Chip MacGregor

April 6, 2016

Ask the Agent: Do Agents Help with Marketing?


So we’re spending the month of April doing “Ask the Agent” — your chance as a writer to ask that question you’ve always wanted to know about, if you could only sit down, face-to-face, with a literary agent. A couple days ago, someone sent in this question: “Will an agent help me promote my book — particularly if I’m with a smaller publisher who doesn’t offer much marketing help?” 

To me, this one is easy: Any good agent should get involved in your marketing. The fact is, the role of the agent has changed, so I can understand some old-timers arguing that the agent’s job really isn’t to get involved in the nitty-gritty of marketing. But from where I stand, marketing has become one of the most essential things I do with the authors I represent. That can mean:

  • Offering marketing training, so that authors understand the big picture of how one goes about marketing a book.
  • Helping the author clarify their target audience, their marketing goals, their strengths and weaknesses as a marketer. (Are you good at interviews? Can you do a nice job with short articles? etc)
  • Brainstorming various marketing ideas.
  • Helping the author choose the actual marketing strategies they want to pursue — AND making sure the author understands what the publisher is doing, so you can fill in the gaps instead of not duplicating efforts.
  • Following up with the publisher to make sure they actually DO what they say they’ll do.
  • Introducing the author to potential endorsers.
  • Making media connections, if appropriate.
  • Helping set up a marketing calendar, in order to make sure the author has a written plan.
  • Evaluating the choices and effectiveness, and giving the author a sounding board to discuss the entire process, bringing in experiences from other books and authors to speak to the current book.

Okay, that seems like a lot… and it is, which is why I often tell people that, if I wanted, I could turn this into a full-time marketing job. (I don’t want that, by the way — it’s not my passion, and doing all of this doesn’t actually bring in direct income, since I can’t charge for this… it’s just part of what I need to do as an agent.) And this can happen with both big and small publishers, by the way.

Do I do all of this on every book I represent? Nope — I don’t have the time for it. But that’s why I try to offer regular marketing advice to our authors, including doing an annual marketing seminar, so that the authors we work with have access to the best marketing thinking, even if not all of it can be hands-on.

Perhaps some of this speaks to the importance of finding an agent who is a good fit for you, rather than just finding some guy who calls himself an agent and wants to sign you up. Again, this is why you ask questions, and make sure the agent you’re working with knows what they are doing and can offer some real benefit to you and your book.

I hope that helps. Would love to hear what others have done to help you with your marketing. Stop by the comments section and leave a comment!

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  • Kay Mann says:

    I have a question if I may. I’ve been getting great feedback on my latest book, The Slave’s Diary, so I’ve written to several dozen people associated with film production companies, telling them about my book. Of course I realize that it’s a longshot, but if by some chance one of them were to contact me about optioning the book for a movie, how could I go about getting an agent quickly to help me navigate through what would follow? I have a couple of other books due to be released that would also make great movies (yes, it’s likely we all feel that way about our work), so an agent seems like a good idea. Any advice?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      My advice would be “find a good film agent,” Kay. The fact is, you’ll find it exceedingly, abundantly rare for a film company to buy directly from you, as the author.

    • Kay Mann says:

      Thank you Chip, I appreciate your input. If a miracle should happen where I beat the odds, I’ll look for a film agent.

  • Patrick Bunn says:

    Chip, I have a question for you. I am by no means new to writing, but it has only been over the past year or so since I have felt a desire to publish. I have a full time vocation and I am not looking to necessarily become a full-time author, nor am I that concerned with making a bunch of money from publishing; I’m more concerned about having my work professionally edited and published and marketed. With that in mind, this is my question; Do agents work with people who’s goal is not necessarily to become a full time author?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Every agent does, in my view, Patrick. It depends on the project, of course. If I thought you had a fabulous idea that speaks to a need and would sell a bunch of copies, I’d be interested. My guess is most every agent would feel that way.

  • kathrynjbain says:

    Thanks for the info. This is good to know. I always hear that authors are on their own if they go with the big guys, but if you have a good agent, that apparently is not the case.

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