Find More Writing Time – Use Your Agent

Have you ever been to a “perfect” wedding? You may think so, but chances are, even if you weren’t aware of it, procedures went wrong.

Why is it hard to plan and execute a wedding? Because we don’t practice to perfection. So, many people hire wedding planners to take care of details for them.

A similar profession? The interior decorator. Though my home was likely among the more modest my decorator adorned, I was thrilled to hire her for my front rooms. Wallpaper, paint, carpet, furniture, draperies — were her domain. We chose the décor from suggestions she made based on research and connections that cost her time and money to cultivate. The professionals she worked with displayed passion for painting, flooring, applying wallpaper and hanging draperies. I’d rather send out manuscripts and negotiate contracts.

What does this have to do with life as a writer? An interior decorator and a wedding planner have much in common with a literary agent. We can practice to (near) perfection so we know more than the majority of working writers have time to learn — because they must have a chance to write!

We’re on friendly yet professional terms with editors. Lots of them. A writer spending thousands of dollars attending every conference for a year still isn’t likely to meet even a third of the editors we already know.

We know the look, feel and terms of the contracts from major publishing houses. A solo writer simply does not have access to the number of contracts a literary agent sees. This knowledge allows us to negotiate the best terms for our authors.

And those are only two examples of areas we have spent our time and money to learn for you.

I won’t claim there is no situation we haven’t seen, no question we haven’t heard, and no problem we can’t solve. However, the probability that we’ve experienced your situation, been asked your question, and can solve your problem, is great. Much greater than if you’re on your own.

Just as the wedding planner should know who to call if the bakery misses delivering your cake (or better yet, keep that from happening in the first place), we’re familiar with our landscape and can help make your writing journey a happy one. You let us take care of what we know. You get more time to write.

Your turn:

What do you think is the most valuable service an agent provides?

How does your agent make your life easier?


32 Responses to Find More Writing Time – Use Your Agent

  1. Johnnie Alexander August 24, 2017 at 5:17 am #

    That quiet assurance that you’re there. Just an email or a phone call away. Or a Zoom session! LOL!!

  2. Jeanine Lunsford August 24, 2017 at 5:41 am #

    The doorways of most publishing houses look like iron gates to the individual writer trying to catch a break. I’m convinced that a good agent is the writer’s best friend – her only way in … the password to unlock those closed doors.

  3. Tisha Martin August 24, 2017 at 5:58 am #


    Thank you for the encouraging words, and I must smile. Agents know lots of editors, yes, and authors know a lot of writers, absolutely–and if you’re that lucky writer who is also an editor, you get the best of both worlds. Sometimes, in between projects.

    Writing conferences are the best experience for writers. A few weekends ago I attended Taylor University’s Professional Writing conference for the first time and found it pleasant and empowering because the agents and editors and faculty there possessed teachable spirits. They wanted you to learn how to build platform, how to write, how to edit, how to have fun–with God. They wanted you to become a successful writer.

    I met Bob Hostetler in the parking lot on the way to breakfast that Saturday morning and we joined a group of writers and had a wonderful time talking about social media numbers and building platform. Bob was so gracious and very much a teacher.

  4. Loretta Eidson August 24, 2017 at 6:17 am #

    I love the open communication and trust my agent provides. It gives me peace knowing my manuscripts are in safe, wise hands. It also gives me a greater peace knowing my agent loves Christ as much as I do! Thank you, Tamela!

  5. Brennan McPherson August 24, 2017 at 6:19 am #

    The best thing an agent provides, to my admittedly naive perspective, is agency. Representation and the possibility (in a publisher’s mind) of other publishers being interested in the same project. An author may be able to understand everything about contracts that an agent understands, and yet not be able to negotiate anywhere near as good of terms because of a lack of relationships, and thereby a lack of leverage.

    Thanks for writing this post and making me want an agent even more. Hah!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 24, 2017 at 6:55 am #

      Good points, Brennan. I’m sure you’ll find the right agent for you at the right time!

  6. Jennifer Deibel August 24, 2017 at 6:52 am #

    I don’t have an agent yet, but I’m in the process of (hopefully) finding one. These things you’ve talked about here are some of the exact reasons I am hoping for an agent. And just having someone I can trust help guide me through this process.

    I sort of imagine the agent as my child’s kindergarten teacher…kind and compassionate when I drop my firstborn book-baby off st school for the very first time….and then graciously firm enough to shoo me out the door so she can get to work with my kid. She will get to know my “baby” almost as much as I do…and in some instances better in some ways. She will pick up on nuances and possible issues I may not have seen or realized we’re potential problems. She will work in many unseen ways for the good of that baby. The teamwork and support of a partnership like that is something I’m greatly looking forward to.

    A weak comparison at best, but as an author working to break in, those are the parallels I see. (Also, as a teacher my brain wants to connect everything back to the classroom LOL).

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 24, 2017 at 6:53 am #

    The best thing my ideal agent could do for me, RIGHT NOW, is to drop by and coak an argumentative husky outside into a very light drizzle. Denali hates rain (and I won’t tell you her feelings about snow), so hopefully the agent’s a Charles Atlas devotee.

    Denali and the Drizzle aside, the best thing an agent could do for me is, when needed, an honest, “Dude, SERIOUSLY? You can do better.”

    As a side note, I’ve heard it said that what makes someone like Yo-Yo Ma such a delight to hear is not the perfection of his musicianship, but the instant corrections he makes to the flaws in his technique. That’s what makes his cello so enchanting; we can hear and identify with the humanity of error.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 24, 2017 at 6:57 am #

      Yes, an agent can help you present your best work. Didn’t know that about Yo-Yo Ma!

      • Amanda Wen August 24, 2017 at 7:41 am #

        I have had the privilege of hearing Yo-Yo Ma play in person, and you are exactly right. He is tremendously gifted, but he’s not perfect, and that’s what makes him so relatable and wonderful. (Plus he’s a super nice guy; I was too starstruck to talk to him, but he and my husband had a great chat about the Boston Red Sox).

  8. Amanda Wen August 24, 2017 at 7:39 am #

    An overachiever by nature, I used to think I could do everything myself. The last several years, juggling kids and jobs and everything else, have taught me that no, in fact, I cannot be all things to all people, and it’s foolish to try. With a master’s in music and a combined three decades’ worth of lessons on piano and cello, I certainly have the knowledge to be my kids’ piano teacher…but I lack the patience, gifting, and desire to teach beginning piano lessons. So I hired an expert, someone who does have those things, and we are all thriving with this arrangement.

    The more I know about the publishing industry, the more I realize I don’t know, which is why I am seeking and praying for agency representation. With an expert in my corner, I can do what I’m good at (write) and my agent can do what she’s good at (everything else 🙂 ). It’s yet another example of the beauty and diversity of the Body of Christ. God has gifted us all differently and designed us to work together to move the Kingdom forward!

    • Amanda Wen August 24, 2017 at 8:03 am #

      “Everything else” was meant tongue-in-cheek, of course! Obviously it’s a team effort, and I definitely don’t mean to imply that it’s not. (Second-guessing myself is something I happen to be extremely good at. 🙂 )

  9. Carol Ashby August 24, 2017 at 8:19 am #

    Hypothetical here, since I’m an indie so I could keep rights for missions. If I had an agent, I think the most professionally valuable services would be finding the right publisher and negotiating a good contract.

    But I think what I’d like most is sharing my work with a kindred spirit who would rejoice at the high points and encourage at the low points. I’d like to have an agent who was both business partner and friend.

  10. Kristi Woods August 24, 2017 at 8:23 am #

    Like a wee one at Christmas, I’m a bit giddy about the prospect of linking arms with an agent, Tamela. It’s on the horizon; I’m certain. 😉 Just as farming out my web site’s technical side brings relief and a much quicker resolution, I envision an agent doing similarly with publishers, contracts, and more – all while writing and ministry continues on this end. Oh, how beautiful the day will be….

    • Jennifer Deibel August 24, 2017 at 9:54 am #

      Well said! I feel the exact same way!

  11. Robin E. Mason August 24, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    Tamela, i LOVE this analogy – and can identify with it – my degree is Interior Design! and yet I write, go figure!!!

    • Kristi Woods August 24, 2017 at 10:51 am #

      Funny enough, me too! Glad to find another designer-turned-writer.

      • Tamela Hancock Murray August 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

        Creativity crosses many forms in people. I tell people the world is losing an awesome writer in my graphic-designer daughter!

  12. Katy Lee August 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    I feel more comfortable knowing I have an agent to speak for me. I tend to be reserved and go along with the flow, but sometimes publishers can take advantage of that. They can put hard demands on me that are unrealistic. I like knowing I have a voice through my agent.

    I also appreciate the fact that my agent knows what a publisher is looking for. I want to write, but I don’t want to write things that aren’t going to sell. Time is extremely precious to me. As a wife and mother I have many responsibilities and need to manage my time wisely. If writing is going to fit into my schedule then it needs to be productive writing time and not wasted. My agent helps with this.

  13. Christine L Henderson August 25, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    I definitely understand how and why an agent can work through the gatekeepers at publishing houses. Networking and experience make all the difference.

    What I’d like in an agent is both a cheerleader and a teacher. Someone who could direct me in ways to improve my story and to cheer me on when I’m doubting the reason I write.

  14. Melissa Ferguson August 25, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

    Oh, how lovely it would be to have a decorator for my home, especially one specializing in design hacks with toddlers!
    I believe the greatest service an agent can give is knowing what works in the industry and then, after throughly investigating you and your writing, still wanting to come along beside you. Few things are better at quieting the voice of discouragement than a wise and knowledable cheerleader on the other side of the desk.

  15. Linda Riggs Mayfield August 30, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    I’m a professional research and writing consultant, and I think the most important services an agent supplies are very much like the ones I supply. We are both “cheerleaders” for our clients. We wouldn’t have accepted them as clients if we didn’t believe they could do it, but sometimes we must convince THEM that they can do it and finish well and on deadline. Consultants and agents both also know that part of our job is gently but firmly pointing out issues that are detrimental to the ultimate goal. Agents and consultants have expertise that goes ‘way beyond the clients’ that we are eager to put to use on their behalf. And perhaps most importantly, agents and consultants must be able to establish and maintain assurance of integrity and personal trust with our clients. When they question a recommendation we make or even the tone of an email we sent, they must be willing to assume it was done kindly and with their best interest in mind, because they know that’s how we work. Yup. I think I’ll be some agent’s very easy-to-work-with client someday! 😉

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