Back when I was working as a literary agent, Writer’s Digest published an article I wrote on thinking like an agent. Though I’m an acquisitions editor now, not an agent, these pointers are all still true. I wanted to update them and share them with you.
What I wrote then:
4. Editors do respond to agents in a way they don’t respond to writers.
Since I’m just starting out as an agent, a lot of editors don’t know who I am. Since the agency has focused on different kinds of books in the past than the ones I’m representing now, some editors may not even have heard of the agency. And still they respond, always very nicely, although sometimes I have to nudge.
This is not to say editors were ever mean to me as a writer, just that very often it took forever to receive a response or else I never got one at all. Although I’ve been unagented on some of my published books, being an agent has shown me how important representation can be, not just because you may get a bigger advance, but just to get an editor to take a peek at your work at all, and to consider it more seriously. The same book pitched by an author versus an agent is seen very differently by editors. I’ve come to realize that they wonder, “What am I missing? If this book is so great, why doesn’t the author have an agent?”
Obviously I’m biased here because I think everyone with a great book should show it to me so that I can represent it, but my experience has certainly been eye-opening.
What I say now:
For romance writers, this doesn’t necessarily hold true for category romances of the type Harlequin publishes, or for smaller publishers and e-publishers, but for the big New York print publishers, even if they accept unagented work, having an agent does make a difference.
I don’t treat agented material any differently from unagented material, but that’s just a personal philosophy, and not reflective of the industry in general.