When do you need an agent?

I got a call from a charming writer recently. She’d been referred to me in her search for an agent. After explaining that I was no longer agenting, I invited her to tell me more about her problem.

She’d recently had a book published by a small publisher. She was having local success with her book, but was frustrated that her publisher hadn’t leveraged that success to achieve something more. She was sure she needed an agent.

She doesn’t need an agent for this project. She needs a publicist. I pointed this out to her and explained my reasons for saying this. An agent would be focused on finding a publisher for the book or a suitable self-publisher if she chose to exert more control over the publishing process. A publicist would be able to help her build her audience. I suggested she look on Publishers Marketplace and the Author’s Guild site to find the names and contact information of publicists.

Street Vendor Selling Books

Keep these points in mind before hiring a publicist.

1. Do your research. Find out what a publicist, a public relations specialist, and a social media specialist does. Compare what they do to what you need. Ask other writers for advice where possible.

2. Communicate with your publisher. Find out what they’ve done. Find out what they were successful at (blog reviews, bookstores signings, etc) and suggest ways you can complement their efforts. Don’t ask them what to do. I say this because I’ve made suggestions to authors on what they could do only to have the plan I developed radically changed based on a friend’s advice. I’m sure this has been the case with editors as well. If possible I suggest that a writer come up with a plan and ask the publisher for help implementing it.

3. Start small. There’s no need to outline a 40 page marketing plan. You need to balance your writing with your publicity efforts. Focus on achievable goals like organizing a contest giveaway that features your book or creating buttons and banners with your book’s cover image for bloggers to post on their site. These are small efforts, but they can have great results.

Ask me questions about hiring a publicist in the comments section or on Twitter. I’ll give individual feedback where possible.

(Photo: © andrewgenn – Fotolia.com)

2 thoughts on “When do you need an agent?

  1. I have been checking out many of your articles and i must say clever stuff. I will make sure to bookmark your blog.

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