Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who Needs an Agent? -- FAQs

Ah, the million dollar question. For all the hundreds of queries we receive in a week, every so often I'm approached by an author who isn't quite sure they want to be in our submissions pile after all. They want to know Why do I need an agent?

Seems bizarre that they'd ask us to convince them -- I mean, they're the ones writing to us -- but I can understand. So, for those of you wondering, here it goes:

My completely unscientific observation has led me to observe the question coming from these corners:
1- the previously-published author
why: because they've sold books to houses before
2- the self-published author
why: because they have published before and may have done well with sales
3- the children's book author
why: because of the shorter length of manuscripts, sometimes children's book publishers are able to accept unrepresented
submissions. however, please note that fewer publishers are accepting this.
4- the eternal optimist. (kidding!)

My answer for all of them is the same. In fact, I might have wondered the same thing if I wasn't on this side of the desk. Every agency works differently, but ideally you will get a variety of benefits by signing on with an agency.

So, what's the deal with publisher slush piles? Can't I just send in myself?

Sure. But what are you going to do in the year it takes for them to get back to you?!

An agency can get you through the submissions at a publishing house much faster than you'll get through it on you rown. We spend day in and out in conversation with publishers -- we know who wants what type of book and they know us. An established agent will be able to pitch your book and the publisher knows that, since we all work on commission, we must really think highly of your book to have taken it on. We stake not only our as-yet-uncompensated time, but our professional reputations on representing our clients.

As publishers will tell you, for this reason, the submissions from agencies are generally of higher quality and -- importantly -- more directly suited to that imprint/editor's taste and publishing list. Publishers want to maintain their relationships with agents, so they honor shorter timeframes for reviewing the projects we submit, and often we are able to get feedback on your writing that you're unlikely to get with a blind submission to a massive slushpile at MegaPublishingHouse.

If I get an offer from a publisher, why would I let an agent have a cut of that? I got the deal- it's over, right?

This is a common misconception about what your agent can and will do for you. Authors often approach us after having an offer in hand -- why would they do that? These savvy authors know that an agent is in a better position to evaluate if it's a fair deal to the author. Also, even if you ultimately decide to go with that publisher, your agent will be able to negotiate the proper deal for you and for this project. Remember, agents are much more likely to know the value of your book in the current market. They also know the strengths and weaknesses of publishers and may be able to advise you about things to look out for, or where there's wiggle room to up an offer or obtain better terms.

So do agents just get me more money? Not that that's a bad thing...

Actually, it's much more than that. Beyond the basic numbers every author dreams about (advance money, royalty rates), agents can really help you understand what you're signing of on. What do all these terms and conditions of often lengthy contracts really mean for you?

Couldn't my brother-in-law just review the contract for me? He's a lawyer.

Actually, if it's within your means, you really need an agent or a literary attorney to review the contract. Agents deal with contracts day in and day out, and many agencies have contracts departments specifically to deal with terms and negotiations. With all due respect to the in-law or friend who offers to review the contract, you really need someone with literary contract expertise. Someone who understands the terms as they operate in the literary industry. There are terms of art (terms specific to the industry) that not just anyone with an Esq. name could understand. Bonus note: it's going to be crucial that whoever reviews your contract understands your concerns regarding intellectual property rights and your goals for your lifelong career.

So what else do agents do for me? What earns them this 15%?

Good question. First thing- please note that 15% is very much the industry standard for contracts. Many agencies will require 20% for sales of "subrights", for example selling additional rights to your book outside of the English-language market we tend to think of -- film rights, foreign editions, etc.

So what do we do to earn it? Let's see:

* manage financial transactions with the publisher. Your financial statements from publishers (and checks) will be sent to your representative agency. The agency then reviews the payments against the contract and confirms that you are being paid what you have earned. The agency handles business topics and the "tough questions" so you can focus on your creative relationship with the publisher and keep your fingers typing.

*keep an eye out for your best interests. An agent is an important buffer -- or better yet, an advocate for your needs throughout the relationship. They will oversee the progression of the book through its editing, marketing, and publicity stages. If you have a concern, it's of immense comfort for authors to have someone in their corner, someone who understands the industry- to help you achieve your goals or get the most out of your relationship with the publisher.

*help get your book out there. Full Circle was one of the pioneer agencies to offer marketing support to its authors. Once the book is on shelves, then what? Your agency will ideally help you develop the outlines of a marketing plan to actively promote the book and get it into readers hands. Again, they will help you

In short, an agent's goal is to help you establish long career filled with publishing success. Know that authors with many books published have still found it useful to bring an agent to their side -- it's all in the personality and the skills of the agent. Agency representation is meant to be a partnership that will grow with you throughout your writing career. It's a deeply personal relationship, and I always remind authors to pick someone to work with who they genuinely like. Why? Because you will most likely receive good and bad news from this person, so you have to choose someone you think will deliver each with finesse. The encouragement you will get from a publishing professional who believes in your work is in and of itself priceless.

In any case, as you consider whether agency representation is right for you, it may be helpful to remember that we agents have joined this industry for one reason only: we love books as much as you do. We represent authors because we genuinely care about the people who make them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Baby Read-Aloud Basics on the Air!

Tune in to The Parents Journal radio show on January 10!

BABY READ ALOUD BASICS author Caroline Blakemore's 25-minute interview on The Parents Journal with host Bobbi Conner will air on165 radio stations nationwide on January 10, 2007. Bobbie Conner hosts this wonderful weekly radio show highlighting useful, in-depth parenting tips from a variety of experts and real parents. If you haven't heard the show, tune in for information and inspiration!

In the segment, Caroline Blakemore discusses the benefits of reading aloud to babies and answers many questions that parents may have about reading to their babies between birth and two. She also shares helpful tips on how to manage TV watching and more. The first half of the show features Dr. Daniel Goleman's Social Intelligence followed by the 25-minute interview with Caroline Blakemore.

To check local air times, or to download the interview, please visit: www.parentsjournal.com
To read an excerpt of BABY READ ALOUD BASICS please visit: http://www.readtoyourbaby.com/books_rtyb.html
 

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