Many authors wonder if children’s authors need an agent. Are the agents actually helpful? What exactly would they do? It’s not surprising that we wonder when we need an agent, or whether we need one at all. That’s what we’re going to discuss today.
When you don’t need an agent:
• Imagine you’ve got a fantastic idea for your children’s story, but you haven’t written it yet.
• If you’re working on your book, but it’s not complete. You’re not ready for an agent.
• If you have one self published book and nothing else, you don’t need an agent.
• If you’re upset that an agent would take fifteen percent of your income from your book, you shouldn’t hire an agent.
• If you’ve written your very first picture book, it’s not the right time for an agent
• If you write only for magazines: In this case you’re not earning enough to warrant having an agent.
• You are a non-fiction writer: This is another instance where you wouldn’t be earning enough to pay an agent’s fees. Also, non-fiction writing is often educational and it would have more regulations applied.
Exactly what does an agent do? A literary agent helps you market your book by contacting other publishers with whom he/she has a good rapport. The agent will have a history with each editor so he will try to present them with a manuscript that fits their criteria. In the event that he editor doesn’t like the manuscript, he/she would likely write a detailed rejection letter. The rejection letter could help you learn whywas not acceptable so you can correct it in the future. Let’s assume that an editor likes your manuscript. What’s the next step? The agent will negotiate the best possible contract for you. Since your agent already has a history with the publisher, he/she would know how flexible they are regarding the terms of the contract. Another plus to having an agent is that he/she will avoid shady publishing companies.
What about “permissions?” When you want to publish something, it’s necessary to obtain written permission if you want to print an exact quote from someone. This is also true if you want to publish a photograph in your book. The agent will take care of these issues for you.
Does the agent actually promote your book after it’s published? No, the agent doesn’t deal with promotion, but he/she will be interested in what your future plans are, since that could be his next “big pay day.”
Where do you find an agent?
If you belong to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator’s Market you will find lists of good agents there. You would have to be a member, though. Other places you might
search would be at: www.Agent Query.com or The Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market. Are there other ways to find agents? Yes, many authors find them through conferences arranged by the Society of Children’s Book Writers. Remember that the more you know about an agent, the more likely you are to find exactly the right one for you. Most agents have websites so when you check them out; you can see what other authors the agent represents. That will help you find the agent who is best suited for your needs.
What should you say when you contact an agent? If you met him at a conference, you could mention that you enjoyed their speech. If you read their blog on a website, you might tell him that you really enjoyed their humorous blog, or that their blog was informative. This will show the agent that you have researched them and you feel that you might have a good relationship. It will show your prospective agent that you have checked on his expertise and experience. Otherwise, he may feel that you’re just “taking a shot in the dark” and are too lazy to do any research.
How much does your agent cost? Your agent will expect 15% of your royalties that you make when your book is sold, plus 15% of your advance that the publisher offers. Some agents also request money for “office expenses.” The office expenses are taken out when your book is sold. Any reputable agent will not charge a fee to edit your work. They are taking a huge gamble that your book will be well received so they have a big incentive to work hard so that they are repaid for their time spent. If an agent asks for money up front, this should be a red flag. It would remove the incentive for the agent to work hard for you.
• Be sure you research whether or not having an agent would benefit you
• Find out everything you can about prospective agents before you actually hire them.
• Remember that your agent will require 15% of all the money you earn from sales of your book, as well as 15% of your advance money.
• Be sure you know what your agent’s responsibilities are and never pay him/her in advance.
I hope this information will help you to make the proper decisions and should you decide to hire an agent, you will be able to find the perfect person for your needs.