To Agent or Not To Agent?

Good question. I'm glad you asked. However, as with most writing-related advice, Your Mileage May Vary.

As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't trade my agent for the world! True, Dawnflight sold to a publisher that still accepts unagented submissions … but, folks, this is a dying breed. If the industry take-overs, fold-ups and in-house policy changes continue at the present pace, those publishers who accept unagented manuscripts will become extinct long before the condor does.

A good literary agent is an author's champion long after the contract is signed. When I was new to the business, I did not have a clue as to how best to creep through the minefield known as literary and subsidiary rights … which, by the way, is an ever-changing landscape. For example, Amazon's innovative Kindle 2 ebook reader impacts an author's audio-book rights. And God only knows what other literary inventions lie just around the bend.

My agent's expert knowledge & negotiating skills are well worth every dime I pay him!

Having a bad agent, OTOH, is worse than having no agent at all. And "bad" can simply mean an agent who is not right for you. Remember, this is a business arrangement, and the agent works for you, not the other way around. If for any reason you don't like the way the relationship works (or doesn't work), then it's far better to terminate the arrangement than to suffer in silence. Martyrdom may earn you extra points, but not extra money.

Some authors prefer to represent themselves, and that can be highly successful, too. The bottom line, if you wish to take this route, is to do your homework … and know your limitations as well as your goals and strengths.

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Revised 25 March 2009