Friday, March 19, 2010

Does It Help to Have a Literary Agent?

by Yvonne Perry and Stephanie Gunning

If so, how do you find the right one?

I’ve asked Stephanie Gunning, a bestselling author, editor, and publishing consultant with over 25 years of experience in the book business to answer this question and here is what she wrote:

It does help to have a literary agent because an agent is constantly in touch with publishers and the needs of the marketplace. They are the sales people of our industry, a bridge between creatives and business people. They are often good developers themselves. Editorial thinkers. And they can also be great marketers. Many are escapees from publishing houses, people who rose to a certain level and wanted more creative control over their career trajectories. So they have different kinds of backgrounds. I love asking agents how they got where they are.

I recommend four main ways to find an agent. Communicate with other authors and find out if they will introduce you—hang out at industry events and speak to people. Make friends. 

Look inside the books in your category and see who represented them. You can also search for references to agents in the Literary Marketplace and Writer’s Market, two guides, which I believe are both online now. If not they are in the library.

The association of author’s representatives is also a searchable database. The website is . You can search by genre of literature. Only qualified agents are listed. Never pay potential representatives money to read for you. Agents should not be reading for authors. They earn their money by commission.

I am more of a mentor and a strategist. I say, “Do this, do that, and don’t monkey around so much,” as you find your way. I have seen many successful strategies and I am a good person to brainstorm with because of my marketing experience and editorial experience.

An agent has a responsibility to connect you with a publisher and then to make sure you honor your end of the bargain and they honor their end of the bargain. They are matchmakers and they only take on clients who they are absolutely sure they can sell, because they earn by commission.

Unlike an agent, I am paid by fee and once I am in, I am in for as long as we are agreed. I have a coaching program for book proposals called Get a Book Deal Coaching. I also do editing and ad hoc consultations. For instance if someone wants advice on finding a book distributor we might walk through the decision process together. I am good at locating appropriate resources and knowing which ones are legitimate. I help my clients shortcut their processes. I speed the learning curve. And I do this in the context of real mainstream industry practices.

We look together at the marketplace and what could be really and truly viable. During a three-month period, I walk people through several aspects of publishing a book: Mission, Editorial, Marketing, Creativity, and Relationships.

Stephanie’s Get a Book Deal Coaching Program is a powerful proven system that she strategically developed from her background as a senior acquisitions editor at Bantam-Doubleday-Dell and editor at HarperCollins Publishers. If you missed our call, The Insiders Guide to Getting a Book Deal, you can listen to the recorded call now.

I encourage you to check out Stephanie’s services for authors:

Get a Book Deal Coaching Program
7 Quick & Easy Steps to Write AND Sell Your First Book Proposal
Partner with Your Publisher
Want to Get a Book Deal in 2010?

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