Choosing to have an agent is such a personal decision for all writers and I think it depends on so many diverse factors. For instance; what kind of writer you are, your approach to novels as well as your genres and your aims. Everyone is different and there are some writers out there who do not seek representation, and I can completely understand why.
However, having an agent is something I did want.
This was because of a few different reasons, one being that I prefer to have someone who can help me with contracts, and the other, even more important in my opinion, is that I write in a range of genres within YA. This makes things a little more complicated for me.
But of course, deciding you want a literary agent and actually getting one are two completely different things.
So How Do You Get An Agent?
I kind of touched on this with my previous post in this series but I wanted to go into a bit more depth.
So to take it backwards, quite a while ago I went to Salisbury Writer’s Festival, and at that festival I was lucky enough to meet the incredible YA author Vikki Wakefield for the second time (the first was at a book signing of hers). I was nervous but I went up to ask her a question, and she was super lovely and gave up a lot of her time to help me.
My question was this:
After sitting through a panel where a Literary Agent had adamantly told us that we needed a Literary Agent, and a publisher had (just as adamantly) assured us that we didn’t, what is the actual real benefit of an agent?
She explained that you can be an author without one, but the best thing an agent can do for you is to be a sort of manager.
A literary agent can help guide your career, they can help you with industry advice and idea feedback, and if you prefer to have someone onboard to help with these things, then an agent is probably a good idea.
I really liked this explanation, and decided that it was definitely the kind of working relationship I really hoped to find.
So to cut a long story short: Here’s how I got my agent.
Yup. I met someone and they were kind enough to call their agent on my behalf.
And that is seriously it. Luck. And lot's of it.
Haha. Well I can go into a bit more detail I guess!
But yeah, for me, networking is the crux of it.
And it seems to me this is for everyone across the board. I’d cold queried agents in the past, had polite no’s or never heard back, had two requests for a full manuscript, one that came back and said the novel wasn’t for her and the other who didn’t come back in six months, and in the end I emailed her to politely take the novel back (so as not to waste any of her time) as I had already made the decision to work with my now agent, Jane Novak.
But cold queries rarely seem to work (I mean, obviously they do work but it does seem pretty hard to get your foot in the door that way). It seems to me that nowadays agents prefer that you have connected with them (appropriately) via social media, or met them face to face at an event, or seen them speak at a conference. It is my impression that these things really matter.
I heard all this and thought it was impossible (and you know what, for those people living in regional areas it really does make it super difficult, but networking via social media is absolutely still networking) but somehow I guess I managed it.
Here’s how that happened:
I joined a book club.
I met some authors for book signings, including the lovely Vikki Wakefield.
I attended a publishing house event. Saw another author speaking there, Allayne Webster. I attended a writing festival and introduced myself to Vikki Wakefield. Got shortlisted for a literary award, saw Vikki Wakefield there with Allayne Webster. Went to another book launch and saw both of them again. Mentioned I had a meeting with Wakefield Press about my book the next day and Allayne was lovely enough to call her agent (Jane Novak) on my behalf and see if she’d be interested in tentatively reading some of my work.
How nice is that?
The authors I’ve met have been amazing in the time and advice they’ve offered me. Vikki Wakefield read some of my work after only meeting me one time and gave me great feedback that really helped in the edit I was doing. And Allayne actually introduced me to her agent.
It is one thing that I really love about the #LoveOzYA community, it is all about being a true community, and helping those around you. No competition, only help and guidance and time for newbies like myself.
It is a lovely lovely thing.
Choosing whether or not to work with an agent is also such a personal decision and almost a whole other discussion.
For me there were a few different reasons that made me feel really happy to work with Jane Novak.
Small things like she was really nice on the phone, she always came back with answers in her emails quickly, or if she was busy, an estimated amount of time I could expect to receive an answer. These were things that were important to me.
Other even bigger pulls was the way Jane spoke about the kind of working relationship she wants (emphasis on mutual trust and long term) and the fact that I already knew someone she represented who is extremely happy with her work.
And finally, Jane Novak certainly didn’t have to, but she helped me out with my book contract for my debut and didn’t charge me. Though she could have (should have?). And when I thanked her for this, she said it was no big deal and that the contract was a simple one.
She didn’t have to say it was simple.
I know a lot of people who love to pretend their work is much more complicated than it is, just to make others look up to them more.
Her answer to this made me very grateful for her honesty, and made me think she was someone I’d be very lucky to work with.
And that folks, is how I got my agent.
It is still early days, but so far, my experience as an agented writer has been really wonderful.
Especially when I got the chance to meet my agent in person for a chat, which absolutely cemented my excitement at getting this chance to work with her. I am very excited to see where it all leads, and fingers crossed!
Obviously having an agent is absolutely wonderful, but it is only the first step to selling your book to a publisher. But getting through that first gateway is an amazing thing!
And that is it from me today, but you can check out the below earlier installments in this series if you'd like.
Are you a writer or a reader?
Are you hoping to get an agent or maybe already have one?
Tell me your story! :)