Do we need agents?

I read some interesting articles by authors who use Smashwords to publish their novels.

Dean Wesley Smith has an article on the 15% myth and whether we need agents or not. If you have not read his articles you should take the time to read his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing articles. I discovered some very good points on ePublishing in his articles.

J A Konrath has an article on How To Make Money on eBooks. He has a different take on agents and I can see why he has delegated foreign rights sales to an agent.ย 

His article steps through the process of creating and publishing your own ebooks. There is a lot more to learn, such as downloading the guidelines from the site that you select to publish your ebooks. If you follow their format rules it will be easier to get the ebook on the site.

Back to agents. There are only five agents in Australia that market SiFi novels and when they reject a novel, I have to wonder if I should market it overseas or forget the story altogether.

Which led me to try Smashwords . . .ย  which led me to putting a short story on Smashwords . . . which led me to revising 4 of the 5 novels I have written using Holly Lisle’s HTRYN processes.

One is completed and now being read by a friend looking for any last errors. The next is on my last revision pass adding details to characters and settings. It is slow going, but I hope to have it finished in a couple of weeks.

Then I hope to put the third through HTRYN in a month (wishful thinking) and have the three of them up on Smashwords.

At the same time, or after finishing the revisions I hope to write the fifth novel, now in planning using Holly Lisle’s HTTS processes.

I may be very busy over the next few months, but as it is too cold to work in the garden or visit friends, I will just settle down and get creative.

Are any of you thinking of epublishing? What have you discovered? Or have you decided to stick with agents and publishing houses?

13 comments so far

  1. Rabia on

    That Smith article is very provocative. Interesting discussion in the comments, too.

    However, it seems to me that Smith is aiming his ire mostly at the younger inexperienced agents. I agree that it is troublesome that anyone can hang a sign on their door and call themselves an agent; that there are no licenses or other professional requirements needed to become an agent. However, I still think that experienced agents are worth their 15%. Mr Smith might not need an agent to help finetune his work (does that also mean that he doesn’t need an editor, either?), but newer writers might prefer an agent like that (I know I would!). Mr Smith might be perfectly willing to handle scrutinizing contracts on his own, but not every writer wants to do the same. Even businesses outsource the things they don’t want to waste their valuable resources on–like payroll, technical support, etc. As a writer (and homeschooler, and mom, and laundress and sweeper-of-floors and blogger and….), time is my most valuable and limited resource. Pardon me for wanting to devote more of that to writing than contracts negotiation. As a businessperson (if I ever do get paid for my writing), I am allowed to focus more on my product and outsource what I’m not ready to deal with.

    I take umbrage with Mr Smith’s assumption that all writers want the same things he does and that if we don’t, we’ve been drinking the Kool-aid. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • djmills on

      Yes, I agree. I want to create the stories, not market them. However, to be fair, he is not the only one now questioning agents 15%. I would rather pay a set hourly rate than 15% of an unknown amount, which can be guessed at.

      Holly has taught us the query letter approach that does not need an agent to reach an editor and I am all for licking my stamps and sending the query letters off. If the book is good enough they will respond, if they publish my genre. Therein lays the problem with our present system. If the story is outside the defined genre, publishers will not publish, hence Smashwords. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. ekcarmel on

    Fascinating article by Dean Wesley Smith. I didn’t have time to read through all the comments, but I plan to go back. Also to read the Konrath article.

    I’m so new at all this and I’ve been focusing on getting the writing done before I fully immerse myself in the business side. However, writers can’t help but hear about all the different sides of publishing and I’m starting to form opinions. I certainly see that all writers are different and the 15 – 20% Smith is talking about is relative. However, he makes me sit up and pay a bit more attention. I’m all for that.

    Thanks, Diane, for the links. You always seem to find some really thought-provoking items!

    • djmills on

      Yes, the 15% blew my mind when they don’t need any qualifications at all. I would rather pay a legal firm that has qualifications and understands all areas of law, including IP. The idea of an agent trying to tell me how to write is another area. If they know how to write then why are they not writing. Also, if what I am seeing being published as good fiction these days is the result of all that knowledge, then there is something wrong with the process of selection of drafts for publication.

  3. […] And, oh so controversial, yet presenting another way of looking at writing fiction for a living: Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing articles, via Djmill’s Blog. […]

  4. Megs - Scattered Bits on

    The comments are where everything gets the additional clarification I feel those articles needed. I do suggest reading through what he’s saying about agents in the comments because, in short, he is saying to use an agent for the negotiations, but that most agents aren’t going to do a better job at SELLING the work because they have favorites and several people couldn’t get an agent to mail their work to an INTERESTED editor. But by all means, get them to do negotiations. That’s what his focus is on.

    But it’s really much clearer by reading through the comments. His posts are good, but come off a little too strong in places.

    • djmills on

      Hi Megs. Thanks for stopping by. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Yes, individual blog entries on DWS site are not clear enough and the comments do help clear it up. I read each of the chapters in his Killing the Sacred Cow book and understand clearly what he is saying about changes needed on processes in all areas of the publishing industry.

      • Rabia on

        *nod* His comments are definitely more tempered than his posts.

        I have to say that I do find the “no unagented subs” of major fantasy publishing houses to be a huge obstacle. For curiosity’s sake, I went through the sub guidelines of a bunch of big houses (Tor, HarperCollins, Ace & Roc, Warner, etc) and found the majority of them will not accept unagented subs. DWS says to find another way through, but I don’t have the time or money to attend conferences and shmooze with editors in the hopes that they will solicit my work, nor do I feel comfortable breaking the rules and annoying people. Isn’t that why the editors say they have SMF anyway? To see if people are capable of following simple guidelines?

        I’d love to hear some editors’ take on DWS’s advice to thrown things over the transom whether they invite it or not.

      • djmills on

        If you mean to let each story sink or swim by itself, then, yes, ebooks (Smashwords and others) is the way to go. The smart publishers, editors, agents, just like movie producers are doing now, would watch the growth of sales for each ebook and approach the author if they think they can justify publishing it the traditional way to make a profit after paying the author for the geographical rights they need. I have spend the day thinking of how I would restructure a publishing house if I owned it, and I may even write an article about it soon, including drop returns, monitor sales growth of ebooks instead of reading slush piles, organise qualifications for agents, authors, and editors. The main shock I had was knowing I am more legally qualified to handle contracts than agents, unless they have business law quals that are not made public. Still, the shake up will help authors, and without authors there are no publishers or agents. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Texanne on

    You know I’m totally in favor of authors taking control of their own work. Another author who favors this is Bob Mayer ( He says that Smashwords discounts stories. I’m not sure what he means by that, but it bears scrutiny.

    The important thing is not to sacrifice quality just because the gatekeepers have been ousted. Back to work, TX!

    Good post, great conversation.

    • Rabia on

      The important thing is not to sacrifice quality just because the gatekeepers have been ousted. Back to work, TX!

      Yep, that’s my big concern with e-books. As a reader, I’m really not interested in sifting through what amounts to be a slushpile, looking for a competently-told story without egregious grammar mistakes. For the sake of time, I’m willing to pay the extra money to publishing houses for books that meet minimum standards of quality (ie: more than the just the writer’s mother and dog and best friend like the story!).

      • djmills on

        “Iโ€™m really not interested in sifting through what amounts to be a slushpile, looking for a competently-told story without egregious grammar mistakes.”
        I found I was doing just that reading through some of the “best sellers” that the publishers marketed. I don’t have a best seller in my bookcase shelves. Any not worth reading a second time I give away, to friends or second hand shops. Until now, the only way I could check out latest publications was borrow from the library. If I liked it I purchased my own copy, ready to read at a later date. Now, I can read a sample, usually 20-50% of the story, before I purchase the ebook. If I can’t get into the story in that time, I delete the sample. Easy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Rabia on

    I’ve noticed that most of the bad writing I’ve read is in books by established authors who’ve had many bestsellers over the years. It’s as if they feel they can afford to coast on the accolades they garnered in past years. I’ve also noticed the same bad writing in books that are hanging on the coat tails of the current Big Thing (so, Dan Brown knockoffs, Twilight-esque vampire romances, etc). That said, I don’t read widely in genres other than sf&f, and I find that most of the new and midlist writers I’ve read write very well. Now, I don’t like all of their stories (not fond of the current edgy stuff) but I can’t complain about bad grammar. ๐Ÿ˜€

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