First of all, thank you thank you for the totally amazingsauce virtual celebration that met my news. While nobody sent me a picture of ducklings in a teacup, which was a bit of a miss, I did indeed appreciate all the joy. Truly, it makes me so happy! *does a little Muppet dance again*
But mixed into the congratulations there were some very reasonable questions. Questions like “When will your book be out?” and “So what does this person do?”
And while that information exists all over the interwebs, it doesn’t always exist in the same place as ducklings in cups, so I thought I’d give a quick overview.
In short, an agent represents an author’s work and, using her relationships with and knowledge of publishing folk, works to get it published. Agents are compensated by a percentage of author’s sales, and generally work to represent all of an author’s work, not just one project (the exception being if the author writes in a genre the agent doesn’t represent, such as poetry or erotica, or, in the case of The Nancy Gallt Agency, adult books). There is no guarantee that any particular book or project will get published; it’s an agent’s goal to sell every manuscript, but there are times when it just doesn’t happen. This doesn’t mean the agent isn’t good at her job, or that the author is out of luck forever and dumped as a client; it just means the time wasn’t right for that particular book. In a good partnership, they move on to the next book together.
In some sense agents “work for” authors in that they are engaged to represent and sell an author’s work. But to me the relationship is more like hiring a good doctor, trainer or therapist. Yes, you’re hiring them, but you are paying for their expertise and advice, not just their services. You wouldn’t hire a personal trainer, ignore her, then fire her when you don’t get any stronger. Similarly, authors have to trust that their agents understand them, understand their work, and understand the marketplace. Often agents and authors stay together for decades. Other times they split relatively quickly, realizing they weren’t the right match.
It’s a big deal to get signed by an agent because, despite the shifting sands of publishing, the vast majority of books still get published through traditional publishing channels and big publishing houses. And those houses almost unanimously do not accept submissions from unagented authors. So an agent is a first, huge, step to getting in those doors. But it’s just a step.
So what does all this mean? It means my middle grade novel, THE FAMILY FURNIVAL, was good enough to catch the eye of someone who knows the business. It means that sometime soon* we’ll submit it to publishing houses and seeing if anyone is interested. And most of all, it means I have someone I feel will be an amazing advocate for my work on my team. Marietta Zacker and Nancy Gallt work with a truly amazing array of well established and debut authors. Having them in my corner is a great feeling. Almost as good as staring at those ducklings…
*soon in publishing can mean anything from two weeks to two years. Be warned.