Why an In-the-Know Agent is Your Best Partner

businesswoman on the phone

Even in the tightest market, new opportunities develop. Not only can authors keep up with these opportunities by being well-connected themselves, but this is just one part of your career where partnering with a great agent is key.

Why? Because editors don’t always put out a call to every writers’ loop when they need proposals. Most don’t have time to become inundated with lots of proposals that won’t work. Instead, editors go to their friends, the agents. An experienced agent with a healthy list of talented authors will send editors appropriate proposals.  

A well-connected agent with a stellar agency is likely to learn:

When there is hole in an editor’s schedule. Writers miss deadlines for many reasons. That’s when your agent can help you fill that hole. This can be the start, or continuation of, a fabulous relationship between you and a grateful editor.

About a new line. Agents are often the first outside of a publishing house to learn about a new line. This can help you be among the first authors to submit a proposal.

About unexpected needs. Editors will often let agents know they are expecting to need certain categories of books in the near future. This knowledge also gives you a chance to be an early contender.

That a house is changing direction. Publishers’ web sites and Amazon listings are informative but even the most up to date only reveal what has just happened. You want to look to the future because your book will be published in the future. That’s why, based on a web site, it may seem like a great idea to submit, say, a chick lit book to a house. But if that house has decided to move in the direction of WWII novels, your agent is more likely than any of your other business partners to know this. Your agent can keep you from submitting a fantastic proposal — fantastic for last year.

A key person is leaving. Just one key person’s departure may not only affect individual authors, but might even impact the future direction of a publishing house. Knowing personnel changes sooner rather than later will help you stay ahead in the game.

This doesn’t mean agents, even extraordinary ones, are the first to learn every bit of important news — but we are privy to quite a bit. And this does not mean that just because an author is among the first to submit work, that her work will be accepted over proposals arriving later. But being in the know early is still just one of many good reasons to partner with a great agent.

Your turn:

What are some other reasons you think it’s a good idea to partner with a wonderful agent?

Have you ever been able to submit a work early based on your agent’s inside knowledge?

Or do you disagree? Do you think authors are just as effective as agents in learning news early?

10 Responses to Why an In-the-Know Agent is Your Best Partner

  1. Jackie Layton April 10, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    Hi Tamela,

    I respect all the work you and other agents do. Without an agent, I’m sure an author misses many opportunities to publish.

    It’s kind of like your pharmacy. If you go to a local pharmacy for your prescriptions, the pharmacist can tell you about possible drug interactions or keeping up with your blood work. It’s also important to stick with one pharmacy. Yesterday a hospital called and asked about a patient’s drug profile. They had to call at least three different pharmacies to find out what the patient took. This wastes time and energy (and could put your life at risk with the delay).

    I think it’s best to go to one local pharmacy where you are known and cared for. I also think having an agent to care and look out for your best interests in writing is important.

    Thanks for sharing, and have a great day.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray April 10, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      Very good point, Jackie. Our family uses only one pharmacy so I’d never thought of how much inconvenience it can cause to use three!

  2. Jennifer Dyer April 10, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    I agree. Agents are valuable to authors in too many ways to count. Maybe agents, editors, and writers are like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Three separate items, all vital to make the whole, come together to create something wonderful. :-)

  3. Tamela Hancock Murray April 10, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    Jennifer, great comment!

  4. Jeanne Takenaka April 10, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Great thoughts, Tamela. Having a well-connected agent is helpful in many ways. One beneficial thing for an author with an in-the-know agent is that the agent knows the author’s genre, style and probably has an idea of where s/he would be a good fit as far as publishing houses. Of course, this is written from an unagented writer, but I’m thinking when an agent knows his/her authors, said agent knows what authors have ready for unexpected openings and can pitch those projects

    I hadn’t thought about agents knowing about new lines opening. What a great advantage for authors to be able to send a proposal right away.

  5. Teresa-Rae April 10, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    The biggest reason I’m leaning toward a literary agent is so that by following her leading, I can focus solely on writing my books. The first should be completed before Mother’s Day and there are six others in their infant stages demanding my time, effort, and energy. I have never submitted a book for publication and I’m quite certain I would not be as effective as an agent in any capacity, including learning news early.

  6. Rachel Muller April 10, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    I don’t have the “published” tag around my fingers yet, but I would imagine the benefit of having an agent is a big stress reliever. I, alone, would have so many questions about the publication process and I really don’t think I could manage it on my own.

  7. Katie Clark April 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    Great article! Thanks so much, Tamela.

  8. D.Ellis Phelps April 12, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    Your good points well made, none of which I had considered, clarify the reasons a working partnership with an agent seems valuable.

    For me, working in partnership is crucial. While I am self-motivated and somewhat driven, the notion that someone is waiting to read my writing adds power and purpose to my madness. Further, that said reader knows how to put my work in front of other interested readers and that this phenomenon could repeat itself exponentially is an exhilarating possibility.

    While I tweet, blog, wax poetic and produce profundity, this partner will fax, phone and finagle on behalf of my work. This just makes me giddy.


  1. Is a Literary Agent the Pot of Gold for Writers? - - April 22, 2014

    […] From Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency, http://www.stevelaube.com/why-an-in-the-know-agent-is-your-best-partner/ […]

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