One of the most common questions writers have when they are just starting to navigate the publishing waters is “Should I get an agent first or try to find an editor interested in my work and then get an agent?”
I’ve heard different opinions on the subject:
- Get the agent first; they have great publisher contacts and can get you in the door of “agent-only” houses
- Get the editor first; when you’ve got interest, you can snag the attention of an agent.
I could always talk myself into either side, but I remember favoring the second option while talking to one writer because she had one or two agents in mind, both of whom she’d met and felt ready to go with if they were interested and what better way to get them interested than having editor interest or even an offer on the table?
Then I was talking to a friend who gave me one agent’s perspective on this – she didn’t like being put in that position. She felt pressure to read the manuscript, try to get to know the writer, make a decision…I hadn’t ever thought about it in this way. I just assumed they’d love to have an author and a deal basically handed to them.
And then recently another writer friend forwarded a newsletter from the Kristen Nelson Literary Agency. In it, agent Sara Megibow also said she doesn’t like to be put in this position stating, among other things that “accepting the offer means I never have a chance to control the submission and shop it around.”
I think this is very good point and something I hadn’t considered before. You can read more and also why she actually decided to read the manuscript and represent the author here.
Here’s a good discussions on this topic: Submitting to Editors without an Agent by Nathan Bransford
On a personal note, I recently parted ways with my lovely agent after ten years because I’m writing more picture books and we both agreed I needed someone who represented the full range of my work. And even though I had an editor who was open to seeing a picture book manuscript we’d discussed via e-mail, I decided to wait until I got a new agent before submitting it. I wanted to make sure the manuscript was ready and get an agent’s take on the viability of the piece.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, what is your opinion on this editor/agent thing?