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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to Hook a Hottie: Landing the Agent of Your Dreams, Part 1

After serendipitously ending up with the most Awesome Agent Ever, I tried to spill every secret I've ever learned about not just landing an agent, but landing the agent of your dreams at last Wednesday's SCBWI WWA meeting. I hope my tips will help you do the same, and also stress the importance of finding the right agent for you. Because signing with someone is sort of like getting married, in the professional sense, and you hope to have a long and fruitful relationship producing many books!

Here, I'll share some highlights on the three parts of my talk:
  • Why you need a Hottie,
  • To hook a Hottie, you have to become a Hottie, and
  • Finding the right Hottie for you.

Today, the topic is, Why you need a Hottie. Lots of people have sold books on their own. So why would you need an agent?

An agent panel at the last SCBWI conference in NYC (mine was up there, too!) talked about the changing climate of children's books, and how it is more important than ever to have an advocate in this more cautious and competitive era.

Even after going to a dozen conferences, working with SCBWI as an Assistant Regional Advisor, and meeting many editors interested in my work, I felt I wanted an agent for several reasons:
  • It's their business to know the market, inside and out.
  • Good agents have built relationships within the industry and have an intuition for where a book will fit.
  • They can create urgency and handle auctions--nearly impossible for an author to do.
  • They can negotiate--not just on advances and royalties, but things you might not even think about, like foreign rights, deadlines, kill fees...
  • They can handle the pitches while you focus on the writing (this isn't to say you should keep your head in the sand about the business side). I talked to a number of friends who had sold their own books, met with success and then signed with an agent, and this is the #1 reason cited.

I have also found that my agent is a terrific sounding board for book ideas and a partner in creating strategies. Not to mention an encouragement--which is why my most important point is to find not only an agent who can hit your work out of the park, but also one who is a great fit for you.

A concern that came up in the Q&A: what is an agent's rate, and is it worth it? Right now, the going agent fee is 15% (domestic rights, can be different for film rights, foreign, etc. but generally 15%). In my experience and in the experiences of everyone I talked to for this presentation, a good, legitimate* agent will more than pay for him/herself.

* more on legitimate agents later.

Next up: Becoming a Hottie. Hope to see you tomorrow!


  1. Thank you for posting this. I was just too sick to go, and mopey and miserable about it to boot. Looking forward to the rest of the talk. (But what about the photo of the outfit?)

  2. Excellent! Thanks so much for posting this!

  3. I look forward to your next post in this series...always good stuff to know, just in case... :)

    (btw, I've tagged you on my blog!)

  4. You are so entirely generous, sharing this! How did the green ensemble go over?

  5. thanks for posting how to hook a hottie. i had to miss the scbwi meeting when you spoke and am glad to see i can catch up here!