Eight years spent writing this book. Eight years. It started with a character, turned into an idea, then a full on book that would, for years to come, be revised over and over and over… and over again. Granted, I started it when I was pretty young so the time spent revising was mainly focused on the experience and maturity I gained each year. When I revised it for the last time, as I finished up the final page, I stared at the screen. Done. I glanced about, waiting for the confetti to explode and the cheers to erupt. Instead, it was me sitting on my couch with a snack and a mug of water (I’m obsessed with drinking everything out of a coffee mug). Internally, however, I felt like doing backflips and screaming. Eyes still fixed on the screen, I pondered yet another thought; now what?
My goal has always been to go the traditional publishing route versus self publishing. For my own reasons I’ve made this decision, and I won’t encourage or discourage either option, but my focus as I share with you my journey will be mainly on the steps I’ve taken along the way to traditional publishing. There is so much that goes into this career. I couldn’t begin to describe the entirety of all I’ve learned and discovered! Not in one sitting, that is. This is why I’ll be telling you the details of each lesson I learn, good and bad, one post at a time.
W-R-I-T-I-N-G. First comes a draft, then a revision, third comes the day of a million questions! After basking in the glory of considering my book finished (that is, until my one-day editor helps me out before it’s published) I awoke the next morning with a new mission. The mission of the next step. That next step, my friends, is securing an agent. A lot of newbies looking to publish their first book (hey, don’t scoff at me; I’m one too!) often ask if they really need an agent to publish or not.
There is no definitive answer to whether you need an agent. However, my extensive research has shown (*pushes eye glasses up on nose with a look of sophistication*) that it is extremely valuable to have one; at least as you’re starting out. Here’s a list of a few of the reasons why having an agent is beneficial.
- Agents know their stuff. The whole purpose of an agent is to have someone who knows more than you backing you up. Agents, especially ones who’ve been around, have connections. They know editors and they know what editors want. Many agents specialize in specific genres as well, meaning they’re familiar with what sells and how to sell it.
- They can keep you out of trouble. I know for myself I enjoy the sound of mainly being the writer, and that’s it. Obviously there’s more to it and I’ll have to be involved in certain things that go on, but with an agent I won’t have to worry about signing with anyone not worth it or perhaps accepting a deal that is not in my favor. Getting you a good deal is apart of their specialty. I like the sound of that!
- Some agents do editorial work for you. There are these agents out there who focus on polishing your manuscript before it’s even sent out. I see this as a major plus because having someone who specializes in editing help revise before the big wigs see it is all the more helpful. Your chances just went up!
- Other agents specialize in marketing. There are also agents who are particularly skilled with getting the word out about your book. Getting your book published is, as exciting and gratifying as it sounds, a small step. What really needs to happen is a lot of marketing. How is anyone going to hear about it? While it’s highly important you prove you’re capable of marketing, having an agent who specializes in this area is extremely beneficial.
- Most books are published with an agent. My favorite vault of information is Writer’s Digest. In one of their articles (I want to publish my book. Now what?) a fact is given stating roughly 80% of the books published in New York publishing houses were sold by an agent. That’s a fairly high percentage. Another thing, most of the major houses won’t accept a manuscript without an agent.
Am I trying to convince you to get an agent? No. Am I saying it’s probably best to have one? Maybe. I’m no expert of experience, but I’m an expert at being new to this side of writing and I can tell you these facts were enough to convince me 100% to obtain an agent. Writing is a bit of a loner process. Most of the time no one is sitting their writing your story with you. However, being alone while trying to get a book published sounds intimidating. Wouldn’t you want someone who knows a lot more about the ins & outs of this industry?
It’s not an easy process. It’s not entirely a simple one either. I’ve learned far more now after my book is finished than I ever thought existed to learn. However, the process of research has proven a valuable aspect of chasing after my dreams. Just think, one of these days I’ll have expert experience, a head full of valuable information to continue to benefit me and anyone else I may share it with, and the ability to say I did everything I could to be prepared. For now, though, I’m sharing the bits I learn as I go in hopes it speeds up your process if you’re traversing the same road as me.