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What should a middle grade author expect when it comes to the relationship with your literary agent?
The primary responsibility of a literary agent is to sell their client’s manuscript to a publishing company. They also negotiate the deal, have the difficult conversations with editors, and they even offer career advice.
The following article is intended to give you a complete picture of what you can expect after you sign with a literary agent.
1) Editorial feedback that will help perfect your manuscript before you send it to publishers
You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Once an editor rejects a book, the chances are just about zero percent that she’ll review it again.
An agent with editorial chops puts you at a great advantage. Just make sure you implement most of the edits. Yes, you want to be satisfied with your story but the agent’s job is to sell your books so you want her to be excited as well.
2) Access to editors and publishers who don’t accept unsolicited queries
Most editors won’t work with authors directly. They rely on agents to be the gatekeepers. Besides, editors want to maintain a great relationship with their authors so they’d rather do things like negotiate advances with an agent so there are not hurt feelings.
3) Insight on what sells and what doesn’t
Agents know what’s selling and what isn’t, which is a huge advantage for an author. Since manuscripts take several months to write, I like to share the stories I’m excited about with my agent before I start writing to see which she thinks are the most commercial.
Some of my fellow authors might cringe, but I look at being an author as both a business and an artform. It’s also important to note that I’m not advocating for authors to chase stories because a certain genre is hot right now. To the contrary, I always start with what I love and then I ask my agent what she thinks is the most commercial idea.
4) Someone who can negotiate the best deal for you
Literary agents who are a good negotiator will help you get the best deal possible. That could mean higher royalty rates, guaranteed marketing dollars, or that you’ll get to maintain your television and movie rights.
5) Someone who can help you fully understand the terms of your contract
I hate legal documents, which is why I typically have my agent and my entertainment lawyer review my contracts. They’ll know what to look for and where you’ll be able to push back.
6) Someone who will continue to pitch your manuscripts
Most editors at big publishing houses don’t want to work with unpublished authors, but they don’t want to work with established authors, either. They want to maintain a healthy distance to help protect their relationship with the author. You need an agent to continually pitch manuscripts so you aren’t a one hit wonder.
7) Someone who will have hard conversations with the publisher on your behalf
There’s going to come a time when you have a disagreement with your editor—or if not your editor, someone at the publisher. Maybe your editor is asking for changes to the manuscript that you think are ridiculous.
Or maybe you wanted to fly first class for your European Book Tour but the publisher put you in coach. Don’t be the bad guy. Let your agent handle those conversations. You need a buffer to maintain a good relationship with your editor and the entire team at the publishing house.
8) A counselor who can coach you through the difficult times
The publishing industry is filled with highs and lows, and both can be extreme. Some people have the temperament to be able to withstand the emotional volatility, but it’s not easy. Having the right literary agent will provide a counselor who can coach you through the difficult times.
9) Someone who can give you advice about your career
There’s are big differences between a career as an author and a career working in corporate America. On one hand, you’re an entrepreneur and that can be exciting. You get to call the shots when it comes to things like what time you start work and how many hours your work each day.
You can even give yourself three-day weekends and month-long vacations. But there’s a catch. If publishers stop buying your book
Don’t Feel Pressure to Sign with the First Agent Who Offers to Represent You
You’re going to feel a rush of adrenaline when you get that first offer for representation from an agent. In fact, it might be the single best feeling you’ll have in your entire publishing career.
You’ve been accepted into club… but no matter how excited you are to sign on the dotted line, if it’s still early in the process I want you to step back for a moment. Let the emotions subside, thank the agent, and then say you need to consider all your options and that you’ll be in touch in the next few days.
You won’t want to take my advice and I don’t blame you. In fact, if you have the fortitude to hang up the phone without verbally agreeing to the offer you’re going to feel like you just ruined your one chance at getting published. But you haven’t.
Your next step is to contact each agent you’ve queried, let them know another agent has offered representation, and that you will need their response by a particular day and time.
If you don’t get any other offers, you have your answer. But if you do, you get to weigh the options and make the best choice for you.
Looking for a Literary Agent to Represent Your Middle Grade Book?
If you’re looking for a literary agent to represent your middle grade book, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve created a resource that not only provides the names and contact information of the top literary agents who represent middle grade fiction, you’ll also see a list of the clients they represent, along with the types of manuscripts that they’re looking for.
It’s called The Definitive List of Middle Grade Literary Agents and we update it regularly so it is up-to-date.
Do you need a literary agent? Most editors at large publishing companies do not take unsolicited manuscripts directly from authors. Instead, they rely on literary agents to act as their gatekeepers. Authors who work with smaller publishing houses can often pitch their manuscripts directly to editors.
How does a literary agent get paid? Literary agents typically receive a salary with commission based on sales performance. The agency receives a percentage of the royalties that are paid to the authors they represent.