Why I’m Looking for a New Agent

I’ve been pretty secretive about what’s going on in my career lately, but now that my wonderful ex-agent Chris Richman has publicly announced that he’s leaving the business in this blog post, I can tell you that I no longer have an agent. I learned this a few months ago and have since been pondering what my next steps are and what this means for my career. I’ve told a few close friends and family members, and here are some of the questions they’ve asked me:

Q: Won’t one of the other agents at the agency take you on?

A: Maybe, maybe not. It’s not an automatic given that another agent at the same agency will want to represent me. They have to fall in love with the novel I’m shopping now, as well as believe in my potential for success in the future.

Q: Won’t it be easy for you to find another agent, now that you’re a published author?

A: No. While the fact that I’m a published YA author will most likely be in my favor, it doesn’t mean that I’m a shoe-in for getting an agent. Again, any agent who takes me on would do so because they love the book I’m hoping to sell next, not because I sold a book in the past.

Q: Why do you need an agent, anyway? Can’t you just sell your work directly to publishers?

A: I know that some authors do successfully sell their own work to publishers, but I firmly believe that an author is better off with an agent. Chris not only served as an initial editor for me, whipping my manuscript (which, of course, I had revised many times on my own before I submitted it to him) into shape so that it was ready to be seen by editors at the major publishing houses, but he targeted his submissions so my manuscript got into the right hands. Then, when several editors expressed interest in my novel, he created the best possible deal for me by initiating an auction. Add to that the fact that he represented my interests in negotiating a contract with the publisher and advised me about future works, and I think I’m justified in saying that I couldn’t have done it – at least not as well – without him.

Q: Why don’t you self-publish and keep the money?

A: It’s very true that the publishing business is changing, and that self-publishing has become a more viable option for authors. I have several friends who have found success by self-publishing their books, most notably YA author Kiki Hamilton, who has done well self-publishing her Faerie Ring series, and fellow Ballard Writer Ingrid Ricks, whose memoir Hippie Boy has risen to the top of the NYT Bestseller list and garnered her a deal with a traditional publisher. But personally, at least at this juncture, I’d rather traditionally publish. I value the the role of gatekeeper that traditional publishers play; I wouldn’t want to put a book into the world that wasn’t of high enough quality to compete in the crowded marketplace. And I know how much effort it takes to make sure a book finds its readers. Authors have to put scads of time and energy into promotion no matter what, and I like the extra boost that comes from a publishing house’s ability to get ARCs into the hands of reviewers and librarians and to make sure that books find their way onto bookstore shelves.

So the long and short of it is that I valued what Chris was able to do for me, and I’m looking for another agent to fulfill his role. It’s humbling to be back to “square one,” but it’s also exciting. Who knows what the future might hold?

How about you? Do you think an author is better off with an agent? Do you think self-publishing is the way to go?

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2 Responses to “Why I’m Looking for a New Agent”

  1. Excellent points altogether, you simply gained a new reader. What would you suggest in regards to your submit that you made some days in the past? Any certain?

    • Helen says:

      Thank you for stopping by my blog. To answer the question I think you’re asking, I always check in with agents I’ve submitted to about a month after the response time stated in their guidelines has passed. It really helps to keep a spreadsheet so you know whom you submitted to and when.

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