Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To agent or not to agent

Last night I found out that one of the writers I've done beta work for is about to make an announcement. This writer has a book deal with a major publishing house and she achieved it without an agent. She did go the prescribed road of write, revise, send to betas, revise, betas, query, agent revisions, query etc. None of the agents made an offer.

I won't get into too many details because I'm a little afraid I may be stepping over the line by posting about this and don't ask me who it is; I can keep a secret.

So after finding out about this last night I did a lot of thinking. I've always said I wouldn't want to go this route. I want an agent who knows the ways around the publishing world. In a way, I also think it has do with having an "expert" tell me what needs to change in my book and when it's ready to send out. But thinking on it last night, I realized that I don't have a finished project that I'm so sure about that I would go the non-agent route.

When I beta read this person's work I fell in love with the story and told her she would definitely sell this one. Am I bowing to my awesomeness? Absolutely not. I've said that to several people and they're still not sold, although I honestly cannot understand why!

I want your thoughts on the agent route and if you would consider bypassing, why? I've decided if I have a project I love so much; I may actually change my mind.

And you must, must, must go
here and see this awesome cover and make plans to buy this book! It is freakin' fantastic!!


Jamie B said...

I think if you have done everything you can and still don't get an offer from an agent, then going directly to good publishers who take unagented submissions (Flux, and Sourcebooks depending on genre, for example) makes sense, BUT, you're probably going to get a lower advance than you would've if you had an agent negotiating your contract. BUT, (another but) if you go on your own and sell well your first time out, then you have some leverage to get a good agent for the next contract!

Curious though, when your friend got the offer from the publisher, did she (re)query any agents to see if they wanted to take her on and negotiate the deal?

J.S. Wood said...

That is a great question, Jamie. I don't know. Maybe we can interview her when she's allowed to talk about it. I told her I definitely want to pick her brain after she's published.

Veronica Roth said...

Thanks for the link!

Also, I think the easy answer is "it depends," because everyone is in a different situation, with a different book, different contacts, different circumstances. So you do what works for you, as long as you are very well-informed and comfortable with what you decide.

But on a more personal level, I didn't just want an agent to sell my book-- my agent has been my editor, my cheerleader, and the person who explains everything to me and gives me advice. She hasn't needed to get tough with anyone on my behalf, but I know that she would. So I'm intensely grateful to have her.

Great post! Very thought-provoking.

Melanie said...

i guess if i was having no luck with getting an agent and yet people i trusted in the business were telling me i have a really good story that's really well written, i'd have to try, right? why give up if there are other options out there. of course i'd have to do some major research on how to go that route successfully.

LM Preston said...

I believe when you are trying to sell your work, you have to think in the box, around the box and outside of it. Everyone makes their own way and I know tons of authors that found a publisher on their own. Remember, when one door closes - another always opens.

Krista Ashe said...

I think if it was a reputable publisher then I would be more apt to consider an offer. Yes, agents aren't the only way to go, but they are more than just a way in the door. I love my agent b/c she offers criticism aka editing, encouragement, and connections to other aspects of the business I wouldn't be aware of. She's also a very hands on agent who is very comfortable with phone calls and planning sessions.

But like Jamie said, having a deal can also open you up to agents that perhaps didn't happen before. I do believe that Maggie S of Shiver started with a smaller house like Flux or Sourcebooks and then look what happened with Shiver. You just never know, so you have to keep your options open.

Allie Sanders said...

I'm not sure I would ever go the unagented route. Yes, it is wickedly hard to get an agent and yes, you have to suffer through the heartbreaking rejections and simply being ignored but at the same time an agent does more than just sell your book.

I want that cheerleader, that editor, the one who's going to get tough with me if I need it. Plus I want someone on my side looking out for me because I don't know enough about negotiating a contract to even dare something so huge on my own.

For some going the unagented route may work well but I think it'd take something huge to talk me out of getting an agent before submitting to publishers.