Sunday, April 3, 2011

A is for Agent

In the month of April, my goal is to write a blog post for every letter of the alphabet. As usual, I'm already behind!

This first post is about literary agents. Do you need one for a non-fiction book? The answer is "sometimes". While many publishing houses will not look at any book- fiction or non- unless it comes through an agent, some will consider non-fiction book proposals directly from authors.

My first six books were published without an agent. I prepared a book proposal for the whole series of books after reading Jeff Herman's awesome book, " Write the Perfect Book Proposal", and shipped it off to ten publishers. Some I never heard from again, some came back with terse replies that the house does not accept unagented proposals. Two wanted to see more finished chapters. And then I got the breathless phone call from Self-Counsel Press. "Give us until our editorial meeting on Wednesday," the managing editor said. "Don't sell it to someone else until then."

I have written a total of five books for Self-Counsel (the sixth is a compendium of two of the books). Once I decided however, that I wanted to branch out to other publishers and move into the Personal Finance realm, I knew that getting an agent was a smart idea.

I was incredibly lucky to talk with an agent at Westwood Creative Artists who loved my new proposal and agreed to represent it. She ultimately negotiated a deal with an esteemed publisher in Canada. It would be my first book contract with an advance attached to it. I was incredibly excited. Then, mere weeks after signing the contract, the publisher halted its publishing program and teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, still clutching my contract.

THIS is where a great agent really shines. The agency worked (and is still working) on behalf of all of its writers tied to this publisher, and, in some cases, has been able to get the rights to books reverted to authors. It's one less thing that I have to worry about as a writer. My agent keeps me updated on the status so that I can keep writing.

So, while you don't technically need an agent, having one can help you in many ways. I love my agent and wouldn't think of going it alone again!


Marie Anne said...

With so much information available at our fingertips today, I'm sure more and more people are 'doing their own thing'. I can see where it might not always be wise to do so.

Great post.

Langley said...

I'm glad your agent is working so well for you. Good advice.

Anonymous said...

It's good to have a first-person account perspective on agents. There is so much conflicting advice out there, a lot of it offered by people who haven't lived it.

My “G” post: Genetic Link
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Susan said...

Thanks so much - it's great to hear a positive story. I'm just finishing up a manuscript and getting ready to start querying agents. Sometimes it just sounds so discouraging - I joke that I should try something easier, like running for President :)