Today I read a blog about why authors need agents by Australian writer, Alison Booth. She describes what her agent has done for her, and how “lucky” she was that she was taken on.
I agree with all her points except, possibly, the luck part. Yes, you do need to be in the right place at the right time, even to submit the right book. But the search, the craft, the years of preparation that made Alison ready for an agent owes far more to talent and hard work than to luck. Read Alison’s blog http://writingnovelsinaustralia.com/2013/04/16/why-have-a-literary-agent-by-alison-booth/
I’ve worked with my agent, Linda Tate of The Tate Gallery in Sydney, for 20 years. I’ll write more about that closer to our anniversary in October. Now, I’d like to echo Alison’s blog and share some of what Linda and I do together. Note, I’m not saying “does for me” because the agent-author relationship is a team effort. The agent can only market what the writer writes. They can also only promote a writer who knows where they want their career to go.
Otherwise it’s like jumping into a taxi and asking the driver to take you somewhere, without telling them where. You end up paying for a ride that delivers you to the wrong destination.
The most crucial role Linda plays for me is as my good/evil twin.
As twins go, we’re the Danny De Vito/Arnold Schwartzenegger variety, not in the least alike, and this is good. Linda’s way feistier than me, going where I fear to tread. She’ll telephone anyone anywhere in the service of my work. Her entertainment industry background means she sees no point in waiting endlessly to hear from a publisher. She calls them.
As my evil twin, she ensures I get paid. This is a topic for another blog, but my hobby horse is that ALL writers should be paid for professional activities, whether speaking at conferences, libraries or workshops, or selling their work. I might be reluctant to ask for a fee increase or to chase up money I’m owed, but Linda never is.
As my good twin, she analyses contracts and royalty statements. I read them, too, since I’m the one signing on the dotted line or the echo-sign these days, but she looks at contracts differently. Hands up any author who does NOT go first to the bottom line to see how much they’ve made? Linda looks at what markets a book has gone into, which are still to be exploited, and any patterns arising out of the paperwork, discussing them with me in depth. New contracts bring out her good and evil side. Good twin wants the book sold, evil goes after the best deal.
Good twin vets all promotional material. Does this biography or photo support my “brand”. How am I being presented online? In the media? At conferences? The regular status reports she prepares include updated bios in varying lengths for us to tweak. I still remember when we switched my linear (she was born…she started writing…) bio. for a shorter, web-styled look. Today we consider how my photos and book covers look as thumbnails on mobile devices. An agent can and should keep you current.
Evil twin keeps me writing. You’d think this would be good twin’s job, but she’s too nice. Sometimes a writer needs a spur to creativity, keeping you going when it’s easier to give up. Good twin is the one reading the work when it’s done, patting me on the back while evil twin keeps track of timelines and body counts. Even romance writers kill people off sometimes.
Good twin or evil twin, I wouldn’t be without either of her. What about you? How do you see the author-agent relationship?
on Twitter @ValerieParv
Read some reviews of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html