SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Do I need an agent?

Discussion started on

denise

Guest
 Hello! This is my first post. I was very excited to find this board. I have a major decision to make, and I need the advice of some pros.

I have finished my middle reader. I was going to just look for a publisher on my own, but when I mentioned this is writersnet, where I have been a regular, one writer threw a fit, and others seemed to agree. She said that my book was good enough to sell to the big boys. That an agent would know how to handle different types of rights and get me a much bigger advance.

Well, she convinced me. Or, my husband was convinced, let's say. I still wonder, because I do not plan to be a novelist. I started writing full time two years ago at the age of 48 and have had a few poems and an essay published while I was writing my novel. I have discovered that I want to spend the rest of my days as a freelance children's writer. So why do I need an agent for one book? They will want to know what my future plans are and the only way I would write another novel is if the publisher wanted a follow up to the one I've written. I think an agent might even be turned off by the fact that I will not be a continous source of income, but for that matter, so may a publisher.

I am sitting on the fence. I want to do what is best and most profitable and will offer me the greatest chance at success. I came here with the big hope that you can help make a firm decision.

Thanks for your responses in advance.

Denise
#1 - June 04, 2005, 12:20 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region wwa
 :writing3:

Denise,
I think the fact that you are questioning this in the first place, might be a reason in and of itself to slow down and really research your future.    :o
I'm not familiar with Writersnet.  Is it for and about children's writers?  Because the valley between adult and children's writing is deep.  You will probably hear from many well published authors on this board, before the day is out.    :angel:     I am not one of them.  But I do have a strong opinion.  I am peddling several manuscripts,    :paper:  primairly to editors I have had the pleasure of making contact with, either through conferences, or just consistently sending my work to them.    :yup   This has taken years    :baby:  to build these relationships.  It is still very possible to get your manuscript published in the children's market in this manner without an agent.     :-X  Especially since this is your first book, any agent will ask you what else you have to offer an editor. 
You talk about the "big Boys."  I don't think you can get much bigger then publishers/editors who will make the final decision about your manuscript.  I believe they far surpass an agent in the power of making that kind of decision, especially since they will be paying you for the manuscript and you will be paying an agent.
If I had several published books under my belt, I would be pursuing an agent, but only so I wouldn't have to discuss contracts/money.     :EmoticonDollar:    Any first time author will pretty much have to accept whatever the editor suggests, and if it is a reputable publishing house, they will be fair.   :angel:
Before you make any decision I would really research the issue.  The International SCBWI website has information as well as links to other reputable and knowledgeable people regarding this on-going question for so many writers.     :rejection:
Lastly, it is a wonderful feeling to finsih that first manuscript.  The most important thing to do now, is begin the next.            :typing:
                                                 

                                                                    :band
#2 - June 04, 2005, 12:54 PM

denise

Guest
Thanks, hairaplenty, for your input, though as I said, I have no plans of starting a new manuscript, I have tons of plans for writing freelance articles for children and teen publications. Novel writing is not my forte, but I have a good novel on my hands, I made sure and stuck with it until it is the best I think it can be. Like you stated, maybe someone willl come along with experience in this themselves, but thank you for the directions, I am going to check the international SCBWI right this minute. :horse
#3 - June 04, 2005, 02:34 PM

Admins and Mods Emeriti
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI RA
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region canadaeast
Denise,

I sold to HarperCollins without an agent. I had my agent's dummy contract in my email to look over at the time of the offer. At that time she had already decided to rep me and the actual contract came two days after the offer from HC. You don't need an agent to sell. If I wasn't already in contact with my agent at the time of the offer, I could have just as easily had a literary lawyer negotiate the contract for me for a flat fee. I've heard Mary Flowers is very good.

Alma
#4 - June 04, 2005, 02:55 PM
GG Finalist, Golden Oak award, CLA BofY Honor Book, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz award, TD09 Finalist, Yalsa Quickpick, Stellar shortlist, MYRCA shortlist

denise

Guest
Thank you, Alma, the more I hear, the more inclined I am to bypass the agent process. With my situation, it just seems like the only thing that makes sense, besides the fact that I am a very independent-minded person. I'm afraid turning over the reins to an agent would only frustrate me. I owned a smalll business for ten years, and did all my own bookkeeping and taxes. I have also turned into a google addict since I signed onto the internet for the first time last November!  :typing:

I have more links about rights and contracts and legal advice for writers than Charlie Brown has issues.  ;)
So, I think if I keep a level head, I can negotiate a contract that will be probably just about as good as what an agent could get me, since I only have a few publishing credits and am not a published author. From what I can discern, you need to have an already established platform, already be published, be famous or have big connections to be taken on by a major agent who might be able to get the big advances.

Thanks for replying, Harper Collins sure ain't nuttin to sneeze at, congratulations, by the way! :phat

Denise
#5 - June 04, 2005, 04:04 PM

Admins and Mods Emeriti
Poster Plus
I just want to add that most agents don't want a one book author. They are looking for authors who see it as a career. Best of luck with whatever you decide.

Welcome to the board!
#6 - June 04, 2005, 06:41 PM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
BLOOD BROTHERS (Delacorte 2007)

Harrietthespy

Guest
That fact that you have a business background will be a plus if you ever get an agent. It makes for great discussions with my agent that we can discuss and analyze the business components of publishing along with the submission components.

I agree with the others.  Editors are slowing acquisitions of picture books but hungry for well written novels right now.  Take your time about getting an agent.  The wrong agent is worse than no agent.

Also - it's as much about passion for each others work as anything else.  I've met several of the agents who are talked about affectionately on this discussion board - but I didn't feel they were the right match for me.  So I waited until I did find the right person. She's been a friend, confidante, cheerleader and business partner.  She's introduced me to other industry professionals and connected me with more accomplished writers to form a peer network.

So shopping for an agent is a lot like shopping for a business partner or even a spouse.  Decide what you want an agent to do for YOU.  Do you feel comfortable with this person controlling some aspects of the business?  Are they known for s taying in close communication with their clients?  Do they have a strong track record and industry contacts? 

Remember - they work for you not the other way around although it is an odd twist that you can't hire one, they have to choose you.  So take your time, find the right match, and have fun with the writing.

When I left my corporate job my financial planner said "what about the retirement plans we had?"  I said "I think I found a job I don't want to retire from."

Welcome to the club! It's a joyful journey.
#7 - June 05, 2005, 06:23 AM

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
The topic of this thread is almost exactly what I'm looking for an answer to, so I'm posting here rather than starting a new topic on the same subject. My details are different than the original poster:

I have one PB manuscript that is nearly ready to submit (should be ready in a week or two) - it's been critiqued and re-critiqued, and just needs a few relatively minor edits. I have a second PB manuscript in progress that should be pretty close to submission-ready (maybe a month down the line). I also have a few additional PB ideas that I'll probably start writing out within the next month or two. This is all to say that, looking down the road, this involves more than just a single solitary PB manuscript.

One other possible complicating factor is that I'm also working on a MG fantasy novel. I'm only 1/3 of the way through the first draft, so it will be quite a while (6 months? A year?) before that one is ready to submit.

With all this in mind, should I be subbing my first picture book to agents or directly to publishers? I've heard both paths recommended for a first PB, so I'm hoping with my specific details laid out, the wisdom of the Blueboarders can help me out. :-)
#8 - December 10, 2012, 02:46 PM

Admins and Mods Emeriti
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region epa
Anthony, since you have a couple PBs and a MG in the works, might as well try agents first. If an agent likes your PB, he/she will want to see your MG, even incomplete.
#9 - December 10, 2012, 03:17 PM
Kell Andrews
www.kellandrews.com
Twitter @kellandrewsPA

DEADWOOD, Spencer Hill, 2014
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region wisconsin
I agree with Kell. If you want an agent, try agents first. You can always submit to publishers on your own if you don't get an agent. But it doesn't work the other way. You can't shop a ms. to publishers, collect rejections, and then try to place it with an agent. I'd go directly to publishers only if I was pretty sure I didn't want an agent.

You're building up a body of work in PBs, which is what an agent likes to see. And since it's hard to make good money off PBs alone, your novel will likely be viewed as good news. Just be sure the agents you target rep all the categories you're interested in.

 :goodluck
 
#10 - December 10, 2012, 03:30 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region sandiego
I totally agree with Kell.

If you sub your PB ms yourself to editors, remember that they count as submissions, even if they don't respond or pass. I mention this because if you later decide to query with this ms to an agent, you'd have to disclose the submission history if that's what won them over. An agent wouldn't want to submit a ms that's been over-shopped.  So... decide well and stick with the plan before any regrets.

I would recommend the agent route if a writing career is what you have in mind for a bazillion reasons. I was convinced myself... right here on the boards. Was unagented for 10 yrs... and now, I'm in the best of hands, and so thrilled to have the partnership and wisdom of an agent. WORLD of difference!!!

Best of luck, whatever you choose!
#11 - December 10, 2012, 03:44 PM

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
Thanks for the advice everyone. I hadn't thought about potential problems with submitting unsuccessfully to publishers first, and then not being able to get an agent because of it. That's a good thing to know.

Kell, you said "If an agent likes your PB, he/she will want to see your MG, even incomplete." That scares me a little at this point! Incomplete is one thing, but my first draft is pretty rough so far, and I'd hate to show any of it to anyone until I've revised it at least once. My current plan of attack was to sort-of-fast draft all the way through and then revise, but this makes me think it might be a good idea to at least polish up the first chapter so I could show it if asked about it. Or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here?
#12 - December 10, 2012, 06:54 PM

Don't do that if it will mess with your process, Anthony (been there, done that)!
If you know what you want to happen in the MG, you can write up a synopsis. Or you can just write a one paragraph pitch to have ready. But truly, in the time it takes for agents to get back to you and for you to get the other pb's polished up, you may be farther along in your MG than you think...
#13 - December 10, 2012, 07:58 PM
Robin

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region inlandnw
Hi Anthony
I agree with MysteryRobin. Take your time with your manuscript. The publising wheels turn notoriously slow, so you likely have more time than you think. Plus, no agent is going to insist on seeing a manuscript you're not ready to show. They would be happy to know what it's about, or to see an outline. But as far as agents in general, a good one is worth her/his weight in gold. I've been agented for several years now, and I can't imagine going back to doing it all on my own.  :goodluck
#14 - December 10, 2012, 08:37 PM
A Smidgen of Sky (Harcourt 2012)
A Sliver of Sun (book #2)
 A Million Ways Home (Scholastic 2014)
 www.diannawinget.com
Twitter@DiannaMWinget

Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region dakotas
My impression is that many picture books are sold without an agent, and most YA are sold WITH an agent, and middle grade is somewhere in between. I know the industry is changing, so I don't know how much that holds true this very day, but in general, that's what it's always felt like to me. I know people here have sold books fairly recently without an agent. Most agents do want to represent your career, so if this is only meant to be a one-off, then the agentless route may be the one for you.

However, if you do want an agent, I think you can feel at ease on this point:

From what I can discern, you need to have an already established platform, already be published, be famous or have big connections to be taken on by a major agent who might be able to get the big advances.

In fiction, especially children's fiction, "platform" isn't anything like it is for adult nonfiction. Er, maybe nonexistent? Secondly, what matters is the book. You can be charming, you can be witty. You can be rich. You can be good looking. The agent can love you. But if the bottom line is, can I sell this *book*? Do I love this story, and can I think of an editor who will love it, too? If you are a famous celebrity, er, you may have a bit of carte blanche, but being a bestselling author already is not a requirement for getting an agent. (Also, it's a bit of a logical conundrum--if the large publishers whose works are MOST likely to be carried by major book sellers ONLY look at agented manuscripts, then how could someone become a bestseller before they are agented?) I've seen this idea kicked around before, and I'm not sure where it comes from. Maybe adult publishing is different?? But it isn't true for kidlit. More than once, I've seen agents confirm this on their blogs.  And I know this from personal experience, too, because erm, I did sign with an agent at a top-selling children's agency this year, and I am definitely not any of those things! So I would not worry too much about that. Just make the book as good as you can for whatever editor or agent you may query.
#15 - December 10, 2012, 09:17 PM

Admins and Mods Emeriti
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
I'm going to disagree slightly with the responses above by saying that I think you should wait until you have at least one more PB ms. ready to submit before you do your querying. I've never met an agent who repped PBs who wouldn't *immediately* ask to see more if they liked the first one (even if they didn't think they could sell that first one). Their take on a single PB is small enough that it might not be worth the trouble.... whereas if they're representing you on several, it's considerably more worth their while. So you will come off as more polished and more ready to represent -- and more likely to get a rep offer then, instead of waiting longer anyway -- if you can answer that request with "sure!" rather than, "please hold."
#16 - December 10, 2012, 09:40 PM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

www.jonisensel.com

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
I'm going to disagree slightly with the responses above by saying that I think you should wait until you have at least one more PB ms. ready to submit before you do your querying. I've never met an agent who repped PBs who wouldn't *immediately* ask to see more if they liked the first one (even if they didn't think they could sell that first one). Their take on a single PB is small enough that it might not be worth the trouble.... whereas if they're representing you on several, it's considerably more worth their while. So you will come off as more polished and more ready to represent -- and more likely to get a rep offer then, instead of waiting longer anyway -- if you can answer that request with "sure!" rather than, "please hold."

Definitely. One PB is not enough. An agent needs to know you're not a one-trick pony. I would imagine three would be the absolute rock bottom minimum.
#17 - December 11, 2012, 05:31 AM

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
That also sounds like good advice. I was thinking it would be better to wait until the new year to submit anyway, so that should give me time to finish up the 2nd PB manuscript and get a third well underway. And Robin, that's a good point about not rushing the MG manuscript - from reading other threads around here it does sound like response times would often be long enough to let me get a lot further on the novel. Of course, I realize that even that's optimistic - I certainly don't want to come off sounding like I think it will be easy getting an agent. I know that the odds may be stacked pretty high against getting someone interested in my work, but I'd rather be prepared to take advantage of a fortunate turn of events than caught off-guard by it. :-)
#18 - December 11, 2012, 10:02 AM

I definitely wouldn't have wanted to face my contract without my agent. It was so complicated I had to even call him to find out where to sign! I also know that many agents are hesitant to only rep a single PB because the money can often be not worth their time. But like in every situation, I think there are exceptions to the rule. But having mulitiple projects ready shows the agent you are serious about writing as a career and you are worth their time.
#19 - December 11, 2012, 11:40 AM
The GILDED series (Skyscape/ACP)
www.ChristinaFarley.com
Twitter @ChristinaFarley

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region canadaeast
  • SCBWI PAL
I definitely wouldn't have wanted to face my contract without my agent. It was so complicated I had to even call him to find out where to sign!

This! My picture book contract was 18 pages long and SO complicated.
#20 - December 11, 2012, 11:43 AM
www.heleneboudreau.com

Author of the REAL MERMAIDS tween series, RED DUNE ADVENTURES chapter book series, I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN (2013) and more.

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region rmc
But like in every situation, I think there are exceptions to the rule.

Christy is right. One of those exceptions might be if an agent feels an individual manuscript has potential for a quick sale that will do extremely well in the market, he/she might take it on without other projects in the works. Of course, if it sells and does well, you might be asked, "What's your next book?"
Jean
#21 - December 11, 2012, 11:49 AM
Jean Reidy
Coming soon: Specs, Specs II, Pup 681, When the Snow is Deeper Than Your Boots Are Tall, Group Hug , Truman

www.jeanreidy.com

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
  • SCBWI PAL
Great advice here. I agree with Joni. Wait until the second pb is done. Also, don't worry about an agent wanting to see your unfinished novel. They want you to be comfortable with what you're submitting and if it's not ready, they certainly don't want to waste their time. One bit of advice, though. While you're working on that second pb, I'd revise the first twenty or so pages of the novel. If you could at least send a sample, it couldn't hurt. That being said, when my agent asked me if I had any ideas for a second novel, I just gave her a pitch and she was happy (so come up with a good pitch for that novel).

And waiting until the first of the year is a good idea (although I'd wait until later in January, since EVERYONE will be waiting until the first of the year). Good luck!!
#22 - December 12, 2012, 03:11 PM

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.