Pub Rants

One Good Reason For An Agent

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STATUS: Working on a reading day from home.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN I DREAM OF MICHELANGELO by Counting Crows

I know that a lot of frustrated writers view agents as evil gatekeepers.

This is a problematic view on so many levels and not just because I’m an agent! I always fear a mindset that buys into the idea that “somebody else is to blame.” Hard to succeed if you’re wed to that viewpoint.

But that’s beside the point. I’m actually writing today’s blog entry to point out one good reason to have an agent.

Remember last Friday when I related the horrific story of an agent who had received an offer and was in the middle of negotiating it when the publisher decided to rescind it? (Bad Sign Of The Times, July 23).

Here’s an update.

The agent went to bat on the issue and told the publisher, “Yo, that ain’t cool.”
(Actually I’m positive that’s not what the agent said but you get the picture).

After several rounds of discussion, the publisher agreed and the offer was reinstated.

Without the agent, I’m convinced that this resolution would not have happened for the author.

So, one good reason.

37 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for all your information – always given in a positive light. I took a writing class years ago and the first thing we were told is not to view the editor and agent as the enemy, that they are your champion! It helped early on to change my view of things, seeing the agent as a champion of the writer is a great mindset to be in.
    Now if I could only get a champion….:)

  2. Diana W said:

    I agree that an agent is a wonderful advocate for an author — but how wonderful is it that the author now has a contract with a publisher that clearly isn’t 100% behind the work?

    Rescinding the offer wasn’t cool — but why wouldn’t the agent take it to another house that is excited enough to follow through on their offer?

  3. Stephanie Faris said:

    Earlier this year I decided to try writing for some magazines I regularly wrote for in the 90s. It’s a very reputable group of magazines. They bought nine of my stories and so far have published six. I’ve been paid for two, and only got that check after the editor went to bat for me to get it. In order to get paid for the other seven, I’d have to continue to fight, which puts me in a precarious position with the publisher. (Although I’ve stopped writing for them anyway.)

    It was a big lesson to me in the importance of an agent. A writer shouldn’t put herself into a position to be the bad guy. Plus, I’m convinced many publishing houses wouldn’t pull this sort of behavior with an agented author.

  4. Beth Gray said:

    I think this is true. One author is only one author. One agent however is many authors that can be taken to other houses. Houses also know how the word can spread among agents and affect future submissions.

  5. MeganRebekah said:

    I’m surprised that any serious author, looking to make a career at writing, would scoff at using an agent.
    It’s such a common practice.
    Sports players use agents. Actors use agents. Heck, when you buy/sell a house you use a real estate agent.
    When you’re working with contracts and an unfamiliar industry, why in the world wouldn’t you want someone on the inside working for you?

  6. Agent Kristin said:

    I knew your Q would be raised. It’s a smart one. However, it’s not always possible to have other publishers offer and it wasn’t going to happen in this case.

    The agent knew that so the agent fought hard to get it reinstated.

    The publisher might not be 100% behind the books but booksellers won’t necessarily know that.

    A lot of authors have books published with little or no publisher support in-house. At least the author still has the opportunity to promote, hire an outside publicist, or what have you to create success.

    That won’t happen at all if the books aren’t published.

  7. DebraLSchubert said:

    Awesome post, Kristin! I think most of us “smart” writers love agents and are well aware of the work you do on our behalf. Like Courtney, I love a happy ending!

    “Yo, that ain’t cool.” Cracked me up.;-)

  8. Fay said:

    Evil gatekeepers? Never 😉

    Agents must be wonderful people. I mean, if anyone has the patience to read query after query every year and still be enthusiastic about discovering new authors, it’s hard to suspect them of any evil. (Unless they’ve been doing dealings with the devil to get through all the emails faster)

    I’d worry about the lack of support for the book too, but a deal is a deal, in the end.

  9. Watery Tart said:

    I absolutely agree that an agent is a CRUCIAL piece. I think authors get discouraged because it seems like it OUGHT to be like a friendship. “Hey, I’m likeable. My book is good. What’s wrong with these agents that can’t see that?” and it creates animosity.

    In reality I think authors doing their homework up front on which agents might be a good match from a business perspective (rather than which I like the blogs for and think I’d like to have them over for dinner) will lead to less of this.

    Noah Lukeman is who finally got that through my head…

  10. Anonymous said:


    I’m happy for that writer. I’m in the process of getting yanked around by my publisher, and would love to have an agent to represent me, but no agent seems to want me– alas, including you.

    I don’t view as agents as gatekeepers, because that gate is far behind me. But they seem to me to be more picky than publishers. That’s what’s frustrating to me.

  11. Janny said:

    “I don’t view as agents as gatekeepers, because that gate is far behind me. But they seem to me to be more picky than publishers. That’s what’s frustrating to me.”


    I wish I had a dollar for every published author who said, “It’s harder to get an agent than to get an editor.” It sounds silly to say, but it’s certainly been true in my experience. It’s no wonder some of us elect to try to go it alone.

    Not that I think that’s a good idea, which is why I’m still looking for an agent. But…just sayin’.


  12. Cole Gibsen said:

    That’s wonderful news!

    My own agent is simply fabulous. There’s no way I could have gone through this submission process alone – nor would I want to. He’s worth every penny and then some.

  13. Kim Kasch said:

    Hooray for having an advocate in the writer’s corner.

    Otherwise, we’d probably get knocked out before the fight even began.

    Metophoria . . .

  14. Marie Lu said:

    What a wonderful ending to a potentially scary story! I’m so happy for that author. 🙂

  15. Tracy said:

    Yay for happily ever after! 🙂 People actually think having an agent is a bad thing?? Sure, it’s tough going trying to get one, but having someone who knows how to navigate the murky waters of the business makes an agent worth their weight in gold. (Umm, that’s totally not meant as a slight against less heavy agents…)

  16. Sharon A. Lavy said:

    “When it comes to covers they don’t like, authors do have one solid tool at their disposal: the Agent Freakout, a time-honored tradition whereby an agent raises hell about the proposed cover, often (but not always) effecting the necessary change. (The Agent Freakout is reason #1,782,572,081 why you should have an agent, btw).” ~~Nathan Bransford

    Question for potential agent: “How well do you do the Agent Freakout?”

  17. Angie Ledbetter said:

    Agents are kinda like moms, getting an undeserved bad rap lots of times. Glad you showed the other side for those who think agents love nothing more than dashing dreams.

  18. Brittany said:

    I once heard that you don’t need an agent, but I don’t believe it. Without an agent, the author would have to do all of the business stuff by himself.

  19. Emma O W said:

    It goes to show that the old adage about agents is true: “It’s better to get 50% of something than 50% of nothing.”

  20. Eileen said:

    I’ve heard the argument it is harder to get an agent than it is a publisher before, but I think it’s a false perspective.

    As the writer the work of getting an agent falls completely onto us. It’s a slog. No way around it. Once you have an agent however, getting published is now a shared journey. The agent is doing the heavy lifting (who is best for this work? how do I query it? what’s the hook?) As the writer hopefully we working on our next project and waiting by the phone/computer for good news to arrive. When the news arrives it most likely seems easier- but I’m not sure it is.

    A good agent is worth their weight in gold. Having someone in the process that you can bounce ideas off of and who understands the business (and the behind the scenes aspects too) is fantastic. I can’t imagine being in this business without mine. (who isn’t Kristin- but is equally fab) My advice to writers is to hang in there. Keep searching. Keep working on the query. Start writing the next book.

  21. Bryan said:

    You know Kristin, I think I am going to put my novel, “Chutney and the Missing Ipod” on hold for a few weeks and campaign to get you to the 1,000 follower mark! You deserve it. You inspire us all and I look forward to reading your insights daily. Keep smiling and we will have you there soon!

  22. Deb said:

    “I’ve heard the argument it is harder to get an agent than it is a publisher before, but I think it’s a false perspective.”

    Like so much else in life, this depends on which side of the question is yours, at the moment. I’ve had personal experience of how difficult it is to engage an agent, particularly in my niche market where there are so few of them. Seen from the perspective of a writer who’s agented, and has a good ‘ship with that agent, it seems easy in retrospect. While living the search? Not so much fun.

    Janny’s point is very well taken. She and I both know several authors whose work speaks for itself, but cannot get to “yes” with a reputable agent for love nor money (now why didn’t I think of sending money when I was querying?). Therefore many houses are closed to them. And it’s hard, and it feels hard, and unrewarding, and maybe even less than fair.

    So it depends on your perspective.

  23. Jay said:

    This is exactly why I haven’t given up on finding an agent. *Some day* Thank you for the post, Kristin.

  24. Tony Yuse said:

    Thanks for the great post. Agents are so much more than the middle person. You give a solid example of the hard work involved from all parties in order to land a book deal.

  25. behlerblog said:

    Kristin, there are numerous reasons agents are a blessing, and many of them are reasons authors aren’t even aware.

    I am more likely to read pages sent to me from an agent than an author because they have researched what I am looking for. They are professionals, and they know how to present their client’s material more effectively than the author can.

    I am more likely to take a closer look at a borderline manuscript that came from an agent than I am from an author because, again, agents have a better nose for what is marketable. I trust them more because they vetted the work and know what they’re doing.