You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched
it just right and the literary agent has called you saying they want to
represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or
myths about what happens next.
1. Your Book Will Soon Be Published
Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee
success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process.
Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of
the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it
can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.
In addition the acquisitions process at a publisher is
very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor we tried to have a
monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight
titles at that meeting. Thus beforehand we had to decide which titles were
going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because
another one took its place. For the author and the agent this means waiting and
waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but
publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course there are
exceptions, but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now
been bumped to the next pub board meeting.
2. You Will Soon Be Rich
A common myth about writers. That they live on easy
street and vacation in the Caribbean. Few writers are able to generate enough
income on their books alone to make a full time living. You read about them
because they are the exceptions and are thus newsworthy. Of course a full-time
salary is defined differently by each person because needs vary.
One author I know signed with an agent and then
immediately quit their job because they knew that the dough was going to flow.
A couple months later that author was in serious financial straits. Be wise
with your finances. And read an earlier blog called “Author Accounting 101.”
3. You Never Have to Pitch a Book to an Editor
While your agent has a critical role in shaping your
proposals and putting them in the hands of the right editor and publisher…there
is no one who can sell your idea better than you. We agents encourage writers
to keep in touch with their editor and even brainstorm new ideas. That is a
natural part of the editor/author relationship…if you are already published.
If you are attending a writers' conference, talk to the
editors. Get to know them. Some are actually nice people. Editors like the
world of ideas and when they hear your passion and read your brilliant writing,
they can become enamored with your project. The agent can become the “closer”
in a situation like that. If in doubt, talk to your agent prior to that
conference and strategize who would be the best editors to meet with. We do
this all the time with our clients. I have talked with and encouraged dozens
upon dozens of now published writers at these conferences.
Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has
been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where
he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a
decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in
2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was
named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona.