An agent is like an athlete’s coach. She guides an author through revisions before a manuscript is “shopped” to publishing houses. Then she becomes a matchmaker. The skill is finding the right “home” for the book. Every editor represents a particular taste, a slice of the market pie. Once an offer is made, the agent negotiates the contract and then remains the author’s advocate throughout the publishing process. By taking care of business, an agent allows the author to focus on writing and on book promotions. She protects a new author from exploitation and teaches her about the industry. These days most big publishing houses won't read unsolicited manuscripts so agents are necessary.
My agent established the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency in 1978 after discovering author Jean M. Auel and negotiating a record-breaking advance for The Clan of the Cave Bear. They are still working together on the international bestseller Earth Child Series. My agent has a full list of established authors so she is not taking on more authors, but the other agents at JVNLA are taking new clients. They are terrific too. All JVNLA agents represent children’s books as well as other genres for adults. Photo of Jean Naggar by Serge Naggar.
Why I love my agent and the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency:
1. Jean is my most loyal fan and sharpest critic. She spots the flaws but leaves me to fix them. She never curbs my creativity. Her encouragement and unflagging faith in my writing keep me going through the long process of finding a publisher.
2. Jean has decades of experience as an agent. It doesn’t matter that I’m out of the loop in Maine because she’s at the hub of the publishing industry in NYC.
3. Jean is accessible. She has regular author call times and responds to my emails promptly. In the early stage of a project, I bounce ideas off her. She advises me on my career and cheers me on.
4. Jean works with the 3 other agents at JVNLA as a team. They divide the work, like subsidiary rights, and offer second opinion critiques on manuscripts when fresh eyes are needed. They partner with other agents abroad for foreign rights. It’s like having several agents without being impersonal. The agency is small enough that new and unpublished authors feel as welcome as their award-winning and bestseller authors.
5. Jean has published her memoir, Sipping from the Nile, so she can see the process from an author’s perspective. She can also relate to the multicultural elements in my writing since she grew up in Egypt and was educated in England. Plus she has the most beautiful accent.
This post is part of the first Agent Day (December 11 - I’m a day late), which was Kody Keplinger's brilliant idea. Lisa and Laura Write have posted a link-list to other Agent Day posts. It’s a great place to go agent shopping if you’re an aspiring author. You can learn everything you need to know about submitting manuscripts at these two agent blogs: Miss Snark and Nathan Bransford. Good luck!
I usually post weekly on Wednesdays (so as not to cut into my novel writing time) but I’ve made an exception because agents deserve appreciation for their hard work behind the scenes. Don’t miss this week’s blog review of Marie Mutsuki Mocketts’s wonderful debut novel and photos of our first big snowfall in coastal Maine.
I’m taking a blog break over Hanukkah and Christmas at home.
Next post: Wednesday December 30.