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View Full Version : Opinions Needed: Agent or No?



inkkognito
02-18-2008, 01:13 AM
I currently have two self-help book proposals and a travel book, and I am nearly done with the proposal for a book on horsemanship. Now I have to decide, do I seek an agent or shop them around myself? I'd love opinions from anyone who has been there, done that.

A bit of background: I'm a doctorofpsychology, which will help with the self-help books, and I've published many articles (mostly about animals, which will help with the horsemanship book). I've also done a bit of travel writing and have been an expert reviewer for a book on Disney Cruise Line. Hopefully those things would give me some credibility with agents and/or publishers, but I don't know if it would be enough to interest a publisher directly.

I'm guessing I will end up at a smaller, more specialized publisher, which means they would be more likely to take unagented submissions seriously. But am I unnecessarily limiting myself with that attitude? Should I concentrate on agents or shop some of the smaller publishers first, then seek an agent if they all say "No"?

I'm not in a huge hurry with the books, as my magazine work is keeping me pretty busy. But I don't want to slack off with marketing them either, as non-fiction books are my ultimate goal.

Any advice would be most appreciated! Book territory is quite new for me.

HeronW
02-18-2008, 02:40 AM
I'd say do both, plug yourself and look for an agent.

escritora
02-18-2008, 02:59 AM
I second HeronW

ExposingCorruption
02-19-2008, 12:02 AM
From what I've gathered through my research in the last month and a half, agents take a negative view of a book that has been "shopped around" to several publishers.

It sounds to me like you've got a "platform." You're already connected to your potential readership. You have a name that is known and a way to reach people. Agents and publishers look for that in an author.

As for agent vs. non-agent, it seems to me that the only benefit to not having an agent is you don't have to give up 15% of your book profits IF your book gets published without an agent.

Agents have the connections with big New York publishers. Those publishers may see that with your credentials and your platform, your book will sell. I think that you should get an agent.

Pat~
02-19-2008, 12:23 AM
I'm fresh back from a writers' conference where I attended a seminar, "Do I Need An Agent?" Personally, I'd probably try for an agent. You're going to want one anyway, if you get a book contract, so they might as well earn their pay and make that part of the job easier for you. The 15% they earn off your earnings is more than made up for by the money and headache they can save you.

tombookpub
02-19-2008, 06:18 AM
I'm fresh back from a writers' conference where I attended a seminar, "Do I Need An Agent?" Personally, I'd probably try for an agent. You're going to want one anyway, if you get a book contract, so they might as well earn their pay and make that part of the job easier for you. The 15% they earn off your earnings is more than made up for by the money and headache they can save you.

Please elaborate on the headaches that can be avoided....

johnrobison
02-19-2008, 07:19 AM
If you are serious about selling books, get an agent. 95% of the bestselling books in this country are published by the top 7 houses. If we extend that to the top 20 houses, we've accounted for 98% of the bestsellers. All those publishers take agented submissions only.

So where do you want to be? How high are your sights set?

Sunnyside
02-19-2008, 11:24 PM
I recommend the agented approach, too.

What headaches can they help you avoid, you ask?

First, your agent will do the leg/foot/arm/hand/mouth work needed to get your book in front of publishers. An agent knows the market, and he knows what publishers tend to like which projects. He'll make the calls, he'll take the lunch, and he'll pitch you so you don't have to. It's his job.

Second, once you start getting offers, your agent can generally help you determine which ones are better than others. He can help you with your book contract. He probably knows where the bodies are buried in a contract and can get the best deal for you -- and he'll do it because (say it with me) it's his job.

Third, once your agent DOES land a publisher, he'll look out for you. Not getting your advance as quickly as you want? He'll run it down for you. Feel your editor is being unreasonable about something? He'll have the conversation for you. As my agent once said to me, "Make me your ass." It's a great ally to have -- he can apply the thumbscrews so you can concentrate on the writing.

That's three things right off the top of my ol' bald noggin. I'm sure every other agented writer on here can give you tons of other examples of the kinds of headaches they're grateful to have their agent handling for them.

Just my two cents worth, of course (four cents Canadian). But I know I can't imagine doing this without an agent at my side and, even better, at my back.

Prevostprincess
02-20-2008, 05:54 AM
Completely agree with Sunnyside, Pat~ et al. Why do this all on your own, just to save 15% that you'll probably get back and more if an agent is negotiating the deal for you? And you're much more likely to be read by an editor if the ms is agented. The only downside of a good agent is the %age she takes, but it's really no downside at all and very much worth it.

veinglory
02-21-2008, 04:53 AM
I am not familair with how much agents are typcially involved in non-fiction?

Pat~
02-21-2008, 07:57 AM
Please elaborate on the headaches that can be avoided....

Just a few that come to mind:

1) helping you decipher contract language so you don't inadvertently give away some rights that might be good to retain, given your particular book--a mistake that you might regret for the life of your book

2) negotiating with your publisher, not only before, but after publication, concerning cover changes, marketing issues, and publicity and promotion details

3) giving you valuable advice concerning media; what opportunities to take advantage of, what scenarios to avoid, how to handle certain questions, advising you on what to include/exclude from your press kit

4) encouraging you and helping you in your search for a publisher for your next book--providing insider knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of various publishing houses, should you get more than one contract offer. And, negotiating the bidding war in that scenario.

Pat~
02-21-2008, 08:00 AM
I am not familair with how much agents are typcially involved in non-fiction?

They are typically involved in the sale of nonfiction, too. They are increasingly important if you want to place with the larger publishers.

Sunnyside
02-21-2008, 06:27 PM
I'm strictly non-fiction, and I can attest to the value of an agent!

K1P1
02-22-2008, 11:59 PM
My agent got me better contract terms than I would have negotiated on my own, and negotiated a 2-book contract, with the content of the second book to be decided. This, in itself, is extremely valuable, because I got the initial advance on the second book at the time the contract was signed, and it means there will be no delay in getting down to work on the second book. Between the previous two books, there was a two year lag when I didn't have anything under contract.

In the course of an author's writing life, putting out a book every year or two versus putting out a book every third year can make a tremendous difference in overall income--way more than 15%.

Plus, your agent can be out there selling for you while you are writing. I find it difficult to combine writing, promotion, and living my life. The agent is also the one who gets the rejections -- very good for your ego and outlook just not to know about those on a daily basis.

nancy02664
02-24-2008, 12:45 AM
My agent got me better contract terms than I would have negotiated on my own

...same here (for my nonfiction book). I am really happy I had an agent throughout the entire process -- just made things so much easier.

Susan B
02-24-2008, 09:12 PM
Same here, about the value of having an agent--even for nonfiction, and even if you end up (as I did) with a publisher that in theory considers unagented submissions.

I've read that university presses (and other independents) are looking at agented submissions more and more, even if it's not an absolute requirement. Having an agent, even in the background, offers a kind of credibility. And the agent plays an important role in negotiating a better contract--not to mention handling subidiary rights and being there for your next book.

Good luck, whatever you decide!

Susan

Susan B
02-24-2008, 09:27 PM
One more thought: It can't hurt to do an initial limited query to a handful of agents and a couple of small publishers, to test the waters. (It's what I did, at the suggestion of my writing mentor.) As long as you stick to the small/specialized publishers you mention, you shouldn't have a problem with an agent considering the book "shopped around." Agents do worry when a book has made the rounds of the major trade publishers they focus on, but I don't think that's what you're talking about.

veinglory
02-25-2008, 12:25 AM
Sounds like an agent is a good idea for commercial non-fiction then. I am writing more on the academic side where it is not really part of the picture. But this is interesting as I have a more mainstream book idea somewhire in my files too.

ExposingCorruption
02-25-2008, 04:20 AM
One more thought: It can't hurt to do an initial limited query to a handful of agents and a couple of small publishers, to test the waters. (It's what I did, at the suggestion of my writing mentor.) As long as you stick to the small/specialized publishers you mention, you shouldn't have a problem with an agent considering the book "shopped around." Agents do worry when a book has made the rounds of the major trade publishers they focus on, but I don't think that's what you're talking about.

It sounds like inkkognito would be aiming too low with small/specialized publishers. As I stated in an earlier post, judging from inkkognito's first post, she is already connected to her potential readership.

She has a name that is known and a way to reach people. She has the cherished "platform" that is needed in non-fiction. The big New York publishers look for authors who have "platforms," and so do the agents who sell books to big New York publishers.

The unagented small/specialized publishers should be a last option.

inkkognito
02-25-2008, 07:18 AM
Thanks, all! This is great information! (I'm a she by the way, but I know there's no way to tell by my screen name...I need to add "Barb" to my signature). I think I'm going to do some research on potential agents...I've just been avoiding that because I like writing so much better, but I need to force myself to do the grunt work too. It would have a long-term gain, i.e. my grunt work up front would mean I have someone doing it for me in the long term and with a heck of a lot more expertise than I have.