*Gasp* Blsphemy! Yes I said it. I’ve been working with my agent now for a little over six months. That doesn’t make me an expert. However I can share some tidbits that are important to consider before seeking an agent because, let’s be honest, it takes tons of time and resources to find one.
Let’s start with the business aspect because it’s probably the most important since you are entering into a business partnership with your agent. I’ve blogged about how your writing and publication is a business and it is. Signing with an agent is hiring a business partner to help you with editing, marketing and selling of your product. There’s many reasons people seek representation from an agent. Me personally? I’m a mother and wife who teaches full time. The rest of my time is consumed with writing and being a human being. I don’t have a ton of extra time which marketing and other such things require. I knew from the beginning I needed help.
Another reason to seek an agent is because you want a wider readership. Agents have that all hallowed access to the BIG 5 (do you hearing the boomy echoey voice?). Obviously, being able to sub to those elusive publishers can also mean more money, more marketing power, and a coveted spot in B&N (which they are even opening to self-pubbed authors).
The list goes on. However, there are some that shouldn’t seek an agent. Example: the anal retentive control freak. There are some aspects of my life I refuse to relinquish control over (my computer files and how they are organized is one example). But when you work with an agent, you need to relinquish control of some aspects of your business. If you hire an agent, you are hopefully going to pay them for their time, expertise, selling/negotiating a successful deal for your book and listening to you freak the hell out at 2 am because you’re convinced your book is crap. If you aren’t able to trust your agent to do their job and sub your book to the right publishers and editors then why are you paying them? Maybe, instead you should sub to smaller presses who take author submissions.
This is not me telling you to let go of everything and completely hand it over to your agent. That would be idiotic. But it should be a partnered conversation about goals for the book, vision, where the book is subbed, what the response is, next steps etc.
Another potential pitfall is that you have to like them. I talk to my agent almost every day. I like the communication. Even if she tells me she didn’t hear anything and we talk about what the other is doing. Obviously not every agent or author is like that or needs that, but your styles have to mesh. Publishing is a business that requires collaboration. Even if you skip the agent thing, you’ll still have to work with an editor, marketing team, etc. An agent is even more crucial because they are (hopefully) a long term partner. There are many factors that have to mesh for it to be a successful partnership. Communication styles, vision, editorial styles, and personality are all extremely important.
So what’s my point? Most writers seek representation for an array of reasons but self-publishing, or going through a smaller independent press works for many people and are much better options. It’s important to weigh your options carefully on your road to getting published. Do tons of research on both getting an agent, presses and self-publishing before making a choice. This is your career and it can be whatever you want it to be. Do what’s best for you.