Monday, June 16, 2014

Understanding The Role Of An Agent

The author agent relationship is really one of the strangest ones out there in the field of publishing. There really isn't a real job description out there, and even the process for creating that agent-author business relationship is strange. Still, for many authors out there, having an agent in their professional writing career is one that can be helpful, and sometime essential. It is therefore very important to understand the role an agent actually plays in a writer's life.

First of all, the agent obviously takes care of the business side of things between the writer and the publisher. I heard it once described that this relationship is similar to the "good cop, bad copy" model. editors want to keep things strictly on the creative happy side with their authors so they leave the ugly stuff to the business departments and the agents. It is the agent's job to do as much negotiation as possible when it comes to contracts, to discuss issues with the publisher should there be problems and so forth.

I do think there is one myth out there that needs to be dispelled. Having an agent DOES NOT mean you will A) have your book sold to a publisher; or B) get more money and and a mega movie deal. There are many contracts out there that are not that flexible, especially for a new author with no track record. As we learned in elementary school, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." Therefore, more money might not be possible. Along the same lines, the agent has to fight just as hard as you would to convince the publisher your book needs to be published. As I have said before, there are no promises in this business and even though we might love your story, sometimes we just can't sell it.

Now we get into things that do change from one agent to the next.

Agents are there to guide you careers in this business. We cannot tell you what to do, but we can certainly make recommendations as to where you should be putting your efforts when it comes to writing. In other words, your writing may have a category or series voice. As much as you might want to write single title, this might not be the direction you should be heading. This is where we recommend paths that might be more profitable for you.

Agents might also provide different levels of editorial work for you. This one really depends on not only what the agent is comfortable with, but also what the author needs. Some authors I work with just need some basic guidance with plots. Others need some hard-core editing. Again, this is on a case by case basis.

Agents are also there to be that best friend. There are a lot of rewards in publishing, but there are also a lot of times when the rejections come through faster than we want. We are that shoulder to cry on and that person to just complain to when the writing is not going the way you wanted it to.

I always say that finding an agent is not just about someone to sell your book to a publisher. This is a marriage. This is one that has to be the right fit for you and your personal writing needs. Please take the time to really get to know your agents before you go diving into a relationship.

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