Not that long ago, and perhaps for some writers today, a writer’s goal was to land a top agent who could sell their manuscript to big six publishers, obtain foreign rights, movie deals, and get the best possible contract for each. But things began to change. Recession made publishers more “risk adverse” and therefore less likely to take on new writers unless their books had obvious bestseller potential. The ebook and self-publishing revolution enabled thousands of writers to reprint their backlists, or publish new work without going through the long ordeal of acquiring an agent and publisher. Writers began to wonder if there was any point to having an agent? The answer is both yes and no, depending on the writer’s dreams and desires.
I have plenty of anecdotal information about my and colleagues’ experiences with agents, and most of it hasn’t been great, but I repeat, this is anecdotal only. A recent blog by Dean Wesley Smith, talking about agents, caught my eye, and no, he wasn’t agent bashing. In part, it was stupid writer bashing. What he did say about agents, though, was interesting.
The bottom line, Smith says, is that agents stopped working for writers years ago and began working for publishers, unofficially, of course. He goes onto say why agents are bad for the smart writers of the world: ie., taking part of their copyright, having complete control of funds going in and out, etc. He also says that the
American association many agents belong to) doesn’t like the lawsuit the
Department of Justice filed against publishers and Apple for colluding to keep
ebook prices high (see my blog of March 11, “Ebook Pricing Issues Could Wind Up
Smith maintains that agents and publishers came together (sort of) to help establish ebook pricing that would grant both of them a larger piece of the pie, and that little thought was given to authors, at least those who aren’t bestselling authors. It’s a thought-provoking blog, and I would encourage anyone who’s thinking of acquiring an agent to read it. I really have no idea whether Smith is right or wrong about agents working for publishers. I haven’t been in his shoes, however, he has had three top agents, been traditionally publishing books for over thirty years, and understands the business better than most writers. So, take a look at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=6876
I'd love to hear your thoughts about agents. Good, bad, or indifferent!