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Representation: Pros and Cons


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As an editor, I’ve heard it said so many times. “Can you help me get an agent?” my clients ask, breathlessly, as if an agent is the only thing standing between them and life itself.

Agents are certainly very helpful, if you are trying to publish a book. And maybe it’s the influence of the movies or other media. But agents are not there to give you a leg up, help you flesh out a half-finished book proposal, or even assist in the development of your career.

This may sound overly dire, or as if agents are just mean people who like to have free lunches every day. Some of them may be. Most agents, however, legitimately love books. They want to see new authors succeed. But they are often bound by the perceived needs of the market, the personal tastes of editors, and the increasing influence of the Internet on how business is being done.

Some people choose to go agentless, and this is a valid path for many aspiring writers. Steve Almond, author of Heavy Metal and Candyfreak, only recently obtained an agent for himself, after several very productive years doing without. It does not seem to have hurt his career in the least.

If you’re a new author, and want to research the world of agents, my first piece of advice is to take your time. Too many authors are in such a hurry to fire off their queries and manuscripts that they never realize they’re sending the wrong kind of material to the wrong agent. An absolutely indispensable bible is Jeff Hermans Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, 2006. He breaks it down for you: who these people are, what they’re looking for, and what steps to take to win them over to your project. To be without it is just foolish.

After you’ve determined which agents are the best to target, you’ll need some help in writing a killer query letter, the kind they won’t be able to put down. Write Express has the answer in Easy Letters, a very affordable software program that helps you express yourself professionally, with style. With over 2,200 form letters arranged into 500 topics, you’re sure to get great use out of this program, again and again.

Once you have your target list of agents and your killer query letter, Stamps.com can help you get it out into the world. Aspiring writers almost always underestimate the amount of time they will spend in the post office, and the amount of money they will spend on postage (manuscripts are heavy!). Stamps.com has got one of the greatest deals going. If you join using the link below, they give you a postage scale and postage, so you can have the right amount already affixed to your packages. That saves time you could be spending on your next book!

Lastly, you’ll need to keep yourself in freelance work while you’re waiting for your Big Break. The Freelance Work Exchange is one of the best places to get fresh, new leads on freelance work on the Internet. Upgrading your membership comes with tons of benefits. The first month is only $2.95, and you get a free copy of Million Dollar Freelancing, an ebook that lays out all the highest-paying freelance strategies to quit that boring old day jobs of yours. So get started now, and good luck with your agent search!

Copyright 2006 GrammarGods.com

Alyson Mead is founder of http://www.GrammarGods.com She is an award-winning writer who began her career as a book editor in New York, working for companies such as Scholastic, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, Glencoe, Steck-Vaughn, Silver Burdett & Ginn, Prentice-Hall and others. In her eighteen-year career, she has published hundreds of freelance articles for companies such as Salon, AOL, MSN-NBC, New York Daily News, In These Times and many more. She has ghostwritten and co-authored numerous book projects for celebrity, memoir and self-help clients, and her book proposals, speeches and presentations have resulted in significantly increased business for them. She has helped clients hone their work, get agency representation, sell projects in both film and print media, and structure media platforms to increase their sales potential.

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  • Posted On January 6, 2007
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