Do I need an agent?
It’s a question which bewilders many writers.
The same cannot be said for the world of property – if you’re looking to sell or let – agents are the de facto choice. ‘Do I need an agent?’ is not a question you ask yourself – you just choose which agent to instruct to sell or let your property.
And it’s interesting to compare the differences in how agents are perceived between the two worlds. In simple terms: property agents are reviled, whereas literary agents are revered. Literary agents command a demigod status, estate agents can only dream about!
It’s a funny state of affairs because in both the property and publishing worlds, agents are the gatekeepers to success. In property you need a decent agent to make a sale and, in publishing you need a decent agent to make a sale…! And yet a literary agent is loved, while an estate agent is loathed.
So why is that?
Well, given I’m still a relative outsider to the world of publishing I am going to have to speculate. But my theory for how literary agents have managed to command such a vaulted status is their “inaccessibility”. Trying to get an agent is damn difficult. In fact, it’s almost as difficult to get an agent as it is to get a publishing deal. Literary agents are incredibly selective and renowned for being slower than a soon-to-retire provincial conveyancing solicitor.
And I think it’s this lack of accessibility which sparks writers to believe literary agents inhabit some sort of mystical world; a magical place where only a wizard pass will be accepted for entry. Of course, I’m sure they do more than sit around cackling into their cauldrons (really shouldn’t confuse estate agents with literary agents) but you know from an outside perspective, someone else’s job – especially when they have control of your destiny – always looks more interesting from the other side.
* * * * *
I’ve been on this journey before.
When How to Buy Property at Auction was just a glisten in my eye, I tried to gain access to the magic land, but nobody would let me in. I kept knocking and eventually I got one agent interested, but I wasn’t. And so I decided not to redeem my wizard pass.
Instead, I barrelled ahead and did it on my own. I became my own agent and found a publisher myself. I negotiated the contracts, my advance, royalties – and I even managed to get a second book deal. *Touch wood* everything has been fine and dandy.
And I know at this stage you would think I no longer need a literary agent. But, it’s not that simple. Just because you have experience and should now know what you’re doing – does not actually mean you know what you’re doing.
And a few things happened which started to change my thinking about whether I needed an agent. The first: I love writing and knew I wanted to write more and get better at it. The second: it’s time-consuming to be both the writer and the agent. The third: I wanted someone else to have my back.
So I decided to start scouting for an agent – which basically involves analysing the Writers and Artists Yearbook (which is the go-to-bible of agents and publishers). Then I went online to do some additional research.
And then I got distracted by a tweet from an author, which then turned into a twitter conversation with his agent, which then led to lunch. And I liked my lunch-agent companion. A lot. And fortunately she liked me.
And then she said the magic F-Word, which I believe is perhaps the real reason why literary agents are so loved and deserve their hallowed place in publishing, she told me: “We are going to have such Fun working together”.
And, try as I might, I just couldn’t remember the last time an estate agent said that to me!