Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To Agent or Not? That Is the Question.

There’s been discussion in some of my online groups recently about getting an agent. I know how hard it is to get a publishing contract, and I feel blessed that two small presses are taking a chance on me. (Which one will claim me as debut author??? Right now it’s a race.)

But hard as it was to land a contract with a traditional publisher, I think it may be harder to acquire an agent. Say, what?

Yep. I have been rejected by the finest agencies with multiple manuscripts in various genres (including the two now under contract). So what do two publishers see in my work that an agent doesn’t? Beats me.

And with the rise in respectability for indie publishing, some might question why pursue either a traditional publishing contract or an agent.

I’ve given that some thought.

After 39 years as an educator, with 20 of them in higher education, I was trained to seek external validation for my work. If I didn’t publish in recognized, peer-reviewed journals and publish books with a recognized publisher in my field, I wouldn’t get tenure or promotions or salary increases. Cut and dried.

So when I transitioned to full-time fiction writing, I hung onto the external validation baggage. Right or wrong, I wanted, nay, needed external validation of my writing from recognized authorities in my new field. Thus I sought traditional publishing venues. (Plus, truth be known, I’m scared to death of all you have to know to indie publish.)

I sought representation from an agent simultaneous with submitting to publishers not requiring agents. I hit the publishing track first. Do I seek an agent at this point? Might I be more attractive as a client with two books published? Why do I even need an agent?

I guess in part it comes down to publishing goals. If I want to publish with a larger house, an agent is very likely required. Rarely do publishers come knocking on your door uninvited.
Also, if I want to avoid the hassles of submitting to even small presses, I would need an agent. By hassles, I mean of course the varying submission requirements for each publishing house. Required font, spacing, formatting, and so on varies widely. An agent would just make that happen rather than me having ten versions of each manuscript taking up hard drive space.

And let’s not forget the multiple query letters. Does an agent have some appeal for doing that grunt work? Oh, yeah. Can a agent submit to places I have no access to? Indubitably. Is it worth what you fork over from royalties? I have no idea, really, but I’d like to give it a go to find out.


  1. My agent retired...thought it might be easier to find one since I'd had one already. Nope. Like pulling teeth. But, I'm not giving up. No indie for me, if I can avoid it. Best of luck to you. Best of luck to both of us.

  2. Thanks so much! This is such a tough business. Didn't your previous agent help find someone at all? Gosh, I would think a recommendation at least. I hope you get an agent soon! What do you write?