Do Writers Need and Agent and Traditional Publisher
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I started a similar string in Litopia (http://litopia.com/forum/does-unpublished-writer-need-agent) and have gotten a lively response. Obviously, all writers want professional assistance, but my position is along these lines:
- It's hard to get a "good" agent who will take on an unpublished writer. That leaves agents who are new, old, or well...not that very good;
- If you do get an agent who tells you she wants you to do this or that and she doesn't know anything more about what acquisition editors want than you do, you can spend a lot of time and go down a lot of wrong tracks meeting a useless goal of pleasing that agent.
- Even if you do get published, unless you are the beneficiary of a publicity budget and professional promoter, you are going to have to do the same amount of publicizing of your book and yourself as the unpublished writer.
- What you get with the professional deal is:
- A spot in the stream of new books that flow through "brick and mortar" stores and are given about a week on the shelves to see if something happens before being replaced;
- Chances of reviews in mainstream press;
- Chances of being purchased by libraries; and
- The great joy of saying "I've been published by..."
The stigma of being self-published is quickly fading, and warning to the newly published author who thinks their work is done.
I don't think all writers want professional assistance, but rather that all writers want to be professional, whether they are standing alone or with agents and publishers behind them.
I don't understand why people think this has to be an either/or situation. There is no reason why you can't be both traditionally published and Indie published, as long as you are careful about your traditional publisher contracts.
Indie publishing is not for everyone any more than traditional publishing is for everyone, and neither is in anyway perfect. All authors need to study these two basic systems of publication and decide which works best for them at the moment. They might change their minds later.
The only advantage I can think of to having an agent and being in the catalogue of one of the larger publishing houses (that an agent might be able to connect you with) is a better shot at getting shelf space in a traditional store and maybe street cred with some bookshop employees and owners.
Don't forget subsidiary rights sales, like foreign/translation rights, audio, etc., which an agent can much more easily handle than an individual author. That can add up to a nice chunk of change. As do library sales--librarians generally make their buying decisions based on reviews in Library Journal (and School Library Journal for children'sbooks), Booklist, etc., which will generally only review commercially published books.
I totally agree with what zette said. Each type of publishing has its advantages and disadvantages, and one form of publishing does not have to cancel the other out. I'm commercially published, but am definitely contemplating in future self-publishing manuscripts that don't sell to NY. It doesn't have to be either/or.
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