You Have a Contract But No Literary Agent

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Q. My friend (I write that and I feel like I’m trying to hide from a therapist or something!) had her first novel published by a smaller publishing house earlier this year. Now they would like to offer her a contract for five more books in the series. She negotiated the first sale without an agent, but she’s wary about signing this new contract without someone more experienced looking it over for her first. She’d like to have an agent work with her on it, but since this isn’t a typical querying situation, she’s unsure how to approach one. Any advice you could give so I might pass it along to her would be greatly appreciated.
- N.L.

A. Your friend may have realized this already, but you're she's in a wonderful situation.
Just write to agents and, in the body of the e-mail, quickly explain your situation. Explain that you have published a small book, have an offer for five more, are seeking representation to shepherd you through the deal, and you are contacting her for specific reasons. Then attach a short document explaining even more. What was the first book? Has the second publishing contract come through yet?
The whole thing is kind of an unorthodox situation, but an agent is unlikely to complain because the money is on the table, and their job is much easier now. That said, just explain everything you can, be brief, try not to just include all kinds of links to things, and be ready to answer her questions. Her questions may include "Why me?" "After this six-book series, what do you see for yourself in the future?"
If an agent reps you in the deal, you will lose 15% in her commission, but ideally you will make that up when she negotiates a better deal.

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Update: Follow-up question

Q. Janet Reid talked about this on her blog earlier this week, too. [To summarize, Janet said that if the deal was too small money-wise, then agents still wouldn't take it on even with a contract in hand.] I was wondering if you might be able to recommend some agents who are looking for Urban Fantasy and might be interested in a smaller deal or perhaps could point me in the direction of some other resource I could send her to for help on this.

A. I can't recommend individual agents like that. You have two options. 1) Just keep going after urban fantasy agents and see what happens. Or 2) look for agents who take
on urban fantasy and then look for the newest of the new. Seek out new agents
at respectable agencies who are looking for their first sale and will
take little money to get the credit. I suspect they would love to say that they just landed a five-book deal.

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