It’s such a pleasure to introduce my guest on the blog to you today–Tessa Emily Hall! I met this talented, devoted and inspirational young author and agent at the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference a few weeks ago. Now, she and I are even working together as she’s representing me as my agent 🙂 Tessa is such a sweet,
gentle soul with a wealth of wisdom and skill. Enjoy her post!
“Become a literary agent” was once a far-fetched dream of mine. A dream I did not anticipate would actually come true someday—especially not at my age (twenty-three). A passion for words and stories was embedded into me at a young age of three, and I haven’t stopped writing or reading since then. At 16-years-old, I received my first publishing contract, and I signed with my first literary agent when I was 19.
Now that I’ve worked for a literary agency for 19 months—first as an intern, then as a Jr. Agent, and now as an Associate Agent—I wish I could go back and tell my younger self a few pointers about the role of a literary agent. I’ve seen the other side of the industry, and I have far more appreciation for agents and publishers than I used to.
Whether you’re signed with an agent, querying, or still in the process of writing your book, hopefully what I’ve learned will help to put things in perspective and strengthen your relationship with your agent (or future agent).
Here are 8 things I’ve learned as a new literary agent (that I should’ve known as a writer):
- Agents are not servants.
Yes, we are here to serve you, and yes, we work for you. We want to see your dream come true just as much as you do. But a literary agent is a profession, and agents should be treated with respect. Writers should remain professional in their relationship with their agent and trust their business decisions. If you have an agent, stay grateful he/she took a risk on you, and remember that they work hard sell your project(s)—as well as the numerous other project(s) from their other clients.
- Agents are not editors.
Yes, some agents do edit their clients’ work before they send it to publishers, but not every agent works this way. Still, it’s preferred that writers submit only their best work. This means writers should self-edit, receive critiques, and possibly hire a freelance editor; that way, their work is publishable quality. Then, if an agent does decide to edit before submitting to publishers, he’ll simply add polish and pizzazz to an already-edited MS.
- Agents work hard on their clients’ behalf, even in the silence.
At Hartline, we make it a priority to keep our clients up-to-date on submissions; however, the waiting period to hear back from publishers is often tough for writers to bear. During this time, writers may blame the agent for the stretch of silence and assume he/she is not sending out their work. Although this may be the case—depending on whether or not the writer has a reputable agent—it’s important to remember that agents work hard, even in the silence. As we wait to hear back from publishers, we’re networking and building relationships with editors at writing conferences—relationships that may benefit your career. But clients are always welcome to shoot an email to their agent (or a phone call, depending on their preference) and ask for an update on their project(s).
- Agents are professional jugglers.
“Multi-tasking” should be a required skill for prospective literary agents. We juggle multiple tasks and projects—from taking on new clients; teaching workshops at conferences; networking with editors and writers; negotiating the best publishing deals for our clients; preparing proposals for submissions; writing cover letters; speaking on the phone with potential clients, current clients, and editors; pouring over our never-ending slush pile, etc. The tasks are endless. Keep this in mind when you wonder why it’s taking forever to hear a response to your query.
- Agents are superheros.
Along with being a professional juggler, agents are also superheros. Think about it: We have agents to thank for the publication of most of our favorite books! It’s because of their hard work and “matchmaking” skills that publishers find the next best-selling authors. Yet agents are willing to invest hours into snatching the best deal for their clients—all the while remaining in the foreground. They’re the ones who find the spotlight for their writers and watch as they receive the recognition. But it doesn’t bother them, because they’re passionate about their job. They’re passionate about making their clients’ dreams come true and introducing quality literature to publishers and readers.
- An agent’s reputation is attached to a writer’s reputation, and vice versa.
When agents send proposals to editors, those editors will remember the agent based on the quality of these proposal; therefore, agents have to make sure they’re only sending out their client’s best work.
- Agents have to be selective.
Even though we may fall in love with a manuscript or hit it off well with a certain writer, we can’t offer a contract unless we know their project could sell to publishers. For agents, time is an investment. We can only work on selling projects that we believe the most in.
- An agent’s job never ends.
I’m preparing to leave for a week-long vacation tomorrow, and I already know that I’m going to have to bring my laptop. Not only do I have a writing deadline, but I also have proposals to prepare, workshops to plan, and emails waiting for a response. Truth is, our workload could keep us busy for twelve hours a day.
- Agents often work for several months, if not years, before they receive profit.
The publishing industry moves at a snail’s pace. Because of this, agents work for months and months solely fueled by passion and faith in their clients’ work. They don’t see a penny until they sell a project. So if you have an agent, be encouraged! They wouldn’t have signed with you unless they believed you could bring them profit.
- An agent is not a manager.
Yes, agents should provide career advice, support, and encouragement; however, their primary job is to make book deals and serve as an advocate for their writers. Even though some agents might go above and beyond their role of an agent, they are not obligated to act as an author’s manager or publicist. It’s important to keep this in mind so you don’t expect too much from your already hard-working, over-achieving agent and set yourself up for disappointment.
Questions for you: Which point on this list surprised you the most? Where do you stand in your quest for publication?
Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens lead her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. Tessa’s first teen devotional will release with Bethany House in 2018. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media and website.