Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Agent or Not To Agent

Currently reading - Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer

I was going to write about needing a business plan, but Angie raised a good point in her comment on Sunday's post. I spoke of the lack of respect shown by both writer and agents to each other. But does a writer really need an agent?

I have to respectfully disagree with Angie's statement that writers don't need agents. IMHO, I think the real answer is it depends.

As writer, there's a lot of factors to consider. What are your target markets? Your comfort level in negotiating contracts? Are you planning to work with a publishing company or self-publish? If going with a publishing company, do you have personal contacts within a particular company? Who's your support team consist of, i.e. attorney, accountant, editor, etc.?

As Angie pointed out, sf/f writer Laura Resnick sells her own books, then uses a literary lawyer to review the contracts. Author Dean Wesley Smith calls up an agent friend only if he needs some help. I know of a couple of writers who sold their own books to editors, then had an agent negotiate the deal. And there are other writers who wouldn't dream of submitting to an editor without an agent.

The main problem is there's no one size-fits-all solution for every writer. I'll use my c.p.'s as an example. Two out of the three published in novel length have agents. One who doesn't is perfectly happy and capable of negotiating her own contracts. The two of us not published in novel-length have magazine credits, for which you don't need an agent. But we're both looking for an agent for assistance with our longer works.

So, as I said before, take a good, hard look at what you want out of the publishing industry. Then decide what tools you need to make that goal a reality.

And remember to be polite and professional regardless of your ultimate decision concerning agents. Publishing is a very small world.

NOTICE: If your interest in learning more about what a literary attorney does and you're in the Houston area, Northwest Houston RWA will be hosting Phillip Sanov of the Lanier Law Firm on May 1. Mr. Sanov will be discussing protecting your intellectual property rights. Click on the link for more info.


  1. That's kinda what I said. :) Or at least, it's what I meant; I might not have expressed myself well.

    Selling without an agent is one option. It's not for everyone, no, but it is an option, and I think that fact needs to be stated as often as possible, since so many of the people handing out advice to writers will insist, strongly and with great scorn for conflicting opinions, that yes, you absolutely do have to have an agent to sell to a reputable publisher, always-always, and you're an idiot if you want to try it on your own. That's just not true, and people who could do it themselves, and want to do it themselves (not always the same set) need to hear that yes, selling without an agent does work if you're up to it.

    I'd never try to say that every single writer out there should fire their agent, or give up looking for one. Some people do need or want that kind of assistance, and if that's the case then I wish them the best -- which is the same I wish to everyone. Part of having the freedom to do what works best for you, though, is knowing all your options, and this is an option which is pretty well suppressed in too much of the writing blogosphere.


  2. My apologies if I misread your response, Angie. When I read your comment from Sunday's blog, I realized that I sounded like the "you MUST have an agent" camp. SO NOT what I meant to write. Just wanted to clarify options to anyone reading this.

  3. So we're both in the middle and we actually agree. :)