Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 18—Get an Agent.

The writing world has changed. And I am of the opinion that most of those changes have diminished the importance of the literary agent.
Not so many years ago, a writer had to be represented by a literary agent to have any chance of getting published by a reputable firm. To some extent, that’s still the case—certain imprints of the international publishing conglomerates turn their noses up at direct submissions. Queries from authors are lucky to earn a rejection. Most often, they are simply ignored.
But there are many, many small, medium-sized, and even large publishing houses more than happy to deal directly with writers. And, of course, there are innovations like digital publishing and e-books that essentially bypass the traditional publishing process—including agents.
So, does an aspiring author need an agent? I would never say it’s a bad idea, assuming you can hook up with one who’s reputable and recognized. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s necessary. I have managed to publish books with ten or so publishers, from fairly large ones to teeny-tiny ones, all with nary an agent in sight. And at least a few of those publishers had stated policies of not accepting un-agented submissions.
Of course my ability to evaluate contracts is lacking compared to the expertise of an agent. And, if I were overwhelmed with keeping track of royalties and subsidiary rights and such, I’m sure an agent would come in handy.
So far, however, my misdirected, misguided, and mismanaged literary career doesn’t require a whole lot of the skill or savvy an agent might provide.
Come to think of it, that might be the problem….


  1. You're right, Rod. There is no cut and dried answer to this one. I tried soliciting agents when I was getting started. What I learned is it is just as difficult to secure an agent as it is a publisher. Then if you do secure an agent, you still need a publisher. Maybe that becomes easier under the guiding hand of an agent; but if you're a newbie, a publishing contract is still a formidable hurdle.

  2. I think a good intellectual property attorney might do a better job with the legal aspects of contracts. They would charge a one-time fee, too, not 15-20% of the book's royalty take forever after.

    Just my opinion, though. :-)