Reserved.
About The Author: Sophfronia Scott, "The Book
Sistah," is author of the bestselling novel, All I
Need to Get By. If you liked today's issue, stay tuned
for more because The Book Sistah also offers FREE audio
classes, FREE articles, workshops, and other resources to
help aspiring authors get published and market their
books successfully. The Book Sistah, 230 South Main St.
Ste. 319, Newtown, CT 06470 203-426-2036,
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