Why You Need a Literary Agent

There has been a flurry of discussion about if literary agents are really necessary in the digital publishing revolution.  About a month ago, one of my favorite blogs, GalleyCat posted a blog entry titled, Literary Agents, bah! Who needs them?.  The post went on to quote one published unnamed author who said:

 “What do you need an agent for anymore, really? Why? To negotiate a meager advance? You can’t get them on the phone anyway. You’re stuck promoting the book yourself because publishers don’t put any marketing dollars into your book unless you’re John Grisham. I don’t see the whole point when I can hire an attorney to negotiate my publishing contract for a flat fee or just upload the book to Kindle myself.”

Quick to respond, Miriam Goderich of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management responded in their blog to the GalleyCat post by stating: “Who needs an agent? You do.” In her well-respected blog she also mentioned: “every serious author needs an agent. Not just any agent, of course. You need a good agent. One who is an advocate, who is willing to fight for you and who is able to tell you when you’re being unreasonable and doing your career more harm than good.”

For many years I never had an agent.  I never tried to get an agent.  I didn’t think I needed an agent.  I wrote plays, short stories, and one young adult novel.  Currently I write magazine articles—and no, I don’t have an agent for that.  Back in March 2009, I emailed my agent Michelle Andelman, who is a friend of a friend, about my friend Celena’s bridal shower.  She wrote back that she was looking for new clients at her new agency, Lynn C. Franklin Associates, Ltd. and knew that I had written a YA novel and could she see it.  I sent her the manuscript and lo and behold she was interested.  And since I signed with her in April 2009, I’ve been steadily working on revisions of my YA novel, Sissy, that I wrote 10 years back.

Here’s what I’ve learned while working with Michelle:

  • When she sent me her sales list, the books she sold were books I wanted to read.  That’s when I knew it was a good match.
  • She knows her market.  She knows what’s selling and what audience my book is geared towards.  I’m not privvy to the YA world (not yet anyway) and she knows what’s out there, what’s hot, and what publishing houses are looking for.
  • She already has editors in mind for my book.  I’m not even done yet with the book. 
  • Her notes are the best.  My book originally had 3 narrators.  She told me upfront that one of the narrators was not working.  I didn’t want to cut it but I decided to try it.  It was the best decision for the book.  The other narrators’ voices took off and the narrator I cut — he got way more interesting!
  • She gets my book.  There’s no fake, “It’s the best book ever.”  It’s real.  “This is what’s really working and what I love and here’s what’s not.”  As a working writer, I need someone to be honest, supportive, but real.  And thanks to Michelle’s insight, this book has grown leaps and bounds.

Thank you Michelle for making my book rock.  This is a true team effort!

I’m sure there are authors out there without an agent and who are doing just fine, but I have to say, in the discussion of agent or no agent, I am damn happy I have one of the best ones out there.

6 Comments on “Why You Need a Literary Agent

  1. Great post and I agree: writers need agents. Sure, in a perfect world, maybe that wouldn’t be the case. But getting your writing out there is tough so the more people on your side, helping you and pushing your work, the better off you are.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why You Need a Literary Agent « Typecraft -- Topsy.com

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