Saturday, May 15, 2010

Finished book––need agent?

Well, finally, I have more to share about my personal journey from finished book to publication. I know it has been a while since I posted, but I have been quite busy as you will see below ...

One huge question I had to answer after I finished my book was: Do I need an agent?

If you read my last blog, you know I attended the Florida Christian Writer's Conference in early March. I went there with the agent question already answered––I did not need one, but I came home well aware that an agent is almost essential for a debut Christian author who wants to be published. What happened? At the conference, I attended an agents' panel, and boy did I learn a lot!

Why do I need an agent? To me, the most important reason can be found quickly by viewing websites of Christian publishers. Most of them work only with agents and do not accept proposals directly from authors unless they (1) have met them at a writer's conference and (2) have also given them permission to send a proposal.

There are other reasons to hire an agent, as well. These include the fact that your agent works with you and for you, answers your questions, gives you wise advice, and is eager to see you succeed. Good agents are well-versed and well-connected in the industry and also protect your interests when it's time to sign a contract with a publisher.

So, if your book is finished and you want to publish with a Christian publisher, your best bet is to seek out a reputable agent––reputable is the key word here. There are blogs and websites that help you find lists of reputable ones and some also give you criteria to use in evaluating an agent. Other sites list agents with whom other authors have had difficulty and explain the problem.

If you Google "Christian Literary Agents," you will find plenty sites to investigate. Michael Hyatt's comments about agents on are, in my opinion, quite informative. Author friends who have an agent are also an excellent source of information. My Facebook friends have answered many of my questions and given me great advice.

After you select the agent(s) you want to contact, be sure to carefully follow each agent's individual submission guidelines. These usually differ from agent to agent, and it is important to be meticulous in following each little detail. If you are submitting to more than one agent, be sure to say you are sending a simultaneous submission.

As you prepare your submission, remember to pay attention to spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc. It might seem ridiculous to mention this, but it is so easy to be careless and slip up. You want to present yourself as a professional.

In many ways, preparing the proposal seemed more difficult to me than writing the book. I can't remember exactly how long it took me, but it was at least a couple of weeks––maybe even a month. Be patient as you go through the process. It's important not to get in a hurry and make mistakes.

After you've finally finished the proposal and sent it off, you will have yet another opportunity to practice patience. It can take weeks or months before you hear anything. If you submitted to more than one agent, when you choose and sign with one of them, common courtesy and professionalism dictate that you notify all the others and let them know you have chosen another agent.

Well, there you have it––my humble opinion about why you need an agent. Fortunately, my agent search is over. The Lord blessed me with an excellent agent whom I met at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference, and I have already learned that an agent earns every penny you pay. (Of course, you pay nothing until your book is sold.) It is comforting to know that someone who is a lot wiser and well respected in the industry is looking out for me.

This brings me to the reason this blog has gone untouched for the last five weeks. My agent has advised me to increase the word count of my novel, and I have been working hard to do just that. He knows what the publishers expect––they each have their own word-count range. Since few Christian publishers include this information on their website, he was my only source of information. Just one more reason I needed an agent!

Do you have an agent? Are you looking for one? Have you submitted and not heard back? Received rejection letters? Feel free to share ...