I recently signed with literary agent JL Stermer of the N.S. Bienstock agency. (Cue the confetti and cheers and champagne!) Writers understand exactly what this milestone means — that it often takes years of writing, and sometimes writing more than one book, to land an agent. They also understand being represented by an agent is just the beginning.
It’s a little harder to explain to non-writers. In sharing
my news, I’ve stirred up a mess of confusion that I feel obligated to clear up.
Signing with an agent
does not mean I have a book deal.
In today’s publishing world, authors do not pitch their
manuscripts directly to publishing houses. Literary agents serve as a writer’s
advocate, selling the story idea, and ultimately negotiating the deal. They
serve as a mentor and partner, helping shape a writer’s overall career. One
book may have attracted an agent, but the agent/author relationship goes on for
Authors do not pay
Legitimate literary agents do not charge writers for the
opportunity to represent them. Agents make their living purely off commission —
a percentage of what the author makes on any given deal.
Literary agents are
not obligated to try to sell everything an author writes, especially previously
The relationship is a partnership but an author trusts that
the agent knows what will sell based on a lot of complex and competing factors.
Sometimes those earlier books are just
great practice leading up the one that captures an agent’s interest.
Authors don’t (and
shouldn’t) share all the gritty details of the publication process.
What JL does now is magic…not really, but kind of. She’s the
professional. The book is in her hands; the process is in her hands. My job, as
a writer, is to be patient and to write the next book.
Authors don’t get
rich overnight, land movie deals and go on nationwide book tours.
Well, maybe about .0001 percent of authors do and they are
ones with blockbuster hits, and their names are usually in a larger font size
on the book cover than the actual title of the book. Most writers want to have
steady, solid careers in writing and that’s a worthwhile goal. Don’t be sad if
your friend or family member is not the next J.K. Rowling.
Thanks to everyone who’s offered congratulations! And I
honestly don’t mind the questions. And for you writers who have recently landed
an agent, feel free to use this Q&A with your circle of people.