Tag Archives: agent

Is it still worth trying to get an agent?

This month we’re talking publishing in all its shapes and sizes.  Like many of you, I am an author struggling to reach that huge milestone of my first published workd.  I’m very optimistic this is the year it’s going to happen.  I’ve been writing for seven years, and although I have two novels I could self-publish, I’ve opted to sign with an agent and pursue a traditional publishing route, if possible.

Several people have asked me why bother?

With the advent of ebooks and the ease of self-publishing novels, why not just throw my manuscripts out into the ether like so many other people?  Maybe I could become one of those few to really succeed with it?

Maybe I should.  Perhaps I still will.  The publishing industry is going through very difficult times, and there are many people who argue an author is doing themselves terrible damage by signing a traditional publishing deal.

I’m not convinced it’s all bad.  First, I want confirmation from industry professionals that I’m really ready, that I’ve mastered the craft to the point where I can approach publishing a work with confidence that it can compete and not waste my time, or the time of my readers.  Having an agent say, “Yes, I love this manuscript and I believe it is written to a professional standard and is ready to submit to publishers” is a huge milestone in my career.

Now it’s no longer just me and my close circle of relatives and friends who think I’ve got what it takes.  I need that confirmation.  Without it, how do I really know I’m ready?  After four years and several drafts, I completed my first novel, a 300,000 word behemoth I was convinced was awesome.  Thankfully the e-publishing bubble hadn’t hit yet, so rejection letters from agents started piling up.  Eventually I progressed in my mastery of the craft to where I could recognize the novel’s flaws.  I made the hard choice to throw it away and re-start from the ground up, saving only some of the worldbuilding and characters.  The resulting novel is worlds better than the original, and that’s the one my agent accepted.

So yes, the first huge benefit of agents is that confirmation by the industry that I’ve at least got a shot at a deal.  Another undeniable benefit to traditional publishing is getting your physical book distributed to physical book stores, hopefully around the world.  That distribution has value, and especially for a new author, I’d love the help of a publisher in getting my book out to readers.  I know there’s still tons of work to be done to market it myself, but at least I’d have a physical product to sell.

We all know authors who have self-published, and most of them sell few copies, despite how well deserving their books may be.  So, a traditional publishing deal might help establish a reader base to build off of.  I know it’s not guaranteed, but it’s something worth investigating.

Another big reason I am still pursuing a traditional route for my first book goes back to my agent.  John Richard Parker with Zeno Agency knows the industry and players far more than I can since he’s worked with them for many years.  His expertise is invaluable, and even though we have not landed a deal yet, working with him has already brought valuable insights I could not have gained otherwise.

The other reason I’ve hesitated to self-publish is that after working for years on my books, I want them to be the best they can be.  I’ve read e-books that could have been great, but fell short of their potential because their authors failed to wait just a little longer and complete a rigorous editing process.  Landing a traditional publishing deal, and working with the professional editors there, will be wonderful when it happens.  I am eager to learn from them all I can.

With all this said, I am not ignoring other publishing options.  My YA fantasy novel, which my agent is reviewing now, is scheduled to be professionally edited by Joshua Essoe (see his post on editing here)  later this year after I complete a third revision.  If the traditional route falls through, that novel is a prime candidate to be e-published through an e-publisher like MUSA, or directly self-published after it’s fully vetted and ready to go.

And while I complete preparing my two novels for some type of publishing, I’m busy writing the next one.  I also plan to explore e-publishing for a novella and related short story I wrote.

It’s an exciting time to be an author, with so many options out there.  I encourage everyone to learn as much as you can about each avenue, and explore multiple options.  But whatever way you choose, make sure your finished product is the best it can be.  Anything less is nothing short of a tragedy.




ThrillerFest, ePublishing, and Getting an Agent

I recently attended ThrillerFest.

It was a four day event. Last two days are panels of famous authors and lots of awards. I saw Ken Follett speak and met and spoke for a while with Larry Beinhart. The first 1.5 days were called CraftFest, and consisted of three tracks of great panels from highly successful writers in the Thriller genre. At the end of the CraftFest was AgentFest. It was like a speed dating event, but you’re pitching agents. (Forgive my metaphor, as it’s the only one I knew offhand).

The CraftFest portion of the event was very enriching. Lectures covered topics such as “How to develop your voice”, “keeping the reader in suspense” and “point of view, psychic distance, and passive voice”.

Probably my favorite lecture was from Stephen James who had a very fast delivery style (he was covering “nine characteristics of the modern thriller”) and who had an odd technique of literally hurling free books AT the audience, and even his handouts were distributed essentially spraying a cascading fan of paper over the front few rows.

There was tons of advice given, but I heard these basic lessons reiterated and I think they are still the most valuable to give to anyone entering the field:

1) READ READ READ, good and bad, in your genre


Simple no?


Over the last year the volume of press about self-publishing and e-publishing has been deafening. Working and writing about technology in my other life, I was very familiar with the rags-to-riches stories that had been told about application development for mobile phones, and some of these same themes were being explored in eBooks.

During the last year the here’s what I heard through all my sources — all the rumors, discussions, opinions — about e-publishing

  1. There’s no longer a stigma to being self published
  2. Publishing is transforming to digital faster than it did for music or movies
  3. E-publishing is now 20% of the bookbuying market. or 30%. Or something like that.
  4. Amazon sells more e-books than normal books
  5. Not really, Amazon sells more volume because many books are cheaper
  6. Spam eBooks are killing Amazon, and then you’ll need a filter, which will be… traditional publishers
  7. Only Amanda Hocking and Adam Locke did a million and you’re not them
  8. Borders is going bankrupt because eBooks are the future
  9. Barnes and Noble’s new focus is toys, gifts, coffee table books, games, puzzles, DVDs, CDs, and scones
  10. The way to succeed with eBooks is 1) social networking 2) writing half dozen acceptable quality books in rapid succession
  11. Literary agents have been infected with the Hollywood virus and are now out to steal your soul and all your royalties because they no longer work for you they just want to own your back catalog mwah hah ha
  12. E-royalties suck and aren’t fair in traditional deals
  13. Publishers never did anything for midlisters anyway it was all up to them to market themselves
  14. Don’t get an agent you can do it all yourself
  15. Don’t get a publisher you can do it all yourself
  16. You just need to spend a few grand for an editor and somebody to make you a good cover
  17. Oh wait, if you focus on learning social networking and building up your audience you may not have time to write
  18. If you self publish successfully you can get a traditional book deal and sell to people who don’t have e-readers and a few of those still exist
  19. $0.99 to $2.99 ebook pricing is devaluing books
  20. People can’t find your book in a bookstore if it’s e-published
  21. There’s no longer a stigma to publishing traditionally on paper

Getting An Agent

The main reason I had gone to the event was to learn about getting an agent. Here’s what I learned about THAT:

  1. You need an agent because they can submit simultaneously instead of you slowly pitching your manuscript slowly, one publisher at a time, over many years.
  2. You need a “log line” – a punchy one-line hook about your book
  3. Loglines are too Hollywood ; those are for scripts. You need a pitch line and a query letter.
  4. You need to work on your pitch a lot to make your query perfect.
  5. You must address your query letter to the agent and research the agent and address them by name and call to verify their name but you can’t nag and you can’t do anything strange or unusual in your query letter.
  6. Actually you don’t need a query letter they’re too slow. You need to go to conferences and meet an agent and pitch your book. Then they’ll ask you to send the manuscript.
  7. If the agent doesn’t like your pitch, because your one-line description of the book wasn’t short enough and perfect enough.
  8. Wow this is going to be really hard.
  9. Actually you’re interviewing the agents and you need to see if you can vibe with them.
  10. Oh wait, the right agent will like your pitch if your story is good because they’re interested, and will ask for the manuscript.
  11. If the agent doesn’t like your pitch you can simply move on. There are other agents.


The event was amazing (I’m writing spy thriller and some scifi thriller so it was a good fit for me) and I plan to go next year as well. To recap:

  1. There’s no longer a stigma to having a literary agent
  2. Read in your genre
  3. Write a lot

How Many Authors Have You Rejected?

When I go to a bookstore, I walk straight past the romance and horror and non-fiction over to the fantasy and science fiction section, and often browse the young adult (YA) aisles as well. Even though I know there are great books on the other shelves, those are the genres I’m interested in reading.

Now I want to find a book.

What I’m looking for depends on my personal tastes, what I last read, what kind of story I prefer, and what I consider to be a “good” book. My friends have different opinions and they have loved books that have done nothing for me, and I’ve been crazy about a book that they found “okay”.

In order to make a decision about which book to buy, I read the back copy. Sometimes I put the book back, sometimes I start reading the first chapter. I know within the first few pages whether or not I want to spend 3-4 hours with that book.

When I finally choose a book, buy it, and walk out of the bookstore, it’s nothing personal against all of those other authors .. but I have just rejected them.


Now – take that above situation and translate it in to an agent’s world … far more people than they could ever represent, some queries that appeal to them more than others, deciding which manuscript they want to spent 1-2 years of their life with, and then sending out rejections to the rest. Nothing personal, the agent just didn’t choose your book.