3 DECEMBER 2012
DO WE REALLY NEED AGENTS?
When I first set up this website and began blogging back in July (is it really only five months ago?) I promised to keep you up to date with my progress toward becoming a nationally recognised author. Looking back over my files, I seem to have done little of that in recent weeks. I have stopped to smell a number of interesting (and fragrant) flowers but there has been nothing in the way of my writing career. You might be forgiven for thinking that little of interest has taken place and I've had to resort to other topics to fill the space. On the contrary, a lot has happened in the last month and today I intend to tell you about it.
The last time we spoke my debut novel, BIRDS OF THE NILE, had been round half the market with Agent 001. He then left the industry and the book immediately became 'damaged goods'. When Agent 002 found this out, he dumped me and I was left to struggle on alone.
I debated whether or not it was worth looking for another agent. The prospect of more rejection and reaching 007, however amusing that might appear, was not particularly appealing. The determining factor was how much of the market there was left to go at and I began a thorough search of The Writer's Handbook with a view to establishing exactly what opportunities there were out there for the publication of literary fiction. The results quite surprised me.
Agent 001 had approached 14 separate publishers. My search turned up 54 potential others. (I hasten to add that I expected a good number of these to offer 'vanity' publishing - something I have no intention of pursuing. I know I can get my book published and at far less cost than through their offices.) I then set about contacting them and here are the results.
Of the total of 54,
19 either said no, were not suitable or were not accepting submissions right now.
14 were accepting submissions from agents or directly from authors and I have submitted to all of them.
6 were only accepting submissions directly from authors and I have submitted to all of them.
The balance of 15 were only accepting submissions directly from agents.
With this information to hand, I went back to Agent 002 and asked whether he would be willing to try these last 15 on my behalf. His response was that he was too busy.
So here I am. it's early December, I've no agent to speak of but I have 20 submissions out in the field. Most have not yet replied - but of those who have, 3 have declined, 2 are considering it, 1 has asked to look at the manuscript in full and 2 HAVE OFFERED TO PUBLISH.
Ok, let's not get too excited. One of these is a vanity publisher who wants in excess of five figures to fix it for me. And as I said, I'm not that vain, so I've obviously said no. The other has made me an offer which, although not quite what I wanted, is one I am taking very seriously. And I still have plenty of other irons in the fire - another 12 in fact.
All of which leads me to ask - Do We Really Need Agents? We certainly don't need them for publishing ebooks - and my recent experiences suggest we may be over-rating them in other respects. We used to be told they were essential, but all that appears to be changing. I seem to have made a lot more progress without them - and I can tell you, it's a lot more fun.