Whether or not to get an agent is a VERY personal decision. It is one that I flip flop back and forth with. You need to ask yourself a few questions before you make this decision.
- Do I have the ability to negotiate my own contract? (Another option is to hire a lawyer to review and explain the contract, but you will still be on your own for negotiating)
- Do I need an agent to get into the publisher that I want?
- Are you willing to trust your publisher with income statements (Because you’d need a PHD to figure out your sales/royalties)
There may be more questions that would point you in one direction or another, but these are the biggies for me.
Number one and three, I think, are self explanatory. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone on your side. Just remember, you will pay them 15% of your royalties for them to “be on your side”
This, I think, is the major question regarding whether or not to partner with an agent:
Do I need an agent to get into the publisher that I want?
In general, if you want to get into the Big Six (5) under one of the imprints that gives you larger advances and printed book circulation, you need to have an agent. A few of these houses have open submission once a year, or you can try pitching at conferences, but in general, you need an agent to get a foot in the door. Some of the “not big six but still really big” houses require agents, too. So do your research, and choose wisely. However, make sure you are reaching for the Big 6 for the right reasons (which I will discuss in my next post)
The interesting thing is that many agents are starting to send manuscripts to Qualified Small Houses. You need to be careful of this, because if the only reason you want an agent is to get into a Big Six, and they get you a contract at a Qualified Small House, You have wasted your 15% (because most Qualified Small Houses take un-agented submissions.)
However: In those houses, agented manuscripts seem to get a looksee before unagented manuscripts. I learned that recently in my own querying. So again, you need to decide what it is you really want.
So what do you think? Agent or no agent, and why? Do you have a reason I did not cover above that makes you want that agent relationship?
Recently, I sent out a little tweet with an article attached. My comment was something like: “Interesting article, but I still think qualified small houses are the way to go.”
Someone tweeted me back asking why I thought that, since they were beginning to research the subject.
I thought about explaining in 140 characters or less— but you thought Twitter pitching was hard. Ha!
So, here is the blog post I promised her. I figured there are probably a lot of people out there with their heads spinning. Maybe this will help.
Remember, this is all my opinion after reading tons of articles, other blog posts, and researching the industry in general. Also, everyone is different. What’s right for one person may not be right for another.
(I also admit that my mind changes daily – but I usually return to my final conclusion eventually)
There are more options out there to be published today than ever before. Authors, for the first time, have a heck of a lot of control over making their dreams come true. They have also never been in such danger of flushing their careers down the toilet. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you do it right. No shortcuts.
So, what are our choices? Don’t look anywhere else for all these categories. This is how I look at the industry. There is some overlap, but my nutty brain sees all of these as different in one way or another.
Here are what I look at as the major options available.
- Agent/No agent
- The Big Six (or five now). (Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Simon and Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan) *And the oodles of imprints below them*
- Bigger than you can imagine houses (Like Harlequin – Umm, now part of Harper Collins, come to think of it)
- Qualified Small Houses (There is a fine line between #4 and #5)
- Up and Coming, Established Houses
- Self-Publishing (And all of the different iterations of self-publishing)
Now, I’m not going to talk about all these in one post, because long posts bore me to tears. I know I don’t have the time to read that much, and I know it’s hard to digest all that at once to. In my next post I’ll talk about agents, and we’ll take it from there.
While we’re waiting, anyone want to chime in on why they made whatever decision they made?