I finally finished my next book, KING OF SORROW. I've started submitting sample chapters to agents. At first this was an exciting time. I was half expecting an agent to call me and throw a contract my way.


As is the norm in the literary business, nothing happened. It's been many months and there has been no reply. I decided to send it to other agents as well and the result was the same. Meanwhile life is passing me by and my writing work is lagging behind.


I really don't want to publish this book myself. I feel it has International appeal, which means I need someone to represent me overseas. I'm still struggling with that great South African hurdle. No one reads here and I'm too far away from any country where people actually do read.


What's the current hype about agents in US, UK and AUS? Is it still wise to obtain the services of a literary agent? Any advice will help.


James Fouche

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Opinions are divided in the U.S.  Some authors still feel the only way to go is via and agent and a respectable publisher.  Not all agents handle translation rights, by the way.  Many sell the whole kit and kaboodle to the publisher, who generally does nothing with translation rights.  If you feel strongly about an agent in the U.S., keep submitting, but make sure to agents with a track record, preferably for your type of book.


The other opinion is that agents don't help, and that publishers just want all the rights without paying more than a token advance.  The rights issue is dangerous these days, because electronic rights pay well and are forever, as long as a few print copies are still available.  (I'm in the unfortunate position now that my publishers hold on to the rights, even though sales have slowed to a trickle.)

Thanks for the heads-up. Funny how mean publishers can be. As an author I struggle to close the book after finishing it. It's not easy to distance yourself from the project. I can't just turn off the passion.

The best thing is you have options. There's no longer any shame in self-pubbing, especially if you've exhausted your queries. If it really is suitable for an international audience, you might find it easier to reach those markets by keeping all your rights and publishing through Amazon KDP. Or finding a small publisher without a lot of strings attached.

We've all been right where you are now. Don't bet on one thing to happen. You never know where you'll end up.

Agents take on at most 2% of the manuscripts presented to them. So it's tough to find one. If you haven't had a nibble yet, not even a rejection letter (?) then I'd recast my query letter for starters.

In the end, James, you might be forced into a decision.  If you exhaust all reputable agents in your genre I would suggest you submit on your own to publishers who accept direct submissions in your genre and are also reputable.  There won't be many.  After that you have to decide honestly if your work is something you believe you would not be ashamed to see out there.  If it passes the embarrassment test, put it out yourself as an e-book or paper too if you want to get involved a little more deeply.  If you choose not to put it out yourself, your only option left is to toss it in a drawer, chalk it up as a learning exercise, and start another book.  

If you do Indie pub, I will say that you learn an awful lot that you never will as a writer alone.


I'm inherently suspicious anytime someone tries to sell me something, so I was resistant to overpriced writers conferences.  However, at the urging of a close friend, I went to one.  It was surprisingly easy to get agents to read a few pages. Agent responses were honest and critical.  If they liked the writing, though, they requested additional pages or completed manuscripts.  Just something to consider...

Thanks for the advice about literary agents. Don't know of any writer's conferences in SA, but I'll keep my eyes open just in case. Will have to wait it out, then submit some more to other agents. Whoever said writing was easy?

James - I'm REALLY  curious about that blurb from People Magazine about your work on your website. That's a huge coup that I would think agents would really be interested in. How did that come about?

do persevere James. My friend tried many agents and I'm sure someone will get back to you... but the delays can be very frustrating. Have you tried The Marsh Agency?...

The book industry is the slowest industry ever. You'll be lucky to find an agent within months, years is the norm. It takes a long time to connect with an agent if you connect at all.

Is it wise to obtain an agent? Sure it is if you want a shot at the big dogs. A great agent is worth their weight in gold. That's why they are so hard to get. Agents are still the ones selling the big books and getting the best deals if you plan on commercial publishing.

It's all about your goals and what you want. If you want an agent then keep pushing and stay determined and believe it will happen. If you want a big house then you will have to get used to the slow agent search.

If you decide it's not for you then you don't have to self-publish. There are options before that. There are small presses that are very good and reputable and there are also epublishers.

But go for what you want. Don't let time be the reason because even if you get an agent tomorrow you still will have to wait. Why? Because there is no guarantee they will sell your work and if they do it could take years for that. And guess what? If you get a contract with a big house it's gonna take at least a year sometimes a year and a half before the book is out.

This industry is all about waiting and patience. No matter how you slice it. But if you wanna go a certain route and want it bad enough then all you can do is deal with it. Just make up your own mind with what you want. No one can do that but you.

Best Wishes!

And self-publishing is not fast if you intend on doing it right. It can take up to a year or more to get a book out unless you just throw anything out there. Contrary to popular belief GOOD self-publishing takes hard work and effort and it is not as fast as folks make it seem. It's only fast if you throw up first drafts and think that's all it takes. With self-publishing you have to do as much or even more research first. That takes time. You have to get your book edited and you will most likely have to use different types of editors because editors do different things. You will then spend months and months going over your edits and changing things if need be. If you plan to send out to beta readers this will take a lot of time because you gotta wait for their feedback then you gotta go back and fix up your manuscript, etc. You have to get a book designer or at least I'd recommend it for your cover. The Photoshop special doesn't work anymore. Searching for a good book designer takes time. A lot goes into self-publishing and the most successful SP authors treat it like a business.

There is NO fast track in this industry if you want to do it right. I don't care what method you choose. So my advice is it's best not to focus on time. There is no rush. Whenever it happens, it happens. Keep writing new things and time goes fast, believe me.

Well, leaving aside the time it takes to get the book written (as much as a year for me), the rest is a great deal faster when you self-publish.  Publishers take at least a year to get the book into print, Sometimes they take longer if they decide to give your slot to another author.  If you have no agent yet, the agent hunt takes time.  Agents rarely respond quickly and must be given deadlines.  A time span for a proposal is at least a month for each agent.  After the agent accepts you, you wait again as they send out to editors (who don't always respond quickly).  Also, the entire publishing industry takes month-long breaks during the summer and again at the end of the year.  Nothing gets done then.


As for the time it takes to self-publish: a) you may want to go over yoyur book one more time, since you won't have an editor. (Though publishers do not, as a rule, supply editing any longer). Hiring an editor is a dubious undertaking and costs money.  I can edit my book in under a month.  If you are computer savvy, you can format your own book in a day, I would guess.  I pay for formatting and sometimes have a month's wait.  I make my own covers because I don't like what I've seen from professional cover artists.  This may take a week or more, depending on how soon I find a suitable image.  Uploading the book is done in a few hours.  All in all, this process is much, much shorter, plus you control all the steps yourself.  Waiting for someone else and having no control over your book are not good options.


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