So you have a finished romance manuscript in your hot little hands. Now what do you do? You’ll need to find some place to market it and there are people whose job it is to help you do just that. These are the book agents.
And you thought that actors were the only ones who needed agents! An agent works on your behalf with others in the publishing community to get the best deal for your manuscript. Sounds simple huh? Keep reading.
Here’s a fact: Most romance publishers, especially the well-known ones, won’t touch a manuscript from an unknown unless the writer is represented by a romance agent. Publishing houses deal with so many manuscripts on a daily basis that they would rather work with someone who knows the romance publishing business and can cut through to the chase. That’s where the agent comes in.
It seems like a catch-22. You have a book that needs a publisher, but you need an agent. An agent won’t see you unless you have been published already. Just like the publishers, some agents won’t work with unknown writers but there are many who do. You can get a beginning list of agents from the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. Each year Writer’s Digest publishes a new edition chock full of information about agents and writing markets looking for good work.
The job of the romance agent is to analyze your work and negotiate a deal with the best publisher for it. Each agent has their specialty. Some only accept manuscripts that are of a certain genre, for example they may only be representing chic lit or romantic suspense. They will seek a contract with you. They know pay dirt when they hit it so they will ask you to sign a contract. If you go far, they will too.
Even if the agent seems to like you and you them, always read a contract before signing it. You have the right to amend the contract in any way you see fit before you sign it. If the agent doesn’t agree, then you can compromise or find another agent.
You will have to write a query letter to find out if the agent will even be interested in viewing your manuscript. If the agent feels that your manuscript will do well in the current market, they may take you on. As you know, book agents get commissions on the sale of your book. (If you’re looking for a good course on how to write a query letter and get a top notch romance agent, check out the AWAI course.)
Book agents know publishers and the publishing industry. Publishers will make a deal based on the recommendation of an agent that they have worked with in the past with successful clients. They can also negotiate bonuses, royalty advances, book rights and other things.
A book agent is working for you. Their job is to find the best possible compensation for your romance novel project. Because they know romance publishers, agents can get their foot in the door with them better than you could alone.