Does an emerging writer need an agent?

Standard

Well of course I’m going to say yes, because

I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!

Happy-dance

Just signed a contract with Jacinta di Mase Management.  Cue the happy, happy dance.

And yes, signing with Jacinta was a direct result of my participation in the HardCopy program last year.  Jacinta represents over 50 authors including feminist commentator Clementine Ford, journalists Zoe Daniel and Angela Pippos, and historian and Stella Prize winner Clare Wright.  No pressure then.

But actually, whether or not to go with a literary agent is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  So, for what it’s worth, here are the factors that helped me to decide.

  1. Publishers actually read the manuscripts that are sent to them by agents.  In fact some only accept work via an agent, or other trusted intermediaries.  Agents and publishers have ongoing professional relationships; they know each other.  So a good agent knows which publishers are most likely to be receptive to a particular manuscript and a good publisher knows that the agent won’t risk wasting their time by sending something unsuitable.  Having an agent therefore enables a writer to skip the publishers’ slush piles.  Although good agents subsequently have slush piles of their own…
  2. Agents sell manuscripts for a living.  Therefore they have a much better idea of what a manuscript is worth to a publisher than an emerging writer does and can negotiate accordingly.  For a really good manuscript, one with interest from multiple publishers, it’s the agent who gets the publishers into an auction process.
  3. Publishing contracts can be pretty complex: international rights, digital rights, film and television rights.  Who knows what any of this means?  Oh, that’s right.  The agent does.
  4. Some people hate talking about money and, in my experience, even so-called professionals can get very weird about it.  Having an agent means never having to talk terms with a publisher.
  5. One of the many things I learnt from HardCopy is that a manuscript gets submitted with a proposal (I blogged  about what goes into the proposal here).  I wrote a proposal for the program and it was an eye-opening experience.  I think my proposal was OK (the feedback about it was positive) but I’d much rather my agent draft the next one.  Where I was making guesses, the agent can draw on her experience to write a proposal that tells publishers everything they need to hear and know.
  6. Having an agent provides the ability to say things to your (long suffering) friends like “Sorry, no, I can’t speak to you about that cup of tea – you’ll have to call my agent.”  That jokes never gets old, does it friends.  Friends? Friends?  Hello…?

Obviously that last point was the clincher but points two and three were also crucial to my decision – I’m too ignorant of publishing industry norms to go this alone.

So what does all this expertise cost me?

As yet, not a thing.  But Jacinta di Mase Management will receive 15% of any income I receive from the Elizabeth Macarthur work, with that figure being absolutely standard for most agent-author agreements.

Does it sound like a lot?  I don’t think so.  To put on my Day Job hat for a moment (my business partners and I run a boutique management consulting firm) it sounds like a much riskier business model for the agent than it is for me.  If she doesn’t sell the manuscript, she’ll have invested her time and effort for zero return.  The same can be said of me, of course, although the time and effort I’ve invested so far has already been worth it in terms of new friends, new knowledge and new adventures.  That said, I’ve spoken with other authors who have signed with Jacinta and I’m fully confident that I’m going to receive value for money.  For this book, and the next one and the one after that…

Finally, and just as importantly, it feels good to have an industry insider who is now very much on my side, promoting my work and watching my back.

Onwards and upwards!

Advertisements

17 responses »

    • Thanks Marion. I’ve surprised myself by how exciting it has been and how happy it has made me. I knew I wanted it but it’s now become clear just how much I wanted it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: HARDCOPY Writing Program 2017 | Adventures in Biography

Leave a comment - you know you want to

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s