Writers tend to have strong opinions about agents. The reality is, most successful writers end up needing agents.
The roles of an agent include:
- using his or her established network to pitch your works
- negotiating contracts
- collecting money on your behalf
- keeping records
Good agents are selective, choosing to represent only authors they believe will have success. If an agent has faith in your work, there is no reason, absolutely none, to charge upfront fees or “reading” fees. A good agent is as passionate about your works as you are.
Agent fees range from 10 to 15 percent of your gross income from publication.
Rights are extremely complex in today’s multimedia marketplace.
What Agents Aren’t
- Lawyers (usually)
Finding an Agent
Most starting authors submit manuscripts directly, bypassing agents. Sometimes you get lucky, but unsolicited manuscripts are often ignored by publishers and producers. Agents are the key to reaching the right desk. But how do you locate an agent?
When you do decide to look for an agent, don’t just send random letters to everyone listed as an agent on the Internet or in a market guide. Begin with research. Ask yourself who are the best writers in your market and find out who represents those writers. There are websites with such information, though the listings can be out of date. Double check before relying on a Web listing.
Some authors are approachable and will even discuss their agents. If you attend a presentation or book signing, asking about the role of agents can be both educational and practical. You will find authors have had bad experiences they are willing to share, too.
There are talent agencies that represent all manner of creative professionals. These agencies often have literary specialists. Unfortunately, these agencies tend to work with established stars, even in publishing.
When you solicit an agent, do not send a manuscript unless you are absolutely certain the agent expects it. Also, never solicit more than two or three agents simultaneously.
Once you do have an agent interested in your work, make sure any contract is reviewed by a lawyer.