Saturday, April 25, 2009

Agents and Authors are a Team

Jenn here.

Agents do more for an author than just send in submissions. Today I want to share with you some of the other great advantages I receive in having my agent, Terry Burns at Hartline Literary Agency. He reads through manuscripts, determines if they are good enough to submit to a publisher and where or to whom he should submit.

Terry is my third agent, so I can tell you the differences between having a good agent and a bad one. Terry is a great one. If you want to know more about how to find an agent and what to look for in an agent, you can read an article I wrote on my blog entitled, The Agent Search-It's All About Faith. But in this post, I want to give you some insight on what other things an agent can do for you.

When I'm in between manuscripts, I'll send him story ideas on what to work on next. There are always lots of choices. It could be a sequel to another book I've written, or a new book on a new idea, or something in an era I've never tried before since I write historicals. Terry is more familiar with the market as he goes to more conferences than I do, and talks to more editors and agents. He knows what some editors have been looking for. Sometimes editors will ask him if he has any manuscripts in a particular genre or on a specific subject. With this kind of insight, he has more of an idea of which way the pendulum is swinging in the market. Since it takes me a year to write a book, I don't want to spend a whole year working on an European historical if all of the publishers want American historicals because of a tight economy. If they are determined to limit risks and only publish books they know are a sure bet for a financial profit, I need to be working on that. I'll get another chance to write those European historicals later.

Also, I have a limited budget, and I need to make the most of it when choosing which writing conferences and retreats to attend, and which marketing ideas to invest in. I can bounce those ideas off Terry and know that I'm getting valuable input. I don't have to worry about attending every conference and making sure I get as many editor appointments as possible. As my agent, Terry can send in those submissions for me.

And working on the contracts, it was a relief to be able to have someone read over it and go over the details with me. I could ask questions and get clarity on anything I didn't understand. He could tell me if something was in the norm or unusual, if something was in my favor or give the the risks if it wasn't.

Terry sold my first manuscript, so if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be getting published right now. He made sure that my manuscripts were in front of Barbara at the right time. I didn't even know about the new fiction line at Abingdon, but he did, and he already had my manuscripts to her. He more than earned his fee. In fact, since I've had Terry from the beginning, I never had his fee in my pocket, so I never felt as if I was losing any money. I think that can be a disadvantage if you sell before you actually have an agent.

The decision to search for an agent is a personal choice, but for me, it has been the best choice.


  1. Thanks for the insight, Jenn.
    I would like to pitch to Agents, but I feel like I come to them with little to offer. I only have 2complete books under my belt - one which I am revising and the other I don't even want to think about revising right now! I have a slew of ideas, but they're only ideas, not something on paper yet.

    When is someone ready for an agent?

  2. Very interesting post, Jenn!

    And for our readers, I'm sorry I didn't post on Thursday. I was out of town, and my parents' Internet would not work AT ALL! Very frustrating.


  3. Christy,

    That depends on the person, how polished their manuscript is, what is going on in their personal life, etc. One thing I know, if you submit and you aren't ready, it won't happen until you are ready. God will protect you in that way. Trust Him. You might get some great feedback that you can use, or develop a personal relationship with an agent.

    I was reading Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog the other day, and she talked about those manuscripts she's passed on, but later saw published. It wasn't ready when it came to her, but the author didn't give up, kept submitting and it happened. It's all about the timing and what is meant to be.

    I once heard from an agent/editor panel that submissions build a reputation of unpublished authors and they start looking out for certain names as they begin winning contests and they know that author is getting closer. They pay attention when their next submission comes, because they know that author is bound to be ready soon.

  4. Thanks for your input & advice Jenn, this is very interesting.

  5. I gathered good information from this. Thank you!!!