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ON LITERARY AGENTSBy author Tara K. Harper
If I get an agent, will I also get published?
What, exactly, does an agent do for an author?
Is it worth it to get an agent?
Additional information about agents, getting published, query letters, and more
About Tara K. Harper
Remember, it is the editor, not the agent, who purchases the manuscript. The agent simply tries to judge and market the work based on current (and as much as possible, future) market trends.
Second, once the editor offers to buy the manuscript, an agent can help negotiate a more favorable contract than the inexperienced author might accept. This is because the agent has knowledge about the industry and can negotiate to strike out certain clauses in the basic contract that might not be advantageous to an author. New authors (and their lawyers) are often concerned about dangerous-sounding clauses that will actually have little bearing on their careers, and not concerned enough about innocuous-sounding clauses that can have significant and long-term effects on their careers. A good agent will know which clauses are which, and will be able to negotiate the best contract for the new author, while still satisfying the publisher and completing the sale of the manuscript.`
Third, an agent can help you build a career by talking you up to the publisher, by obtaining better marketing for your work, and by guiding you through--and hopefully over--various pitfalls into which you might be inclined to step. In some cases--such as for authors who never write more than one novel--it is not necessary for an agent to build a career for you, because, frankly, you don't usually have a career in that case; you have a single book. If you have only one book to sell, or if you don't intend to make a commitment to writing, the agent cannot negotiate using the possibility of other novels to help establish you. In other cases however, in which the author will write many books and seeks to create a career for himself, the agent has an on-going job of continuing to market the writer, not just the writer's work.
In my opinion, yes, a good agent is definitely worth it. However, if you understand the industry, are highly competent at contract negotiation, have developed a long list of industry contacts, and can perform schmoozing with the best of them, perhaps then you do not need an agent. Or, when you have acquired that knowledge, those contacts and skills, perhaps you will choose to break with your agent and perform those tasks yourself. In either case, you should still research the market so that you understand what an agent can, should, and will be able to do for you.
- Query letters--how to and how not to write them
- Publishers and getting published
- Book doctors--are they legitimate?
- Agency reading fees, or nonlegitimate charges
- Fees an agency may legitimately pass on to clients
- Advice to new authors who have just gotten an agent
Tara K. Harper graduated from the University of Oregon, then went into sciences and high-tech, where she has worked for R&D, test-and-measurement companies ever since. She also writes technical material in biology, physics, psychology, and other sciences. She has served for over a decade on a national standards committee in quality control. Also active in community service, she teaches creative writing for alternative schools, trains youth in wilderness skills, and serves on the board of directors for a youth treatment center. In 1998, Ms. Harper was nominated to the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication Hall of Achievement. Ms. Harper is a member of the Author's Guild.
Since 1990, Ms. Harper has published eight science-fiction novels, including several national best-sellers. Currently, her novels are available in both English and German. Her 1994 novel, Cat Scratch Fever, was nominated for the Oregon Book Awards. She has also received numerous awards for science and technical writing.
A martial artist and musician, Ms. Harper is active in outdoor sports. She has sailed everything from small boats to tall wooden ships; and has kayaked and canoed rivers and lakes throughout Oregon and Washington. A scuba diver, swimmer, and waterpolo player, she has spent time in the open waters of the Pacific Northwest, British West Indies, and Hawaii. When she was younger, she enjoyed rock climbing, fencing, and cycling; now she hikes, camps, and explores the mountains. She has been bear-bashed while camping, swarmed five times by bees and yellow-jackets, and confronted by everything from sea lions to eagles in her explorations. She paints in oils, sculpts in stone, plays violin and piano, composes music, and still claims she wants to be a stuntperson.
"Tara K. Harper...is far and above one of the most inventive and imaginative
writers of Science Fantasy."
--James DeMaiolo, Explorations
This file is printed here with permission from Tara K. Harper.