Writing Tip #10 – Contest, Conferences, Agents and Editors…. Submitting that script for consideration Part 3 of 3

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
ANY AGENT WHO ASKS YOU TO PAY THEM TO LOOK AT YOUR MANUSCRIPT OR SOLICITATES ANY MONEY UPFRONT TO GET YOUR WORK PUBLISHED IS A FRAUD! DO NOT SEND MONEY TO AN AGENT OR EDITOR EVER. IF ASKED TO DO SO RUN AWAY… AND MAYBE REPORT THEM.

Okay now that’s out of the way on to the topic of agents and editors.

The first question I often get about literary agents is “do I need one?” My answer is always, “It depends.” The truth is if you are intending to take a traditional path to publication then yes you do need an agent. Why? Well agents are usually the only people who will get your script before an acquiring editor or line committee (a small group of people who are working on a specific line of books for a large publishing house: aka Harlequin has romance lines with a theme of travel, intrigue, sports etc and each line has a group of people who look for authors to fit their line). Agents not only have the ability to get your work looked at, they know where to go for a “best fit”. An agent isn’t going to just “shop” your work (pitch it to everyone). In this industry work which is rejected by a great many publishers (like 4) will never see the light of day as a published book because these people all talk to each other and if a few get together and all see they have seen your work your name gets out as a “waste of time”.  Agents know this so they are careful and selective who they pitch you to. As well a publisher is going to give more consideration to what an agent brings them because they know that agent is very selective as well and that agent already has seen the potential. Finally agents know the business. They know if you are going to have a chance at film options or other screen options, if you have the ability to get in as a serial author (contracted for a specific number of books at a specific payment) they know how to get advances and how to get you to those promotional opportunities.
The next question is “where do I find an agent?” Well this isn’t has hard as you might think. I have already mentioned they are at writers conferences, but even if you never make it to a conference you can find literary agents everywhere these days. Once upon a time you could only find them in NY., NY.. Not so today. Do a internet or library search for ones in your state even in your local area. Most agents have offices in NY., but many do their work (take and read submissions) from offices in their home states. There is an agent listing book put out every year by Writer’s Digest get a copy and start looking there. Make sure you are looking for an agent who represents the genre you write. Agents have a good eye for talent but they tend to have that eye for specific genres and they tend to only stay up to date on that genre’s trends. With hundreds of genres and subgenres and sub sub genres it would be impossible for all agents to know and work in all of them. Some agents also advertise in writers’ periodicals. Just be careful again of those who ask for any money up front.

With that last statement I often get asked “How do I know the agent is legit?” The best thing I can recommend is do a background check. Ask the agent for names of people they have recently gained publishing contracts for and ask which houses they work with. No they will not be offended. Then check up on the names and houses they give you. Remember agents know that writing is a business and they will respect you for your diligence and professionalism.
So finally “How do I get started with an agent?” Well if you are not going to sit down with one at a conference you will have to do a little research. Each agent will be a little different in their requirements but for sure each one will require a “quarry letter” (I will tell you about those in the next blog). No agent is going to accept an “unsolicitated” manuscript.   If you did not get a request to submit at a conference then your submission will end up in the “slush pile” and then in the round file. So know how your chosen agent likes to receive quarries. Many today like email quarries but will still accept written one so which ever best suits you, as long as it suits them too.

If you land an agent and they wish to have you sign a contract, usually a promise that you will not actively look for a competing agency while they have your script, do not hesitate to get some legal counsel in contract law. Remember again this is a business and you do not want to sign a contract which will impede your ability to do business at a productive rate. You do not want to give an agent your consent to indefinitely hold your script. If the contract seems unclear to you get a lawyer to look at it the cost is deductable from your taxes as a work expense (I will eventually blog about taxes as well).
Quickly, Editors. Well they are a little different. They do show up at conferences, they do actively acquire but they are really someone you get with after you have a publishing contract. They are who will work with you to polish that script and to keep you on your deadlines. Usually they will not take a look at your work unless you have some kind of resume, you win a major writing contest or you have published before in a different genre. Do not count them out as a means to publish but look at them as a later resort.

Now get those scripts polished and ready you know what you need to do enter a contest, go to a conference quarry an agent. Get that script out there for consideration.

Hope this serves you well till next time,
READ ON!!!

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

ANY AGENT WHO ASKS YOU TO PAY THEM TO LOOK AT YOUR MANUSCRIPT OR SOLICITATES ANY MONEY UPFRONT TO GET YOUR WORK PUBLISHED IS A FRAUD! DO NOT SEND MONEY TO AN AGENT OR EDITOR EVER. IF ASKED TO DO SO RUN AWAY… AND MAYBE REPORT THEM.
….just had to warn you again.