Do you need an agent? Is it still possible to get published without one?
Jason posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
I enjoy reading your novels very much. As an aspiring writer, I have completed my first novel. How important, if at all should a writer have a literary agent? Your advice would be much appreciated.
Randy sez: That depends on what your goals are.
If you want to publish your novel with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher, then you desperately need an agent. It’s possible to sell your book to a publisher without one (by pitching your novel at writing conferences), but even if you sell your novel, you still need to negotiate the contract. My agent friends tell me that a lot of publishers have changed their contracts massively in the last year — in a way that is far more favorable to the publisher. This has forced agents to spend a lot of time negotiating terms to get a decent deal for their authors. If you don’t have an agent, you probably won’t have any idea what’s important and what’s not. Even if you have great negotiating skills, those will do you no good if you don’t know what to demand.
If you decide to self-publish (either in print or in e-books), then you don’t need an agent — yet. However, if your book does well as a self-pubbed book, then eventually you’ll want to publish it with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher. In that case, (see above), you’ll need an agent. When you need one, get one.
A quick note on the obvious question — what’s the advantage of working with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher? The answer is that those are the people who will get you into Barnes & Noble, Borders, Costco, and all the other bookstores. Good luck doing that on your own.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.
I guess it’s a good idea to have someone that knows how these things work to help you, but what do you do if you’re in a country where there are no such things as ‘agents’? From what I know, there are no such thing as an agent in Europe. It’s a North American concept.
Rob Cornell says
Speaking of getting into bookstores through traditional publishing, I wonder if you read Joe Konrath’s take on what it means to trad publishing if Borders goes under (as it looks like, sadly, it will).
Here’s the link to his article:
Obinna Ozoigbo says
Every author, especially those in the area of fiction, must have an agent. They help you:
1. Get your book published fast, traditionally.
2. Negotiate better deals.
3. Know what’s on and what’s not.
Without an agent, you are like a blind man groping in the dark, wasting your precious time and money.
I don’t have an agent. I self-publish. But I think I should quickly look for one.
Randy is right. He says, “Good luck doing that on your own.” There is, however, a lot more to this statement than meets the eye.
Melissa Prado says
@Nea: If not an agent, then at least a reputable lawyer who is experienced in the publishing industry. You need someone with that specialized legal knowledge to negotiate on your behalf.
Janet Lynn Rubert says
I met an agent at a conference who wanted my book proposal. From there, I was asked to send my full manuscript. They responded they’d received. That was six months ago and I have heard nothing. Should I be worried or is this typical. I sent an email before Christmas inquiring on the status. That was three weeks ago. No reply.