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The One Mistake Agented Authors Make

Before authors are agented they spend a lot of time learning and networking. Conferences are for fun, but they are primarily to attend workshops  and pitch sessions to meet agents (and editors). One of the biggest mistakes an agented author makes is deciding that none of that is necessary now that you have an agent. That there’s no reason to learn or network because you now have an agent to do all of that for you. This sort of thinking can completely derail, or at the very least slow, a career.

Having an agent is not like hiring a cleaning crew, it does not mean you no longer have to do the cleaning, it only means you have a partner to clean with. You might not need to scrub the toilet any longer, but you still need to pick up the mess so the crew can get to the toilet. Okay, that was a horrible analogy. What I mean is that, an agent is your partner in building a publishing career and while she definitely has the contacts and the knowledge, a little bit extra from you can go a long way. After all, where do you think we learn some of what we know?

Having an agent who knows what editors want and which specific editors are best for your book is valuable, but having the opportunity to pitch yourself and network with editors directly, getting them to fall in love with you, is priceless. Trust me, if I have the opportunity to pitch to an editor who already likes you and wants to work with you, only because you are so charming, that goes a long way in how she feels about the book before I even send it. Does it mean a guaranteed sale? Of course not, you still need to write a great book, but, as I’ve said before, who you know can take you far in life.

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6 comments

  1. Makes perfect sense. Nobody can work harder for you than you can. Working side by side with an agent can only boost the success of your book. I imagine after writing the “great” book, landing an agent is only the beginning of the journey to publication, exposure and success of an author’s hard work.

  2. That’s the problem with living outside the USA. Opportunities are much more limited. But your advice is priceless. Thank you, Jessica.

  3. Sadly, I think I have an agent who has stopped networking herself. Has moved far from NYC and doesn’t attend any industry or social events anymore. My sub lists have been getting smaller and smaller. It’s not fair that all the networking has shifted to me.

    1. I’m really sorry to hear that anon. I think you need a serious heart-to-heart with your agent so you have an understanding of where she’s coming from and her commitment. Also her plan and vision for your work. There could be a method to her madness.

      I don’t think proximity to NYC has anything to do with the value an agent provides. Even NY-centric agents can go months without face-to-face meetings with editors. They do however, talk to them daily in other ways and reach out on a regular basis, whether it’s through industry events, email or phone. Networking is important and something we’re all constantly doing.

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