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Can you address the "agent versus no-agent" question for emerging fiction writers?

As an emerging fiction writer, I'm interested in hearing from people in the publishing industry about the pros and cons of each approach. #author #agent #publisher

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Rachel’s Answer

I am a self-published author, and I've never had an agent. Typically, the authors I see who get an agent, go that route either because they are so successful that they get approached by a big publisher, or they have a situation that is beyond their scope - such as foreign language rights or movie rights, and they need help negotiating and navigating that path.

There are writers who desperately want to be traditionally published and spend years querying agents. You can do this, and sometimes this works out. But in the meantime, they are sitting on books that may or may not be any good. They might work on the same book for 5-10 years, adjusting it based on feedback from rejections. Sometimes, writers go this route and then go to self-publishing.

I have one writer friend who is in the camp I described in the first paragraph. She self-published and sold so well, that she was approached by a big publisher and they are re-releasing her book under their publishing house name. I have another writing friend who is doing the opposite. Her publishing house dropped all their fiction authors, and is only focusing on non-fiction. She's learning self-publishing for the first time.

I would say that your author contacts are just as important, and perhaps more important, than an agent. I've learned everything I know from other writers: How to not get taken advantage of by predatory publishers, which writing craft books to read, how to take critiques, how to market books to the right audience, how to create a great book description that sells, where to find freelance editors, where to get a book cover artist, how to make a cover myself and know if it's good, how to write to market, taxes, publishing options, etc.

I found all of these from Facebook writing groups. 50booksto20K is a good one. Just read all the rules and files first.
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Pasquale’s Answer

Hello Deanna:

There are certainly many opportunities to self-publish your work and avoid taking on either an agent or a publisher. Taking this route, however, means that you carry the entire responsibility of marketing your work. I’ve done this, it takes lots of time, and while I’m a highly competent writer, I don’t market books well.

Where does an agent fit into this? Publishers typically do not want to look at first-time authors who don’t have the name recognition that will help them to ensure sales. Agents do the work of separating those who have a saleable story from the rest. A good agent will know what publishers are looking for and can provide some assessment of how your work fits in. A great agent will help you determine what changes you might need to make to become more saleable.

Without someone in your corner with industry experience, you’re trying to figure everything out on your own. For many writers, it’s a question of whether you want to spend your time writing or donning the many hats you’ll have to wear to sell your manuscript.

I’ve self-published a novel. If I could jump into the DeLorean and do it over, I would attempt the traditional route before self-publishing. Why? Because it’s a better test of the strengths of my manuscript.


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