Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Heard Agents Are Going Away

The hot new topic on the loops right now is the buzz about the "changing face of publishing" or the "shift to e-publishing." For those of you who have followed this blog, you know my opinion on that one. But the new twist I have heard from several authors is the argument that with this new change in publishing, agents are no longer relevant to the author. IMHO, this is garbage.

It is unfortunate that the people making these claims apparently have no idea what agents do. If you are someone who thinks the role of the agent is simply to sell your story and to negotiate a contract, you are so off the mark.

Finding an agent is really working with someone who can work to make your career successful and profitable. This would include elements of building your writing into something that is marketable and perfect. Agents are your first line of defense when it comes to the editorial process. We take the time to read your stories, find the flaws, make suggestions based on your career plans and to guide you in the right direction.

We also take the time to think through projects and professional decisions before you dive into the work. I always remind authors, "wouldn't it have been nice to know the story premise had flaws in the beginning before you wrote the entire story?" The agent has the finger on the pulse of the publishing market and can work with you to craft your story to head in the direction of those needs the editors are trying to fill in their line-up.

When you do make the sale, you now have another member of your team working to make sure your career is safe and heading in the right direction. I have said here before, this is like the good cop, bad cop scenario. The editors want to really work with you on your craft. If there is a problem, you let the agent deal with it. In many cases, being the outside factor allows for the problem to be remedied without muddying the water with your editor.

I always think of the role of the agent the same way that having a relator sell your home. We pay them to make sure the deal works out in your favor. We pay them to take care of the dirty work with the banks or the obnoxious buyers. Those people who attempt to sell their homes on their own, while in some cases the sales work out fine, most of the time, those people realize it was harder than they thought. Sure, they saved the commission, but was it worth it in the long run.

Those people who seem to think the agents are going away are simply those people who seem to think they will make millions of dollars from their self-publishing sales on Smashwords or other platform. In their world, there is no need for an agent. For that approach, you're right. You don't need me or any other agent. But, with that said, when things do go wrong for your writing career, when you don't find yourself where you want to be with your writing in 5, 10, or 20 years, remember that maybe, just maybe, that agent that you avoided early in your career might have been able to help you over that hurdle.



  1. Dear Agents,

    Please don't go away until I have found one of you who loves my writing. I cannot, and don't want to, do that stuff you do.

    Love Sarah

  2. I've used the realtor example to explain what a publishing agent does. It's a pretty good comparison except that the agent sticks with you for longer than just the sale of the book!

    I think there will always be people looking for the quick way to fame & fortune (which sadly is not often through books anyway). Some are so arrogant they truly believe an agent is uneccesary while others I think are just ignorant of how the industry works.

    I'm unpublished and haven't even started querying, but the internet is a great resource to find out what's happening. Ignorance comes at an author's own expense.

  3. I would most certainly not want to tackle publishing on my own. Am glad to know agents are here to stay.

  4. If agents weren't needed by authors, then authors wouldn't work so hard to find an agent. Agents are a hot commodity despite the views of a few.

  5. I found a publisher before an agent. I still want an agent. I'm stumbling so badly and I know it's on things that an agent does.

    Unfortunately, I think I will never find one. I am not focused enough in my writing. I genre hop, a lot.

    Oh, and how can I find an agent if my premise is flawed? I mean, that'd be great to have on future work, but well, I don't imagine anyone is going to look at me and my flawed premise in a query letter.

    I don't know if you've given me more gumption or less hope... I'll just have to keep stumbling, I guess.

  6. This is only my persoanl opinion, but I don't think anyone who is wrting and seeking publication is doing it to rake in miliions of dollars.