Agent’s Job and Sliced Bread

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My agent is celebrating this week with free giveaways from her clients to our fans. I have a short story on the site today (My second this week) which is a bit of backstory about a character in my new Skinwalker series staring Jane Yellowrock.  She is a Cherokee Skinwalker, the character developed from Cherokee, Hopi and other legends and my own odd imagination.  First, here is the link.

http://varkat.livejournal.com/44597.html

Second, this brings up the job  description of a literary agent. What *exactly* do they do?  The most important job of a literary agent is to sell your work, natch, though some agents do much more. When you are considering your first lit agent, you make not get to pick and choose between 4, 6, or 10 agents.  You may only have one agent interested in repping you, and in that case, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room. You may feel you have to take what you can get — but you should find out what you are getting into before signing any papers.

I have unpublished writers ask if an agent is supposed to:
1.  Do free editorial work
2.  Do free PR work
3.  Make you a personal loan (seriously)
4.  Always have an auction for book
5.  Accept a client and a book on first blush

And the answers are well…mixed. Let’s take them one at a time.
1.  Do free editorial work
Many writers feel that if they send a book to an agent (or for that matter, an editor) and he passes on it, that the agent/editor should send a detailed letter explaining why the mscpt was refused. Not in the job description, ya’ll. In fact, even after keeping your mscpt for 18 months, he may not read beyond the first paragraph.

Why so long and why the quick refusal? Because he had 157 books in front of yours, and it was Christmas/summer vacation/ Mardi Gras, and he had the flu and you used the word advise when you meant advice and you didn’t know the difference, and it was a pet peeve and he has another 157 books more to get through this month, and his office cat took a bathroom break on the carpet, and the moon was in the wrong phase. Or maybe you sent a romance novel to an agent who hates them (didn’t do your research.) Or maybe you opened the book with a tried and well-used opening that he has seen 4,000 times.  He can’t give you an editorial letter because he didn’t read the book.  And he doesn’t get paid to write you an editorial letter when he has no intention ofrepping you. If you *do* get an editorial letter from an agent or editor, celebrate, because it means he read the book, liked it well enough to consider that it might sell if you did a little work, and invested a bit of his own time in the cause. Rewrite (save the original version just in case) and get it back to him pronto.

I recently heard a horror story from an agent who had sent in a manuscript to an editor and the editor had some changes he wanted made before he considered a purchase. The stupid idiot of a writer said, “No. “I’ll make any change he wants after he buys the manuscript.” Said idiot lost editor and agent instantly. I could go on all day in this vein, but you get the drift.

2.  Do free PR work
After a sale, before a book hits the market, an agent *may* offer suggestions on marketing your novel. But the marketing is usually the writer’s job, especialy if a first time novelist. If you get an agent who is willing and able to help out, you are one lucky writer!

3.  Make you a personal loan (seriously)
I have heard of writers asking for loans from an agent during (or even after) the selling process, before any advances are made. Loans are to made by bankers, not your agent. Don’t ask.

4.  Always have an auction for book
May happen. May not. If you get an auction, *excellent*.  But don’t count on it. The agent may have only one house interested in it.

5.  Accept a client and a book on first blush
You *know* you have the best book ever written. Your mom/girlfriend/boyfriend/guru/preacher/mental health professional/brother/teacher/grocer/neighbor/paperboy told you so. Hey. If they like, it let them sell it. An agent can only sell something he likes and believes in. It may well be the best thing since sliced bread. But the agent may not eat bread, you know?

There is a *lot* more that can be said on the agent’s job. But I have to get writing. That’s *my* job!
Faith

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1 comment to Agent’s Job and Sliced Bread

  • Faith and I happen to share an agent — that’s how we met originally: through our agent. She’s wonderful and we’re both lucky to have her. One thing I would add here is that there are things you can do as a writer to endear yourself to your agent and make him/her more responsive to your needs. Little things like meeting deadlines, acting professionally in your interactions with agent and editor alike, using common courtesy in dealing with your agent and remembering that while he/she does work for you in a sense, he/she is also a professional and deserves to be treated as such. Like I said: little things….