Thursday, January 14, 2010

Agents: Angels from Literary Heaven

Agents. Do authors really need them these days of e-books, handheld electronic readers and new dawn-breaking digital technologies?

You hear rantings on both sides. Love 'em or leave 'em, they say.

As for me, I adore my agent, Greg Johnson of WordServe Literary Agency. Without Greg, I'm confidant Mom NEEDS Chocolate would have never seen the coveted front bookshelf position in national bookstores. And I trust Greg 100% as he pitches my newest book idea to publishers.

I'd like to comment on a few points made by Greg's colleague Rachelle Gardner in her recent blog about this subject.

Agents have traditionally served as writers' first line of defense when cost-cutting publishers (aren't they all these days?) try to lower royalty rates or string out or lower advance payments.

(In case you didn't know, advances are simply royalty payments paid ... in advance. Like an advance in your allowance as a kid - it's not free money. Advances reflect the amount pubs expect a book to bring in during the first 3 months post release.)

Agents also have keen knowledge of the ins and outs of contracts and keep an educated eye on all those tiny clauses that can sneak in and wreck an unwary author. They're an author's best advocate in haggling over rights (especially the confusing e-rights that seem to be evolving daily).

I believe writers owe a debt of gratitude to agents in general; without their past work we wouldn't have the royalty rates, advances, or benefits we have today (if you've ever signed a small press contract you've landed yourself versus a traditional publishing contract your agent snagged, you'll see a HUGE difference).

So there you have my humble but accurate opinion.

No one knows where the industry is heading in these turbulent technologically transitional times (whoa - is this "t" day?), but I plan to continue depending on my agent, whose very livlihood depends on staying abreast of new trends and twists (more t's) on the horizon. Who could I possibly want in my corner more?

What are your thoughts?


Kat Heckenbach said...

I've been reading lots of posts lately about agents--both for and against. I can see both sides. But what it boils down to is that there are a limited number of agents and a whole slew of authors vying for a spot with each of them. Many good authors get passed up, and those small presses can be the toe-hold we need. So as an aspiring author, I'm going trying for both options simultaneously, and trusting God will bring the opportunity meant for me :).