Finding an agent can be pretty daunting. I went through the process for my last manuscript and after a few knockbacks, was fortunate enough to be picked up by someone I considered to be the rockstar of the literary agent world. I say ‘considered’, because she no longer works as an agent. And so I find myself on the hunt for a new agent for my latest manuscript, Saving Grace.
A lot has changed since the last time I had a book ready to go out into the world in search of a home. That was nearly 10 years ago *feels suddenly old*. Back then, most publishers would accept submissions only from agents. Now, many publishers accept pitches and invite submissions. And let’s be honest, it takes a lot of work to get an agent. It can add months to the process. So, is it worth it? For me, there’s several reasons why it is.
1. Despite how long it can take to find an agent, they can actually save you time.
An agent knows exactly who to send your manuscript to, so you don’t waste time sending it out only to wait months before finding out that it’s not the sort of thing they’d publish. Of course, you can (and should) do thorough research, but agents are well connected and can get publishers excited about your book, and publishers will often look at it more quickly if it’s come through someone they trust to give them something they’ll most likely be interested in.
2. They’ll put your book through a rigorous process before it gets to a publisher, so it will be in even better shape.
Before you approach any professional, your manuscript should of course be as near to publishable standard as you can get it – you’re happy with all the big stuff like structure, character development, subplots etc and have proofed it so it’s as typo free. It’s that point where you could keep fiddling with it, but most likely you’ll just make changes for change’s sake. I call this the ‘I’m not working on this until someone in the industry tells me to’ stage. An agent is that person – they might get a reader report done, then read it themselves and liaise with you about improvements. Only then will they send it out.
Note: This doesn’t mean you can use an agent like an assessment service.
3. They’ll get the pitch right.
An agent knows about pitching. My agent rewrote my synopsis because she knew exactly what would get publishers interested. That was a huge relief – even though I understand marketing and can write a decent pitch, it’s not my area of expertise. If I had to write it and send it off myself, I’d be worrying about it the minute I pressed ‘send’. Did I forgot to mention something? Should I have focused on a different angle? Did I go into too much detail? Knowing someone else has got this for you earns you a lot more sleep.
4. They’ll be your biggest fan.
Because an agent only makes money if your book makes money, they’ll only take on books and authors that they truly believe in. Sometimes, they’ll fall in love with your characters as deeply as you have. Hearing them talk about your novel in glowing terms is about the best confidence boost you can get. The support my agent gave me, and her constant belief in my ability, has been worth more to me than whether my book ended up being published or not.
4. They understand contracts.
If your book is accepted, you’ll need someone who understands contracts and rights and all the things that go with signing your book over to a publisher. While I like to think I’d remain level-headed if offered a publishing contract – you know, take some time to thoroughly understand the terms and negotiate any points I wasn’t 100% happy with – the fact is I’d probably be so excited to finally have a book deal that I’d overlook some of the details. An agent safeguards you from your own enthusiasm because it’s their job to get you the best deal. Someone has to have their business hat on when you’re breaking out the Champagne and finally putting that status update on FB that you’ve been waiting to post for years.
Do you agree ? Do you have an agent or are you contacting publishers direct? Let me know in the comments below.