Writers are wondering about the value of pursuing an agent. As a nonfiction writer, I didn’t need to be agented to gain the attention of a publisher. All I had to do was write a darn good book proposal. Of course, had I had an agent, I might have worked out a better deal with my publisher, who knows.
Now plunging into the world of fiction, I realize I must find a good agent if I want to publish via the traditional modes. Many people are turning to self-publishing or e-publishing both of which do not require agents. They are doing this because getting an agent is almost as hard or harder than getting your book published. Here are some of the things I’ve recently learned:
1) For fiction, agents still run the show. Many publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. That means to even land in the slush pile you still need an agent.
2) Agents come in all shapes and sizes. Having recently attended the Backspace conference in New York City, I met a number of agents. Let me tell you, I wouldn’t want some of them representing me. Not only did a few of them lack professionalism (in their appearance), they didn’t always do their homework. That makes me wonder how effective they are with publishers.
3) There are some excellent agents out there. I met a couple at Backspace and I hope to gain their attention. Those agents support their flock of writers, they have a passion for the works they represent, and they look the part.
4) Writing query letters, creating pitches and otherwise gaining the attention of an agent is probably the hardest writing challenge we writers face.
My final lesson to myself is not to accept the first agent that comes my way. They are too important. Instead, I aim to find a professional agent with a good track record and one who believes in me and my work.
How about you? What have you experienced with agents? Are you like many and giving up the whole idea?
I’m encountering this myself – or ABOUT to – I’m in (what I hope is) my last edit. God knows I’ve edited this manuscript 6 times already. You make a good point though, and I hadn’t thought of it…not jumping at the first agent. How would that even work? Let’s say you don’t, how long do you wait until you’re lucky enough to get ANOTHER? How long will the FIRST agent wait until they figure, ‘ah the heck with her.’
Joan Curtis says
These are good questions. My answer is I must do a lot of due diligence before I query any agent. What that means is really studying their websites and taking a close look at who they represent. If possible, I’d like to meet them personally at conferences (but that’s hard).
Once I query an agent, if that agent accepts me, then I jump on the opportunity. I would never accept an agent I had not queried.
Does this make sense? What I learned by attending this conference is that agents do not look like their photos on their websites and they do not act the way they say they act from their bios. That makes due diligence harder than ever!
Check out the website Agentquery.com. There are some very helpful hints there.
Stay in touch. We can all help each other. BTW, if you’ve only done 6 re-writes, congrats. I’ve done many more than that! What kind of fiction are you writing?