EC: …I doubt I could do something like, say, be contracted to write X number of books in X amount of time, and it would be dishonest and poor form to sign on to something that I couldn’t fulfill.
Me: That’s why it’s nice to have an agent, who can manage both you and the publisher. “Don’t get distracted by this plot problem,” your agent tells you. “You’re the only person who cares about it and you’re contracted to finish this book before the end of the year.” Or, depending: “Don’t push the author to finish by the end of the year,” the agent tells the publisher. “There’s a plot problem in the book and if we ignore it, we’ll end up with a book that won’t sell.” Markets and muses are capricious, but publishers and agents help to smooth things out.
EC: I don’t think I can afford an agent.
Writers don’t pay agents. Writers submit our work to agents for representation the same way we can submit our work to some publishers directly. If the agent agrees, then they send our work to publishers. If the work gets published, the agent takes a cut. Agents don’t take any money up front.
EC: I have heard some various things, depending on the source. There’s a lot of good info from this gent. monsterhunternation.com/?s=wri…
Me: Another good place for writing advice is the Writing Excuses podcast.
Or indeed, my old podcast: I’ve interviewed Jennie Goloboy (my own agent) on the subject of Why Agents Reject Things, Why Agents Accept Things, and with fellow writer Kalin Nenov about literary agents in general.
EC: I’d be most interested in getting to know people in the business!
Me: Well, there’s the Codex forum, which you can join if you’ve sold a certain number of self-published books, have an agent, or have been published by a big publisher.
There are also book conventions and literary conferences, which I recommend. Also look around in your home town for writing circles. You’ll probably find one.
That’s it for EccentricCowboy’s questions, but if you have your own, feel free to ask either of us. Good luck!