Six weeks ago I started a series of blogs to answer the questions I am commonly asked about when interviewed about my writing and the writing life. If you’re a start at the start kind of person, you can find PART 1 , PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5 and PART 6 here, although, they can be read out of order.
In part 7 of my Frequently Asked Questions series, I am only covering one topic – the reasons why I decided I wanted an agent. This is by no means the definitive answer to the question of if you need/want an agent, but it is how I felt.
So let’s dive in:
To Agent or not to Agent: That is the question.
How did you find your agent?
I found her through Romance Writers of Australia (RWAus). I pitched to Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services at a conference, and she loved the paranormal/fantasy novel but knew that it still needed work to make it right. It was a blow, but she did it so kindly and seriously asked me to consider her with anything else in the future.
Soon after that rejection, I got offered my first contract with Penguin’s Destiny for a romantic suspense novel, but even though I’d had success submitting and pitching without help, the idea of having an agent on my side didn’t go away. So, when I was offered a second contract for a paranormal novel with Destiny, I decided it was time to try for an agent again.
It was just before the next RWAus conference and unfortunately I’d missed out on booking a pitch appointment with Alex, so I just decided to go up to her and have a chat and bring up the offer and my wish to still work with her. I’d had a serious think about it – because I could obviously reach some publishers with my work and was getting contracted, so what did I need an agent for? Alex of course asked me this question because she could see I was doing okay on my own, and thankfully I had an answer.
I was not happy with how I felt trying to negotiate my first contract, but more than that, I was really looking for a business partner to help advise me and make plans and do the pitching for me. I didn’t mind pitching – in actual fact, I still like to write pitches because they help quantify the high concepts of the story I’m working on, which is always useful in telling a good story – but an agent gets to more places and speaks to more people, so it seemed sensible.
I also really liked Alex from the first time I’d spoken to her and liked that she was building her agency. She was keen to look at the book I was contracted for and we told Penguin/Destiny that she was looking at it so they’d know why I wasn’t just signing and sending back. She read it and loved it (it was called Dark Moon, but it is what became the first novel in my Pack Bound Series when it went to Escape a few years later after we got the rights back). And a few weeks later, she contracted to be my agent and took over negotiations. She’s been my agent/partner ever since.
How has your experience been with your agent?
Fantastic. Alex is great. She’s spent a lot of time building her business and getting a range of clients, broadening her networks and contacts and keeping her ear open to industry buzz. She is always available for a chat and makes time to see me every time she comes to Melbourne to catch up and strategise. Her advice so far has been excellent and I have had 8 books published with her help and guidance – all of them digital and two going to print. She has even encouraged me to pursue self-publishing even though she personally gets nothing out of it, because she sees it as a smart business move in a business always teetering on uncertainty.
Would you recommend working with an agent?
Absolutely. If you are like me and don’t like the negotiations and want help and advice from a business partner it is the right decision. She has not only pitched the books I’ve written and got contracts for them, she’s come to me with opportunities like being involved in the Echo Springs bind-up with 3 other fabulous Australian authors – an amazing opportunity I hope to repeat some day.
I think the important thing is to do your research and try to meet with them before signing to see if you are both compatible. It isn’t like many writers think, with all the power balance being in the agent’s hands – a good agent-writer relationship is a partnership. And you need to treat it like a business partnership. While you might be friends/friendly (and it’s good if you can be), it is at its heart a business relationship, so you need to ensure you both understand what it is you want to get out of this by properly discussing expectations from both parties and agreements of what is required by the writer of the agent and the agent of the writer.
Ultimately, it’s not just about getting any agent: you need to find the right agent and the right arrangement for you. I think sometimes people have certain ideas about what an agent is and does, which is a bit silly because no agent is the same, no agency is the same, and you need to make sure you go after the ones that most suit what you need as a writer.
Anything else you’d like to share about working with an agent?
Just to be kind to the agents you are submitting to. There are many reasons why someone will say no to your project and none of them are a personal attack on you.
Firstly, they are busy people and can only handle a certain number of clients so they can be even more picky in who they contract than an editor/publisher is. This is because while the editor needs to love a story to sell it to the sales and marketing people and the other editors, the agent needs to not only love it, but believe in it enough to stand up for it over and over again as they pitch to multiple editors on multiple occassions and never falter in their belief in the project or you. And of course, once their client list is getting full, it can be even more difficult to get a yes as they are looking for not only what they like, but something different from what they already have.
Secondly, remember that a rejection from an agent isn’t personal – they are running a business, one predicated on their knowledge of the industry meshed in with their own likes and dislikes. Their decisions are based as much on their emotions as their business acumen, and you can’t argue someone into liking what you write. They either do or they don’t. It is that simple. So be receptive to this element of what they do and be respectful and kind. Like me, you might not win them over with your first try, but if you make the right impression, the way is left open to approach them again and succeed with a different project at a different time.
And finally, don’t give up. Despite the difficulty of getting an agent, I would still always pitch to an agent as well as an editor if given the opportunity (like at the RWA conferences) because you never know what can happen.
If you want to see the product of our work together, then check out my next book, due out in print on October 12th this year and available for pre-order now:
Set against the stirring Victorian Alps, comes a suspenseful novel of recovery and new beginnings from a talented new voice in Australian rural fiction. Perfect for readers of Sarah Barrie and Nora Roberts.
His beloved home is under threat, and with it the beautiful, haunted woman he’s never been able to forget …
X-Treme TV sports star Reid Stratton has everything – until his best friend falls to his death on a climb while shooting their show. In the fierce media fallout, Reid begins to question everything about himself. Crippled by a new fear of climbing, Reid returns to CoalCliff stud, his family’s horse farm, to recover.
Single mother Natalia Robinson is determined to start afresh, away from the shadow of her past. A job at CoalCliff Stud where she lived as a child is the perfect opportunity to live the quiet life she always wanted. But she is unprepared to see Reid, and is even more unprepared for the passion that still burns between them.
But after a series of menacing events threaten the new home she is trying to build, Nat realises that Reid is the only person she can rely on to keep her and her daughter safe. Together, Reid and Nat must face the pasts that haunt them if they are to survive the present and forge a future of hope.