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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why You Don't Need a Literary Agent (but You Might Want One)

by Agent Laurie McLean, Fuse Literary

Although Laurie McLean is not open to general queries, she will be accepting queries from readers who mention this post! You can find her guidelines at Fuse Literary Agency, and her contact information at her blog, Agent Savant.

UPDATE: last week I posted about some high profile agents and other industry professionals who are saying self-published books are no longer a reliable bridge to traditional publishing.  But not all agents feel that way! Here's what Laurie McLean has to say: 

"Fuse is a renegade. I just sold a self-pubbed fantasy trilogy for six figures. And I've got two other self-pubbed authors who are garnering a lot of big trad pub interest, so I'm not willing to agree that the gravy train has left the station. Of course awards, intense marketing and fan clubs and other "extras" these authors have helped a lot."  Thanks, Laurie, for your optimism and hopeful news!...Anne 


by Agent Laurie McLean

Publishing has been going through tumultuous times of late. Chaos reigns. But that doesn't scare me. I like chaos. Because when things are crazy it means there are opportunities galore for those willing to dive in and stir things up. And I like change as much as I like reading—which is a lot.

You see, publishing used to be very hierarchical and now it’s a much more level playing field. It used to be like this:

Author àAgent àPublisher àReader

But now it can be like this:

Author àReader

That should scare the bejeebers out of agents and publishers everywhere. Might even scare a few authors if they have some sense. Let’s recap:

Phase One: the Kindle Revolution

When Amazon’s Kindle e-reading device launched in 2007, followed quickly by the twin self-service publishing juggernauts Smashwords and KDP in 2008, my dormant high-tech antennae sprang back into action so fast I got whiplash! 

For 20 years before I became an agent I had been in high tech marketing. I ran a PR agency that promoted emerging technology companies. To say that I had seen tech transform industries first hand is a gross understatement.

And now it was happening again in book publishing.

The Kindle succeeded because Amazon had the marketing muscle and pricing flexibility to make a market for ebooks for the first time.

Plus its Kindle Store put millions of books at reader fingertips. It was the ultimate in convenience and instant availability. And the low price points, with many free books (imagine!), made ebooks affordable for everyone.

I don't know about you, but in 2008-2010 I read dozens more books per year than I had previously because these devices made it fun. And the first "book" I sold in 2011 was an app—a testament to the experimental nature of dynamic, changeable text.

Once writers tried out Smashwords and KDP and experienced the automation of formatting and distribution, plus the freedom to experiment with cover art, pricing, edits, and more, it was clear that publishing had changed forever…and this change was happening so rapidly, success stories were cropping up faster than pop-up holiday stores.

Phase Two: The Rise of Social Media

Then came social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, Linked-In, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and so many more. The revolution was not only being televised, it was being broadcast all over the World Wide Web!

As this second phase emerged, social media (especially blogging) became a friendly and familiar way to promote books. Now all bets were off. Writers could be at home typing away in their pajamas, while presenting their professional author brand front and center to the waiting world.

Readers could tell writers exactly what they thought without having to wait for a book signing tour to come to town. And there was something for everyone from caffeine junkies (Twitter) to serious nonfiction networkers (Linked-In).

Phase Three: The Self-Publishing Team and the Hybrid Author

Then the third wave hit. Writers who self-published a lot of books began to notice the importance of having their own publishing team. Independent editors, cover designers, interior book designers, formatters, marketers, bookkeepers, lawyers, business consultants, researchers and more began to form a cottage industry.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo gave writers a way to pay themselves their own advance and hire these ancillary professionals. I have clients who have successfully crowdfunded an adult picture book, a steampunk anthology, a graphic novel and an award-winning science fiction book.

The term Hybrid Author began to be used for writers who were thinking outside the covers of a book to reimagine their work in different media and using both traditional and self publishing techniques depending upon the project. 

In fact, since this is a January guest blog, I’d like to make the bold prediction that we’ll all be Hybrid Authors in 5 years or less as different paths are taken to achieve each publishing goal.

So Do You Need an Agent?

But let’s get back to my original premise. Let’s talk about why you, as an author in 2015, do not need an agent.

First, it might be helpful to understand what an agent does.

At the most basic level, a literary agent is an author’s business partner. An agent locates a publisher interested in buying an author’s writing and then negotiates a deal. But a literary agent is so much more than that. An agent is:

  • A scout who constantly researches what publishers are looking for
  • An advocate for an author and his or her work
  • A midwife who assists with the birth of a writing project
  • A reminder who keeps the author on track if things begin to slip
  • An editor for that last push before submission
  • A critic who will tell authors what they need to hear in order to improve
  • A matchmaker who knows the exact editors for an author’s type of writing
  • A negotiator who will fight to get the best deal for an author
  • A mediator who can step in between author and publisher to fix problems
  • A reality check if an author gets out of sync with the real world
  • A liaison between the publishing community and the author
  • A cheerleader for an author’s work or style
  • A focal point for subsidiary, foreign and dramatic rights
  • A mentor who will assist in developing an author’s career
  • A rainmaker who can get additional writing work for an author
  • A career coach for all aspects of your writing future
  • An educator about changes in the publishing industry
  • A manager of the business side of your writing life

So do you need one? Not necessarily.

If you self-publish, no self-respecting agent should ever take a penny of what you earn. Period. If your agent is not contributing to a project, they do not deserve compensation.

If you desire help with your cover design, want questions answered about editing on any level, need formatting advice, or seek wisdom about social media marketing, legal issues or other professional areas, you should either pay a flat fee per service rendered or if an agent offers to do this for a percentage of sales, that should be YOUR CHOICE!

With self-publishing, you might hire an agent to sell all the subsidiary rights that you now own. In fact, I’ll make another prediction that soon we'll see agents who only specialize in selling subsidiary rights for successful self-published authors. And why not?

You can make a lot of money from foreign translations, movies and television licenses, and audiobooks. Since you own all these rights, it makes sense to team up with someone who can sell them for you. If you know how to do this yourself, go for it. Most writers don’t. It’s a full time job.

Plus, if you want to sell to a Big Five publisher, well, for now, you’re still going to need an agent. But there’s another way agents can be helpful.

Back in the ancient past, say 2009, publishing pundits were screaming “conflict of interest” at agents who dared to offer assisted self-publishing as one of their services. Or at agencies who created a publishing arm to their business. I always thought that was ridiculous. I always try to get the best deals for my clients’ books. 

But if I couldn't sell something because editors didn't see what I saw in a particular manuscript or writing style, why should that book or author be shelved? Plus, I had a lot of midlist authors who suddenly found themselves without a publisher. Were they just supposed to fold up their tents and vanish in the night? Not if I could help it.

Agents are the business experts in the publishing equation and are well-suited to be publishers. We know the entire process from story creation through to book distribution. And agents are great at networking and marketing. We have studied the arcane knowledge. We have personalities that can be beneficial.

Some agents are fabulous self-publishing guides, having learned the process themselves in the early days while continuing to keep up with the latest trends. Some agents are talented editors because that was the job they had in traditional publishing before leaving New York. And some agents are critically needed specialists on topics such as books-to-film, subrights sales, foreign deals, etc.

So you don’t need an agent in this dawn of a new age in publishing. You are perfectly capable of writing, publishing and selling every single book you write.

You no longer need an agent to be a REAL AUTHOR!

But you might want one.

And can I just pontificate a bit more here before we call it quits? Stop calling yourself a writer. If you've got a book out there for sale, you are an author. You don't need to jump through any more hoops. When people ask you what you do, you should, without hesitation or grimace, say, "I am an author." You don’t need anyone else's validation on that point.

In conclusion:

1. You don't need an agent to self-publish your books. You also don't need an agent to contact editors directly at conferences, or about digital-first imprints, or on work-for-hire projects.

2. If you want a good business partner, consider putting an agent on your team. Don't treat them like gods. Interview them like you would a high-level consultant.

3. Don't let the traditionalists pigeonhole you. Go out there and get your stories told.

Offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver

Laurie McLean is a veteran agent and the founder of Fuse Literary Agency . She specializes in adult genre fiction (romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, horror, etc.) plus middle-grade and young adult children’s books. She does not handle non-fiction, or commercial, literary or women’s fiction, nor does she handle children’s picture books or graphic novels. Prior to founding Fuse Literary, Laurie was also the Dean of San Francisco Writers University and on the management team of the San Francisco Writers Conference.

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have an agent? Do you feel you'd benefit from having one? Do you have any questions for Laurie? She was planning to respond to all comments today, but because of the Golden Gate Bridge closure, she'll have to be travelling a lot more miles today than she anticipated. But she will stop by later to answer questions. And do note, she's accepting queries from our readers in the above genres

NEWS: I'm sure one of the things Laurie would tell you is that a query is more compelling if you have publication credits, and nothing is better for getting credits than the good old short story. My piece from November's Writer's Digest on why "Short is the New Long: 9 Reasons to Write Short Fiction" is now free to read at the Writer's Digest blog. I always include some opportunities to submit short work to journals and contests in the "OPPORTUNITY ALERTS" below.


VIGNETTE WRITERS, here's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Fee $25. Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.

THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in the annual print edition of the journal. Submissions should be between 18,000 and 35,000 words. Deadline February 1, 2015.

Vestal Review Condensed Classics Anthology Call for submissions to an anthology of world classics condensed to 500 words or fewer. Submissions are still open for the new anthology edited by Mark Budman titled "Condensed to Flash: World Classics." Find specifics here and Scroll down to "Condensed to Flash" and check out the sub guidelines. You get paid: $15 and a digital copy for an original story and $5 and a digital copy for a reprint. The deadline: January 31, 2015.

The M.M. Bennetts Prize for Historical fiction. $10 Entry fee. $500 prize for the best historical novel published in 2014. To be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June. Deadline January 31st, 2015

Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition. First prize $3000. Top 25 will be published. Entry Fee $25. 1500 words or less. Deadline January 16th, 2015.

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Blogger Dean K Miller said...

Love the depth of information here, which also demonstrates how wide open the field is. It's all about choices and making the most of those choices. At least we have those choices to make.

January 11, 2015 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

I agree, Dean. Even though things are changing fast enough so this blog post will probably be out of date in six months, just keep writing and using social media to build your community. Writers have so many opportunities these days. It's a halcyon era.

January 11, 2015 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There is a lot of optimism and opportunity in this post!
I'm in between - traditionally published with a small publisher but no agent. It will be interesting to see what opportunities come for those in my situation.

January 11, 2015 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

Interesting post. I'm not interested in an agent. I'm an Indie who just started publishing in 2014. I have a long ways to go as I'm only starting to build my career now. I have set up a full publishing schedule for 2015. It's exciting times for both authors and readers. It's great to have choice.

January 11, 2015 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

I think it's wonderful to have options; and to have an agent, who would be everything Laurie talks about, sounds like a great option.

January 11, 2015 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--As you know, that's the niche I find works for me, too. But as the industry keeps undergoing these seismic changes, I think we all want to keep our options open. I was so glad to see how optimistic Laurie is about the future of publishing.

January 11, 2015 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Vera--You're going into this as a well-informed indie who has solid career goals. It's been great to see you making these plans and finally bringing them to fruition. Best of luck in 2015!

January 11, 2015 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

A quick question - how do we query Laurie?
I cannot find her contact email on the Team Fuse page..I cannot find her specific guidelines there, either..
I apologize in advance if it's all there and I just can't see it - that's entirely possible :-)

January 11, 2015 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sasha--Thanks for pointing that out! Her contact info isn't on the Fuse Literary page but on her Agent Savant blog. I've put the link in the intro above, just under the header. Best of luck with your query!

January 11, 2015 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

:-) Thank you, Anne.

January 11, 2015 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Melanie Schulz said...

This was a very interesting post. While I love all things Indie, I do not undervalue a good agent--for all the reasons listed here and more.

January 11, 2015 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Great post, telling it like it is! My agent died two years ago, and until I got a query from a film company asking whether options were available a few weeks ago, I seemed to be okay going it alone. But I totally love Laurie's point about all of us trad published becoming Hybrid. I probably will myself in the next few years. Thanks for this, Laurie and Anne!

January 11, 2015 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Please send the first 10 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis, in the body of your email not as attachments, to querylaurie@fuseliterary.com. If you don't write what I rep, feel free to query other Fuse agents. We have a total of 7 agents!

January 11, 2015 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Thanks, Melanie. I always try to add a ton of value to my clients' efforts and most agents I know do too. But there are a few agents still stuck in the old paradigm and those should be avoided.

January 11, 2015 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Go hybrid! It's the best of both worlds!

January 11, 2015 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

You might want to consider hybrid, Alex, as you publish more, grow your fanbase, score a big hit, whatever. You can always keep more sub rights too and license those yourself or with an agent for additional revenue on properties you've already written!

January 11, 2015 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Love your attitude!

January 11, 2015 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Barbara Silkstone said...

This was a wonderful post. Full of very encouraging forecasts.
Thank you Laurie and Anne!
Love your blog!!!

January 11, 2015 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Tracy Campbell said...

Thank you, Laurie for putting a new spin on the world of publishing. There's hope. :-)
And thank you Anne, for compiling awesome posts.

January 11, 2015 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

this is very interesting, considering I'm already planning the "agent hunt project" now that my first self published series is out. thanks for the insights, ladies!

January 11, 2015 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Meg Wolfe said...

This was a great post, really put in a nutshell how an agent can really help with the entire writing to publishing process. I went self-pub with my novels because I had some luck self-pubbing nonfiction--and I just dreaded the whole looking for an agent and maybe not getting published until I'm dead, etc. You fellow baby boomers know what I mean.

Would I want an agent? There's a lot I would love to take advantage of. But of course: would an agent want me??? There's the rub. All I want to do is to write the best book I can, one book at a time.

January 11, 2015 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Well, you hooked me. I'm a prolific author of 8 manuscripts, with an ever increasing social network (over 4,000 followers), who submits to publishers on a regular basis (I started the year with 18 submissions in the pipes) -- my question, would a literary agent want me?

January 11, 2015 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Wonderful information. I think about indie and self publishing and I keep going back to the dream of having my very own agent. Someone on my side who knows more about the industry than I will ever know. Thanks for bringing such a prestigious guest for us to learn from, Anne!

January 11, 2015 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Good luck, Liz! Maybe Laurie could represent you or knows someone who would :)

January 11, 2015 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

Thanks, as always.

January 11, 2015 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

You laid it out very well indeed Laurie, and I salute your courage in volunteering to take queries for any window of time off this blog. I presume Anne dropped a zero when she told you how many followers she had...
I for one would be VERY interested in that evolving agent who would handle all the outside world rights, translation etc. Maybe this year I'll work up a reason for them to be interested in me!

January 11, 2015 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Thank you for having Laurie McClean, Anne. This is great stuff. I go round and round with the other writer's in my critique group, as they think I am wasting my time querying, they believe self-publishing is the only way to go.The querying process alone has taught me gobs and led to wonderful edits and critiques!

I've self-published my collection of vintage romantic ghost stories (as I wanted to try out the process, and it's unlikely to land a deal or agent for a collection of shorts unless your famous), but I agree with Laurie about the merits of an agent. I hope to be a hybrid author, soon!

~ Tam Francis ~

January 11, 2015 at 2:46 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Laurie, wonderful post. Really loved it. Bookmarking so I'll never lose it. Thank you for this. My best, Paul

January 11, 2015 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--You bring up a very important point. The querying process is an education in itself. I learned much of what I know about the business that way, and I think most successful writers do.

What's wonderful about today's climate is you can self-publish AND query as long as you don't do it with the same book. I think you've done it just right by publishing your story collection while continuing to query your novel. Some agents don't want to touch somebody who's been self-published, but as Laurie says, they're probably not the agents you want.

January 11, 2015 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger M. R. Pritchard said...

I feel like this year has started out with a lot of negativity from both ends of the publishing spectrum. Laurie's post is a breath of fresh air giving true insight into the benefits of an agent in this ever-changing world of publishing.

January 11, 2015 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger dolorah said...

I still want an agent. Can't seem to attract one yet though. A lot of authors are very good at building their platforms, marketing their work, even creating their own covers. I am happy that so many writers have a chance to put their work out there when the rejection rate is so high.

A lot of agents I've been researching want to see a "successful fan base" in order to risk a chance on a writer. I don't believe blog followers equate to consistent readers though.

Thanks for all the agent insights Laurie.

January 11, 2015 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meg--I think nonfiction is a better bet with self-publishing if you don't already have a fan base. But I do know what you mean about worrying about dying of old age while we're waiting for that agent to read our submission.

But you can always query with a new book while you're working on selling the others.

January 11, 2015 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Leanne--Congrats on starting the year with an organized strategy! Laurie doesn't rep some genres (like women's fic) but somebody in her agency may just love it, so you might like to send off a query.

January 11, 2015 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Thanks again for another fine post, & big thanks to Laurie for jumping into the fray.

January 11, 2015 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

So great to hear from an agent's point of view!

January 11, 2015 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Thanks, Barbara. Good luck out there!

January 11, 2015 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Go get 'em, Tracy!

January 11, 2015 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger Diana Wilder said...

Thank you so much, Anne, for so many informative posts since I started reading blogs. This one was no exception, and it came at a good time where I am sitting back and assessing exactly what my reasons for publishing, abilities and needs (to be the best I can), and resources to acquire and use in my efforts to write and publish well. Laurie's post has given me a lot to consider and some previously unthought-of options. I am completing the second book in a grouping of three and debating the best way to handle its debut. I truly appreciate the time, thought and experience that went into this post, and the options it has outlined. Besides that, it was a very enjoyable post! Thank you!

January 11, 2015 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Diana Stevan said...

Anne, thanks again for having Laurie talk about the value of having an agent in these turbulent times. I tried, got close, but since I didn't get one, I self-published and have enjoyed the journey to date. Still, I haven't given up on agents, and have another novel ready to go, which I hope to pitch to the right agent. All the best to you in 2015.

January 11, 2015 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Anna Read said...

Thanks for this post! I always just assumed that I'd need an agent to handle the business end of publishing, but I'd never heard of the idea of hybrid author. Thank you for your insight.

When you said "Interview [the agent] like you would a high-level consultant," I'm wondering if that could be elaborated on at all? How would one go about contacting an agent about this? Or finding out if they were even willing in participating in this sort of business relationship?

Thank both for this informative post.

January 11, 2015 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Two great sites to start your agent hunt are agentquery.com and querytracker.net. Then once you get your raw list of agents, research their websites, follow them on Twitter...maybe even subscribe to publishersmarketplace.com for a month at $25 to search on all the deals they've done. Prioritize your list, personalize your queries based on your research, and improve your chances immensely. Good luck!

January 11, 2015 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

I wish I could represent everyone, but there are only so many hours in the day. Hang in there, Meg!

January 11, 2015 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

You are doing everything right. When opportunity, luck and persistence collide, you'll be ready.

Boy...I'm starting to sound like a fortune cookie!!!

January 11, 2015 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Lots to learn but lots of opportunities too, Christine.

January 11, 2015 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

If you don't write what I represent, feel free to query the other six Agents of Fuse Lit! They're all great. Visit fuseliterary.com for their bios and instructions!

January 11, 2015 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

In a word, YES!

January 11, 2015 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Awwww, thanks Paul!

January 11, 2015 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

I am an incurable optimist, but why not? I still see a ton of upside in this business.

January 11, 2015 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Keep trying. Agents are evolving, believe it or not. Some are just slower than others. 😉

January 11, 2015 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Da Nada.

January 11, 2015 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

We agents do love to offer our opinions!

January 11, 2015 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

I am glad I could help you explore options!

January 11, 2015 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

You will make it, Diana. Great attitude!

January 11, 2015 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Follow agents you are interested in on Twitter. Subscribe to their blogs. Even meet them at conferences or workshops. Ask them about their evolving business model, how they integrate their clients' self-publishing efforts into their overall career goals alongside agented work. If you get blank stares, that agent has not thought all this through yet. Move on until you find one who has. I found six so far! 😃

January 11, 2015 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

I absolutely adore Laurie's stance on the current publishing climate. There are SO many unique opportunities out there for authors. We don't need to close any doors at all, or wait indefinitely for some sort of green light. We can build our own teams and create professional products on our own. It seems to me that agents who are open to change are the beneficiaries of all this newness.

January 11, 2015 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Claude Forthomme said...

Laurie, you are so optmistic, I welcome the change of tone and more than that, the interesting information you've given us and your readiness to be approached by would-be authors. You're not afraid to be swamped out!

I loved your description of what an agent is - basically you've drawn the portrait of the perfect agent. That's precisely the sort of agent I dream of, someone who knows publishing inside out and who's willing to help in developing my career - What is there not to like in such an agent?

I say this because unlike most of my fellow self-published authors, I see all too clearly the limitations to self-publishing: you're ok if you write in a specific genre that sells on Amazon, if you don't (my case, I tend to be more literary even when I write science fiction), then life gets tough, it's hard to locate your readers. You talked about the role of the ideal agent, and I'd love to hear how you see the ideal publisher. Many horrible things tend to be said about traditional publishers in self-published author circles, and surely some of those are exaggerations. I believe the Big Five have developed over time a complex eco-system (ranging from literary critics to prizes like the Pulitzer etc) that is in fact favorable to authors and readers. I would argue that ultimately the traditional publishing eco-system helps book discovery more than Amazon's algorithms or customer reviews, even though Amazon should be credited for innovatively shaking the publishing industry!

Unfortunately now, Amazon has pulled the rug under self-published authors: as so-called "voracious readers" are sucked into Kindle Unlimited, the e-book market for indies has suddenly become very thin and the price strategies that used to work (going free, 99 cents) no longer work. I'd love to know how you feel about KU!

January 12, 2015 at 1:53 AM  
Blogger author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Thank you, Laurie and Anne, for this positive, optimistic, and informative post. What a breath of fresh air amidst all this often hostile arguments between defenders of traditional publishing and proponents of self-publishing. There is enough room and opportunities for both approaches. I self-published three novels and am working on two more. I have enjoyed the process and have learned and am still learning a lot. It's an exciting world for authors and readers alike!

January 12, 2015 at 2:44 AM  
Blogger Brian D. Anderson said...

Love me some Laurie Mclean! She's the perfect combination of the consummate professional and an understanding friend.

January 12, 2015 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this encouragement, Anne and Laurie. Feeling empowered.

January 12, 2015 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

Great post. Love coming here because with all the changes happening all the time, and all the distractions I see constantly, I always feel like I'm going "home" again :)

January 12, 2015 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Anna Read said...

Thank you for the response, I'm saving this advice and putting it on my to-do list! :)

January 12, 2015 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Jean Marie said...

Hi Laurie,
I'm half asleep this morning, okay this afternoon! It's been one of those days-manic Monday! I absolutely loved your post for a variety of reasons, namely pointing out the reasons why having an agent is vital. There are so many reasons to have one, negotiating the windy roads of publishing can be daunting to us newbies, whereas others might not be put off by signing contracts.

Here comes the half asleep portion-I sent off a query to Gordon regarding my quirky mystery, ala PD James. Now that I've read your likes, I wonder if I shouldn't have sent it to you? That begs the question if you share queries?

I've been on the query bus for some time, and have received the loveliest letters back-not quite the right fit, but keep at it for you will find an agent! Some have even given links to agent lists, etc. How did I find your agency, you might wonder? Why, Twitter :), which is how I think I found this wonderful blog. I shall bookmark and return. Amazing what one can learn from Twitter.

Thank you Laurie and Anne,


January 12, 2015 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

If I were you, I'd send it to Michelle Richter, my colleague at Fuse who is aggressively building her list and loves mysteries of all kinds. We ask that you only send it to one agent at a time, so I'd advise this. Query Michelle (she was a St. Martins editor for 8 years before joining Fuse Lit) and send a nice email to Gordon saying that we conversed and I thought your manuscript would be a better fit for Michelle. He'll totally understand. And he will take you out of his database for that book. Sound good?

January 12, 2015 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

You are wise beyond your years, Julie. Keep writing!

January 12, 2015 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Ahhhh. So many good questions here. First ideal publishers. So often I am strapped for time or space and cannot go into depth about the entire "ecosystem" as you call it of publishers. There are hundreds of publishers out there, not just five big ones! There are regional small presses and university presses (and they don't just publish textbooks!). There are hybrid presses and ebook/POD presses. There are cooperatives of authors who've formed small publishers. There are agent-owned publishers (like our Short Fuse Publishing). And more. The idea publisher is the one who is exactly suited to your book(s). Be honest with yourself. You might not be far enough on your writing journey to pen a bestseller. This might even be your first book. Or maybe it has blended so many genres as to be a mutt of a book. Or it's niche or regional in flavor. The point I'm trying to make is quit concentrating on the Big Five (This is general advice, Claude, you seem to know this already.) There are many more medium and small sized houses that would love to work with you to publish your book. They don't pay as much. They don't have a distribution and sales powerhouse behind them. But the experience might be transformational. Sure, you could also self-publish, but the choice is not always Big Five or Amazon/Smashwords. There are more than 50 shades of grey. (hah!)

Kindle Unlimited on the other hand. I am taking a wait and see attitude. Yes, it has caused some Kindle Select authors sales to tumble. I think Amazon is smart enough that they will fix that over time. A course correction. In the meantime, you can always get out of Kindle Select and seek sales at the iBookstore (Apple) or on Kobo or Barnes and Noble or the millions of other outlets for ebooks. Challenge? Yes. Reason to shake up your game and explore new territory? Absolutely.

January 12, 2015 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

I am very bullish on publishing today. And I think there are more changes in store for us. But that's why we're artists. To face the stormy seas of change and beat our own path into the wilderness. The light is always brightest when compared against the black of night, yes?

January 12, 2015 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Spoiler alert. Brian is one of my clients. But, hey, he's a great example of a self-published success story (more than 200,000 copies sold of his debut fantasy series, The Godling Chronicles), who sought me out to become a hybrid author for his next series. He's a delight, so follow him and learn about his journey. It's fascinating.

January 12, 2015 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

What a kind comment. Anne R. Allen is simply amazing, isn't she?

January 12, 2015 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Anna Soliveres said...

Great post, Anne and Laurie! Very encouraging that last bit there. I didn't realize, I could should probably start calling myself an author, rather than a writer. ;)

January 12, 2015 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Jean Marie said...

Laurie, it sounds fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of these questions. I was walking into a book store when your response hit my phone...I know, should have been writing :) My pups needed a walk and I needed something to read. Now, I'm off to follow your instructions. Thanks again. Awesome blog, too!

January 12, 2015 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Jean Marie said...

Oh boy, now what. I feel as if I'm going back and forth, "Mom, Dad said, "No,", but you might give me a different answer? I heard back from Gordon saying it doesn't meet your current needs. And, I was in the middle of setting up the query for Michele.

Oh well. It was worth a shot. I won't get off the bus. It will work out somehow. I can feel it in my bones!

Thanks again Laurie.

January 12, 2015 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

Loved the bulleted list. A clear, concise explanation of what an agent can do for a writer. Loved that.

January 12, 2015 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger dolorah said...

Thanks Claude and Laurie. This discussion was helpful to me.

January 12, 2015 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Late to the game, as usual. I always wanted an agent, but then self-published and like it that way. HOWEVER, I do think I want an agent for translation rights. I wonder if you could query agents just for that.

January 13, 2015 at 2:55 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Forgot to add that we're really good at bulleted lists too. *wink*

January 13, 2015 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

If you find one, let me know. Right now it's more that an agent will take a client and sell his or her subrights to self-published works if the agent also gets to rep some traditional books from that author too. But times, they are a changing...

January 13, 2015 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger Laurie McLean said...

Repeat after me, "I am an author!" :-)

January 13, 2015 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger LD Masterson said...

I'm currently querying in search of an agent. I really think that's the best route for me.

I kept your article from the November WD, Anne, and added writing more short stories to my goals for 2015.

January 14, 2015 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

LD--I'm so glad you're taking my advice on short stories. I wish somebody had told me to keep writing them when I was querying. Best of luck on your agent hunt!

January 14, 2015 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Sarah Weaver said...

I'm unsure what my path is going to be. My main reason to self-pub is control over cover (I'm an illustrator), though I like the idea of the match maker for the right editor, and the focal point for the business end of writing.

Somehow I'd feel funny hiring someone if I just wanted the benefits, but then later both decide self-publishing is the best option. Like they helped a bunch and deserve the money.

But I guess that's why there are profit percentages, so nobody is taken advantage of.^^

March 30, 2015 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--Not all agencies are as progressive as Fuse Literary, so always make sure an agent will allow you to self-publish if you want a hybrid career.

What's so great about Laurie's agency is they offer assisted self-publishing where they connect you with editors and designers and formatters that have been vetted. They also have special deals with Amazon so your book will get perks it wouldn't get if you published it yourself. If you use their assisted self-publishing arm, you pay them 15% so it's win-win for everybody. And I'm sure they'd be happy to work with your own cover. If you're on the fence, I think it's worth it to query first.

March 30, 2015 at 4:15 PM  
OpenID quirkywritingcorner said...

Very helpful; thank you. I especially liked the list of what an agent does.

June 15, 2015 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Quirky--Thanks for commenting. And thanks for clicking through from today's post. I think you might be the only person who did. :-) It's always easier to be snarky than educated, but if we look at all aspects of things, we make better choices.

June 15, 2015 at 9:14 PM  

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