There’s no disputing that you can publish your own book, get a deal by yourself meeting an editor at a conference or submitting to certain publishers that are open to the slush. I see more and more in our query inbox that an author has an offer from a small print publisher or digital first start up but want an agent to help with the process because they realize they are in over their head. They ask questions like: Is the publisher good? Should I have submitted to them on my own in the first place? I’ve written on why you shouldn’t submit to agents and small presses at the same time already, but this is about why you need an agent first.
6 Reasons You Need An Agent Now More Than Ever:
1. Access to ‘Big 5’
Yes, you can submit to small publishers by yourself, but you will never have access to all the big 5 publishers without an agent. Every writer I’ve ever met has wanted to be published in print. There are writers that are ‘okay’ with digital first publishing, but they all want to build to a career in print.
2. Complex Contracts
More than ever (and publishers have always wanted this!) publishers are intent on grabbing up all the rights to your work. For example, when you sign a contract for ‘world rights’ you are signing up the rights to your work in all languages and all countries, but how do you know the publisher is going to actively license those rights all over the world? You don’t. That’s why agents hold back foreign rights to sell them directly themselves. A publisher on the ground in other countries will always be more effective than a publisher exporting copies.
3. Sub Rights
Sub rights (or subsidiary rights) are things like audio, dramatic, film and TV among other things. Even if you do manage to wrangle these away from a publisher on your own–what do you do with them? Agents don’t only have editorial contacts, we know audio publishers, and film and TV agents that also sell our clients work.
4. Start up publishers
I’m glad that there are new publishers springing up, but you also have to be cautious about their business practices. Publishing is a long tail and I’ve seen start ups grab up a bunch of author rights and take off, not keeping up with regular royalty statements and payments. (Luckily, this hasn’t happened to my authors!) There are great resources to let you know about publishers with shady practices like Writer Beware.
5. Digital revolution
There is no arguing the industry is changing quicker than it has before and that means writers rights are at stake. Agents are on the case fighting for things like improved ebook royalties. Agents are also making sure that publishers are holding up their side of the deal with things like social media marketing.
There is more to having a writing career than just writing. Do you want access to speakers bureaus, PR professionals, graphic designers, TV hosts, and the works? Having an agent is an easy way to build and expand your media industry network.
You only get one chance to make a first impression with editors. Make a professional one by having an agent handle the business side of things.