Friday, December 20, 2013

Sharing the Big News -- and a Dose of Reality

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 years.

Authors do not pay literary agents.
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 written books.
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.


  1. Just wanted to say congrats on landing your amazing agent. You've given some great advice. I don't know how many times friends and family have asked these same questions, lol. Thanks for breaking it down.

  2. Congratulations!
    …and good luck as you navigate the next steps! This is well deserved!