Thursday, March 24, 2011

On agents

There’s a growing attitude that authors don’t need agents now that electronic publishing’s starting to take the world by storm. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it’s quite possible for an author to navigate their career without the help of an agent, especially among the small presses where publishers are more hands-on, agents are, in my opinion, still going to be playing a role in the publishing industry in the future.

Yes it’s true that the industry is experiencing a massive revolution at the moment, with a shift in emphasis toward electronic publishing. I’m excited to see not only the emergence of so many small presses but also some of the bigger players showing a greater interest in electronic publishing and opening their doors to unsolicited queries.

This is good. It means authors are getting more opportunities to prove themselves and get a foot in the door. It means authors will be able to build a readership and a proven track record in sales based on a start in electronic and print on demand publishing.

These are good things. Those authors who rise to the top will be marketable assets to savvy publishers who know a good thing when they see it. And, in my mind, that’s where agents will prove their weight in gold.

Agents do so much more than read queries and sell books. They are valuable negotiators who are not only qualified to offer advice about where to sell your book but also decipher the often cryptic details in contracts. Trust me, nothing makes my eyes glaze over faster than those pages with all the fine print.

And, if you’re hot property, it means you’re going to need an ally by your side to make sure that no one gets you into a bind with a bum contract. A good agent will have her finger on the pulse, negotiate a better deal for you and will be well connected to put you in a position where you can concentrate on what’s important to you: crafting stories.

So, if you’re still on the query-mill with regard to agents, don’t give up. Query often. Work on your writing to make it better with each story you publish, even if it’s “only” with the small presses. Don’t despair if you don’t have an agent just yet. As I’ve learnt in the past, no agent is better than a bad agent. Be patient. Work hard. And enjoy your writing.

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