Nowadays many writers are rethinking the need for an agent. With the rise in e-book sales, the ease of self-publishing (without paying big bucks), and the lack of marketing on the part of traditional publishers, many writers wonder what an agent can do for them. Why bother trying to sell to the BIG NAME publishers when all they seem to want to publish are BLOCK BUSTERS? Why use an agent if the mid-size and smaller publishing houses don’t require an agent for submissions and don’t pay large enough advances to make paying an agent 15% worthwhile?
Whether a writer needs an agent or not depends, I think, on the writer’s personality and goals. Only want to self-publish? Well, that writer probably won’t need/want an agent until the BIG PUBLISHING houses come knocking. (Then they might want one to go over the contract and negotiate extras.) Selling to mid-sized and small-publishing houses? An agent might be of assistance in that case. Although giving up 15% of a small advance might not sound good, if the agent can negotiate changes in the contract so you get (a larger advance, higher royalty rate, additional PR, etc.) then maybe paying that 15% would be worthwhile.
Personally, I like working with an agent. I had one for 18 years (Denise Marcil), and she was great. I have a new one now (Evie Saphire-Bernstein of the Loiacono Literary Agency) and though we’ve just started working together, I love her enthusiasm. I like that I can talk over contract pros and cons with her, and that I can ask her advice. With a proposed contract agreement, she’s the one who will be going to the publisher and asking for changes. She’s the one he’s going to call irrational, stubborn, and (you get the idea). I don’t do confrontation well, so I’m glad to give her that job.
She knows about publishing houses I’ve never even heard about. She’s familiar with the contract language to avoid and what we might want to add. Sure, I know there are writers who are more than willing to do the research necessary to not only get a ms to a multitude of publishing houses, but feel confident enough to negotiate their own contracts. That’s great. That’s not me. So I’m willing to pay someone (the 15% of my earnings) to do that work. And if my agent wants to make more money, my hope is she’ll get me better deals than I’d be able to do on my own.
Therefore, the answer to my question is: It depends on you. What do you want? What can you do yourself? And how much are you willing to do yourself?
I’d rather write, and now that I’m down south where it’s warm and sunny, I am writing.