Monday 3 November 2014

Do I Need an Agent?

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All writers will ask themselves the question, "Do I need an agent?" at some stage or other.  And these
same writers will weigh up the pros and cons, as I have done. 

As far as I can see there is only one con - your agent will take a slice of your earnings (usually 10-15%).  There are many pros however:

1. An agent has firmly established contacts (which you don't) in the publishing world.
2. An agent acts as a mentor and editor.
3. An agent will guide you through the minefield of a publishing contract.
4. An agent will always push to get you a better deal.
5. An agent will promote your book at book fairs, to foreign publishers, TV and movie people.

So for me, it was a no-brainer.  I wanted an agent.

This desire was compounded by a phone call I once had with one of my literary heroes, Eoin Colfer, in which I asked him for some publishing advice.  "Get an agent," he said.

So where do you start?

I started by attending a "Meet an Agent" event organised by CBI and SCBWI.  I submitted a few chapters in exchange for a ten minute meeting with a rather renowned agent for children's writers.  Let's call her Agent A.  She really loved my submission and asked to see the manuscript when it was finished.  I celebrated. 


Anyway, I finished the manuscript and sent it off to Agent A.  Again, she said she liked it but didn't like X and Y.  So I rewrote the manuscript to fix X and Y, before sending it off again.  But this time, it was a firm "No". She didn't like Z. 

So I wallowed in the dust of self pity for a while, before looking up at my horse and wondering if should get back on.  Finally, I dusted myself down and purchased a copy of the Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (Has there ever been so many apostrophes in a book title?!)

I studied the listings and chose one to submit to.  I had read somewhere that it's not recommended to make multiple submissions, so I didn't.  I waited. One month, two months, three months, four months.  Nothing.  So I sent an email, and I received an apologetic reply that Agent B would take a look at my submission ASAP.

I waited some more.  One month, two months, three months.  Nothing.  I sent another email and this time DID get a reply.  Agent B really liked the book, but felt it was too similar to the writing genres of some of her other authors.  She advised me to look elsewhere.

This time there was no self pity.  Ignoring the advice, I multiple submitted sample chapters to many agents.  And this time - RESULT!  Lots of interest.  Many requested the full manuscript.

I waited some more.

Among the replies were many rejections with lots of praise and advice, but also three interested parties.  Let's call them Agent C, Agent D and Agent E.

Agent C spoke to me on the phone.  She loved the book and seemed really nice, enthusiastic, experienced and full of high hopes for my work.  She made an offer.  She even sent me a beautiful hardback copy of one of favourite authors who was one of her clients.

This time I didn't celebrate.  Not yet.

Agent D pulled out of the race when she heard there were two other interested parties.

Agent E offered to meet me.  We met and I was very impressed by the youthful, energetic, ambitious, and intelligent woman that I had coffee with.  Here was a lady I could work with.

I nearly celebrated.  But held off, because I now had a dilemma on my hands. Agent C or Agent E?  I would have happily went with either one, but something about that face-to-face meeting sealed the deal. 

After receiving many rejection letters from agents, it felt so weird SENDING a rejection letter to Agent C.  I signed the contract with Agent E.

And celebrated.

And I've never looked back.  That gut instinct about choosing an agent served me well.

My agent is brilliant.  She helped me fine-tune the manuscript, submitted to publishers, and bagged me a fine publisher.  She is enthusiastic, energetic, professional, supportive, wise, and talented. A national newspaper described her as a "rising star", and I agree.

So if you ask me, "Do I need an agent?" my reply is, "If you can get one like mine, then YES!"

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