Before you write…. it’s good to know what agents do and to start considering whether you want to use one for your nonfiction work. You can make this decision early on if you have a full outline and a solid idea for your book. Many publishers will accept nonfiction based on a book proposal. That’s right, the book does not need to be entirely finished before you submit your idea.
It is a must, however, that your idea be complete. We’ll go into book proposals later, but I mention this so you’ll understand that you can make the decision about looking for an agent or submitting on your own much earlier if you are writing nonfiction.
That said, you still may want to use an agent for your nonfiction work. If you do, be aware that the process of finding an agent is as important as looking for a publisher. You want the right fit and you’ll want a completed outline and a dynamite book proposal to catch the attention of an agent.
In making your decision of whether to use an agent, consider these things that an agent can do for you:
1. An agent can usually get the attention of those publishers who may be reluctant to talk with authors.
2. The agent will help you make sure that your proposal meets all the requirements of the publishers. And, the agent may know some of the individual likes and dislikes of the publishers. This will help you refine your proposal.
3. An agent will submit and re-submit your work. That will free you up to concentrate on your writing.
4. When you get that wonderful news that a publisher is interested in your proposal, an agent will help you navigate the contract negotiations and will analyze your contract when you receive an offer.
5. If your book continues to be rejected, the agent will help you figure out what modifications may help you turn rejection into acceptance.
I’m not advocating going it alone or using an agent. I just want you to know what an agent can do so you can make an informed decision.
I’d love to hear what experiences you’ve had and where you stand on the question.