All posts for the month March, 2012

Do I need an agent?

Published March 25, 2012 by christinenorris

I was going to do this as a video blog, but frankly I just don’t have the energy today. I’m a writer, right? I can make this just as amusing and interesting as a video blog, right?


Okay, well, this is one of those questions writers often ask, especially if they’ve tried and failed to find an agent. Do you really NEED an agent? And, like so many questions in life (and in publishing), the answer is this:

It depends.

What it really depends on are your publishing goals. There are TONS of small and/or micro presses out there (every one of the writers on the YA Authors You’ve Never Heard Of blog is published by one or several) that don’t require you to have an agent to submit a manuscript. And based on the average royalty you can expect to receive by publishing with one of them, most agents won’t bother negotiating with them, because it’s just not economical or really worthwhile for them. Most of the time authors do just fine on their own with any one of those little guys.

If that’s your dream, your highest publishing aspiration, then the answer is no, you probably do NOT need an agent. I managed to secure five publishing contracts all on my own, and all with micro-to-small publishers. I’ve had fun publishing with them, and I’ve worked hard to promote each title. Nothing wrong with that at all.

BUT…if you, like me, are really seeking that next step in publishing (see: publishing with bigger houses), then the answer may be different. There are a lot of reasons to get an agent. First of all, MANY of the bigger houses don’t accept unsolicited submissions. Some are so strict they only take agented submissions.

There ARE ways to have your work looked at by these big publishers without an agent — such as going to conferences and networking with editors, doing a pitch or having a critique at a conference is a good way to do this.  I’ve managed to do this once or twice, and it is WORTH the price of conference admission to meet agents and editors in person in an environment where you are expected to talk shop.

To a certain point. Do we really need to have the conversation about NOT trying to pitch your work in the ladies’ room? Okay, just checking.

HOWEVER, even if you DO get your work in at a big house and they (miracle of miracles) make a contract offer, at that point you really probably do want an agent. Or at the very least an intellectual property lawyer. Because contracts are tricky things, and an agent will be able to earn her 15% by negotiating for things like a bigger advance, sub-rights, etc…

DO NOT attempt to do this on your own. Just…don’t.

Here’s the Catch-22. It’s harder to get an offer without an agent. But it’s easier to get an agent once you have an offer. Of course it is.

Even after all this, you still aren’t sure if you need an agent, here’s what I love best about my agent, Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary. First of all, she’s always pretty much right there when I need her. She’s on MY team. If I have a question, she is a mere Tweet away. And it is her JOB to take care of all that paperwork — like querying my work to publishers.

Which means I no longer have to:

– Keep track of where I’ve sent it
– Write query letters
– Receive rejections personally
– Keep track of rejections

All of which leaves me more time to… wait for it… WRITE. And promote my current titles, and actually do author-y things.  I never realized how much time I spent doing all of that until I didn’t have to do it anymore. It’s my agent’s job, and she can devote much more time to it than I can. And she’s BETTER at it than I am.

Now, all that’s great, but there are a few caveats. Things an agent CANNOT do:

– Sell the book instantly
– Pull a buyer out of thin air

Publishing, as I’ve said a millions times, is S-L-O-W. Run by actual people. So if it takes six months, it takes six months. Editors are busy people too; they’re not just sitting around waiting for manuscripts to read. Just like agents are busy people. I once waited eight months for a reply from an agent, and it was worth waiting for because of the great feedback I got. Terrie and I went through a couple of rounds of things, just because we were both busy, before she offered to represent me. An agent is NOT an instant ticket to stardom or a big publishing contract.

But it helps.


Video Blog – The Publishing Process

Published March 10, 2012 by christinenorris

Hey all!

I managed to make another video blog this week! Now, I apologize in advance for the weird skip and the non-syncing of the audio and video. My camera went wonky, and it was about the eighth time it had done it, so i was tired of starting over and let it go. You’ll see and hear it all, just…not…at the same time….


Here it is!!! Cover revealed!!!

Published March 8, 2012 by christinenorris

So, yesterday I got the final cover layout for THE SWORD OF DANU (The Library of Athena, Book 4). No definite release date, but it should be in the next, oh, six weeks. As soon as I get final page proofs and go through it all to make sure there aren’t any more typos or missing commas (remember: Let’s eat, Grandma vs. Let’s eat Grandma – punctuation saves lives).

This is my sixth published book. Wait, is it? *thinks and counts on fingers* Yes, number six. Waiting for the cover is always kind of nerve-wracking, because the author pretty much has NOTHING to do with it. I fill out a cover form and make suggestions, but that’s pretty much it. What will the artist do, how will they see the book and will it be really different from what I imagine? Will it be GOOD enough to capture the reader’s attention and make them pick up the book?

(yeah, yeah, don’t judge a book by its cover. We ALL do it. Book marketers spend thousands of dollars figuring out what magic cover formula will get the reader market share.)

Then you get that email.And the file is attached, and you open it and hold your breath…



I think this guy (who is, by the way, a tattoo artist by trade) totally NAILED it. The knotwork, the mood,the  girls. It is quite possibly my new favorite cover of mine.

What do y’all think?

Tips on Avoid Horror Story School Visits « Writing and Illustrating

Published March 5, 2012 by christinenorris

Kathy always has the BEST stuff on her blog! I am not one of those authors who does a lot of school visits, and I’ve never done one where I needed to fly. Maybe someday I will – but I don’t know what I’ll do about my job when that happens :). But anyway, this is a great article!

Tips on Avoid Horror Story School Visits « Writing and Illustrating.