Dec 13

On the Value of a Good Agent

Before I got my first book deal and I was searching for an agent to represent me, I thought of an agent as basically ‘someone who gets me a book deal’.  In the very basest sense, I suppose that is true but now that I have one (the very awesome Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown LTD) I see the true value of having an experienced and savvy advocate in your corner.

Case in point – with my first trilogy (the Revivors series) I was received well critically, but my sales numbers were not where I wanted them to be.  State of Decay was nominated for the Philip K Dick and won the Compton Crook Award, it was favorably reviewed by both Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and the vast majority of the feedback I received from readers was very positive – but unfortunately none of those things necessarily translate into sales.  I figured this go around I would address what I consider to be a significant weakness of mine…namely that I am fairly terrible at self-promotion.

I thought ‘I’ll hire a publicist to help me out’.  I’d thought this before the first go around and was advised against it, but this time I decided to follow my gut and investigate the option further.  I asked Ginger about it and while she remained realistic about the situation (there are, after all, no guarantees) she offered to look into it for me.  Later, she came back with some contacts for me to approach.  When the first quotes I got were insanely high (one wanted 30K!) she continued the search and found someone with real credentials who also fit my budget.  She went on to vet the publicist, providing me with names of clients I could approach and get feedback from (all of which was quite positive).  A phone conversation was set up, and Ginger, in spite of being insanely busy, joined us on a conference call to kind of keep things on track.  I had no former experience with freelance publicists and also have a tendency to ramble a bit…she targeted exactly what was relevant and important, and the whole thing was very productive (and informative).  I’ll drop the name of the publicist and talk more about it when and if things come together and we’re closer to publication which may still be a while off.

Bottom line – do you need an agent in this business?  Some say yes and some say no…I would frame it like this:  Do you need an agent in order to actually get a book deal?  No.  You could conceivably get one without the help of an agent.  Do you need an agent in this business though?  Yes.  In my opinion the service and expertise they provide are absolutely worth the percentage they’re paid.  I rest a lot easier knowing I’ve got some muscle in my corner, and I learn more about this business through my interactions with her than I do anywhere else.


  1. Nicole L Bates

    This was a very informative and helpful post for me. I’m certainly not to the point that you are yet, but this affirms my feeling that I really need an agent (perhaps even a publicist which I never thought about before) to wade through this business. I am terrible at self promotion so I’m certainly going to need someone in my corner who’s willing to do it for me! Thanks for sharing your experience and congratulations on the success of your novels!

  2. James

    Thanks Nicole…I definitely didn’t realize just how important promotion can be when I first got into this. It’s kind of a weird business, where a lot of the knowledge is ‘tribal’ (as I’m finding). Advice from a savvy agent is a huge plus.

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