Agent Secrets–Do Writers Need an Agent in the New Publishing Paradigm?

Signs of a bad agent.

Signs of a bad agent.

Hey Guys! I know it’s a wild and crazy world. Indie and self-publishing are exploding while traditional publishing is struggling to reinvent itself in the Digital Age. Yet, here’s the thing. Even if you go it alone, it is still a good idea to have an agent. There are contracts and film rights and foreign rights and pillow fights and…

Okay, I’m going to just shut up about this, because I am NOT an agent.

All right, I AM a secret spy agent in my own mind, but that’s totally different.

One of the reasons I LOVE Laurie McLean (my guest today) is that she’s seriously fun. But, aside from that, she’s been one of the most forward-thinking literary agents I’ve been blessed enough to meet.

Years ago, when MySpace still roamed the Earth, Laurie attended the very first Twitter class I’d ever taught. When other agents wouldn’t have been caught dead learning how to tweet (“because Facebook was just a fad”), Laurie attended and TOOK NOTES. She’s kind, brilliant, and VERY visionary and trust me when I tell you we are all very blessed to have her at WANA International.

So take it away Laurie!

***

If I had a live camera feed into every home around the world (which is a very creepy idea, but stay with me for a minute), each January I would be able to see a huge percentage of writers penning the resolution:

“This is the year I get a literary agent!”

It’s a great goal. Agents can be very helpful in not only getting you a publishing deal, but educating you on the business of publishing, helping you create and promote your author brand, making you a better writer, and basically having your back in the coldhearted world where you’ve decided to build your career.

Some agent relationships last longer than a marriage, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you accept an agent’s offer of representation. What you really need are some inside answers (along with working on your craft until you are proficient enough to succeed in being published) to speed you on your way.

I’ve been a literary agent for eight years now and I’ve amassed a huge arsenal of information that I am happy to share with writers. I’ve put them all into a presentation called AGENT SECRETS.

It explains what an agent does, how to find one, the best way to score representation by an agent, how to have a great client-agent relationship, what to watch out for, etc. I’m giving a super-cheap webinar where I reveal these secrets to anyone who has $25 and 90 minutes to spend with me. It’s a great way to start the year off right.

Here’s an example of some agent secrets:

What does an agent do? At the most basic level, a literary agent is an author’s business partner. An agent locates a publisher interested in buying an author’s writing and then negotiates a deal. But a literary agent is so much more than that. An agent is:

* A scout who constantly researches what publishers are looking for

* An advocate for an author and his or her work

* A midwife who assists with the birth of a writing project

* A reminder who keeps the author on track if things begin to slip

* An editor for that last push before submission

* A critic who will tell authors what they need to hear in order to improve

* A matchmaker who knows the exact editors for an author’s type of writing

* A negotiator who will fight to get the best deal for an author

* A mediator who can step in between author and publisher to fix problems

* A reality check if an author gets out of sync with the real world

* A liaison between the publishing community and the author

* A cheerleader for an author’s work or style

* A focal point for subsidiary, foreign and dramatic rights

* A mentor who will assist in developing an author’s career

* A rainmaker who can get additional writing work for an author

* A career coach for all aspects of your writing future

* An educator about changes in the publishing industry

* A manager of the business side of your writing life

I bet you didn’t know an agent did all those things, did you? You only wanted one to get a book deal, right? Well, agents do all this and more. With the publishing industry changing as much as it’s done in the past four years, I think you need a savvy agent more than ever as a guide through the literary jungle.

So I hope you’ll join me for an evening of fun and enlightenment…an evening of secrets. To register, go to WANA International and sign up NOW

…or Kristen gets the hose :).

I love hearing from you guys, so leave a comment, but better? TAKE THE CLASS. Best? Leave a comment AND taker her class.

Yes, I get lonely and you guys are my only tether to the outside world.

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  1. #1 by Heather on January 11, 2013 - 11:36 am

    Thank you so much for this…I’ve been debating the whole agent thing especially as I’m small press published and managed to get a 4 book contract on my own. But after reading this I’m more determined to get an agent than I was before.

    • #2 by DakotaSByrd on January 12, 2013 - 9:28 am

      I’m signed up! I knew agents did all this but I’m absolute in my resolve to get an agent this year and hopefully a publisher nibbletoo. Thanks for the blog post Kristen and thanks to Laurie McLean as well! Looking forward to it. Woot!

  2. #3 by Sarena Straus on January 11, 2013 - 11:40 am

    Thanks for this post. My agent works her butt off for me and I think you can definitely add therapist to the list, for keeping my eye on the prize when the book doesn’t sell to the first 3 big houses it goes to!

    I’ve been wondering lately with all the self publishing and indie publishing, how all of this plays into audiobooks, which is also a growing industry. It seems to me that traditional publishing would be a hurdle to audio-publishing; something those in the self-publish world won’t so easily cross over to. Thoughts?

  3. #4 by deanne wilsted on January 11, 2013 - 11:54 am

    I have been a fan of Laurie since I first began looking for agents… ever since she sent me one of the nicest rejections I have had even to this date. I have gone full circuit on thoughts about agents, from desparately seeking one, to ‘who needs the constant downer,” to… it wil happen when I find the right one and they find me. Comparing it to a marriage is a good way of looking at it. I dated a lot of guys, ut and thrilled I didn’t marry anyone but my husband. He wouldn’t be perfect for everyone, but he is perfect for me. Now, if only there was a Match.com for authors and agents. —- huh—- new business model?

    • #5 by Jane Bailey Bain ('LifeWorks') on January 14, 2013 - 9:06 am

      Perfect analogy! And like any relationship, if you both give 55% and expect less, it’s got a fair chance of working….

  4. #6 by K.B. Owen on January 11, 2013 - 11:56 am

    Can I just say I love my agent? I’ve been with her for 2 and a half years, and I’ve learned so much in that time! Thanks for the guest post, Laurie! Your class sounds like it will be super-useful for folks!

  5. #7 by annerallen on January 11, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Thanks for hosting Laurie. She is one of my favorite people in the book business. She’s scary-smart, helpful, and just plain fun–especially if you’re sharing a bottle of wine :-) Her seminar will open people’s eyes. People who preach against agents are talking about an old-school type of agent that is fading from the marketplace. These days, agents have to be e-age savvy or they don’t make it. Laurie is on the cutting edge of the changes in the industry.

  6. #8 by Christine Ashworth on January 11, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Great post, Laurie! I’ve looked on and off for an agent, and never quite have gotten there. But I’m not going to give up now! Going to check out the class…Cheers!

  7. #9 by Christine Ashworth on January 11, 2013 - 12:04 pm

    Whoop! Okay, I signed up. Now for a real rookie question – Webinar. Gulp. How? I’m assuming it’s live, so I’ll have to call up my acting skills and pretend to die so I can leave work at 3:30 pacific time in order to hide at my local Starbucks and get wifi for free so I can log in…or am I WAY overthinking this? LOL!

    Gosh, I SO love learning new things!

  8. #10 by Miriam Joy on January 11, 2013 - 12:08 pm

    My resolution wasn’t to get an agent… but it was not to chicken out of trying, which effectively comes to the same thing. I would say ‘getting an agent’ was more like a goal — and you’ve made it sound even more like a good idea! Alas, I’m skint and overcommitted, so I can’t take the class, but I did comment. I’m halfway there.

  9. #11 by KM Huber on January 11, 2013 - 12:30 pm

    Thanks for offering the class; signed up and ready to go. Looking forward to it. Once again, WANA International delivers.

    Karen

  10. #12 by SweetSong on January 11, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    Aw man, I wish I could attend that. I’d love more information on agents. Unfortunately I have to work. :( Even so, it was nice to get a bit of an overview. Thanks for the great post!

  11. #13 by athenabrady.co.uk on January 11, 2013 - 1:04 pm

    Hey, thanks for your post it was extremely helpful to me, Kristen and Laurie. I will check out the class and see if I am free. If not, will you be running it again, in the future? I have a tough schedule at the moment.

  12. #14 by Patricia Bates on January 11, 2013 - 1:33 pm

    I would love to do the agent route – however, I have a number of books out that I’ve sent before agents and not one has gotten me past the top of their desk. What sort of tips would you have beyond keep trying – which I’ve done again and again.

  13. #15 by Rick Schworer on January 11, 2013 - 2:37 pm

    I am fascinated with the business end of writing and publishing. What does it take to become an agent?

  14. #16 by Rhenna Morgan on January 11, 2013 - 3:08 pm

    Signed up and ready to go! (Wouldn’t want Kristen to get the hose. :-) )

  15. #17 by teresarobeson on January 11, 2013 - 4:01 pm

    I’d love to find an agent who can do windows too! ;) This sounds like a great webinar; will definitely attend. Thanks, Laurie and Kristen!

  16. #18 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on January 11, 2013 - 4:21 pm

    Oh, noooo. I presenting a workshop that night on stress management. Is there any way it can be made available online later?

    • #19 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 11, 2013 - 6:16 pm

      All WANA Intl classes are recorded, so you can just listen in later :D.

  17. #20 by Grass Oil by Molly Field on January 11, 2013 - 4:22 pm

    Spot on, per usual Ms. Lamb. We’re lucky to have you on our side…

  18. #22 by Larry on January 11, 2013 - 4:54 pm

    I’d be happy if an agent did half the things on that list. Seems like this is more of a wish list than reality. In my experience – I’ve had three agents, for books and film/TV over the past decade – the agents I’ve had (good ones with great reputations) haven’t done most of these things. And none could sell my first or second book. The first book is coming out next week – MONDAY – self-pubbed with the blessing/enthusiasm of my current agent. She was great in helping me curate it, giving me the lay of the land of the business side (“it’s a bloodbath in publishing” basically) and having connections to editors. Still, I was the one who suggested editors/publishers to her in some cases. That’s not a bad thing. That’s just me taking charge. I’ve met too many writers who think once they’ve landed an agent they have it made, and they can sit back and let that person handle the business side of it. The reality is, a good agent can help but can’t do everything, nor should he/she. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. I’ll keep submitting work to my agent until she decides she doesn’t want to see any more. But I don’t have any illusions that she will be the one to launch my career for me.

  19. #23 by danielocceno on January 11, 2013 - 5:10 pm

    I agree with you that an agent could help. But the cost of printing an entire novel with hundreds of pages (two copies) and the postage are outrageous if sending “represent me letters with synopsis” are “cheap”, what more living on the other side of the world from Manhattan. I am glad you are doing what you are doing encouraging the communication world of the Internet. It might give the poor and the unemployed with no savings and still living with mother and father at 52 a chance. It is the primary cost of being discovered is my reason why the sudden explosion of INDIE again and not so much technology. Back when I first started joining writer’s groups like the Ozarks Writers’ League (OWL), self-publishing was discouraged because it would hurt your chances and then you go to another conference and you hear of how some of the very successful got started by self-printing a thousand books and sold it from the trunk of their automobile and they mostly gave it away for free, because it was what they had not written was what was valuable to the publisher – the next ten book contract unpublished and unwritten. Reprints were a bonus. – Daniel Escurel Occeno

    “You cannot be discovered unless someone finds you somewhere.” – Daniel Escurel Occeno (Pen Name – Enrique Gubat)

  20. #24 by Lin Barrett. on January 11, 2013 - 7:16 pm

    No hose for Kristen, please! I see why you like each other: you have a shared sense of humor. I have bookmarked the webinar, and if you hold it at a later date, I am SO jumping with both feet.

  21. #25 by authorpamelabeason on January 11, 2013 - 8:23 pm

    No agent holds the magic key to a writer’s success. My agent has brought me multiple offers, some of which I’ve rejected and some I’ve accepted. I would never have gotten my great deal for German translation without his help.

    Why not team up with someone who is working on your behalf? Every author needs as much help as he or she can get, and the author has the ultimate power to sign each contract or not. Just be sure that the agent’s contract is reasonable and that the agent will actually work for you, and then be glad that you don’t have to do *everything* yourself. I sure am. As an author who is pursuing both traditional and indie routes, I still have to work hard on my own, but I know my agent is on the lookout for deals for me, too.

    • #26 by danielocceno on January 12, 2013 - 4:07 pm

      Are saying that even though you have an agent, you can still self-publish?

      • #27 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 13, 2013 - 10:21 am

        Yes, and you need one. If your book explodes in popularity, who would negotiate film rights? Audio? Translation? A lot of stuff you don’t necessarily want to do yourself. An IP (Intellectual Property) lawyer can also be useful.

        • #28 by danielocceno on January 13, 2013 - 4:16 pm

          One can continue having blogs or put their novels on the Internet and even print publish their works, even though they are being represented by an agent. Can you send the same manuscript, already sent to an agent, to a publisher independently?

          • #29 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 13, 2013 - 4:33 pm

            I imagine it would depend on the agent/publisher and content. The rules are all being rewritten and nothing is set in stone these days. But these are the kinds of questions Laurie can answer, which is why we are offering the class.

            • #30 by danielocceno on January 13, 2013 - 5:22 pm

              I am not making excuses. I simply know my limitation. Given my situation I cannot afford to be published and paid the “old fashioned” way. I have to rely on the Internet capabilities of communications and transaction. Since I am a realist, I also know that I can someday find away to achieve my individual personal goals because I have the capabilities to be on the Internet. Worse comes to worst, I can always use my donation money to the church to use at a local Internet Café. It is how I got started writing again, after abandoning my writing career at Southwest Missouri back on 12/02/2004. The Internet can give the majority the chance to be published and paid someday. It is a matter of finding editors and agents willing to communicate VIA E-mail. The big six publishing houses are losing the best writers because of the expense of printing and postage, by going indie. Of course by invitation to E-mail submit will be the answer. I am glad; I am on the Internet to be ready for the future.

  22. #31 by Diana Beebe on January 11, 2013 - 8:36 pm

    I’ve been looking at your class listing all week at WANA Int’l. Then I saw this post. Thank you!

  23. #32 by Laura Ritchie on January 11, 2013 - 10:20 pm

    It’s great to meet you, Laurie. Thank you, Kristen, for introducing her on your blog. This class sounds great, and I definitely plan to sign up. What a deal! :)

  24. #33 by Rachel Thompson on January 12, 2013 - 9:25 am

    Everything the agent listed should also be familiar to the writer before making a deal. Learning how to write is half the effort, the other half is learning the business. Agents are necessary but they are not an excuse for lazy business practices. Agents can screw up and misrepresent if the author doesn’t keep them straight. In business trust no one. It’s just business.
    I’ve seen a lot of new writer friends sign bad contracts mostly because of authoritarian psychology. We trust authority for it’s own sake–we are programed that way. Don’t do that. Question everything. They work for us, not the other way around.

  25. #34 by DakotaSByrd on January 12, 2013 - 9:33 am

    I’m signed up! I knew agents did all this but I’m absolute in my resolve to get an agent this year and hopefully a publisher nibbletoo. Thanks for the blog post Kristen and thanks to Laurie McLean as well! Looking forward to it. Woot!

    Quick question though: would it be tacky to query her again after taking the class if she’s passed on a work before?

  26. #35 by Larry on January 12, 2013 - 1:51 pm

    Rachel at 27, you said what I was trying to express, only with fewer words. They work for us.

  27. #36 by danielocceno on January 13, 2013 - 5:23 pm

    I am not making excuses. I simply know my limitation. Given my situation I cannot afford to be published and paid the “old fashioned” way. I have to rely on the Internet capabilities of communications and transaction. Since I am a realist, I also know that I can someday find away to achieve my individual personal goals because I have the capabilities to be on the Internet. Worse comes to worst, I can always use my donation money to the church to use at a local Internet Café. It is how I got started writing again, after abandoning my writing career at Southwest Missouri back on 12/02/2004. The Internet can give the majority the chance to be published and paid someday. It is a matter of finding editors and agents willing to communicate VIA E-mail. The big six publishing houses are losing the best writers because of the expense of printing and postage, by going indie. Of course by invitation to E-mail submit will be the answer. I am glad; I am on the Internet to be ready for the future.

  28. #37 by Julie Glover on January 13, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Laurie McLean is fabulous–one of the most informative agents at the DFW Conference in 2012. I’m thrilled that she’s offering this course. (I hope she does it more than once for those of us who may not be able to be there that day.)

  29. #38 by Kevin Finley on January 14, 2013 - 8:24 am

    Reblogged this on The Business Side of Books and commented:
    Want an agent? Not sure if you need one? Read this post!

  30. #39 by Joanna Aislinn on January 14, 2013 - 1:21 pm

    Great perspective, ladies, one I hadn’t considered (which is why I make sure to stay connected here in some shape or form ;)). I am looking into this now. Thank you!

  31. #40 by Joanna Aislinn on January 14, 2013 - 1:26 pm

    BTW, I just met your ‘frowning cat’ yesterday. Critter reminds me of the face my mom somehow has taken on over the years–I so hope that doesn’t happen to me, lol.

  32. #41 by Isla Cunningham on January 15, 2013 - 12:57 am

    I just registered! I can’t wait! I am brand new at this and have so much to learn!

  33. #42 by DL Havlin on January 15, 2013 - 9:35 am

    I’m in the process of registering. I’ve had multiple books published traditionally, have won many awards (12 in 10 years) for my books and ms, but still haven’t been able to snare an agent. I’m looking forward to see what I haven’t been doing!

  34. #43 by EditorEtc™ LLC on January 19, 2013 - 3:07 am

    Reblogged this on EditorEtc LLC and commented:
    Good read…

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