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What happens after you get an agent?

  1. If you get a ‘yes’ from an agent, send an urgent email to all other agents you are querying, letting them know that you’ve had an offer. This should catapult you to the very top of their to-read lists, and (hopefully) you’ll end up having multiple offers that you can choose between. It sounds crazy – but it really happens! 

  1. Choose the agent you like the best. This could be the one who represents your favourite authors. It could be someone you can go in and meet. For me, I chose the agent who was most passionate about my writing and really seemed to understand my style.  

  1. Sign a contract with them. These are all pretty standard, but never, ever give money upfront to a literary agent. That’s not what they do.  

  1. Work with them editorially to whip your book into shape. Some agents love this part and will spend years working with a writer. Other times, they will hire an editor on their behalf. In either case, expect some editing!  

  1. Now comes submission. Your agent will take your manuscript and send it to multiple publishers. You probably won’t hear very much from anyone at this stage and I can tell you, it is one-hundred times worse than even submitting to agents(!) was. Your agent will know this and will hopefully do all they can to help you through it. 

  1. When you get interest from a publisher, they might organise a meeting with you and them. They will also try to get other interest to use in an auction. They will try everything to get the offer to the best it possibly can be by raising the advance, negotiating the rights and questioning the royalties.  

  1. Once you’ve signed with a publisher, an agent will act as a go-between for any awkward conversations. They will always be on your side and they will be with you for the duration – not just that first book. 

Want to know more? Our own Holly Seddon will be speaking about getting her agent during a webinar as part of the new Getting Published Day. Hope to see you there! 

Meanwhile – what happened when you got your agent? Or what are your biggest questions on how agents work? Share them below! 

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Replies (30)
  • If agents don't get back to you, even though they say on their website they'll get back to you in say 8 weeks and you've politely prompted them after that period passes, does this not mean they're not interested? 

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    • Exactly Steffanie.  If you've got a good product there's definitely a market there for you, but you need to be persistent. 

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    • Probably, some (perhaps the majority) agents never bother contacting you, it's rude but on the other hand they are getting hundreds of submissions a month sent to them so from their point of view it would take them too long to reply to everyone.

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      • I'm really new at all this, but if my opinion is worth anything I believe agents and publishers are to be tackled like you are in sales.  I've been in sales and marketing all my life and like most of us know already if you are good at sales you don't give up, so if you don't hear back from an agent or a publisher you keep politely asking, I prefer to speak on the phone.   A lot of the time people get distracted and have loads on their plate and sometimes they need reminding.  Even when they say NO, it sometimes doesn't really mean no forever, just not now.  So bowing out gracefully (but not completely) and trying to find out WHY they said no is great because at least you've got something to work on.  Because there are a million agents and not THAT MANY awesomely good strong big publishers, it's worth getting to know both sides of the coin. 

        Thats what I'm up to at the moment.  I've had a few offers from publishers (who hasn't) who want money up front (how insulting) I thought.   I worked for a small publisher for a while and that's how they worked.  They'd offer anybody a publishing agreement and then print ten books, design the cover and pay an editor and then let them sit on the shelf.  I watched this for months and asked a ton of questions (they had no idea I was writing and illustrating my own book).  It was an interesting exercise, but a complete rip-off, unless you just want the glory of saying you've had a book published.  

        It's a sea of sharks with lots of schools of fish and definitely worth being part of a group like to listen to all you guys who have so many good suggestions.  Thank you :)

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        • Pleasure, Donna. It's only stuff I've learned from here at Jericho writers and reading endless sites on the subject. It's such a frustrating process, I know. I've subbed to 9 agents since last August and haven't heard back from 3 and though they say they might not reply if they're not interested they don't give any idea as to time frame. We've all heard stories of writers being contacted a year plus after submitting, so do I write those 3 agents off my list not? Haven't a clue 😂. You do need determination, absolutely - and the hide of a rhino! Good luck with it all

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          • Hi Lynn,

            No I don't mind you asking, I'm open and really happy to receive any feedback and help.  I haven't been rejected as such yet, when I received a response back from a London agent they just sent me a proposal to vanity publish and are trying to talk me into going that way (which I'm not).  I've only contacted one agent, she said she'd be happy to look at the transcript and send a coving letter etc., which I'm in the throws of doing at the moment; so NO, I haven't rung them and getting to know more about this industry I won't do that after reading the feedback.  I definitely don't want to aggravate someone, and find myself blacklisted, that'd be terrible.  

            I'll look into what you mentioned too, so thank you Lynn.  (sigh), this is a hard game, but I'm just starting out and I'm not discouraged yet. 

            Thanks so much, it's really kind of you to reply.

            Donna :)

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            • Oh my gosh!!  I'm glad I'm not holding my breath, but since I've been in sales a long time, I can take rejection, it only hurts a little bit, because I think to myself, I'm getting closer to something really good.  

              That's interesting what you told me about your submissions; and it really shows me how DIFFICULT this industry really is.  But, I do feel if others can do it I can too.  I look at their published work and I'm convinced I'm still in the running. haha, I could be fooling myself, time will tell. 

              I'm going to keep sticking to this forum, I like the people like yourself and enjoy reading what everyone has to say.  I'm also checking out (the owner's) you tube pieces and making notes, getting no sleep as in Australia it's already 12:30am and I'm not ready to stop checking everything out quite yet. 

              Thanks Lynn.  

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            • It's worth pointing out that there are a number of small publishers and sub-divisions of large publishers that do accept unsolicited manuscripts but they have reduced in recent years and tend do only offer digital publishing. HC recently reduced three or four digital divisions into one so it's limited and you only get 1 chance to make a good impression. If you sub to them, and what you sub is rubbish or not ready then you;re stuffed. 

              A good agent wouldn't let you submit anything until it was polished and shiny, that's the benefit of an agent if you can get one!!

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              • Absolutely - worth their 15% if you can snag one. But ... You have to be cautious too. A writer friend is signed to a very high profile agent who handles several huge authors and struggles to get her to even read her manuscripts, I suppose because she's so busy with her big names. Needless to say, my friend is seeking alternative representation

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                • Hi, yes, I read that somewhere, that you don't want to be handcuffed to an agent or publisher and end up with a bad deal.  You do have to be cautious.  All the best for your friend.  D

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                  • Where do Austin Macauley fit into the mix?  Does anyone know?

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                  • Definitely a vanity publisher and the biggest one in the UK I'd say. They'll print your book and put it in Amazon but will give virtually no marketing support and charge you a fortune in the process. Jericho wrote a piece about them here. Not illegal, as the article says, but immoral.

                    https://jerichowriters.com/austin-macauley/

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                    • No problem. It's a difficult area to negotiate because there are vanity publishers who do next to nothing aside from printing your book and just pocket your cash, but there are many reputable self publishing companies now (a friend of mine used Silver Wood Books here in Bristol UK and they're great because they help you promote as well as having excellent designers etc). To complicate things further there are now hybrid publishers which do expect the author to contribute but promote your work and share the profits. It's a minefield. I think a good rule of thumb is if a company approaches you, check them out and be very cautious. Ooh, sorry that reply was so long - I'm such a chatter box 😂

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                      • Lynn, I'm really grateful for everything you commented on, yes, such a minefield which I'm just discovering.  The complexity of layers and offshoots seems endless.  Out of interest I'll have a look at Silver Wood Books, just to confuse myself even further.  I think the thing is not to overwhelm yourself and one step at a time and think carefully beforehand.  Thanks again 😊 

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                        • Hi Donna,

                          All your questions reminded me how little I knew when I first started out so I made a new blog post on my website about how to find an agent. I hope the information on there helps https://www.laurevanrensburg.com/blog-1/blog-post-title-two-5atn9 

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                        • Also if people want to check on any agents they come across you can check out if their agency is registered with the AAA — Association of Author's Agents. A reputable literary agency will be registered with them and have to follow an industry code of conduct.

                          http://www.agentsassoc.co.uk/members-directory/

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                          • Thats great to know too, I've just had a quick look.  You're awesome L.

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                          • One other point most agents are limited companies and you can check out their accounts etc at companies house. It might seem a bit OTT but if an agent claims to represent X & Y who are successful authors you would expect their submitted earnings to reflect that representation.

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                            • Thats a good point actually, it's not over the top because there are so many frauds around these days! With me, I'm so green I need all the help I can get.  Another place to check them out is great.  TU 😁 

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                            • Hadn't thought of that Danny. Thanks. And some agencies are quite well known anyway.

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                              • One other thing you can do is create a free account to The Bookseller and register for their email updates. You can have access to a certain number of free articles without having to pay for a subscription and you can check the announcement for new deals (especially for debut author) and then check who the agents are making those deals.

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