Will you introduce me to your agent?

Continued">

Short answer: no, I won’t. I won’t introduce you to my publisher either.

Look, I can understand your position. You want to write a nonfiction book. To get the book published, it has to get in front of publishers. The best way to get in front of publishers is with a book agent. And you figured out that, because I work on books, I must know agents. So it makes logical sense to ask me to introduce you. What’s the big deal?

Think like an agent for a moment

If an agent is any good, they have a constant stream of people trying to get their attention. Their job is to pick out the ones who have a reasonable chance of getting published — or more accurately, getting an advance from a mainstream publisher — and help them get the maximum offer. Since the agent gets 15% of the advance and royalties, their interests and yours are perfectly aligned — and they don’t get paid until they secure a contract.

So what is the agent looking for?

A good idea, an author that can write it, and proof that you can drive sales.

There are two ways you can prove that to an agent.

You can write a killer book proposal that shows that you have a good idea, you are a good writer, and you have a solid promotional plan.

Or you can be so famous that they know what you write will sell, just based on your name.

Unless you are famous, the agent is not interested in wasting time talking with you about your killer idea — unless you write it up in a proposal. That’s a waste of their time. And if they do end up talking to you, they will mouth encouraging words that don’t actually mean anything, and tell you to come back with a proposal. Praise is cheap, and worthless.

Why I (probably) won’t introduce you

My agent has told me that the chances she will take on a book are much higher if it comes from an author she knows, like me. She still rejects a lot of referrals, but accepts some. (She represents about one-third of the authors I send to her, and when she does, she usually gets a publishing deal for them.)

In order for me to maintain the value of this relationship, I can’t just send her random people. She’ll see that my judgment is lacking, and she’ll stop responding to me. That’s not good for you, and it’s not good for me (after all, I will need her next time I want to write a book).

So here are the reasons I won’t introduce you.

  • You’re just investigating the publishing industry. She doesn’t have time to educate you.
  • You just have an idea you haven’t fleshed out. She can’t sell that.
  • You have an idea I’m not impressed with. Why would I send that along?
  • You wrote a bad proposal. Why would I send that along?
  • You have no resources to help sell a book. If you can’t sell it, she can’t you.

(If case you are famous, you don’t need me to introduce you, just contact her directly.)

And yet, I do make introductions in some cases. I will introduce you if:

  • You have already written a killer proposal including a great promotional section.
  • You have already written a killer manuscript and have great promotional resources.
  • You hired me to help you write a proposal. (If this is true, I know you well, and know your proposal is worth reviewing.)
  • You hired me to help you edit a manuscript. (If this is true, I know your writing well, and know your book is worth publishing).

Even if you do hire me, I may still choose not to contact the agent and make an introduction. If it’s not right for that agent, an introduction won’t serve anyone.

Another path forward

Maybe you don’t want a traditional publisher. After all, they take more than a year to publish anything.

I’ll be happy to introduce you to hybrid publishers, or to reputable self-publishing services.

In any case, this is why I seem strangely reticent to just introduce you to my agent. It may seem to make sense to you, but unless you’re pretty far down the road with a great book or proposal, it doesn’t make sense for my agent, or for me.

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