Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Angie's theory on agents

I keep running into this discussion on blogs lately: to agent or not to agent. Many aspiring writers have questions, and while there is a lot of information out there, much of it conflicts. That's because there really is no right way. Every writer is different. But…

I'll bet you're reading this blog to get the down and dirty, to hear what someone else really thinks. Right? Well, okay. Pull up a chair and let's talk. I'll tell you exactly why I'm darned glad to have my agent and why I'd be shaking in my boots to go it alone. You might be like me, or you might not. I'm not saying my way is right for everyone, just one author's point of view.

#1 reason why Angie needs an agent: I drove a Saturn for 12 years

How is this relevant, you say? Well, dear reader, besides the fact that my little Saturn was gold, cute and got great gas mileage, I bought that car because I didn't want to negotiate. I can't stand going back and forth with a car salesman on a price, always second guessing myself, wondering if I'm making the best deal. After I bought that Saturn, I kept it for more than a decade - for the same reason.

As you can imagine, this makes me a very bad person to negotiate my own book contracts. Not only is there more emotion involved in a book I love vs buying a huge chunk of metal, I actually know less about book contracts that I know about cars.

Yet my agent lives for this. She loves it. I can hear it in her voice when we're in book negotiations. It goes something like this:
Me: Err…any news? (even talking about negotiations can make me queasy)
Jessica: (gives update with glee)
Me: When do you think we'll have a deal? (when will this be over?)
Jessica: I'll keep you updated. Just keep writing.

And I do, because that's what I like to do. Jessica worries about the contracts because that's her area of expertise. Thank goodness.

Plus, even though contracts are written in English, it doesn't always feel that way. As I work my way through the details, Jessica is right there to answer my questions and explain just how we can hammer out a contract that works for everyone. I always appreciate how smoothly things go, and I'll bet my publisher does too.

So can you be a successful author without an agent? Sure. Would I recommend it? Not if you drive a Saturn.


Ann Aguirre said...

I totally agree with Angie on this. Without Laura, I'd be a basket case. I also probably wouldn't have sold a single book.

Not only does she remove a great deal of worry from the equation, I know she's there to trouble-shoot and put out fires on my behalf. Which she does with great aplomb.

Jess Granger said...

I'll second that, Ann.


Natalie Hatch said...

Sigh, one day!

Lori Devoti said...

Agents--gotta have them unless you only write category...

Casey said...

You make a good point, Angie. Agents are great for those who like to have that person out there doing the negotiations, handling the problems, etc. But I guess there are some writers who prefer to do that themselves. Me, I can't imagine it! I'm grateful for an agent who's out there pitching my work. The trick is for those who are unagented to remember that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. So if you're looking . . .do plenty of homework and ask lots of questions. It will be worth all the research in the long run.

Shirley Damsgaard said...

Ditto, Angie, Ann, Jess, Lori, and Casey!! I always refer to my agent as the best 15% I ever spent!!! ;) And truly with each contract, she's managed to get my publisher to sweeten the pot above and beyond the original offer, thus more than making up for her share of the deal.

Back to Casey's point about no agent is better than a bad agent. For all of you out there looking, check out the website "Preditors and Editors" (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/). If there's been anything hinky about an agency, chances are the why and wherefore will be listed. AND they also list the reputable ones. Jeff Herman’s guide to agents is also a good place to start, along with the guide from Writers’ Digest. Those are the three sources that I used. Good luck!!!

Angie Fox said...

That's true. It goes beyond the contract. I have a friend who is a lawyer who insists she'll be able to do all of that herself. And who knows? Maybe she'll learn enough about the publishing world to make that work. But I told her, you still don't know what editor is looking for a project like yours. Or who might be switching houses. Plus, how much time are you spending learning the ins and outs of a contract vs writing the next book?