Kylie Brant is about the most generous published author I've had the pleasure to have known. I can't tell you as an unpublished writer how many times she answered questions, gave a quick read to see if I got something right. Today, this award-winning author will grace us with her blurbs, and then share something different with GLIAS readers. Since many of us are writers, she'll talk about GETTING IT BACKWARDS: ACQUIRING AN AGENT. Please welcome, Kylie Brant.
Kylie Brant is the author of thirty-one romantic suspense novels for Harlequin and Berkley Sensation. She is a three-time Rita finalist and has been nominated five times for Romantic Times awards, including a win for Career Achievement. She’s also the recipient of two Daphne du Maurier awards. Her books have been published in twenty-five countries and translated into fifteen languages.
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
I’d say mold—lots of it—but the truth is my husband would never let that happen J. The only thing that man can bring himself to throw away is old food. And once things hit the frig, if we don’t eat them the next day they’re forgotten. The one staple that I never let us run low on is Diet Coke.DEADLY INTENT blurb:
No one knows the patterns and nuances of communication like forensic linguist Macy Reid. She is also an expert on kidnapping, having experienced firsthand the stark terror of being abducted when she was a child. So she is the perfect investigator to be called in when a Denver tycoon’s eleven-year-old daughter is abducted—for the second time.
The biggest stumbling block for Macy may be a member of her own team: Kellan Burke, the wisecracking, rule-breaking investigator who relishes getting under Macy’s skin. Their styles couldn’t be more different; the attraction between them more explosive. And when it becomes apparent that Macy can’t solve this case without confronting the demons from her past, Kell is just the man to take her there—and back.
when her new partner is Adam Raiker, Jaid’s former colleague, and ex-lover. But that’s history—and it left scars.
Getting it Backwards: Acquiring an Agent
The biggest misconception I run into with aspiring authors is their thinking that an agent is going to be their ticket to that coveted first sale. The steady flow of rejections from editors will stop they seem to believe, if they have an agent backing them. In fact, I get the impression that many see the coveted agent as the brass ring, the golden key that will unlock the door to that obstruction in their career march. Which I think is exactly backward, but we’ll get to that later.
To clear up some of the misinformation
1) Will having an agent get me read faster by an editor?
Very possibly. Many houses consider agents as ‘first reads’ and tend to believe if a well-respected agent has brought the manuscript to their door, they can count on it to have appropriate sentence structure and grammar, and usually be suitable for their line or imprint. That’s why many publishers will only consider agented manuscripts. However, all manuscripts waiting to be read at the publisher have been solicited by somebody. If you won a contest, or were invited to submit by an editor you met at a conference, chances are you’ll get read in good time, too.
Or hey, you might even get plucked out of the slush pile and bought. That’s how my first sale occurred!
2) Having an agent increases my chances of being bought.
I don’t know that anyone has ever collected data to support or refute that, and there are a slew of variables that would factor into the equation, rendering a yes/no answer impossible. That hasn’t been my personal experience, as I sold to category and more recently to single title houses unagented. An agent might help you work through the plot problems or polish the manuscript to a degree. Some agents have good relationships with certain editors or houses and keep up on what they are looking for. But agents are only human. They tend to have one or two contacts at each house that they set up regular meets with to update their information. Their contacts can be valuable to a newbie writer with none of her own.
I know many many multi-published authors who are no longer selling in this economy. Markets go soft. Sub-genres decrease in popularity. An agent can’t prevent either.
The ‘trick’ to selling is money. For a multi-published author this means previous sales history. For a debut author it means marketability. The most novel concept out there isn’t going to get you an offer if the marketing department at the publisher can’t figure out how to sell you.
3) You need an agent to make that first sale
Not true at all. I sold twenty-five books to the then Silhouette Romantic Suspense line without an agent. I also got five invitations to submit my first single title manuscript without one. By the time I had an offer on the first Mindhunters trilogy, I had signed with an agent. But the publishing house didn’t know that when they made the offer.
As a matter of fact, I’d go on to say emphatically that you do not require an agent for category romance. Harlequin uses a boilerplate contract that allows very little wiggle room. Doing your homework, you can quickly learn where there is leeway and get those concessions yourself.
4) You need an agent if you’re writing single title for traditional print publishers
I’d highly recommend it. I know a few well-published authors who use literary attorneys and negotiate their own contracts, but I wouldn’t be comfortable doing so. For one thing, I’m too ignorant of contractual clauses to know what should or shouldn’t be in there. For another, I want a different relationship with my editor. I don’t want to get in contractual tug of wars with her. I am very happy to leave that to my agent.
There’s also the matter of foreign rights. Without an agent there is almost no hope of selling your book overseas. Those rights can be extremely lucrative and well worth the 20% agenting fees required (10% to your agent, 10% to the foreign agent).
5) An agent will help me polish my manuscript to make it more saleable.
Depending on the agent, that may be true up to a point. But I can’t emphasize enough that your manuscript has to be polished to catch an agent’s eye in the first place. The prose has to sparkle. It has to be relatively free of grammatical errors. The plot has to be intriguing. The characters compelling. And even then an agent might pass on it. Maybe that agent doesn’t represent the sub-genre you’re targeting. Or he/she might have too many authors writing the same thing. More likely, the voice didn’t resonate with them or they couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm about the project to represent it well.
6) Being rejected by agents means my project isn’t saleable
This is where it gets tricky. That is certainly one possibility. The thing to do with agent rejections is to treat them like you do contest judge comments. Look for similarities in their reasons for passing on the manuscript. Comments like ‘not right for me’ or “I’m not the agent for this” aren’t going to be helpful in that regard. But if they get more specific in their reasons, compare notes to see if a pattern emerges. And if you find one, make the changes necessary before sending the manuscript out again.
It’s also entirely possible that your manuscript is awesome but you haven’t hit the right agent yet. It took me almost as long to find an agent as it did to make my first sale, and that was after writing twenty some books!
7) If agents ask for an exclusive I should give it to them
Almost never. You can’t imagine how long an agent search can take. I suggest targeting several agents at the same time, informing each of them up front that it’s a simultaneous submission. The two agents I granted exclusives to didn’t adhere to their own self-imposed deadlines anyway. Another (who wasn’t an exclusive) responded a year later. I don’t have that kind of time, do you? Be honest and above board in your cover letter. And if you do decide to grant an exclusive I’d never suggest allowing more than two weeks. There just isn’t anything in it for the author.
I regard searching for an agent as something to be done as a next step in a career. Maybe that step comes after an author has polished a manuscript, gotten lots of feedback on it and is fairly certain it’s saleable. Or perhaps that point is reached when an author is ready to move to that next level and needs the right person to get her there. But all too often, I hear aspiring authors talking as if getting an agent is a short-cut; the end of the journey and I couldn’t disagree more. Acquiring an agent won’t be enough to make your work stand out, you have to do that on your own.
Have an agent question that wasn’t answered? A comment specific to your own agent search? I’d love to address it! I have a copy of my November release DEADLY INTENT for one lucky commenter!KYLIE BRANT'S QUESTIONS FOR FANS AND FOR READERS: Straddling the sub-genre of romantic suspense is tough. Some like a romantic story with a dash of suspense thrown in. Others crave a meat thriller, with a satisfying romance at the core. What's the right amount of romance with your suspense? How can you tell when an author has gotten the balance exactly right?
Great question, Kylie! As always it's a pleasure to talk with you. Readers/Authors/Aspiring Authors, questions or comments for this award-winning author of 31 novels?
CONGRATULATIONS TO GWEN HERNANDEZ, YOU WON THE DRAWING FOR KYLIE BRANT'S DEADLY INTENT!