For a long time, I have attempted to get published without the aid of an agent. Why? I’ve always had mixed feeling about them and preferred to go it alone.
The positives: They know the industry and the agents presumably know them, so that will get my manuscript(s) on more desks. They know what is normal and what is not in publishing contracts, so presumably they will get me the highest royalty payment obtainable. Having an agent would be like having a secretary, which presumably means that queries and full submissions are always on the go, instead of when I have time to fit them in.
The negatives: The agent doesn’t do any of this for love, so a portion of my royalty payment (in the region of 15%) will be kept by the agent. The agent will also require a contract, but can I be sure I’m not being diddled in some way. I’ve heard horror story where agents sit on a manuscript for the term of the contract, without doing a thing!
And there are probably more that can be added to both of the above.
Being an unpublished writer, I figure I don’t have a lot of choices. I know from experience that publishing companies are squeezing out unsolicited manuscripts and using agents to cull them instead. There are very few companies that are interested in looking at unsolicited material from unknown writers of children’s works, and even less for adult fiction.
I could self-publish, but I don’t want to. Not this early in the game. I might be vain, but I honestly want to experience the joy of receiving an acceptance letter (or phone call) from a third party. I guess that means I want confirmation that my writing is of an acceptable quality.
I would like to say that I put a lot of thought into this, but I didn’t. I believe that my opinions about getting an agent has been slowly changing as the months progress and I knew that, at some stage, I’d have to bite the bullet and do it. Yesterday is the day I stepped over the line and today I announce that I’ve sent a query email to an agent regarding Cat’s Eyes.
I feel more nervous about this query (which isn’t even a submission) than previous ones. I can only imagine that it’s because of uncertainties of my own feelings. None the less, the query is gone and I intend to follow through with other queries if this one is unsuccessful.
Edited on 28 May 2009:
The company is Curtis Brown (Australia) Pty Ltd and I received a lovely reply email asking me to submit the first three chapters, which means I’m over the first hurdle and approaching the second.
The submission was posted yesterday afternoon.
Edited (again) on 19 June 2009: