Is an agent a writer's biggest goal or their ultimate enemy?
It depends on the author's point of view....
I'm sure you want to know which side of the fence I'm on. I'll be happy to tell you ... in a few minutes. ;)
Let's think about this a few ways.
First, what can an agent do for a self-pub?
Sell foreign/translation rights.
Yes, a self-pub can figure this out on her own. She can find someone to translate her book, format it, and upload it to multiple sites that reach other countries. However, an agent might have access to a reliable, professional translator. How do you know some random person on Craigslist, or who advertises their skillz online, can truly translate your novel? Not just verbatim, but adding those subtle nuances that come with quality overseas publishers?
Yes, you could do it yourself - but you MUST know exactly what you're getting into.
Sell film rights.
I have trad pub friends who've sold film rights. It sounds complicated to me. Really, really complicated. Unless you have a competent attorney who has experience in this field, an agent is going to be your best ally (but you'll probably still want an attorney too).
Sell future books to traditional publishers.
Okay, okay, I know some people are screaming at the computer screen right now. (You know who you are, and I still luv you.) It's okay. Not sure if you know, but I'm one of those self-pubs who isn't against traditional publishing. I don't currently have anything written and edited that might work for that route, but I don't rule it out for the future.
Look, if you want to go traditional, getting an agent is the first step (unless you want to work with a small press, then you could probably do it without an agent).
Do the crap you don't want to do.
Because once you have six or seven products out there, sometimes you want to spend more time writing than managing. I don't think there's any shame in that.
What can a self-pub do for themselves?
Yes, you can do everything yourself as a self-pub. You can. You can write, edit, format, upload, manage, sell film rights, audio rights, foreign rights, do all the stuff involved in publishing. YOU CAN DO IT!
But, the question you have to ask yourself is: Do I want to do everything?
If the answers is yes, then go for it! Put out your best product and be proud of yourself. You should. Self-publishing is really hard work. Every time some random person whines about how self-pubs slap any old poorly edited combo of words on Amazon, I want to punch them. I don't know any self-pubs who do that. We all take pride in our work. It's not about the quick buck.
If the answer is no, then before you query figure out what kind of relationship you want with an agent. Then look for an agent who fits your needs. Keep in mind - you will give up a decent percentage of royalties and some control over your work. For some authors, this is too much to ask. Nothing comes for free and agents have to make a living too. It's a compromise and a business decision. There isn't one right path.
So are agents angels or demons? I think most are probably angels. I'd like to believe they are in the business because they love books and authors. Whether you want one, or need one, is up to you. ;)
|Megg, age 8-ish (I think)|
Megg Jensen is an author, mom, and wife. She hates laundry and loves road trips. She's got a bunch of books out. Epic fantasy, but with a young adult twist - less quests, more kissing. Check out her books at www.meggjensen.com