Dear Abby ~ by Tamela Hancock Murray

Borrowed with permission from Steve Laube’s Agency blog
In my current stage of life, I find it freeing not to
feel compelled to share my opinion about every topic and to defend that opinion
to the verbal death. I don’t feel the urge to prove my rightness through verbal
sparring. Joy, indeed!
In everyday life, a friend may ask any number of
questions. “What do you think of this dress?” means you should say, “Wow! You
look great!”
“What do you think of my new boyfriend?” is meant to
elicit, “He’s wonderful!”
“Do you like this paper I wrote?” means, “Yes!”
In other words, few friends really seek your advice on
anything. They just want you to confirm they made the right decision about
everything, and everything they say and do is perfect. They seek affirmation.
But there is one arena where I’m paid for my opinion,
and that is as a literary agent. I take this responsibility seriously, because
I understand the risks.
With writers, I’m the first to wave pom-poms and jump up
and down and say, “You rock!” I love to encourage people, especially when
they’ve worked long and hard to achieve goals.
But writers pay literary agents a commission for our
opinions. These opinions can change the trajectory of their careers, especially
in light of the current publishing climate.
No agent gets it right every time. We let good
opportunities slip by, and take other projects that end up being time wasters
for everyone.
But here’s what we as agents do: we keep up with the
latest in publishing, ranging from which editors are moving to what houses (and
there are many, many job transitions at any given time), to what type of books
editors are seeking, and on and on.
You may say, “Well, Christian publishing houses are
always going to be looking for good Christian books.” True. But the nuances and
shifts are often, many, and varied. And consider the change involving e-books,
indie publishing, mergers, and lines shutting down. As agents, we learn
everything we can so we can give our clients advice based on education and
knowledge, not emotion and fuzzy math.
My clients know I tailor my advice to each person. I
work with writers to achieve their personal goals so they can enjoy their
careers while being successful.
So while giving advice is always risky, we strive to
give our clients the best advice we can. Good guidance, talent, and hard work
are the keys to success.
Your turn:
What part of publishing gives you the most anxiety?
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given in regard
to publishing? 
Tamela Hancock Murray has been an agent
for over 12 years. A bestselling, award-winning author of twenty novels,
novellas, and nonfiction books, Tamela brings the perspective of a working
writer to her role as a literary agent. As an agent she represents many top
authors and continues to develop new talent. She earned her BA with honors in
Journalism from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Today she enjoys living in
Northern Virginia with her family. She can often be found reading books on her

Agent Info

By Michelle Griep

An agent is a handy dandy buddy to have on your side. They
come in a variety of flavors and sizes, but here are a few common traits you’ll
find in most…

Bullies Beware
They help you with the sticky icky issues like not getting
paid your advance and/or royalty check on time. Agents know the legal aspects
of contracts and what to do when strife raises its ugly head in a
writer/publisher relationship.
Sweet Networking
They can get your manuscript into publishers that don’t take
open submissions. It’s an agent’s business to cultivate and maintain
connections in the publishing industry. They know where your story will fit the
best and bring it to that editor’s attention.
Wheeling and Dealing
They negotiate a higher rate of payback with a publisher
that a timid author might not be able to finagle. Writers are generally
solitary animals. Agents understand that and go out there into the big, scary
world to fight for them.
Friends Like None
They hold your hand during the dark times like when you
think you might not be able to make a deadline or have just gotten smacked
upside the head with a rejection. An agent encourages you when the going gets
tough, and trust me, it will.
Sometimes the cartoon bubble of what an agent is and does is
skewed. . . 

1. They are expensive.
Read my lips. You don’t have to pay up front for an agent.
If you find one that charges you to sign with them, run far and run fast. Most
reputable agents are paid a commission when they sell your manuscript for a
pre-arranged percentage and require no payments before that sale.
2. They are easier to
get than a publisher.
Nope. Not so much. You jump through the same hoops to get an
agent as you do a publisher.
3. You don’t need to
have an agent.
True. I’m living proof that you can get published without an
agent. But (and I’ve always got a big but) your opportunity for snagging a
bigger publisher is pretty much squat. It can happen, but that’s rare. A good
agent is worth his or her weight in gold…and in this day and age, that’s a
hefty amount.
4. They are hard to
Not really. Good agents are hard to acquire, but agents in
general are not hard to locate. Check out conferences. Even if you can’t afford
to attend, you can see who’s lined up to speak and snoop around their websites.
Ask writer buddies for recommendations. And by all means, before you even think
about querying an agent, polish your work to a fine sheen. When you do find one
that looks good, don’t forget to make sure they’re really all that and a bag of
chips by visiting Preditors and Editors.

Michelle Griep’s
been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and
Crayolas…professionally, however, for the past 10 years. She resides in the
frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a
local high school co-op. Her latest release, A HEART DECEIVED, is available by David C. Cook. You can find her at:, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.