Are you still looking for an agent?

Given the ever changing landscaping of the publishing industry, I thought it might be timely to take a measure of how authors are changing their strategies and plans in response. Are they still seeking agency representation or aiming (straight off the bat) to go the Indie route? In the first ‘flush’ of Amazon’s kindle program many previously traditionally published authors went the so-called indie route – but now, especially if they’re with one of the many Amazon imprints, I wonder how many of them have simply traded a traditional publishing house for just a different publishing house (albeit, I assume, with better royalty rates). Perhaps ‘going it alone’ isn’t quite as easy as many authors had first hoped, and we do hear (from some quarters) of the difficulties inherent in the indie route (many of which are similarly experienced by authors with traditional publishers) – namely how to break through the ‘noise’ of millions of ebooks being released and available via the internet and other distribution networks.

So I wanted to get your feedback on whether, over the last year or so, you have changed your strategy for getting your work published and whether you think you still need (and seek) agency representation. Are you writers still sending out query letters by email? Do you continue to see the value in seeking representation and attempting the traditional publishing route, or have you already decided to go the indie route? And if so, in what form?

In short, what approach and/or plans do you have for the current book and publishing market? Do you still think agents are relevant or are you solely focusing on the indie approach to releasing your work?

Enquiring minds want to know!

24 thoughts on “Are you still looking for an agent?

  1. If I were advising new authors, I’d tell them to consider whether they want an agent who handles subsidiary rights if they plan to indie publish, or if they will manage those rights on their own (i.e. audio, foreign, film).

    • Nancy – interesting question – are agents willing to look at Indie authors for those rights? I think if you already have an agent they would but I wonder would a new agent take you on for these subsidiary rights alone??

  2. Once I’ve built up an audience by indie publishing, I might court an agent to help me with foreign rights and things like that. I’ve heard that it’s actually easier to get an agent for things like that than it is to find one through the publishing slush pile. But things continue to change, so we’ll see what happens.

  3. First book – small publisher.

    WIP – query like mad for an agent. Small publisher worked well, we have a great relationship and I learned a lot. But I want to climb.

    • Good point and some small publishers take on ‘unagented’ work which is a great first step for many authors. Hopefully this experience makes it easier to find an agent.

  4. I’ve traditionally published 28 mysteries. My agent is retiring after 30 years. He was a friend as well as an agent and I will miss him. I’ve signed on with another agency. It was a matchmaking process: I asked friends if they knew of agents looking for clients, checked out the prospective agents’ new deals and long-term clients, and wrote several agents. A friend put me in touch with an aggressive West Coast agent. My retiring agent interviewed her and agreed she was a good choice.

  5. Timely questions, Clare. My first 5 novels (co-authored with Lynn Sholes) were traditionally published then the foreign rights sold resulting in 23 languages being released. Books 6-8 are indie published, but our agent has already sold them to a number of foreign pubs. So if your genre is popular in other countries, having an agent to manage those rights is crucial.

    • That’s great Joe – and sounds like your agent was more than willing to sell foreign rights which is a whole other minefield for an author without representation to try and navigate!

  6. This year I decided to submit direct to small and medium presses. And it worked! I just scored a publishing deal!! Which I’m thrilled about. I need a little hand-holding for my debut. My decision surprised even me; I had always focused on getting an agent. Negotiating the contract was tricky, though. Thankfully, it all worked out.

  7. I recently signed contracts for two novels, neither agented, with two different independent publishers. One novel was just posted on Amazon, “The Utlimate Threat”. The other is due out later this summer. After sending out almost a hundred queries, I gave up on agents and traditional publishers. They seem interested only in ‘sure things’, unless you are already a best selling author, a celebrity or a high profile criminal. Most of us are none of these. I finally realized my queries were being read by college students, aka interns, who most likely had little interest or knowledge in my choice of genres. Evidently there still are enough sure things to keep the traditional folks employed . . . for now.

  8. I’ll continue to troll for an agent by pitching at conferences and sending a few queries when I have a unique manuscript to sell. But for my main genre, crime fiction, I’ll still always submit to my first publisher first. Will I ever self-publish? Maybe. Depends on how badly I want to do the extra work involved and spend the up front costs.

  9. I queried Devil’s Deal to a list of agents I thought were right for the work. I got about 25% request for fulls and the rejections were all strictly business.

    One of them turned me around. I had accidentally queried the president of the agency. The guy who handled the literary estates and silk stocking clients. He was kind and charming and very encouraging.

    He was also blunt. He didn’t think it was “break-out” material for a debut author.

    I thought on that long and hard. He was right. It is straight up genre, more closely akin to 70s car chase movies and pulps than a 2nd POV retrolinear literary YA dystopian written in haiku.

    I don’t read break out fiction, so it is unlikely that I would write it.

    I pulled back the three fulls I still had on submission and self-pubbed. It has been difficult and challenging. I fully believe I would have been agented if I had hung in, but when I compare my reviews and sales rankings to big house books of similar genre, I’m right in there. I know that doesn’t include bookstore and subsidiary sales, but I also know my royalty rates are higher.

    I also know that there are finite places at that table. I liken agents to someone searching a crowded rack looking for the right shirt for the right day. They pluck out the one that will work for them right now. What does that say about the rest of the shirts on the rack? Not a damn thing.

    I will be self-pubbing the entire series. I have a specific story arc in mind and will complete it. In the meantime I am outlining a YA idea that came to me after reading some agent blogs and listening in on discussions. Not trying to write to trends, again, since I don’t read trends, I’m unlikely to be able to capitalize on one. But one idea that an agent said she’d like to see resonated with me.

    And then I will query the hell out of it, but with a defined end date and exit strategy. The soft lack of goals and deadlines in the query stage was very hard on me emotionally, so I will create my own.

    I’d rather be unagented than sign with someone whose entire portfolio is small e-presses that don’t require agents to submit. So, I won’t be sending out 500 queries just so I can put “agented by . . . ” on my Twitter profile.

    Agents are just as important as ever in the venue of trad pub. A venue I would enter gleefully. But in the meantime, while you are waiting for a table at The Four Seasons, there is a really great little pub down the side alley.


    • Thanks Terri – your experience is very interesting and shows how we authors continue to adapt depending on our work and the market! Congrats on your self pub success and also with any future agent queries – lots of options for authors which is great these days:)

  10. Have had two agents over a long traditionally-published career in romance and mystery/thriller. But sold most recent book myself without one. (wouldn’t advise this to anyone without a lot of experience and contacts). An agent is like a spouse: A good one can wonderful. A bad one can make your life miserable. So my advice is to not go with the first guy who asks you to the prom. (And don’t go shopping for that prom dress until you have a completed manuscript that has been rewritten, veted by beta readers and massaged until it is as near to perfect as you can get it.)

    Agenting, like everything in this biz, is shifting to change with the times. Jane Friedman writes that about 80% of manuscripts sold are agented. If you’re aiming for a Big Six publisher, you won’t get in without one.

    Here’s her take on it: The whole post is good but scroll down for stuff on agents.

  11. I am just setting out on my journey. I’m wrapping up my final round of edits from beta readers. I’ve read a lot of blog posts, attended conference sessions on today’s publishing environment, and participated in webinars, and I’ve decided to at least try to get an agent and go the traditional route. If that ends up not working, I’ll start looking into small publishers and indie routes more seriously. This discussion, and others like it, help keep the wheels turning as I navigate this process for the first time.

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