How Hard is It To Get an Agent?

At www.KillerNashville.com, attendees come looking for an agent because getting an agent is so hard. I’ll disagree to some degree. Selling a book to the public is difficult. Getting an agent is easy IF you have a book that’s worth selling and a built-in platform to sell it.

If you want to go the traditional publishing route, you’re going to need an agent. If that’s your track, your goal is not to find an agent, it is to find an agent that is competent to handle your type of work AND someone with whom you can have honest and straightforward dialogue. You need an agent who understands not only your book, but also you.

Because I’ve been in this business for decades and know how easy it is to get an agent, I don’t think I’m as obsessed with agents as much as many newer writers. There’s a myth that getting an agent is difficult. It’s not. The agent is there. Your agent is there. Trust me. The first question you need to ask, though, is are you ready for one? Most, when they start thinking about this, are not. And that’s why you hear so much about agents’ rejections. If you’ve got a great book, agents are going to gobble it up.

I deal mostly with fiction unless I’m directing a documentary while wearing my filmmaking hat, but I’ll give a quick overview. Nonfiction can be sold with a few chapters and a full outline (and a wonderful marketing plan). Novels, on the other hand, need to be completely finished. Asking an agent to read a few chapters to see if it is any good when the rest of the novel isn’t finished isn’t a great way to introduce yourself. If you don’t have the book ready in its pristine form, don’t go looking for an agent. For a kid’s picture book, the agent is probably going to want to see the whole manuscript (without pictures, of course, unless you’re a really good artist). And, of course, if you write short stories, poetry, essays, etc., you probably don’t need an agent at all, so don’t trouble yourself looking for one.

Even for nonfiction, though, I’ll tell you that the best way to get an agent is to have a book finished. I’m pragmatic about that. Even with nonfiction, two or three good chapters does not a complete book make. It’s best to have the full bird in the hand. And it is best to have the best full bird in the hand. Once again, to submit too soon means rejection. Submitting a great manuscript means success. It is as simple as that.

Most writers, even in our Killer Nashville family, go about looking for agents too early. Concentrate first on making the best book that you can make. Then finding the agent will be easy.

Trust me.

Clay Stafford has had numerous agents over the years in various media, all great in their own way.