Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are Agents Still Worth It?

Let’s face it. Being in the query trenches...well, it sucks. Yup, that’s the word. It totally sucks. It’s time consuming and chuck full of highs and lows, (okay. mostly low low lows) rejection and disappointment.

And sometimes I wonder: why do I do this to myself? Why do I bother? I’ll never get an agent. Especially now that publishers are cutting down their lists, and agents are taking on less clients. And with all the options writers have today- an agent isn’t even essential anymore if you want to be published! So, why put myself through this torture?

Sometimes I feel naive, or pig-headed in my determination to find an agent. I wonder if I’m being old fashioned or that my quest could be detrimental to my career, especially when I see other self-pub authors coming out with two or three books a year and already making a living self-publishing. That could be me!- if I’d just give up the ghost and concentrate on making a self-pub career happen. 

 In today’s publishing climate, it’s true that agents, editors, and traditional publishing houses may be losing some of the power they once wielded. Authors can take things into their own hands now a’days and publish their books, however and whenever they want. They have the option of contracting out copyediting, formatting, and cover design or going it themselves. They can choose the price of their books, how much they want to market and what avenues they’ll use for such. 

And just like in traditional publishing, there are ‘break out’ novels and bestsellers, and authors who are able to gain a decent wage writing books, which is all any author can really hope for. So why bother with an agent at all?

I’ve heard it said that signing with an agent isn’t worth it anymore. And for some authors, this might be true. Why pay someone 15% of your profits when you can publish your books without their help? Why go traditional when you can earn a higher percentage of royalties through self-publishing?

Well, despite this logic, I’ve come to the conclusion that having an agent is worth it, especially after reading this post by Kristi Helvig, YA writer. 

And it’s not just because I hope to publish traditionally one day. Like most other writers out there, I’ve given self-publishing some serious thought. But after contemplating both sides of the coin, I feel that having an industry professional in my corner has so many more advantages than disadvantages. It’s what I want and it’s what I’ll continue to strive for, even if it means feeling like I’m voluntary wading through writer’s purgatory for a few more years (God, please don't be more than a few more years!:).  For those of you like me, determined to find an agent come hell or high water, please check out Kristi’s post. It definitely gave me food for thought and renewed motivation.

Does still being in the query trenches and looking for an agent ever make you feel like a boob?  If you've decided to jump start your career without an agent, do you think you'll still pursue an agent in the future for things like rights negotiation or a tradi contract?

29 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

I think if you want to go the traditional route then you should try and get an agent. Lots of self publishers I know signed with agents after they self published because they did well. Not all agents want that, but some definitely troll the Amazon best seller lists.

Agents for self published authors are terrific for foreign rights and possibly a traditional deal for the right book.

But if traditional is what you want and it meets your goals, then yes, query! :)

These days though, signing with the agent seems to be the "easy" part. It's getting the book deal that's the hard part. So many agents and submissions, and not enough slots. Great writing just doesn't cut it anymore.

Best of luck, Katie! I know you'll reach your goal! And we'll party when you do.

Christine Danek said...

This is where I'm at too. Thanks for putting your feelings out there. I do feel like--why am I going through this? I see both sides of the coin in traditional publishing, but still feel like I want that agent. I'm glad there are options, and hey, I may change my tune, but they are there. I think you have to follow what you feel is right for you. Off to read Kristi's post

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I never even considered querying agents. I went straight to querying publishers. And unless I do really hit it big (insert laughter here) I'll just stick with my small publisher for now.

Em-Musing said...

I'm with you 100%. I came into this game when e-pubbing was just on the horizon. If getting an agent just doesn't happen for me (but it will), I'll e-pub.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I'll have to come back and read Kristi's post after work today. But I can say that based on my experiences, a good agent is totally worth it. I am so lucky and so grateful to have Sara in my corner! I DID go the self-publishing route (back when it was less popular and less accepted) and I also had a book contract with a traditional publisher on my own. I made mistakes. I am not a negotiator -- I just don't have that sort of personality. And I don't understand enough about the business end to really handle that part of publishing.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

For my YA books, yes, an agent is essential. But for the genre I'm about to write, SP is still the way to go (especially since not many agents are looking for it--yet). It just means I'll have to hire the professionals necessary to make my ms the strongest it can be. And sometimes, that feels scarier than querying.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this. I think it's great that there are more options out there for authors now so we can all do what feels right for us.

For me, I want an agent to help polish my book and negotiate the contracts and everything else they do. But I agree with Laura, getting an agent doesn't mean you'll get a book contract at all. Lots of people have agents but no contract.

E. Arroyo said...

I went with a small publisher for my debut, but I still want an agent. I would like someone in my corner too. Heading over to Kristi's now. =)

Dean Crawford said...

Bottom line is simple Katie: becoming a successful author is hugely difficult, but you've a much better chance with an agent than without. Don't quit - you've gotten close already, not much further to go now. Self-publishing is, in general, for those who either couldn't stay the distance or who weren't good enough to be traditionally published. If they were, in either case, they would have been.

E.J. Wesley said...

Find your niche, and be confident in your decision (i.e. run like heck with it). That's the only advice I can truly give anyone.

Both systems can work for you, but it's all work. Plus, there's nothing in this world to keep you from doing both. :-)

Angela Felsted said...

I always intended to go the traditional agented route. Come to think of it, I still do. But somewhere along the way an independent publisher offered to publish one of my poetry books. Then it took them so long to release it that I felt compelled to self-pub another one as compensation to people who were waiting for the first.

Now I have another self-pub book out, one I hadn't even set out to write, but which had so much momentum on its own that people asked me to publish it. So that's what I did.

Don't know if that makes me impulsive or what, but I never, in a million years, thought I'd go the SP route. In fact, I'd much prefer a traditional publisher. But at least, this way, I can set the price and make key decisions on my own.

I just started a new MS and when I'm done, I'll be querying agents again. I haven't given up on traditional publishing.

Kristi Helvig said...

Thanks for the shout out, Katie!

As Laura pointed out in the comments and I discussed in my post, agents are being used more and more by self-published authors too. I disagree with the comment that self-publishers only do so if they can't get a traditional deal (though that used to be the case). I know several who do it because they wanted full artistic control of the process and didn't see the need for a publisher with the rise of the digital age--but they also have agents for foreign rights, etc.

Best of luck in your agent search, Katie--the right one is out there! Oh, and my last name is Helvig, not Helvic. ;)

TC Avey said...

I soooo identify with your post!

Thanks for voicing the thoughts in my head and coming to the same conclusion as me.

Let's keep going!

Connie Keller said...

Keep it up! Hopefully, you'll get an agent soon.

Personally, I'm pursuing both trad and indie publishing. One for one genre and the other for another. No matter what you chose, it's hard! I guess there's no easy path. Though sometimes I sure wish there was.

mshatch said...

Excellent post and excellent link. I needed that reminder. Thanks :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I haven't ruled out self-publishing, but I'm going to try the traditional publishing route first. And I think an agent would be helpful especially because I'm not very familiar with the publishing industry; an agent would help me navigate it.

Anne R. Allen said...

There are still traditional publishing careers out there, especially in certain genres. Children's and YA writers really do have a chance. I have three friends who have landed agents in the last month (all write YA and MG) One got signed at a local writers conference. She said it didn't sink in for hours that she'd been offered representation after reading an opener and synopsis in a workshop. It had been too easy, she said. When it finally comes to you, it may seem "too easy" to you, too-- after all this hard work. Hang in there. It does happen.

Cynthia Lee said...

Last I heard, you can self-pub while you look for an agent. Just a thought.

I'm not looking for an agent. The whole process is too long and too boring. Also, I don't write the kind of stuff that trad publishers are looking for. I had a agent tell me as much. So I'm going to self-pub my first and so far only book and I'm going to take it from there.

If I ever do get an agent, I will still hire an IP lawyer to look at all contracts for a flat fee. Yes, I would. It's my understanding that agents are not lawyers, that they have NO legal training whatsoever so why would I trust him/her to negotiate a contract?? Also, said agent is a total stranger to me, not necessarily someone I can trust. I believe most agents are ethical and honest but how do I know I'm getting a good one? Why would I trust a total stranger to take care of all these things that are so important to a career? I have heard some agent HORROR stories lately (and some good stories too).

These are just a few concerns I have with the agent/author paradigm.

I think if querying is making you miserable, than try something else. I hope that helps.

Donna Hosie said...

Why choose the one option though?

I am a huge advocate of going the agent route, while simultaneously self publishing. It's a dream. I self publish my Camelot trilogy, having complete control over everything, and my agent works her butt off with another YA series I have developed.

I agree with those that say if querying is making you utterly miserable you should give up. Don't let it take over your life.

D.G. Hudson said...

I'll definitely check out Kristi's post, thanks for the link.

I'm still pursuing the classic way but I'd probably look for a small indie press before self-publishing.

I use intuition and gut to determine when to change tactics. Mothers have lots of both.

Mark Murata said...

Remember, every hour you spend learning how to negotiate contracts is an hour that you're not writing.

Lexa Cain said...

Trying to get an agent is definitely banging your head against a wall. But every time you write and query a new novel, you become a better writer.
In an ironic way, I'm lucky I can't self-pub (Egypt doesn't have Paypal, so there's no way for me to receive money by self-pubbing), so I have to keep drawing a target on that wall and smacking my skull against it.
Good luck to both of us. We need it! :-)

Botanist said...

Certainly food for thought.

Made a good case for an agent if you want to get into any kind of business relationship with the traditional publishing industry. It's not so clear whether an agent is needed (or even useful) if you intend to self-pub and keep going it alone.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

How funny, because my post on Sunday was on why I have decided to self-publish! You know, though, that's the beautiful thing about being a writer at this point in time. We have options. If we self-publish one book, it doesn't mean that we have to stop working at traditional publishing, and just because people become traditionally published doesn't mean they never self-publish. We have options and our careers are in our hands. It's good to do what makes sense to you - there's no right or wrong way! Congratulations for making an informed decision you feel good about! :)

Kate said...

Katie, you've come so close already, and I know it's frustrating that you haven't yet been taken on, but believe me, it's only a matter of time!

Personally I wouldn't be without my agent! She has the contacts to get my work looked at, and, more importantly, she will, hopefully for me as she has for her other clients, be able to negotiate deals in translation in foreign territories, which there is no way I could possibly do on my own!

So stick with it Katie. I have faith in you because not very long ago I was exactly where you are now!

Jessica Bell said...

I've given up with the agent thing. I'm doing pretty ok without one for now. But doesn't mean that's the way to go for everyone. No, an agent is definitely not worth for ME anymore. Only way I would sign with one now is if THEY approached me. lol

JenfromtheBlock said...

Yea, I feel like a total boob. Thanks for putting a word to it. I'm beginning to realize I'm not alone, though, and that helps. Have you heard about this?http://carolrhoda.blogspot.com/2012/09/send-me-your-ya-manuscripts-beginning.html
I believe you had a post recently about pubs accepting non-agented work under certain circumstances. To me, this sounds like an excellent opportunity and a really cool press. The catch? Your manuscript turns back into a pumpkin at midnight on Halloween. (Worse, it gets deleted.) Hang in there and good luck!

LTM said...

Hang in there, honey. You've got to do what feels right to you. Personally, having been on both sides, I think SP is the best place for me right now. I see the value in agents if they're able to land a great deal or if they're handling overseas or sub rights. Otherwise, it's more dead weight. :o) <3 ((hugs))

Elle Strauss said...

I'm with Jessica Bell on this one. Maybe because I've been through 2 agents and several rounds of submissions. SP is the way for me, and I'm in it for the long run. If I get an another agent, it will be because she pursued me. Maybe one day I'll seek one out for foreign and film, if things go that way.

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