1. K. A. Solo
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    K. A. Solo New Member

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    Agents: Pro or Con, Please Discuss.

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by K. A. Solo, Mar 19, 2012.

    Greetings, everyone. Please post your views on agents, and whether or not it's even necessary to have one in this day and age. I'm of two minds on this, and just about nearing the time when I need to make a decision on trying to acquire one. In my mind -

    Pro: you might have access to major publishing companies that won't even look at anything without an agent

    Con: you could be wasting valuable time trying to get an agent when that time could have been spent putting your manuscript in the hands of a smaller
    publisher. Also, they take a cut of what might not be very much $$ in the end.

    Thank you for your input.

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  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I've heard it said that it is harder to get an agent than a publisher. I don't happen to think that's true. When my novel is ready to be pitched, I plan on seeking an agent. This is because if I am successful in getting it published, I will want someone to negotiate my contract who has a thorough knowledge of the business and the pitfalls awaiting the novice. Just my view.
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A good agent knows what publishers are likely to go for a novel ina a particular genre and style, and also which ones are likely to give the best return. After all, the agent's cut is also at stake! He or she has the network of personal connections, too, to get your manuscript past the first layer of screening. The agent is your expert advocate.

    If you can get an agent, it is definitely to your advantage, assuming the agent is legitimate.

    Agents don't get very involved in the short story or poetry markets.
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    legit agents don't get AT ALL involved with short stories or poetry UNLESS it's by someone who's so famous, or is a client they already represent whose work is so well known and popular, that even their grocery list can make the ny times bestseller ranks...

    and i agree that it's best to start with an agent, if you want to be a professional, well-published writer...
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Senior Member Contributor

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    I'm actually happy to live in a country where literary agents aren't necessary, rather the opposite and where the majority go directly to the publishers when they submit their ms. But then you have to follow the procedures of where you live, as there seems to be different "rules" in different places. I do think it seems like 'our' system is the better, but then I understand how much extra work the major publishing houses in UK or US would have to deal with if they accepted open submissions...
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't dream of not trying for an agent, at least not in the genre(s) I'm interested in. Whatever time I spend finding one is time I would have wasted trying to find those few publishers who accept un-agented ms, who are actually interested in the type of story I've written, and who are reputable and not scam factories. The 'cut' an agent gets is well worth it, because they will be my advocate, both in finding the right publishers, getting them interested, and making sure my contract is fair and equitable. Much like my reason for not self-publishing, the agent will do the things I'd rather not, so I can be working on my next book.
  7. NotMyRealName
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    NotMyRealName New Member

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    If you're writing as a hobby and don't plan on switching to writing as a career, you don't need an agent.

    If you want writing to be your career you pretty much need an agent.

    All of the top publishers do not accept submissions from authors, with the exception of TOR (SF/Fantasy) and possibly one or two others.

    Yes, it's tough to get an agent, but if you're not good enough to get an agent, you're not good enough to make real money at writing anyhow. Only a handful of authors over recent years have 'made it' without an agent, and many of those never really tried to find an agent before publishing.
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So basically, if you don't have any interest in publishing through a real publisher (not a vanity press), you don't need an agent.

    I'd agree with that. :)
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Senior Member Contributor

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    Again, it depends on where you live. What you say might be true to UK and US but it's not valid for every country out there and not everyone on here are from UK/US either.
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    Within the UK there seems to be a move by the big six publishers to have more open doors where anyone can submit work without an agent and there are smaller publishers that are starting to get stories on the bestseller lists/literary prize lists.

    One big con is you are at the mercy of their opinions. I've had agents say they are fed up of seeing fantasy with orcs, elves, dwarves etc but they have sent mind back with amazing feedback, but it is too different for the current market.

    I'm hoping for one to give it a go. Also these days an agent cannot even come close to guranteeing to sell your work to a publisher. No matter how exceptional your work it is at the mercy of market forces.
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are no guarantees in writing, period.
  12. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick New Member

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    I keep hearing from published authors in podcasts, etc. that this agent/publisher system is quickly becoming obsolete.
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which published authors? And how often/how many defines "keep hearing"?
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    There was a big speech at a UK conference in the past year about the changes in the industry- I'll try and remember to find it in the morning. There have also been a couple of 'high profile' people leaving writing for other jobs like teaching stating the current level of pressure publishers (even when they have an agent) are putting them under is one of the reasons. Steph Swainston is one.

    Authors are increasingly being disillusioned by the pay cut they are taking with the second advance, the speed at which the second book is expected to be out etc. It's being reported more regularly in the British Press.

    Agents are still needed but in someways I think in the UK industry the difficulty in obtaining one and the lack of guarantee of a publisher if you do is kind of backfiring.

    I am still looking for one, but I have a shortlist and if I don't get one of them, I'm going to look at other ideas.
  15. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick New Member

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    I've heard it several times. I first heard it a few years ago in an interview with K.A. Applegate about her Animorph reboot. Kristine Kathryn went into great detail about the current state of the current market in "Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing" podcast #124, and I know "writing excuses" has talked about it as well. I've heard it from a few other sources, but I just can't remember from where.

    It makes sense, the dissemination of information has changed drastically with the internet, and so changes are happening everywhere. Self-publishing was virtually impossible not too long ago, and now reputable authors are doing it.

    Times are changing.
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    This - I think with agents and even traditional publishing it is becoming harder to get a book published unless it follows a cookie cutter set of ideals (that information is put forward by the Writers and Artists Yearbook here). It isn't helped by the fact literary fiction is were some of the big advances that didn't make money were paid out.
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, Kristine Kathryn is married to Dean Wesley Smith, so her stance doesn't surprise me.

    While I agree that times are changing, the 'sky is falling' on commercial publishing (or agents, in this case) seems extreme to me. And, of course, it seems to come mostly from one direction.
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    I don't think the sky is falling on it at all -- it is changing and will have to evolve. However, it has become harder to get a book published that breaks new ground or even one that is a stellar piece of fiction but doesn't fit with the current demands of the publishing industry. It is actually a book put out by the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook here were I read about the new challenges first. It is called How to Get Published and is written by an experienced author and respected literary consultant. The book charts the changes, the differences and what to expect. There used to be agents in London (very respected ones) who would guarantee to place any book they took on, they can no longer do that. As a result because it is their wages at stake they are not taking as many risks even when they love a book. He doesn't insult the industry but paints a realistic picture of where it appears to be going.

    The publishing industry has made some spectacular losses with advances and is being more cautious.

    I'm also a member of another site which has had input from a respected agent, and several reasonably well known authors, and another site which has input from a publishing company. It isn't all doom and gloom at all, it is just more difficult and even good authors, stunning writers are needing to consider other ideas. The traditional route may not be open to you even if you have written a great piece of literature.

    I know authors, some who are midlist authors who won't touch the big six publishers with a barge pole because of the compromises they would have to make.
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I can't speak to how things are or were in the UK, but personally I think it would be foolish for any agent to guarantee finding a publisher. And I don't think it strange or alarming that it's difficult (or even more difficult) to get a book published that doesn't fit 'current demands'. That only makes business sense. And logically, it would seem the more difficult it is to get published, the more necessary having a good agent becomes.
  20. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Member

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    I would hardly expect agents and publishers to be running around shouting 'the sky is falling' even if they were wearing helmets and bleeding from cuts to the head :).

    The writing business is changing so fast at the moment that I wouldn't want to try to predict what will happen, but I think you only need to look at the number of agents who've left the business or begun exploring other avenues (e.g. becoming publishers) to see that they don't believe they have a bright future. Personally I would never even consider signing some of the agency contract clauses I've seen posted recently, and if I'd need to hire a lawyer before I could risk signing a contract with an agent, I might as well get the lawyer to deal with publishers' contracts too.
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    This isn't just the UK. It is just more obvious here because we are a small group of people. My author/editor acquaintances aren't just restricted to my own country. My online work has attracted a couple of senior editors - one from Australia and one from the US.

    By current demands I mean they are more likely to go with the ones in place than to take a risk on an amazing book to make the current demands. They are more likely to take bandwagon work than breakthrough work. And fifteen/twenty years ago some agents had a 100% placement record, because their opinion was so trusted. Those agents no longer have that. Those same agents that could take risks are now more cautious. And sure that is great and sensible for them but if you have written a book that is fantastic in every other way it stands no chance in the current market. The issue with my own book is simply my otherworld LOTR style fantasy is set in modernish times, rather than medieval or futuristic. The agent feedback I've received has been consistent if nothing else. Amazing characters, they were gripped, but ... could I please make it medieval or at least historical ? Umm ... no it would change it so much it would be a different story. My other story an editor from another country was interested in, but was turned down based on the gay characters - but he was hooked and is offering help. I'm definitely self publishing them anyway because I want to employ the editor. I wasn't bothered about it when I first read it, I knew my story was good and my writing improving. Now I'm caught up in it.

    As Edward pointed out several mid-list agents have changed their business model and either turned to editing or literary consultancy (or both), or include self publishing services as part of their business. (the ones that I'm aware of have left entirely tend to be US, whilst the UK ones tend to be adapting their services).

    The Romance genre is probably the one to watch. They have made full use of epublishing for nearly a decade and have been using it longer than any others. Because the works are often shorter, there are fewer agents involved.

    In other genres the difficulty in finding an agent has caused great authors to look at smaller presses and epubs, or consider self publishing. There is a distinct improvement in the quality of both.
  22. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I got a lawyer to look over the contract my agent sent me before I signed it - that's just good business sense before signing ANY contract that locks you into a business relationship and affects your future earnings. I don't see that as negating the value of the agent or superceding their authority - the solicitor himself admitted he knows nothing about the publishing industry, but knows a thing or two about contract clauses. The fact that he could find nothing suspicious or untoward about the contract just gave me peace of mind, but I'm very happy to put my trust in my agent. She has never promised to get my book published, but has a valuable insight into the market for the genre I'm writing and will do her very best for me. It's reassuring to have someone with expertise fighting your corner, because I wouldn't know where to start.
  23. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly this. And again, the simple fact that so many publishers will not even let unsolicited mss through their doors means one has to have an agent, or forget those publishers. I'm not inclined to cut my chances any more than necessary.

    People bail out of careers all the time. Sometimes because they're bored, sometimes they see a chance for a bigger reward elsewhere, or sometimes they just want to jump on the bandwagon. Even knowledgeable people can read the tea leaves wrong. So some agents may be getting out of agenting, or changing they way they run their agency, but others are not.

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