Ask #PubLaw: Is Signing With an Agent a Business Decision?

Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Writing Tips | 1 comment

I slipped on my blogging duties this week as I wade through emails after a long weekend away. (Fresh content coming soon!) So it’s Wednesday again and time to welcome publishing lawyer Susan Spann back to Between the Sheets for our Ask #PubLaw summer series!


Today’s Ask #Publaw answers an important question:

Is it okay to let emotion play a part in my decision to sign with an agent? Or do I have to make this purely a business decision?

Although publishing is an author’s business first, foremost, and always, there are some times when emotion plays a role.

And yes, the decision to accept an agent’s offer of representation is one of them.

With some caveats:

The decision to accept is different than the initial decision to query.

Authors must decide which agents to query based upon logic and business sense. Pitching a romance series to an agent who specializes in non-fiction will get about as much traction as ballet slippers on an icy pond. “Ineffective” doesn’t begin to describe it.

The list of agents to query is a business decision, informed by business sense. In making that decision, you should consider an agent’s client list and the frequency with which the agent sells works comparable to yours. You may also want to consider other factors. Does the agent express an interest in your genre? Has the agent made public statements (e.g., in interviews) which suggest he or she would make a good business partner for you and your work? (And remember: this is a business decision, based on facts, not a “woo-woo” sense that you were the agent’s pet hamster in a previous life.)

And remember: selecting BIG NAME AGENT_001 just because your want to work with a “famous agent” is not a sufficient right reason to send a query. The business factors need to line up or the agent is not a good prospective match.

However, once the queries are out, the requests come in, and you find yourself on the phone with a real, live agent who offers you representation (and once the agent has answered your business questions to your satisfaction) it’s OK to let emotion enter the room.

Because after the business questions are answered, the decision to enter an author-agent relationship is based on an emotional question:

Does the agent love your work? And do you want this agent to represent you?

If so … congratulations, you’ve found your agent.

The thing that sets your agent apart from the other competent agents who could represent your work is ultimately an intangible—the sense that this is the agent, the one for me.

The process of finding an agent takes time and the decision which agents to query takes business sense. When making your list, follow sensible advice from websites like Preditors and Editors (http://www.pred-ed/com) and make sure you’re querying only qualified professional representatives. Tailoring your agent search is an efficient use of resources and increases opportunities for success.

But when the moment comes—when you’ve done your homework, made good choices, and finally take the call—you’re allowed to let emotion share the stage.

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  1. Kris

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am experiencing issues with your RSS. I don’t understand why I cannot join it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS issues? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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