Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Serial Monogamy

Posted By: Lisa Hendrix
Currently Working On: Workshops for Whidbey Island Writers Conference
Mood: Scattered

This is going to be short and sweet. I have too much to do in the next 24 hours to dither.

So, yeah, what everyone else has said. If you don't love negotiations, if you don't live for legal terminology, if you don't read PW cover to cover and Publisher's Lunch top to bottom and remember who sold what to whom for how much, if you want a career and not just a sale—get yourself an agent.

That said, I've had three. The first was a junior agent at a big deal agency. When she went her own way, so did I. The second agent was a fairly big deal on his own and was okay for some people...but not for me. After I learned he'd said exactly the same thing to another author—in exactly the same words!—and discovered that my work was going out in bulk with other authors' works under a single cover letter, I said no thank you and again went my own way. (Neither of these, I must add, ever sold a book for me; I, however, sold three by myself: 2 before either one, and one after both. This should tell you something.)

Agent #3 is a winner, all the way around. She's sharp, prompt, effective, and learned the business at one of the premier agencies. She represents a wide range of clients, and has brought some up from mid-list to bestseller-list, so I know she knows how to build careers, get the bigger contracts, sell to Hollywood, handle foreign sales, etc. Now I just have to do my part and write my ass off (working on that).

So, as in dating and marriage, keep your eyes open so that you know when it is or isn't working. Love yourself enough that if it's not working, you don't stick around in a bad relationship. Take responsibility for your own career by realizing your own talents and limitations. And always, always, always remember that anyone who tells you that "any agent is better than no agent" is lying to you.

A good agent, on the other hand, is gift for which to be grateful every time you open your royalty statement.

4 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

Short and sweet-I love it!

Among your wise words, these struck me as so true:
"Love yourself enough that if it's not working, you don't stick around in a bad relationship."

therese said...

I had no idea an agent would send out bulk manuscripts...

Thanks for sharing.

Jessa Slade said...

Your experience of selling books AROUND but not THROUGH your various agents is proof that the wrong agent is worse than none.

Lisa Hendrix said...

@therese - Yeah, me neither. I was not pleased.

@Jessa Slade - Precisely. I'm not saying going it by myself was necessary good, though. I was very, very careful with my contract, but there are things my current agent gets automatically, as part of what she's already negotiated in her boilerplate, that they simply laughed at when I asked for them. And yes, the publishers have boilerplates for each agent (hammered out over many negotiations) that represent a starting point WAY beyond the boilerplate they'll hand you as an unagented author.