How to Find a Literary Agent

N. K. Jemisin

Lesson time 21:47 min

Get a deep dive into the agent-author relationship, how to find and pitch to the right agent, and how they will help you find a publisher.

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Topics include: The Benefits of Working With an Agent • Finding an Agent • Pitching to an Agent • Finding a Publisher


[MUSIC PLAYING] N. K. JEMISIN: The author-agent relationship is kind of like a marriage. It's a professional marriage. You may have to divorce that agent and move on to someone else. Try and make sure that this is a person that you feel okay having some kind of professional relationship with for a very long time. [MUSIC PLAYING] I hear a lot from beginning writers that they don't necessarily want to get an agent. They've heard that agents don't do a whole lot of work and take 15% of your money. And that's true. They take 15% of your money. They do, however, do a whole lot of work. Here's the question that you have to ask yourself. Do you have close personal relationships with people in the publishing industry. If you do, then you can be your own agent. Do you have legal knowledge that allows you to look at long, complex contracts and find pitfalls or potential dangers? Do you have enough insider knowledge about the book business that you understand the dangers of some of these contracts? If you understand, for example, that you'll make less money if you-- if you sell worldwide publication rights to your traditional publisher versus just selling North American rights. So if you have a lot of insider knowledge, if you've been in this business, then, yeah, of course you can be your own agent. If you don't have that knowledge, if you, like me, are a former career counselor who's trying to get your book out there, and no, you don't speak legalese, and somebody hands you a 25-page contract, and no, you don't know how to read it, then no, you probably shouldn't be your own agent. I mean, yes, my first contract was actually 35 pages. But anyway. So here's what an agent does. Agents are professionals who have been in this business. They've either worked as publishers themselves, or they've worked with an agency for a long time, gotten to know lots of publishers, editors, agents, and they can go out and have conversations with these people and hand them a book. And the editor for that publishing house is going to know, based on that person's reputation, based on the fact that they know and respect that person, they're going to know that this book that they're being handed is worth their time. Now, whether they buy it or not is a completely subjective matter on that editor's part. But they'll at least know that it's worth the time that it takes to read it. Publishers these days don't do slush piles, for the most part. Slush piles, for those who don't know, are what they used to call the piles of manuscripts that publishing houses would take in as they were looking for new talent to publish. That's a thing that used to happen maybe 30, 40 years ago. It's not common now. And that's partly because the slush pile wasn't really a good return on investment of time for publishers. It took years, in some cases, to get through the slush piles. And in the time that it took them to read all of these-- these ...

About the Instructor

The winner of the Hugo Award for three consecutive years for her Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin has sold millions of books and created new cultures and histories. Now the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer is teaching you how to create a world from scratch, develop compelling characters, and get published. Build your craft and share your voice with inclusive fiction that reflects your experience.

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N. K. Jemisin

Bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin teaches you how to create diverse characters, build a world from scratch, and get published.

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