Following such an awesome panel on world-building, the agents panel was almost on par.
Panellists were: Joshua Bilmes, Meg Davis, Ian Drury, Barry Goldblatt, John Jarrold, Juliet Mushens.
Again, I wrote a lot of notes on this panel, and I’m not going to write them all up [if you wanted to know you should have been there].
– It’s as much about the author as it is the book – an agent needs to know you’ll get on as people, and if the author’s solid, it doesn’t matter if one of their 3-4 books isn’t, because the other 2-3 may be.
– Readers will notice that a 99p book is 1/3rd the price of sandwich, and expect it be about as good.
– In answering what an agent does, one answer was “You have the time to write, and we deal with the business.” Another was “Specialism is part of our culture. Authors are best at writing.” A third agent said “My job is to be available when the author needs me.”
“We must be flexible to author’s and book’s needs – we’re not selling baked beans!”
– There was some discussion about how it took 15 years for authors to get accepted, such as Iain Banks.
– We also heard about how editors are now doing a lot of agent roles to convince other departments of the publishing firm to accept this book, but it was discussed that we still need agents too.
– The last time all the SF & F publishers all wanted the same thing was George R R Martin’s series in 1994.
– Online presence is key; and that includes how well you act on the web. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if you’re not a nice/okay person. (see point 1)
This was a nice panel with some humour, humanity, serious comments about marketing and I made many more notes for when I’m ready to seek representation.
Are agents still necessary?
I’d say they currently are.