Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tipsy Tuesday

On Thursday last week I briefly discussed the situation when a prospective agent requests you to do a revision. Let's back it up a bit today and talk about why you need an agent.

Simply, agents can target the editors who are best suited to publish your work and who are, therefore, less likely to reject it. If the agent has a good working relationship with these editors (which, let's face it, they do or they wouldn't be in business for very long), the editors will trust the agent's opinion about the book they're trying to sell, and will in most cases be willing to read the manuscript within a matter of weeks. (Versus being stuck in the slush pile for months and months and months.)

An agent will navigate the contract waters for you, taking on what could be a somewhat adversarial process and free you up to focus on the creative end of things. (Of course, I'm not saying that you shouldn't read that contract word for word--and make sure you understand every last option clause. But your agent can get the kinks worked out so that you don't have to worry about much of the process.) Plus for the agent it's a much less emotional thing, and editors prefer working with someone who's going to be calm in this process.

Even if you've met an editor at a writers' conference and that editor requested your manuscript, you still need to get an agent. By all means, submit the manuscript to the editor, and then use that request as leverage to get an agent on board.

Do your homework, though. Don't just grab a list of editors and start down the list alphabetically. Find out which specific editors handle the type of stuff you write, make sure they (and their agency) are reputable. If an agent wants to charge you anything up front, run. Run as fast as you can. They only thing they should "charge" is the standard 15% on what you make. Nothing should be asked for up front. If a prospective agent asks for a reading fee, or an editing fee, or any kind of fee... Well, like I said. Run.

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