I used to wonder if I'd ever get an agent, but now I'm wondering what one of those would do for me that I don't already do for myself.

I just agreed to -- signed paperwork to follow -- sell the French, German, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese versions of my debut novel, How the Strong Survive, to a European publisher. I am required to be involved and approve the translations, and my new publisher will pay my expenses for book release promotional tours. We are still negotiating the film rights to these "European Language" editions.

They also want my (sold but still in the production pipeline) Nick Schaevers PI series. Those discussions are in the initial stage.

I'll announce the publisher's name when the ink is dry on the contracts.

Not bad for a guy with no agent!

I asked, and the agents that responded told me that international discussions get the agent 20% for established authors, but 25% of unknown authors like me.

For 1/4th of my royalties, I want them to do a lot of the research for the novel and write some of the chapters.

Besides, authors I know have told me how agents often negotiate terms benefitting the publisher to the detriment of the author, in hopes for the agent being receptive in the future to other books the agent brings them.

I have "trust issues" with the whole "agent" thing. Maybe if one of them proved to me that they have human DNA, and are not a member of the loyal order of Selachi, I might let them represent me. Until then, I seem to be selling books to American and international publishers without an agent taking the "mordita" out of my royalties.

Just my $0.02

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True that, Helen.


It's a good point that anyone entering any sort of business relationship should beware. There are snakes out there who'll take you for ride. First of all, never give an agent money up front. The honest ones work strictly on commision. Check sites like Preditors and Editors, agentquery.com...if the agent is a member of the AAR, it's a fairly safe bet they're on the up and up.

BTW, writers like Stephen King and James Patterson end up paying their agents millions of dollars every year. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't keep anyone on who wasn't earning his/her keep.
But beyond the business (and I guess most people just stopped reading, but I'm used to talking to myself ;) you also have to have a good personal relationship with an agent, a good creative relationship. You have to find an agent willing to represent the books you want to write.
True, John. Some people need more from an agent than others, but it usually ends up being, one way or another, more than strictly a business relationship.

Loyalty is another issue. When Dennis Lehane started out, he sat down with his agent and publisher and said (paraphrasing), "Look, I don't write the kind of stuff that's ever going to make bestseller lists. I'll understand if you want to bail on me right now." His agent and publisher stuck with him for several books, though, happy to be involved with such a talent regardless of the cash flow. Then, of course, Mystic River came out and (with a little luck by making it into the hands of Clint Eastwood) made them all rich.

I believe good writing will eventually find a good agent, and a good agent will eventually sell good writing. There's no conspiracy among publishing industry professionals to keep writers down. No secret handshake. We're all on the same side, when you get down to it. Agents (honest ones) and editors get into the business because they love to read, love finding a diamond in the rough.

The bottom line is always a factor, of course, but that's the same with all businesses.


Even though your book has found its way to a major publisher without the help of an agent, I still think it would behoove you to find a good one now. It might make the difference of a zero or two in your next advance.


Hope you find a good agent who's a good match for you and your work, if that's what you want. It's easy to become disillusioned in this biz, but rest assured there are plenty of honest agents out there who'll work for your best interest. If the writing is solid, it just needs to hit the right desk to make the connection. Best of luck in your career!
I should probably know better than to get into this any more, but I've lived my life making bad decisions; I'm too young to quit and too old to change, so here goes.

To be honest and fair, should fledgling writers expect their agents to give them the same time and attention as any stars they may have in the stable? My book has yet to sell; if my agent has another authro is a going, revenue-producing concern, that author gets dibs on her time. That's just business. If I become successful, I'll expect to be able to get my emails returned quickly. That's what pays the bills.

I think it's unfair to slam agents for potentially spending more time with their established clients. We'd all do it, in their shows. We'd have to, if we expected to remain in business.
One of the things I like about Crimespace is it really is a community. So, this is what goes on :)

Now, this is all starting to come back to the idea of successful, and what each individual hopes to get out of their writing. It's not a given that it's a ton of money.

My favourite filmmaker is a guy named John Sayles. His movies, stuff like City of Hope, Lonestar and Men With Guns are some of the best American movies ever made (for me, anyway. In fact, the rest of his films are all good, too, not a bad one in the bunch, really). But after brielfy flirting with Hollywood and big money (Baby It's You, oh yeah, the one dud) he decided to remain totally independent. I'm glad he did. He's not a Hollywood gazilionaire, but he sure makes them uncomfortable at Sundance and for some reason I like that.

I know that a large advance would be bad for me (I'm not happy about that, but that's my personality). It's an advance against royalties, it would hang over my head like a large loan, I'd be checking every day, "Did it pay out? Did it pay out?" I'd never get another word written or another night's sleep. A friend of mine who had his first novel published by a large house, and got a large advance, tells me that's not my problem, it's theirs, they have marketing departments for that. Okay, sure, except he didn't pay out his advance, so how do you think those negotiations are going for book two? And he's got a really good agent.

Now, I say this knowing full well I'll never get a huge advance, and also knowing that if I somehow manage to sell a ton of books, publishing isn't Hollywood (yet) and I'll actually get my royalties.

I think what's really happening here is we're starting to see a whole bunch of changes in the business model. It's too early to know how they're going to shake out, but I think we need to be open minded to the possibility that there's more than one way for things to work. It really is important to look at everything, I think and not discount anything.

In Canada I'm published by a small press and I like that. They sell my books to international markets the same way an agent would, except they're not selling a manuscript, they're selling a reviewed book. I think this is another way to go besides an agent. If your books are fantastic and win prizes and get great reviews, you'll get picked up by a big publisher. And by the way, my (US) editor told me that many writers they publish don't have agents. I guess that's heresay (sorry JohnD ;) and it probably makes a difference that a lot of their list is 'international' and not just American. Some of this, ironalically, may be tougher for American writers.

It does get complicated. I think many small presses should publish hardcovers only and concentrate on getting good reviews, good word of mouth and library sales and making their money from selling the trade and mass market paperback rights, but I'm very new at this and really have no idea what I'm talking about. Except that you do need to figure out what's best for you.
Thank you for such a reasonable response, John F. Sounds like you have your head on straight about the whole issue.
I promised twice in this thread to diclose, so here it is. I have received permission to announce the identity of the publisher who bought the French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Greek language rights to How the Strong Survive (HTSS), with first option rights on all my subsequent novels.

Until October 15, 2007, Mr. Pascal Galodé was the "maison d'édition d'origine monégasque" (head of the publisher) Le Rocher -- last press account: 550 titles in 2005.

In June 2007, the Pierre-Fabre group completed the acquisition of Le Rocher, and four months later, brought in their own executive, Vincent Wackenheim, to lead Le Rocher, forcing Mr. Galodé out.

Being too vigorous to retire, he formed a new publishing company, Pascal Galodé éditeurs, in Saint-Malo, France. Still only a few months old, this new house already has a few titles, and several more in production.

I am in awe that HTSS is chosen as the first book to be translated by this intrepid company, led by one of the most distinguished players in European and the global publishing industry. I trust that Mr. Galodé is right in selecting HTSS, and that it will meet his expectations as his editions are released throughout the EU.

Color me humbled, in shock and awe. Thank you for letting me share this momentous news.

Newton Love
I'm not sure I understand this. To me it means that their having bought the translations rights doesn't necessarily mean that book will be published in those languages. It means that publishers in those countries will have to buy the rights to it from Pascal Galode. I trust your contract with Pascal Galode spells out your share of each sale.

In my case, my agent sells translation rights. I get 80%.
The translations are underway. The publisher will print the books and through the book fairs, sell the books to stores in the EU.
The contract includes them paying for my expenses to do promotional tours in Europe as they come out on the market.
I do wish you great success. You seem to have a good handle on this.
John McFetridge wrote:
I think what's really happening here is we're starting to see a whole bunch of changes in the business model. It's too early to know how they're going to shake out, but I think we need to be open minded to the possibility that there's more than one way for things to work. It really is important to look at everything, I think and not discount anything.

It was inevitable that when only five owners had taken over every "legitimate" publishing house, there would be a breakout and an industry based on creativity would find new ways. With many thousands of new publishers every year and innovations in technology, the publishing field is evolving very quickly. Even the big-name houses, known for their reluctance to change, are having to acknowledge that and make some tiny adaptations. But they have agents and booksellers and their "legitimacy" to buffer their contacts with the explosion. In their absence, it is those outside the citadel who will shape the future.

In my opinion, of course.
Well reasoned, and well said.
The future will be interesting as it unfolds.
Since I am not giving up writing, I will be a part of it.
Best of luck to us all!


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