What I’ve learned about hooking an agent. Part One – What is the role of a literary agent and why do you need one?

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Yesterday I attended the Writers & Artists ‘How To Hook An Agent’ event and I can report that it was absolutely worth every penny, not only for the opportunity to pitch your novel face to face with an established literary agent, but also for the opportunity to meet other writers and learn about how to jump through the fiery hoops of the submissions process.

I learned too much to write about in one post, so I am going to split into into three separate posts.

Part One: What is the role of an agent and why do you need one?

Part Two: How to avoid ending up in the slush pile – advice on submitting your work to agents. (To be posted next Sunday – it would be earlier but Life Is Strange Episode 5 is released on Wednesday and nothing, not even writing, is getting in the way of me playing the finale!)

Part Three: What happened when I pitched to an agent. 

Do note that these posts can *in no way* replace attending one of these events in person.  There was so much information that I won’t be able to replicate it all here – think of this as a very brief summary.  Besides, you can’t pitch to an agent through a blog post.

What is the role of an agent and why do you need one?

Agents – your year round superhero!

An agent is both a cheerleader and a ball buster!

Let me explain…

One of the other writers there asked why she would need an agent when she could just contact a publisher during their ‘open submissions’ period.

As the agents explained, if you submit to a publisher without an agents help, the first person to read your work is usually an intern.  Now this is no disrespect to anyone on an internship but firstly they are unlikely to have knowledge of the current marketable trends or the experience to spot a bestseller.  If they like your submission, they will then pass your submission on to their supervisor, who passes it on to someone else, who passes it on and so forth.  Your submission could be rejected at any of these points before it even makes its way under the nose of someone who can make a definitive informed decision.

An agent already has a working relationship with the person who makes the informed decision.  This is who your agent sends your manuscript to as the first step of their process.

The other role they have is to get the very best deal they can for you!  They do all the difficult financial negotiation (this is where the ball busting comes in) so that you don’t have to.  They also can recognise a bad deal when they see it and will stop you signing contracts that will not benefit you.

Yes, an agent takes a percentage but they are worth every penny.  As one of the agents put it: they are investing in you, not just for the release of one book. They are there to support you throughout the whole of your writing career.

It’s like a marriage – they are in it for the long haul!

So how do you choose which agent to submit to?

Every agent is a possibility to begin with. Until you do your research.

Research, research, research!

The agents had lots of stories of people sending them submissions with the wrong name or sending them cookery books when they only deal in fiction.

  1. Use the Writers and Artists Yearbook to make a list of agencies you are interested in and then google every one of the agents and find out about them.
  2. Follow them on twitter (this sounds suspiciously like stalking but its not, its research)
  3. Make sure that the books they publish are books that are similar to yours in terms of age, genre etc.
  4. Another way to find an agent is look at the acknowledgements in the back of books.  An author will always thank their agent.

Send out your submission to ten agents at a time.  Be patient.

If you get an offer of representation let the other agents know. Meet/speak with all of them before making a decision – it is important that you get on with them.  Remember this is like a marriage.

If all ten reject you, take another look at your manuscript. Maybe it is not ready yet (something to discuss in Part Two) When ready, send it out again to another ten.  Repeat process.

So hopefully you can see the valuable job an agent does. I hope you have found this post helpful. Part Two will be posted next Sunday.

If you want to check out the other events that Writers & Artists run you can find them here. As I’ve said, it was worth every penny and I would absolutely recommend them.


3 thoughts on “What I’ve learned about hooking an agent. Part One – What is the role of a literary agent and why do you need one?

    coleburkewrites said:
    October 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    It was an absolutely brilliant event, and look, now I have a new blog to follow too! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    […] given during the Writers & Artists event I attended a few weeks ago.  In part one I discussed the role of an agent and why you need one.  In part two I wrote about how best to approach an […]


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