Why Do I Want An Agent?

whyfaceAs a friend of mine said… it’s so that I can drop in, ‘I’ve been talking to my agent.’ But although this is obviously shallow and tragically needy, there’s sadly a lot of truth in it. However, before I make the move to find an agent, I thought I’d explain some of the reasons for this decision.

I’ve been heralding the dawn of self-publishing for long enough and so what’s changed? Nothing, in terms of the self-publishing revolution. It seems to be ploughing on with increased momentum. A latest number shows that 30% of all ebooks sold are self-published, and that’s huge. But, it’s not you… it’s me. Why am I changing my mind?

The Hybrid Model

First of all, let me explain that I’m not sure I want to give up completely on self-publishing. It still offers unbeatable freedom of creativity, royalties and speed of publication. Whatever I end up doing with traditional publishing will not change this.

Authors are now starting to blend both the traditional and the self-published models together into a Hybrid Model. I’d like to do the same, if indeed I ever get the chance. You can then take the positives from both worlds and, in a literary sense, have your cake and eat it. Some titles will be published traditionally while others will be self-published. Perhaps different genres, or more radical themes.

But, what is it about an Agent that can give me more?

Agent’s Role

An agent will work on my behalf to get a publishing deal. That’s the simple role that I’m looking for someone to perform. Writing is my job at the moment. I want it to be my career. If I want to be professional at something then I at least want to try and be accepted by the industry.

I want them to be an advisor as well. Someone objective who can provide direction and guidance to my work.

But I also want my stories to be spread further than just Amazon. Perhaps translated into different languages, converted into films and TV, recorded for audiobooks. Of course, I could achieve all of these goals by myself but, right now, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. Apparently, it takes thousands of pounds to produce a professional audiobook. That’s a serious investment for a self-published author.

Validation

I’ve mentioned this before and it’s kind of pathetic, but it’s true. If you’re a throwback from the traditional publishing world and turn to self-publishing then this may not be such an issue, but I wasn’t a writer two years ago and I need someone who I don’t know to believe in what I can do.

Success

I’ve always wanted to be a successful writer. That’s what I set out to do at the beginning of all this. So, what is success for me? Selling hundreds of thousands of books would be successful but even then, an eventual picking up from one of the big boys would follow and that would probably signify that it had been successful.

Traditional Publishing

I’ve written enough posts which knock it, so why is it that I now want an Agent so that they can secure a traditional publishing deal for me? Well, there’s a few things really.

Marketing and Promotion – This has always been a big problem for me. I look at some self-published authors and their self-promotion is obvious. Social media-ing it like there’s no tomorrow. Competitions, guest posts, blog tours, signings, blogs, podcasts, webcasts and the rest of it. I don’t mind doing any of this stuff and there’s nothing wrong with my work ethic but arranging this stuff is a full-time job. I want to be a writer not a planner. Plus, there’s so much of it out there nowadays, because of the rise of self-publishing, that I’m not really sure how you can stand out and make a difference.

Distribution – My books will be on sale everywhere, or at least that’s what I want eventually. How cool would it be to see my book on sale in an airport in Bangkok? I’ve not even been to Bangkok, my book would be somewhere I haven’t been. That’s cool.

Purpose – A publishing deal would give you a purpose, a job, something you have to get done. Being self-published is great from an artistic stance. You’re your own boss, you make the decisions, you’re free with your direction, your time, everything. But, I sometimes feel rudderless. I’ve explained loads of time how I’m not one of these tortured artists who would be happy to live in a freezing bedsit while I was being true to my art. I want to make money and that may sound callous to some or selling out, but hey, I’ve got mouths to feed.

Self-Publishing

I feel at the moment that there are so many people following the path of the few who have made a major success. All of the existing avenues of self-promotion are exhausted with shit writers and their shit books. Eventually, like all revolutions, there will be a period of acceptance and bringing it into the mainstream somehow, but at the moment it’s just full of noise. My twitter stream is full of really crap looking book covers.

This brings me to my last point. Most of the self-published books which I see at the moment are focussed on horror, young adult vampires, fantasy, erotica and steam punk. This is great if you like that kind of thing but my tastes are a bit more mainstream. I understand why these books are so common. Traditional publishers have never concentrated on these areas because of the fact that they’re not mainstream and now the shackles are off. There are people in long, black leather trench coats and trilbies hammering away furiously as if all of their Christmases have come at once. Good luck to them, but I’m never going to be like that.

So, this is why I’m going to search for an agent who will represent me to publishers. As always, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Until next time…

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8 responses to “Why Do I Want An Agent?

  1. Michael, I attended a writer’s conference in April here in the States and learned about a new but growing trend called “agent assisted self-publishing.” As you can probably imagine, it’s a marriage of the two ideals for a writer. The agent who presented on this topic is April Eberhardt: http://www.aprileberhardt.com/
    Might be worth contacting her.

    • Hi Gwen, thanks for this.

      Do you know what type of services she was offering to the author? Her website doesn’t give any clues.

      thanks

      Mike

      • Just so you know, this agent wasn’t scamming anyone. She came to the conference with a self-pub author she represented, and told the audience she represented the author because she believed in her work. This author didn’t have the blockbuster sales the reader below mentioned, and she’d turned down a traditional publishing contract because she decided ultimately, indie was the way she wanted to go. April (the agent) took on the role of publishing consultant – she advised the author through the steps of self-publishing: found her an e-book formatter, a graphic designer for a high-quality cover, booked her to speak at conferences, helped her choose a good editor, and is guiding her through marketing her book.

      • Sorry, Gwen, I shouldn’t have used ‘scam’. I don’t know why I did really. I just meant that a lot of the services that an agent can offer to someone who is self-publishing can be found online by the author themselves if they’re reasonably savvy on the internet.

        An agent will traditionally take a percentage but in these cases it would be hard to measure, so I assume a fixed fee occurs. This is a grey area for me at the moment.

        A self publishing helper is different in my mind to an agent. I want an agent to provide the industry knowledge and the network that you can’t get as a writer… But there has to be something in it for them.

        This space is going to change a lot as the model settles down.

  2. After attending several agents-and-editors panels in New York City, I believe that “agent-assisted self-publishing” is mostly a fairly desperate and understandable attempt by agents to continue to make a living even when they cannot (no fault of their own) sell manuscripts to publishers. The world is full of people willing to help frustrated writers for a price (suggest revisions, establish blog platforms, copy edit, find an agent, create fake Twitter followers, craft query letters, etc.). The old business model is dying, as is the field of literary agent. When publishers laid off a lot of editors a few years ago, many of those editors became literary agents, but publishers no longer really need agents. Publishers once scoffed at self-published works, but then they saw big sales for a few titles, mostly genre (e.g. teenage vampire romance). Publishers today are more likely to be interested in a Holley novel if it already has healthy self-publishing sales than if an agent tries to pitch the book on its intrinsic merits. Consolidation in publishing, and emphasis on blockbuster bestsellers, have largely marginalized literary agents. That is a sad happening, because good literary agents have been very important in bringing great literature to print. I too am looking for an agent, but I am at the same time trying to figure out Plan B. With enough caffeine I might even invent a Plan C. Agent if I can, something else if I can’t.

    • Thanks for this Stephen. I have the same thoughts regarding the ‘agent-assisted self-publishing’. It sounds like a bit of a scam where they prey on vulnerable authors who don’t know how to use KDP. Like you, I’m also thinking of Plan B but I’m not as optimistic to be even thinking of a Plan C.

      It’s hard to know what an agent can do, and I’ve heard all the stories about their role diminishing in the brave new world, but part of me still hopes that a good agent will be the making of me. Only time will tell if I’m right or not but, in any case, there’s always Plan B.

  3. Michael, your search for an agent will force you to deal with the dreaded query letter, about which there are several strongly held and conflicting opinions, and lots of inherently contradictory advice. If you are not yet familiar with a site called “the query shark” run by an energetic and eccentric agent (I wish she were mine), Janet Reid, I recommend it. You might be horrified, you might be inspired, but her critiques of readers’ query letters are usually interesting and illuminating. http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

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