Have you ever noticed at a conference that at some point one speaker will seemingly contradict another? This time around it was little ol’ me contradicting Greg Ferguson of Egmont USA. When asked if you need an agent, he assured people that they did because 99% of major trade publishers are closed to unagented manuscripts.
Lucky me, I spoke before Greg. When asked the same question, my answer was “it depends on what you want to write.” The person who asked me about this had also asked about test writing and educational series. You don’t need an agent for that. Or for regional publishing. Or writing for children’s magazines. If you want to sell to the major trade houses, it is much easier with an agent. Greg’s right. (See — it only sounded like a contradicted him.)
But an agent can only help if you are really and truly ready. Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown Literary said that while she represents picture book authors, she will only offer a contract when the author has four or five marketable manuscripts.
Four or five. This means that you only NEED an agent if you have the skills needed to produce a body of marketable work. It sounds harsh, but you are up against Mo Willems, Jane Yolen and David Shannon.
Just because you want an agent, doesn’t mean you need an agent.
PS. More on agents tomorrow.