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Recently, I have been having moderate success with my short stories, being selected to have my work read at several local literary events and winning a competition for a major literary journal. I have yet to be paid for anything (let's not go crazy).

I have now been approached by an agent who would like to meet with me. They received my name from the producer of one of the literary events. I did a bit of research on them and found that this agent recently broke away from a large, established agency and is trying to build a client list of there own.

But my real question is: If I am currently only working on short stories, what can an agent do for me? I do have a novel in the works, but it is probably not going to be done in any sort of timeframe an agent would want to wait for (6 months to a year). Am I wasting their time and mine by meeting with them? Or would having an agent be helpful for getting my work published in the more established literary journals? And even if that is so, would taking 10-15% of the 30 bucks I would earn for a short story be worth their time?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Agents generally do nothing for short stories. I have never heard of an agent representing a short story to a literary journal of any kind, since the 15% that they get from a sale would be too trivial of a sum to be worth their money.

There are two things that an agent could potentially do for you at this stage in your career:

  • Help you publish a short story collection. These are very hard to do on your own, but if you publish one they pay roughly as well as novels.
  • Help you with your eventual novel. Even if the novel isn't completed yet, it is probably worth your while to get on the agent's radar so that you have something to refer to when you get back in touch with them after the novel's finished.

I'd say that it's worth your time to meet with the agent, if only for networking and career-building. However, keep in mind that there isn't a whole lot that the agent is likely to do for you right now---the meeting will mostly be to prepare for a possible future contract.

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