When you’ve got a manuscript that’s ready to be sent out for consideration the first thing you need to decide is whether you’re going to submit it to agents to try to obtain representation or if you are going to send straight to publishers.
Yes, this is a choice you should make. Why?
If you’ve submitted the work to a bunch of publishers already it’s more than likely that an agent will not be able to submit the work to those publishers. You don’t want to tie an agent’s hands like that. It’s an agent’s job to sell the manuscripts they take on. That is what they get their commission for. If an agent takes on your manuscript they believe they can sell it! Otherwise they wouldn’t waste their time. If you’ve submitted a manuscript to too many publishers and have been rejected an agent may pass on representing the work and you have wasted their time and yours. Nobody likes that.
Why Should You Seek an Agent?
There are lots of reasons that finding agent representation is desirable. A good agent…
- has experience and connections
- knows editors and their tastes.
- An editorial agent can help you polish up your work before submitting
- When they sell your book they may very well get you a better deal
- A good agent will be able to decipher all the legal mumbo jumbo involved in contracts
- Knows how to negotiate
- Is your head cheerleader!
Yes, there are many writers and illustrators who sell their work themselves. But having a good agent has a lot of positives and means that you get to stick to doing what you love to do!
When Should You Seek an Agent?
The answer to this question is different for everyone. There are things to consider about the manuscript you are submitting, as well as about yourself:
Agents in general are looking for manuscripts that have the potential for a wide audience. Do you have a manuscript with a great hook? Is it one that could be a good fit for the publishing programs at the big publishers? Many of the big publishing houses are closed to unsolicited submissions. This means they are only open to submissions from agents so you need one just to get your work through the door.
Do you write a lot? While some agents do represent authors on a book by book basis, many are looking to represent writers and build their careers. Of course, you can submit to agents even if you have one book ready for submission. Picture book authors and illustrators should be aware that agents often like to see a body of work.
It can be great to have someone to submit your work on your behalf. Someone to guide you through the sometimes complicated world of publishing. But you can definitely submit your work to publishers on your own. Of course, having an agent doesn’t guarantee you’ll make a book sale. It’s publishers that you need to connect with to make that happen. You can submit your work to many publishers yourself. On Friday I’ll talk about some of the reasons you might want to submit straight to publishers.
Ready to query agents? Then it’s time for some research! Submissions 101 – Research.