Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Picture Book Workshop #15: To Agent or Not to Agent
When I started submitting my work, I didn't pursue getting an agent at first. I looked into it, but it seemed like a lot of work that I didn't have to do because there were places that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I focused on publishing houses instead.
And that's fine. Actually, I think that's good.
Because unless you're either really talented or really lucky (and perhaps both) you will need to write a few manuscripts* and send them out and get some rejections before you grow into the writer you will become.
*Now, when I say this, I AM NOT suggesting that you send out manuscripts that you consider to be practice or unfinished. Always send out your best. But, in retrospect to what I can do now, the ones I first sent out weren't there yet and were rightly rejected.
When I attended the SCBWI's Illustration Day in New York, I wasn't necessarily looking for an agent. Editors go there too. I wanted to grow, network, and hopefully put my work under the eyes of someone who saw potential. And that's exactly what happened because that's where my agent, Scott Treimel, found me.
Now that I have an agent, I can tell you that it has made a big difference in my professional career.
1. Scott is a hands-on agent. He works my stories with me. He gives honest critiques - which can sometimes leave me trembling and considering a career as a bagger at a grocery store. But his critiques are detailed and specific and have helped make me a better writer.
2. Agents know editors. When you're sending your manuscript out to an editor. Maybe you picked a name from a book, maybe you saw that person at a conference, but you don't really know them or their tastes. Maybe you have a manuscript about a rainbow kitten and you send it to an editor who was attacked by a rabid kitten when they were three and are forever tormented but the cuddly cut-throats. Agents know which editors are most likely to enjoy rainbow kittens.
3. Less wait time. An agent will bug an editor if they haven't heard back from them in awhile. Your 6 month slush pile wait was just cut down to 4 -6 weeks. And, in keeping with point, if your work is contracted and you're having some kind of issue with your editor over something, your agent will represent you so you can be Ms. Nice-Pants and not seem like a whiner to your editor.
I could go on, but what it boils down to is a good agent is an important person on Team You.
Do you NEED an agent? You do not. And it does take work to find your "perfect fit" agent. There's just as much paperwork, guidelines, and rejection involved, but when you're ready, I think it's good move.