Workshop 22: Your Best Friend In The Industry
Tamela Hancock Murray, an agent with the Steve Laube Agency, delivered concise answers to the question: Why do I need an agent? In her ACFW conference workshop Your Best Friend In The Industry: Your Literary Agent she defined an agent’s job as “introducing the best writers to the best publishing houses.”
Agents not only screen submissions to find the gems, they also know what publishing houses accept which genres and styles—the strategic placement for good manuscripts. Agents help perfect and direct a proposal and know the markets that offer a good chance of publication for each submission.
The agent’s role
Murray spoke of agents developing strong relationships with their writers to sponsor their careers, to know their vision and goals, and to be their partner in building relationships with editors. An agent wants to know what else you’re working on and what you love to write. His role is to guide, not dictate or demand.
An agent knows what your book is worth and represents your interests in the contract, including future rights and—dare we hope?—movie rights. A contract is much more than the dollar amount.
Agents keep up with editorial changes and developments in the industry and sometimes respond to an editor’s request for a certain type of manuscript. They know how not to burn bridges and what is a reasonable offer. Agented authors are usually offered better contracts.
The author’s role
It is the author’s responsibility to know what kinds of books an agent represents. Do your research online and by questioning other writers. Don’t spam the industry with your proposal. Each query must be personal. Agents take queries from writers recommended by their current clients and writers met at conferences. It’s acceptable to e-mail an agent and ask if he will be at a certain conference.
- Submissions may be made to more than one agent simultaneously, but please let the agents know.
- Murray’s office tries to respond to queries within six weeks. If you don’t hear from her by then, it’s fine to send a follow-up e-mail.
- Be prepared to make changes recommended by your agent.
- Be honest with an agent. Do you expect to support yourself by writing? Are you a one-shot deal?
- With honesty and open communication, Murray says your relationship with a literary agent can be the most rewarding of your career.
Agent image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net