Hello Readers & Writers,
Welcome to the second installment of the Now What? series, featuring Tammy Oja who will discuss some myths and truths about signing with an agent. This post clarifies a lot of miscommunication out there so without further ado, I hand the reigns over to Tammy:
The day I talked with my agent is seared in my mind. I knew in just a few minutes of talking to Ann (Ann Rose, of The Prospect Agency) she was the agent I wanted to sign with. How could I know this? Because after talking to her I wanted to cancel the plans I had that night and get myself to the computer. I wanted to take everything she said to me and put it into action. Our conversation was just over an hour and in those moments, she opened my eyes to possibilities hidden in my words that I hadn’t even seen. As silly as it sounds, when we hung up I played the conversation over again in my head. I felt a burning intensity to want to make my characters rise to the potential she saw in them. And it didn’t stop there; I wanted to rise to the potential she saw in me. It is still something I strive for every day.
Getting an agent is hailed as one of the big wins for many authors. It’s something many of us have envisioned, pinned hopes on, and worked toward for years. But with that hope, sometimes you gather bits of information that aren’t true. Ironically, I didn’t hear of any of these things until I got an agent, and then it was by people ‘informing’ me of how they thought it worked. So today I’d like to talk about some of these rainbow colored myths, and some pretty awesome truths.
MYTH: Having an agent means you no longer need to edit.
Having an agent means I edit harder, and more times than I’d ever dreamed of. My agent, Ann, is an editorial agent. This means she knows how to incorporate big picture changes and line edits and has an end vision for the work before it moves on to submission. She does not do the actual editing, but she does voice exactly what needs to be done. While she’s invaluable at seeing things I can’t, it’s my work and ultimately, I am responsible for getting my story to a place where both of us are confident enough to move forward.
MYTH: Having an agent means you don’t need Beta Readers or Critique Partners (CPs) and don’t need to beta or CP for anyone else.
Beta readers and critique partners are critical for every writer. They help you see things you missed and strengthen the work before it gets to your agent. That, helps everyone. Being a beta and a CP teaches you. Looking critically at storylines, arcs, character development, and basic line edits, gives you a multitude of skills and a stronger eye for your own work. Sometimes seeing it in another person’s work makes the information click and that, is magic.
The relationship CPs have is a bond that’s hard to explain. These are the people you trust your drafts with, they’re the voice of reason when you suffer from insecurities about your work. Your CP should believe in your talent and be comfortable enough to tell you where things seem off. It is your CP that will be there when you feel like things are impossible or you get a glimmer of genius you will die if you don’t share. A critique partner is your sounding board and squeal partner, not your agent. If you don’t have a CP, get one.
MYTH: Having an agent means your book is as good as sold.
Agents are amazing(especially mine). She’s a superhero and I trust her with every fiber of my being, but she isn’t the secret to my book being bought and sold. A book can be incredible, and written with a golden pen that makes your words flow like they were divinely inspired, but the market is a beast that wants what it wants. I don’t feel competent enough to tell you how the process works, but there are a hundred cogs on the wheel to get a book out. An agent is a great one, but even they stand in line and hold their breath while the publishers do their thing and editors find what they like.
TRUTH: Having an agent will change everything.
When I signed with Ann I had no idea what that relationship would be like. Today, I am so grateful she is everything she was on the phone. She’s extremely gifted at seeing a million scenarios at the same time and following those threads to see which fits perfectly. Ann is someone I can reach out to, and is always on my side. She may not agree with my changes, or like an idea I come up with, but she is always supportive and willing to discuss anything with an open mind. I am no longer an individual, I am part of a partnership. It was strange at first, knowing that my creativity didn’t have the right to run amok anymore but now I can’t imagine going backward. Yes, it’s odd to hold on to a shiny idea until I speak with her first, but talking it out with someone really adds clarity. And, truthfully, it does add a little pressure having someone waiting on your work and knowing they will be looking at it critically. But right off the bat, I wanted my words to be something both her, and I, can be proud of That makes every criticism feel helpful.
TRUTH: Having an agent is a new type of professional relationship.
My agent and I have a relationship that I never dreamed was possible. I still fangirl her, but never feel awkward or nervous when I reach out to her. She is kind, approachable, professional, realistic, and above all, there. She takes the time to teach me things, and makes me feel like I am more than just one of her clients. I feel unique, important, and worth her time.That means everything to me. I feel like it is critical to say here, that your agent is a professional. Going to them when it’s appropriate as opposed to every time you question things or want advice will take your relationship further. I respect that Ann has other clients, multiple submissions to get through, and a life outside of the agent business. Knowing what really needs her attention and when I can go to a CP or friend is key to a great working relationship.
Landing an agent changed a lot of things for me. But it didn’t make writing easier or cut out the work it takes to get things right. While it gave me confidence, talking with Ann is a reminder of how much there still is to learn. Luckily, I found the perfect home for me. It came complete with agency siblings, which is incredible. We are all on the same team, cheering each other on as we work toward our goals. Luckily, I’d venture to say that none of us got there without stumbling several times, and facing rejections. In fact, the way I got in front of Ann was through #writementor. I worked with my mentor, Candace, and together we prepared for the agent round. From there, Ann saw my work and requested to see more. It wasn’t at all how I imagined getting an agent, but everyone’s journey is unpredictable and wild, and that’s part of the mystery. The truth is, no one can tell you when it will happen for you. Chances are, you wouldn’t believe them if they did. But, if I could leave you with two pieces of advice to help you on your path they would be:
*Never give up. No matter how bad you want it, or how long it takes, never stop.
*Pick your agent wisely. They’re your partner, the person who goes to bat for you. But they are also the one that tells you to rip the words of your heart to shreds and do it over. Pick someone who makes you happy to hear that because you know they want you to hit those stars just as much as you want to hit them.
My name is Tammy Oja. I am a mom, full time RN, and writer who tries to find the beautiful parts of the dark. I am represented by Ann Rose of The Prospect Agency. Please note that everything in this guest blog is my personal view. What worked for me is my experience, and your path may differ greatly. My hope is that every author who wants an agent finds one that gives them joy and makes them feel vital. Query hard and get yourself out there, and most of all, never give up on your dreams. Thank you to Megan Manzano for allowing me to write this.
Previous Posts in this Series:
How To Communicate with Your Agent
By Alexandra Overy