Wednesday, 27 August 2008

To agent or not to agent...?

I know that some of you/us have already crossed this bridge, and Len has already blogged about it (it sounded very hard work!), but two thirds of the way through book no. 3, I need to start thinking about it myself. While Macmillan have been wonderful in every way, I am not good at matters financial, and all things being equal, like the idea of handing All That over to someone else. Does anyone have any views/experience/advice, please?

10 comments:

Aliya Whiteley said...

I can only tell you about my experience, if that helps.

After 3 Things About Me was published, I was given an Arts Council Award that included a mentor, and my mentor (crime novelist Michelle Spring) said that I had to have an agent to be taken seriously, even though I already had a contract with Macmillan. So I asked Will at Macmillan to recommend an agent to approach. He named Jane Gregory, and I was lucky enough to be taken on by her. When it came to the contract of Light Reading, there really wasn't anything for her to do (as per the terms of 3 Things) but she said she was in it for the long haul, she believed in me, and she wanted to be there for the whole of my career. So now we meet up every now and then, I talk over what I'm writing, and she advises me on how marketable that could be (she would never tell me not to write something - she puts up with my sci fi flings, which she loathes...) Now I'm no longer tied to Macmillan I have a lot more options for the future (frightening ones!), and she has a lot more work to do on my behalf, talking me up, getting people interested, etc. So I suppose I'm saying it really works for me, as I want to write as a career (hah) and having a good agent on my side gets me taken much more seriously by the publishing industry, as well as giving me an extra editor and cheerleader when needed.

And she invites me to lovely parties occasionally too.

As you say, Macmillan are great, but you don't know what the future holds. More publishing people on your side can never be a bad thing. (As long as you get a good agent, it goes without saying!)

Maybe ask Will who he thinks you should approach. That's what I did.

Matt Curran said...

I’ve already answered Frances’ question in an e-mail, but for the benefit (or not!) of everyone else, this is what I had to say:

I'm in exactly the same position on the agent side of things. Charles Stross (a sci-fi author published by Pan Mac) suggested an agent who looks the business - but like you I'm really not sure. My thinking is that the first two books were published without any input from an agent so I'm reluctant to share the royalties with anyone who didn't put the leg-work in. Ditto with the foreign rights deals.
But book 3 (The Black Hours) is progressing well and I'm getting together research for book 4 (The Traitor of Light: Secret War bk3) which will kick off summer 2009, and for both of these I reckon I'll need an agent. So I guess I'll hang in there until January 2009 and look for an agent then.

Eliza Graham said...

I'm in a similar position and, because of previous bad experiences with agents, holding off, even though I am now working on book three.

My writing friends are urging me to get on with it and perhaps I will. I can't get terribly excited about the prospect, though.

David Isaak said...

I'm in the same frame of mind as Eliza. My previous agent did me no real good--and then refused to try selling Shock and Awe in the UK because it was "too American" to be of interest to anyone over there.

So, I'm at a point where I'm "looking" for an agent...but only in the sense that if you went for a walk you could claim to be "looking" for coins dropped on the ground.

My problem is even odder than usual in that I'm not sure if I should be looking for an agent in the US or in the UK.

Matt Curran said...

Without appearing like a "me-too" child, I also had a bad experience with an agent during the writing of The Secret War (actually this sounds more like an AA meeting). It put me off getting one and if I'm honest I'm still a little hesitant because of that experience. Daft, I know, because not all agents are alike.

But as Aliya mentions, you are taken more seriously with one than you are without, and there are massive benefits. But I'm not quite ready for one yet, so as an interim measure I've joined the Society of Authors (of which Aliya is also a member)...

Aliya Whiteley said...

Good point, Matt. Society of Authors will vet any contract if you're a member. (But they won't haggle furiously over the terms for you... depends if you think that's a good or a bad thing!)

Frances said...

Thanks for that, everyone. Will has recommended someone, and I've been in touch with her, so we'll see. I suppose I'm a bit reluctant to leave the MNW nest (nice and cosy, with no room for negotiation and lots of support)...

emmadarwin said...

On a point of information, an agent who took you on after you'd got the contract with Macmillan wouldn't be entitled to and (I hope) wouldn't expect to have a percentage of the royalties from that contract.

It's everyone's personal choice, but you guys are in a terrific position to get a good agent. If you want an idea of what a good agent can do for you, and why they're worth the commission a million times over, you could have a look here:

http://pw.org/content/agents_amp_editors_qampa_agent_molly_friedrich

it's a long interview, and the early page or two may not be of interest, but the later ones give a very good picture of what you can expect to have on your side if you have an agent.

And thanks to How Publishing Really Works ( http://www.howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/ ) for the link.

emmadarwin said...

Oh dear, that link doesn't look as if it'll work. Try going here:

http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-makes-good-agent.html

Matt Curran said...

Thanks for this Emma, this puts my mind at rest regarding payments to agents from the MNW contracts.

And cheers for the link... (very interesting).