July 25, 2011

Why Does an Author Need an Agent?

by Jennifer Etherton

It doesn’t take long for an author to realize that to make it to the highest levels of the literary industry that he or she needs help. The question is where to find the help you need and how much will it cost you in the end. For the most serious of author, this help comes in the form of a literary agent. If the thought of seeking out an agent seems like a waste of time and money or a hurdle that you can’t overcome, it is important to remember that we aren’t as scary as we may appear. It is also vital to realize that an agent is a required member of your team if you want to reach your highest potential.

Everyone has heard of agents and there has even been a few movies portraying the profession in almost every light imaginable, but the truth can be just as fascinating as the fiction. Agents are a support system and a new connection to the industry. It is your agent’s job to use all of his or her connections and experience to see that your career soars as high as possible and you make the most money you can from every sale. While nothing is fool proof, the agented author stands a better chance avoiding scams, being accepted or considered at the most prominent houses in the world, and reaching their fullest potential.

In reality, a large majority of the most highly recognized names in the business will not even consider an author unless he or she has an agent. Why is this a harsh reality? The answer is quite simple; an agent does most of the work for the editor. If your manuscript goes through an agent, this means that you and your work has already been prescreened as being marketable. The editor is also more confident that your work will fit the style of novel that the publisher is seeking. All of this takes time, so the editor would rather another professional wade through all of the unworthy pieces to bring him or her the diamonds.

Agents even go one-step further than that when it comes to shopping out their authors’ works. The agent is there to ensure that you’re shown in the best light possible. This means that your entire package looks like it is worth a million bucks. Agents write proposals, queries, and bios on a daily basis and we know what an editor wants to see. We help our authors by making sure they are irresistible to the editors. All of these pieces combine together to bring an author the highest paycheck possible.

While it is true, there are no guarantees in the entertainment industry and even with an agent you will experience rejection, your agent is still one of the most important members of your team. He or she will stand by you through thick and thin, will encourage you to be the best, and will make sure that your work is sold to the best house possible. In return, all the author needs to do is give their agent the best manuscripts they can produce and trust that their agent will never lead them astray.

There is one thing that the movies won’t show you when it comes to the portrayal of the agent; they don't show how hard we work to make the process look easy. The author/agent relationship is a team effort, a marriage of talent and business; when a relationship reaches this level it results in an unstoppable force ready to take the publishing world by storm.

Jennifer Etherton, Agent
Jennifer Etherton Literary Services


TessStJohn said...

Jennifer, I wish you luck in all your endeavors. And you're right...I know a couple of agents, they work very hard for their clients!!!

Robin_Badillo said...

Good luck, Jennifer. The literary world is tough. Having someone on your side must be a great feeling. I'm sure you rock at what you do. Wishing you great success!! :-)

Obe said...

Having just come through a parting of the ways with one agent, your words about what an agent should do are so on the mark. Thank you, you made me realize I'd done the right thing. I now know what an agent should do. It sounds like your clients are very, very lucky individuals.


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for being my guest today. Your words a great gems of wisdom.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you so much for giving me an insight into the life of a literary agent.

Clover Autrey said...

Yeah--what you said. I love my agent, esp. in these interesting publishing times.

dragonfly said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate your insights, especially in light of recent changes in the publishing world.
J.D. Faver

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thank you, Jennifer, for all the great tips and good advice. I am just about to set out on the journey to find an agent and will keep these thoughts in my mind. Find that right agent for yourself is a scary aspect of writing, but I look forward to moving onto the next step. :)

Meb Bryant said...

Wish I'd found you in the early stage of the querying process. You're exactly who writers need.