does an agent do?
Agents serve as the initial
screen, filtering out inappropriate, inept, and near-miss projects.
Good agents match projects with prospective publishers, saving the
editors from having to wade through worthy submissions that aren’t
right for their imprints.
An agent will send your work to
the right editor, help you choose the right publisher and editor,
negotiate the terms of your contract, and make sure the publisher keeps
you informed on the book’s progress.
Agents build relationships with
editors. They get to know the acquisition editors and gain credibility
with editors. They meet with editors at CBA and sometimes visit the
An agent typically can get a
larger advance and royalty rate for you. Signing the contract is only
the beginning. You have to maintain the contract. The agent checks the
royalty statement for accuracy. Also she/he can ask for the check from
the publisher when it’s due. The agent can guide you through knowing
which rights to release and which to hold back.
Response time is much quicker
for an agent than for an individual author.
The right agent can help your
career development by associating your talent with future deals.
The agent can act as a sounding
board for the author, give suggestions, and provide specific input to
keep you selling. There is great value in being able to discuss your
manuscripts with a professional.
Perhaps the best criterion for
measuring agents is communication. Your agent should express an
understanding of your work and goals.
Because the fiction field has
become so competitive and publishers are busy, more and more editors
are relying on agents. For publishers, agents act as “first readers.”
It used to be that editors were
allowed to develop authors. Now publishing is so “market driven,” the
editors don’t have time for this anymore. It’s up the agents.
Why can’t I
hire a lawyer instead of a literary agent to negotiate my contract?
Authors have the right to hire
lawyers to negotiate contracts; however, this is not the ideal
situation for most career authors.
Recently I read a magazine
article citing Washington D.C.’s top lawyers. One negotiated
significant book contracts for two celebrities. I was annoyed that they
hadn’t hired literary agents, because I want our profession to be
respected and valued.
Then I considered that for
celebrities a book is one piece of a large puzzle and serves as a
promotional tool as well as another income stream. To my knowledge,
most celebrities don’t write their own books. When others do most of
the creative work and the book isn’t your passion, a lawyer is the way
to go when it’s time to negotiate a contract. Speaking of contracts,
household name celebrities will get plenty of those as soon as
publishers find out they’re even thinking of putting their names on a
book, so very little selling of the work is involved. The lawyer
negotiates the contract and then moves on to the next project. The
lawyer and celebrity may be friends, but it’s doubtful their bond will
be over writing.
literary agent works
differently. Often an agent has to knock on the doors of many
publishing houses before landing a contract. An agent offers career
guidance and helps develop proposals, forming a long-term relationship.
The writer and agent bond over their shared passion for books. In CBA,
they are brothers and sisters in Christ, working together for the
kingdom. And unlike lawyers, agents don’t charge writers for “billable”
Bottom line: Celebrity authors
not seeking relationships with literary agents may prefer lawyers.
Authors seeking a friend and advocate in the industry, who shares their
love for Christ, should sign with a CBA agent.
don’t want to do a proposal. Isn’t that the agent’s job?
An author refusing to comply
with the submission guidelines has pretty much removed himself from
consideration. A proposal is a tool that agents and editors use to
evaluate a project. So those who want to only send an unsolicited
manuscript and stop there are withholding the information needed to
make that decision. In fact, a large number of rejections occur without
reading the manuscript because the proposal clearly shows the fit is
not there. Also, a person refusing to do the very first thing she has
been asked to do doesn’t bode well for a good, cooperative working
When editors and agents read a
proposal, they are looking at more than just the writing. Most are
quite specific as to what they would like to see to make this
evaluation. We ask for a little more in our submission guidelines than
some, but our position is we would rather have it and not need it, than
need it and not have it.
A professional proposal is a
single MS Word or .rtf document (if the author doesn’t use Word) that
is a quality presentation, yet preserves the proper formatting in the
requested first three chapters to show how the actual work is
formatted. The three chapters give us a feel for the writing and the
rest of the proposal shows us the marketability of the project and the
platform and promotion ability of the author. Check the guidelines to
see how the particular agent or editor wants it submitted.
I will never know an author’s
work as well as he does, so for me to do a good agency proposal, I need
a good proposal from the author to build it on.
Literary Agency still look at unpublished authors?
Yes, we give serious
consideration to proposals from unpublished authors. Hartline agents
would love to be the ones to discover that next new voice. We do expect
unpublished authors who approach us to be serious enough about their
publishing goals to have a realistic view of the current publishing
marketplace to know they must place on our desks their best efforts.
Please do not send us your first draft. Ideally, send us your third or
fourth draft that has been read by a critique group, tweaked, and
rewritten to a level worthy of publication. Do the necessary homework
it takes to hone your writing skills: through workshops, online
courses, and perusal of the many excellent books that offer excellent
advice to the beginning author. Then by all means, check out our
Website, read over our submission guidelines, and check out each agent
bio. Choose one of our agents to submit an
electronic submission to per the requested manner.