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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Thank you for understanding my original post and replies. Attempting to be succinct,
(1) I have sold three novels to an admitedly new and small American house. Rockway Press released 1 book in 2006, 6 in 2007, and 2008 has just started. I expect RWP to be a large publisher soon.
(2) When I announce who bought the European language rights to my novels, I expect many will be impressed. The editor is a major player on the continent. I am still in shock! When I have the signed copies of the contracts, I will announce who (s)he is.
(3) I did (1) and (2) without an agent.
(4) The agents that I have met through conference work have revealed that they are not completely honest or very nice.
(5) When I was in the hunt for an agent, less than 1/3 of them even bothered to toss my SASE -- with their agency address printed in the "from" spot -- into the outgoing mail slot. How cold is that?
(6) I am willing to believe that good and moral agents exist, and I hope to meet one someday.
(7) I kept a list of the agents I tried to atract, and how they responded to me. Now that I am on the verge of success, I expect that several of them will pretend to be my best friend.
(8) Given that I am doing well acting as my own agent, I wonder what an agent can do for me except take money out of my royalty check.
(9) These are just my oppinions, and are not meant to imply that all other writers have or will experienced what I have, or come to the same conclusions.
(10) I am open minded, and hope to be persuaded that there may be a literary agent in my future.
Just my $0.02 (my two cents).
Many, many small presses will read unagented manuscripts and sometimes they'll even publish them. Sometimes those small press books will even make their way to large publishers and international markets. Agents aren't the only way to build a career. I know we're usually quite down on self-published books, but sometimes even that works out. Roddy Doyle self-published The Committments.

I don't know much about author-agent relationships (I don't have an agent) but the thing about writing is sometimes, some part of it isn't just about money. As I said, all the advice I got from agents was bad for my writing, and pure speculation on their part about sales. The handful of major publishers isn't always the best place to start. There are other options.
"the thing about writing is sometimes, some part of it isn't just about money"--that's radical thinking there.

Christopher Paolini, the author or Eragon, started out as self-published. Eragon just happened to land in thr right hands and was picked up and re-released by a major publisher.
You guys are taliking about the exceptions to the rules. Again, show me a bestseller or a solid midlister with no agent. Agents are advocates for the author. That's their job. If an agent doesn't think an author will make money, why would the agent take the author as a client in the first place?

Of course there are bad agents out there. You have to do your research, same as if you wanted to hire a construction company to build your house. Agentquery.com is a good place to start.

There is a difference between a declaration of fact and an opinion. Just so you know.

Um...no shit, Sherlock. But if I'm going to say something like..."I believe there are little green men on Mars," I'm probably going to need more than anecdotal heresay to substantiate my "opinion."

I don't want to put words in Newt's mouth, but what I'm getting from this is that he thinks most--if not all--literary agents are pretty much thieves. That's just utter nonsense. If they're out to screw authors, why do they reject 95% of the queries/manuscripts that come their way? Why not sign everyone?

If you're getting rejected by a multitude of agents, then it means you have more work to do before being a viable force in the marketplace. If you don't care about the marketplace, if think you're somehow above it as some sort of "artist" marching to the beat of a different drummer, if you don't care about money or that only 200 people read your book, then go for it alone. Nothing wrong with that. For those of us who want to earn a living with words, though, it's well worth the 15% to get those words into some hands that might make that possible. And, while we're writing our next book, our agents can handle the paperwork for foreign rights, film rights, etc.
I agree that best selling authors are safe. Their agent wants to keep them. New authors are not safe. Look at the incentives inherent in the roles. An agent wants the publisher to buy lots of books that they represent. So, for new authors, that the agent isn't sure can produce more than one good book, it is in the agent's interest to please the publisher, greasing the wheels for them to be receptive to future approaches by the agent with other different author books. The money comes from the publisher, and in all crime, politics, and business, it is important to follow the money.

Perhaps you are right, and there is never any colusion between agents and publishers to the detriment of the author. No author has ever fired an agent. Well, you have your sources of information, and I have mine.

BTW, in a free speech environmet, "rediculous" "paranoia" and "spouting off" seem to be a bit ad hominem. Do you always ridicule and personally attack people with viewpoints different from your own? While I have stated more of my side, I have not attacked you as a person.

Thank you for telling me that I can't have an oppinion on a topic I have not personally experienced. I take it that since neither of us have been a US politician, we should not hold positions on who should be elected to public office? We have never played professional football, so we should not have oppinions on who might win the Super Bowl?

I certainly feel both educated and emancipated now that you have knocked me down several pegs. Best to you. too.
Thank you for telling me that I can't have an oppinion (sic) on a topic I have not personally experienced.


You can have any opinion you want. The thing is, it's not really fair to attack literary agents in general just because you've had some bad experiences or you have preconceived notions about how the publishing industry works. Maybe I was a bit harsh, but there are newbie writers reading this forum who should be presented with a wee bit more truth than what you've offered.

My comments above are based on the real world, not some conspiracy theory with no substantiating facts.

How do you think bestsellers become bestsellers? Did they negotiate deals all by themselves and then--lo and behold--an agent showed up on their doorsteps offering to do nothing for 15% of the pie?

Gimme a break, dude. The fact is, if you want to succeed as a writer in today's marketplace you're going to have to find an agent eventually. That might seem like a bold statement, but I challenge anyone to provide more than a handful of examples to prove it wrong.
Thank gawd that you are here to protect newbie writers from misinformed people like me. Below are a few examples where other writers share a skepticism toward the utility of agents.

"... Stephen King's First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don't need one until you're making enough for someone to steal ... and if you're making that much, you'll be able to take your pick of good agents. ... "

Jack King, thriller author:
"... I mentioned before how my forage into foreign publishing markets ended up in me being swindled and robbed. ... a Polish literary Agent Iza Garztecka sold my novel to a Polish publishing house, took the money and vanished. True agent from Hell. ... So much for the so called reputable and long established agents - Garztecka took over after her father who was an agent…"

by A. Molotkov
Any young writer today knows how hard it is to get published, or even to get an agent... I have been a writer for over 20 years... I have had a fair share of the agent nightmare..."

"There are many views on the question of whether or not a writer needs an agent to make a first sale. ..."

How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published: Books: Richard Curtis by Richard Curtis.
If it's unfair for Newt to attack agents just because of some bad experiences, then it is unfair for you to stick up for agents just because of some good experiences.

"My comments above are based on the real world, not some conspiracy theory with no substantiating facts."--Saying something is "the real world" doesn't automatically make it so. Did you substantiate your claim? No.

"The fact is, if you want to succeed as a writer in today's marketplace you're going to have to find an agent eventually."--Did you substantiate your claim? No.

"BTW, writers like Stephen King and James Patterson end up paying their agents millions of dollars every year."--Did you substantiate this claim? No. No source was given at all.

"...but there are newbie writers reading this forum who should be presented with a wee bit more truth than what you've offered"--Truth? Is it truth because you said it, or because you backed up what you said with real, checkable information? It can't be the latter because you didn't back up anything you said. You just play the "real world" card.

So you're doing the same thing you accuse Newt of doing.
John D.--

Again, show me a bestseller or solid midlister who doesn't have an agent. You can't, because THEY ALL HAVE AGENTS. It's not hard to substantiate. Flip open a book and read the acknowledgements page. Go to author websites, or agent websites. Go to a conference and talk to some panelists...

If I say the clear sky is blue, I'm sure you could come up with some sort of twisted logic to make it sound as though that is only my opinion.

In the real world, the clear sky is blue. In the real world, successful authors have agents. That's just the way it is. Any argument to the contrary is delusional.
When you right a research paper or a book, you don't say, "there are dozens of articles which back up the things I am saying. They're out there, just go look them up." No, you actually have to cite the sources. Which you have not done.

There's nothing twisted about my logic. I'm not saying that i disagree with the things you say. But you accused Newt of believing in conspiracy theories based in unsubstantiated facts. Yet you have not backed up a word you have said. So what makes your beliefs the real world and Newt's a conspiracy theory? What else can Newt go on besides his own experiences, besides blindly following what someone else has told him? It doesn't appear to me that Newt has any need for an agent, and note, he wasn't talking about becoming successful (however you define that, which will be different for everyone), he was talking about whether a person needs an agent to get established. Why should Newt go grab an agent if he has no clear need for one?

For that matter, why should John McFetridge get one? Just because you say it would behoove him to? Who the hell are you? Maybe he doesn't want one. Or maybe he does. But that's his decision, not yours, and an extra zero might not matter to a person. Just because it matters to you doesn't mean it has to matter to everyone else. Some people want complete creative control over any amount of money. A successful author isn't just a bestseller or a solid midlist author. Everyone has different values and different goals, so who are you to tout your beliefs as the definitive ones?

You seem to know how agents are, but how many agents do you know? I? 2? 50? How many agents are there anyway? Let's say, for the purpose of this discussion, that there are 200 agents. And let's say that you personally know 50 of them, at least well enough to make a sound judgment about whether or not those agents are good or not. That's still just 25% of all agents, hardly enough to qualify you as an expert. Oh but in the real world...well what is the real world? What basis do you have for saying agents are a certain way in the real world? Because you were taught a certain way? Because your own experience has shown you a certain truth? Because the agent to publisher approach is the way it's always been done and there's no way there could ever possibly be an alternative? Now, I admit my number game here is just speculation, since I don't know your experiences. But the point still holds true unless you would like to claim that you know at least 50% of all agents.

My point is not that you don't know jack about agents. It's that you are no end-all-be-all authority on them. So the things you say about the publishing industry, while not merely opinions, yet they still reside within your own personal goals, values, ambitions, etc, and these goals and values are things that change from person to person. Therefore, yours is not the definitive voice of the publishing industry or the role of agents. If someone wants to go a different route, that's their call, and whether or not that person is a success or not to them is not your call.

"It's not hard to substantiate."--If it's not hard, then how come you have consistently failed to do it? Asking someone to flip open a book and read an acknowledgment page is not an example of you substantiating something. It is an example of another person substantiating something for you. And I'll be damned if I'm going to help you prove me wrong.
Here are a few thousand for you, John D., after spending about 30 seconds on a random Google search. If you're interested. This site, of course, is only the tip of the iceburg.

You know, most people are in business to make money. It's really kind of hard to survive without it. You can say success has nothing to do with money, but I understand starving ain't so great. If you're independently wealthy, or if you're still living with your parents or whatever, I guess you can afford to pretend money has nothing to do with success. For those of us working for a living, the old paycheck is pretty important. I'm not even talking mega-wealth, but it would be nice to actually survive on earnings from something you love to do.

You're right, though, that each individual must follow the path s/he feels is best. Still, implying that agents are by-and-large sneaky-snake cutthroat crooks is an insult not only to agents but the multitude of authors and publishers who feel they're an intregal part of the publishing business.
c'mon boys play nice - there's no need to get your knickers in a twist.
If you don't like agents don't use 'em. If you want one - get one.
Job done.
HB x


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