This is a long one and I’m sure one that plenty of authors at this conference waited for.
Agents and Business: Finding (and keeping) The Right Agent For You.
Panel speakers: Jane Peden, Tamara Lush and Idris Grey and the Moderator for this panel was Sabrina Blackburry.
I enjoyed this panel as they spoke about Wattpad and how to get your agent. Idris Grey found her agent on Wattpad. She said that she thought it was a scam, and it’s weird how our human minds always lean that way when something sound too good to be true right, but after a while, she realized it wasn’t and she waited four more years before she felt ready to take that step.
Tamara Lush went the traditional way and queried. Her first agent had to step back because of health risk, but another published author suggested her to another agent and she ended up with Joel Marcell.
Jane met her agent at a romance conference. She highly recommends the conferences as there are plenty of editors, publishers and agents that are always open to pitches. It’s also great meeting them face to face to feel whether you might be that right fit.
Why should authors have agents?
All three of them said more or less the same thing. Agents have the contacts that authors don’t. They know the industry and can negotiate deals on your behalf. Idris also said that it gave her some legitimization for her books in the traditional publishing world. Tamara’s agent guides her through trending tropes in the marketplace. What publishers are looking for now. That is a nifty aspect if we can know beforehand what to write, right?
Benefits of an agent?
They spoke about many things. Gave advice on what to look out for in your contract when the agent isn’t working for you. That is a very important aspect as the first fit might not always be the right fit, but Jane said, if you do your research before you query, then you won’t fall into this one easily. So great tip.
There should be a clause in your contract about what is going to happen if the working relationship isn’t working with your agent and you need to know that before you sign with an agent. Ask many questions if something doesn’t feel right. They all said to ask plenty of questions and don’t just sign your hard work over with the first contract. If your agent makes you feel uncomfortable because you ask questions, then usually that is a red flag. Move on. I loved the Hotel California analogy, so an agent’s contract is not like Hotel California where you enter. You can never get out. I will never forget that.
But it’s important to know what happens to your books that are in submission, that are already sold and so forth when you break the contract. Very important.
How to get an agent?
Jane had many ideas and brilliant advice on this. First, know your genre and market, and figure out where you want to publish. Do you want to get a deal with Wattpad books? Do you want to be a Radish Writer, or be published through a traditional publishing house. Research agents in that space.
Publishers Marketplace is a great website to find all this information that you are looking for. They list hundreds of agents and what they are looking for. The paid version even lists how many books that agent has sold and when was their last sale.
She also mentioned Publisher’s Lunch. If you sign up, you’ll get a daily email about books that are getting published, so you can more or less get a feel for the market. I hadn’t signed up yet, but you bet I’m going too soon. I only found them on twitter for you guys that want to check it out.
Put all the information that you gathered on the agents that are looking for books similar to what you write and stalk them. You find a lot of information on their social media’s and see what type of person they are when you read their blog posts, posts on social media and so forth. It’s a great way to get that feel whether you’ll be a great fit, that I mentioned earlier.
They also mentioned finding out whether the agent does editorial services (meaning they edit your book before submitting it) or whether they submit your novel as is and wait for big publishers to edit the story.
She mentioned a site called The Predators and Editors, which lists predators in this industry. A glorious sight not to fall in to a scam. They list scammers too, so check out those sites. You do not want to work with agents complaining about how you sort out situations. If it’s far from the way you sort our problems or want to be kept in the loop, then that is usually a sign for you to find another agent. That agent might not be a great fit.
Jane also mentioned to give this one at least a year. Query is not sending out an email and the next day you will have some glorified email telling you they love your book. It’s sending out regularly and waiting months for a reply. It’s an enormous deal. Know how to write a great query letter before you send those out is also a great tip.
Then the question all of us waited for. Will an agent look at your book on Wattpad.
It has mixed emotional answers on this one. Idris’s advice was do not publish your final draft on Wattpad if you want to traditional publish that book. She mentioned some agents don’t mind, where others look down on sites like Wattpad. She found her agent on Wattpad but note that writers like Idris are the exception. Not all of us are going to be the exception.
The other two had a completely different take on Wattpad and published traditionally. They said do not put a book on Wattpad that you want to publish traditionally. Give the agents fresh material that no reader has set eyes on. You can mention a book that really did great on Wattpad, but their advice is to not pitch a book that is on Wattpad that had thousands of reads.
Jane had again brilliant advice. She said write books you want on Wattpad, write different stories for Radish and keep the books that you want to traditional published off these sites.
I think it was Idris that had a great saying. I’m sorry if I’m wrong and it was one of the other ladies. Work toward being the exception but don’t expect to be the exception. I really liked that. Nothing comes without hard work, so if you want to be that exception, be sure to work hard at it. I’m sure the Wattpad Sensations also worked hard at a stage to get their books out there.
And last: See Getting and Agent and keeping one as a Business Relationship, because that is exactly what it is.
Thanks to this panel, I learned a ton from this one.