I do not have an agent. This bothers me.
The whispers have it that it’s easier to get a publishing deal than it is to get representation. I don’t know about that, but I do have a book coming out and I’m finding myself somewhat at a loss.
Agents are great. For a relatively modest fee (that you don’t pay up front) they make sure your work is tip-top and that you’re not getting screwed in negotiations.
You don’t actually need an agent to do these things for you: you can find beta-readers for free or pay an editorial company to review your work for you. Similarly, I got The Society of Authors to check the proffered contract for me (a free service once membership is paid), which gives me a little more confidence that I’m not going to lose out if everything goes pear-shaped.
So why am I bothered by not having an agent? Well, at the moment it’s this: what happens next?
I’m a debut novelist: I have a book coming out. I know that I’m expected (and want) to help promote my book. I don’t know how to do this. Am I responsible for sorting out podcast appearances? Launch events? Press releases?
I know I can ask my publishers this but I’m afraid to hassle them. I don’t want to be that person – the one who’s looking over their shoulders all the time asking ‘are we there yet?’ And yes, I know that says more about me that it does about the world; and yes, I’d probably have the same fear about hassling an agent.
There are other things too, though, like the possibility of getting another book published. My publisher has the right of first refusal on my next work. When the hell am I supposed to broach the issue with them? How do I best present myself to get a career and not be just a one-off?
I guess what I really want is for someone to be there for me. I want reassurance. I want someone there to hold my hand.
An agent is not a therapist and I know that what I’m saying here may make all reputable agents black-ball me forevermore. But I want to be good at what I do. I feel like I’m not doing enough to sell myself; that I’m spending too much time on the whole ‘writing’ thing and not enough of building my brand.
I also feel like I’m trapped: that this ‘rights to the next book’ will act as a disincentive to agents in the future, even though I signed the deal knowing full well what I was getting into.
I am worrying too much. This is almost certainly the case. That doesn’t make it better. What I really need is someone to help me organise this period, to tell me what I should be doing, to act as a guide and a confidante.
Thankfully I’ve got Twitter. And so do you. Never has it been so easy to ask for advice, to go direct to the people who a) know what they’re talking about, and b) are willing to share their time and expertise.
Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I find myself dependent on the kindness of strangers. Now I just need to get over my fears of bothering them.