Friday, April 21, 2017

Do I Need An Agent?

This is from a prior post, but I think it was worth repeating.

First of all, I get it. Agents are not for everyone. There are a lot of authors out there doing really well without having an agent. However, there are a lot of authors out there who have found themselves in predicaments that made their publishing careers less than pleasurable. These might have also been situations that could have been avoided, had there been an agent in their corner.

What people need to know is that agents are not there to only negotiate contracts for you and take your money. They are part of your team to step in when things might not be going along so well for you. They are there to allow you to focus your attention on the creative side of your career with your editors. That icky business stuff is left to them. One editor I worked with described it as a way to make sure that fun part of the relationship is still in tack while the agent deals with the business.

I see all of the time authors who are unhappy with the way a publisher wants to do things with his or her book. While the editors have in mind changes that would make the book more marketable, an author might see things a different way. The author's approach might be taking the book in a different direction. Now, this might be due to the author not knowing some marketing trends and the publisher's approach is the better decision, or it might be that both approaches have merit. It is just a matter of communication. However, when authors are now sitting in a situation like this, the whole writing process can reach a stand-still. And here is where it gets ugly.

Authors can now view the publishers as being unwilling to do things "their way". They start to be difficult when it comes to the writing and communication back and forth with their editors. They may even find themselves sitting on social media, chat groups, or talking with other writers just to vent. They aren't thinking that what they say will get filtered around to others (including the editor they are supposedly trying to work with, other editor and certainly agents). Look people do talk.

And then things get really nasty. When it comes time for new contracts, suddenly what they wanted may not be there. The publishers decide to "take a new direction". They aren't doing this to punish the author and say, "See, I told you we would win." They are indeed taking a new direction because that working relationship was damaged and too hard to maintain. The may have also done this because they had heard from all of that external chatter that the author was unhappy and may indeed be wanting to go another direction.

I should also note here that this doesn't just happen to brand new authors who haven't been around the block. This can happen to a lot of seasoned authors who may have been doing this on their own for a while. Things were moving along nicely for years and then, WHAM! That one book with some issues brings in a ton of problems. Not fun!

Now let's bring in an agent. First of all, will an agent be able to fix everything? No! Is an agent a miracle worker? No! But they can be the one to serve as an intermediary to help smooth things out. Those issues you had with the book that brought things to a standstill? They can talk it through using different words and approaches that might open the eyes of the publisher, or simply be able to come back to the author and describe what the publisher was really saying.

The agent is also there so you can vent in private. Yell and scream at them. They can take the punishment and you know that information is not going to go anywhere else through those pretty leaky internet social media sites.

Now, as an agent, I hope to never find myself in a situation such as this. We want things to always move like clockwork. But, in those rare situations, having that agent in your corner might be enough to keep you moving and through that rough time in your career.

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