Reading Stats Since Last Post:
Nonfiction: 3 (Suggested for further review: 0 (0%))
Fiction: 11 (Suggested for further review: 1 (9%))
Young Readers: 7 (Suggested for further review: 0 (0%))
Poetry: 6 (Suggested for further review: 0 (0%))
Total: 27 (Suggested for further review: 1 (3.7%))
My reading stats look a bit low because I went over so many fulls last week. I’m also 90% sure I’ve misplaced a couple of slips with my tallying on them. But any-who, on to the post!
Some may find it a bid odd that I’d discuss the importance of an agent, considering I had my book placed, and a contract offered, without one. Shouldn’t I instead talk about the importance of a contest?
But the truth is, even after winning Scholastic three years ago years ago, I knew that my next step had to be finding an agent. Today I’d like to talk a little about why I wanted one, and why my time as an intern at a publishing house has made me even happier to not only have one, but to have an amazing one.
I began intensely researching agents shortly after wining the A&W contest, but after talking to my editor about moving forward, I decided to wait until we got the manuscript to a better place. I also wanted to be sure that I found an agent who had a good relationship with Scholastic, and with my editor in particular, and I was happy to wait until David felt comfortable making an introduction. Early last year, long before I had news about my contract, I talked to an author and professor at my school, and went over the pros and cons of letting my editor hand-pick someone who was supposed to represent me, and who might do so for years. In the end, it came down to trust: did I trust my editor to pick someone who would fight for me? In the end, I did. I’ve never looked back.
As a rookie writer, I know that I need a fighter in my corner. That’s why I was so pleased that, after the offer came in, my editor passed the manuscript to a wonderfully respected agent. Because of my previous obsessive research (and some more obsessive research once the introductions were made and I knew that she was toting my manuscript around with her), I knew that this agent had a reputation of being honest, of being incredibly knowledgeable about the industry, and of being just downright nice. It was important to me that my agent was invested in my career, rather than just a manuscript which I already had a book deal for. It was also very important that I had an agent who cared deeply about quality and about new voices and innovations in writing: I wanted an agent who would push me, and I knew that this prospective person would do all of these things. If she wanted me.
Luckily for me, she did. She’s been there, funny and prompt and tenacious, since the day she agreed to look at that manuscript, and I could not be happier.
But as an intern, I’ve seen many manuscripts come into the office from agents. If an agent knows one of the editors, the manuscript generally goes straight to them, via email, so those are things which I never see (hence why it’s so important to have an agent invested in the industry and in good relationships with editors, because otherwise you end up in the slush pile anyway. They don’t have to be established, but they do need some history and they should be attending conferences for the kinds of books they rep). But there are manuscripts that don’t go to the editors, and that never will, and these are the ones I’d like to address. As an author, you see, I find it deeply troubling that some agents (though I’m sure many are well-intentioned) don’t go to the trouble of reading our submission guidelines. Others don’t know what kinds of books we publish. Others have not prepared the submission in any form which a publishing house would find acceptable.
It isn’t enough, you see, to merely have an agent: you have to have an agent who knows what they’re doing. And I’m concerned that many new writers are just so happy to have an offer of representation, or are so new to the field that they don’t know the difference, take on agents who aren’t handling their work properly. I’m not talking about the straight-up crooks listed on Writer Beware, but I do think that there are others who can still be detrimental to your chances. Because as a reader, I do look up the agent and agency before I sit down to write a report (often before I sit down to read the submission), in the same way I look up previously published works (so know that I will mention if the titles you include are self-published, not remotely related to your current genre, or have poor reviews). This is especially true for agents and agencies I’ve never heard of, which characterizes practically all of the slush-but-agented submissions that I see. It’s awesome to have an agent, because it says that someone else is very excited and positive about your manuscript. But that someone needs to be either respected or respectable within the field, or it’s not much better than an author saying they gave the book to their sister and got rave reviews.
Anyway, just my two cents, and I’d be happy to discuss more.