This TA series of posts is about agents. There isn’t a right or wrong answer about agents. Like everything else in this business the benefit of having an agent is subjective. As most writers can attest, it is almost as hard to get an agent, as it is a publishing house.
An agent is not a magic door to fame and fortune.
Just because a writer signs with an agent doesn’t mean instant success. There are many times when an agent sells nothing for a particular writer.
I began writing without an agent. I wrote my first four books, found publishers, and negotiated the contracts without any help. It can be done.
By my the time I negotiated my fourth book contract, the third with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, they would not budge on some of the contract details they changed on earlier contracts. They refused to change a lot of things saying this and that was now “boilerplate” in the contract. I suspect they would not have done the same with an agent representing me.
I decided an agent could get better contracts for me in the future. So I signed with an agent before my next book. I changed publishers for the next two books with a different publisher. Having an agent took some of the pressure off of contract negotiations. But for that, I will pay her 15% of every dollar I ever earn on that book. And every other book she sells for me, as long as any money is ever made on those books.
Every author must decide if the agent can help him or her make 15% more money than they could have negotiated for themselves. Or is their help worth 15% to them?
It is a business decision. Writers need to remember that.
That said, I am happy with my agent. It was only through my agent that I was asked to write a book for Scholastic titled Tech Titans. It was a work for hire book that paid well. I never would have gotten that chance without her. So for me, she has been a great help to me for that book alone. Plus she has negotiated good contracts. And when she calls the editor or contracts department to ask a question, she gets an answer right away. Then a few months ago, my agent handled all the details when my new book went to auction-which would not have happened without her.
Can you succeed without an agent? Yes.
Are there times when having an agent really helps? Yes.
Is having an agent a guarantee for a successful writing career? No.
Like I said, everything is subjective.
Carla Killough McClafferty
Enter the giveaway for Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2017! It ends on October 31 and is open to U.S.
For more details see the following post by JoAnn Early Maken.