Monday, August 02, 2010

Wherein, I Eat My Words

I have made it known that I do not think a Love Inspired author needs an agent. I have said (and I quote), you don't need to have an agent to sell to Love Inspired. I have said that if an author can sell herself, she doesn't need to worry about such people as agents.

Today, I am eating my words.

The plate is piled high, and I am chowing down.

Because, I have decided that, while it is true a writer does not need an agent to sell to Love Inspired, having an agent is a good thing. Nay, a great thing (like the way I used 'nay'???).

Perhaps you think I'm saying this because of my new contract, and that may be partially true. The fact is, I don't think I would have been offered a six book deal if not for Melissa Jeglenski. So, while I do believe I would have sold the proposal, having an agent did up the number of books I was offered. That is not, however, why I think an agent is a good thing.

So, let me explain my change of heart.

As many of you know, I had an agent (many eons ago). I signed with him after I'd sold four books to Steeple Hill. He had (and has) a great reputation. He sold (and still sells) many projects to many publishers. He had (and maintains) a diverse and impressive client base. He was (and is) the dream agent of many a Christian writer.

But things didn't work out. I was writing lots, and I was burned out and things just....well, they just happened. Not his fault. Not mine. Just a series of misunderstandings and lack of communications that led me to say goodbye.

Goodbye to him and to agents in general.

I did not, after all, need an agent. I was selling and selling and selling. So...what was the point?

I learned the point at RWA this past week.

It is true that I signed with Melissa Jeglenski weeks ago and that she negotiated a wonderful new contract for me, but until I sat across from her and watched her listen to me, I still thought I could do this thing on my own. This thing being building a career and a reputation and all the stuff that come with being published.

So, Melissa and I sat down, and she asked me a few questions about goals and such, and she listened to the answers. That's when I realized that a good agent, like a good friend, provides a sounding board. She listens and she gives feedback. A good agent knows the market, he knows his client's strengths, and he is able to exploit both to the benefit of the author. A good agent manages to appear both hands-on (as in....what are you working on? what is your time frame for that? what are your goals?) and hands-off (as in....You don't feel you need me to read every contracted project before it's mailed in? That's fine. Just email me when you send it to your editor.).  A good agent knows the market and the publishing houses better than the author ever can, because that is her business, AND a good agent exudes confidence. He has answers to the questions you ask, and if he doesn't, he knows where to find them. Not only that, but he acts like it is exciting to answer your questions even if, like me, you ask way too many of them. In other words, a good agent does a great job of making you feel as if you are her only client. Not only does she make you feel that way, but she treats you that way. This individual approach is what, I am convinced, builds a career.

That is why, when it comes to having an agent, I am beginning to see that a good agent is much better than no agent. While I still maintain that a bad agent is worse than no agent.

What does that mean for you?

Research agents like you'd research a writing project or a publishing house. Look for a good fit. Find someone who loves the genre you write, someone who has a loyal client base and who has a good reputation.  

Oh, and make sure she likes to eat dessert, because discussing business over salad in not nearly as fun as discussing it over this:

And, yes, it was absolutely as yummy as it looked!!!!


Dani said...

Hope you and Brenda had a blast in Flordia! Can't wait to hear all about it.

So glad you are happy with your agent. That's wonderful!

I've got those reworked chapters ready to send your way whenever it works for you :)

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Great thoughts, Shirlee. And so glad you had fun.

I would agree that a bad agent is a lot worse than no agent. :)

Sometime I'd love to hear more about this agent of yours. Did you decide if you're going to ACFW? I'm not, but if you're going to be in town we should try to meet up for a quick bite or something.

Shirlee McCoy said...

Dani, send it to me next week, okay? I'm looking forward to reading it.

Dani said...

Thanks, Shirlee. Will do :)

ladycat said...

What is the dessert in that picture? It looks delicious and I want to make some!