Here are my top 5 reasons you NEED an agent:
- Editors RARELY look at slush pile, yet they READ everything that comes to them via an agent. Out of the editors I've met and talked with, they are way too busy to conquer that slush pile. Most of them have assistants who try to attack it, but even the assistants are busy helping with the books that have been signed. But it's more than that, editors have a small pile that comes from agents. Now THAT is what they look at. An agent has given a manuscript his/her stamp of approval. Editors and agents have great relationships (for the most part), so when an agent puts his/her name on a project and says, "Yes, I love this, and I believe this is a good fit for you", editors take that seriously. Editors also respond much faster to agents.
- Agents are the gatekeepers, and they hold the key. One of the BIG things I've learned in my several years or writing and pursuing this dream of mine is this publishing business is busy, and I am not the only one who thinks I have a fabulous book to publish. I was so naive back in the day. I wrote a middle grade novel in a month, sent it off to the top companies, and truly expected a book offer. After a few conferences and some research on my part, I realized that my book is up against tens of thousands. One editor told me that maybe 10-15% of what she reads from submissions is even publishable (alas, that's why it's called the slush pile). Out of that 10-15%, she might be interested in one or two of the books. So, do the math. That means 1,000 submissions out of 10,000 might be publishable, but out of that 1,000 only one or two grab her interest. YIKES! Having an agent helps you SURPASS that 1,000. Yes, it's true. With an agent, your manuscript lands right on the editor's desk. The agent helps get you in the door. It doesn't guarantee a contract, but at least an editor is reading your entire manuscript.
- Agents are in the business of making money. I don't mean to sound superficial, but it's true. The better a deal an agent makes on your behalf, the more money in his/her pocket. Not to mention they are knowledgeable regarding all types of contracts that would make you and me go cross-eyed. There're all types of rights, including foreign rights, movie rights, etc. and they deal with all of that. And obviously, the more money they make for you goes into your pocket.
- A good agent is an awesome editor. My agent, Marissa Walsh, from Fineprint Literary, used to be an editor from Delacorte, and it shows. She makes me rewrite like crazy (see earlier posts), and even though I'm sick to death of revision, my book is so much more amazing because of her AWESOMENESS. I'm talking about things I would have never caught on my own. Or adding depth to characters that make me just fall in love with them. When an agent edits your work and helps you tighten and fix it, they are doing a lot of the editors work for them. And remember when I said how busy an editor is? Okay, you get the drift.
- An agent (a good one) is the best cheerleader you will ever have. It humbles me when Marissa e-mails me all excited about a revision I made. This business professional in the "publishing world" is excited about my work. It lets me know that my dream isn't that far away. I couldn't imagine submitting to editors without having an agent. And are cheerleaders important? Go to any football game, and you'll have your answer. A good cheerleader stirs up the crowd, gets them empassioned, and encourages the players on the field.
New agents are diligently searching to build their lists, and even more experienced ones are continually looking for the next manuscript they fall in love with. I'll have more on this later!