Still Chasing The Old Agent Route To Writing Heaven? Wake Up and Smell The Coffee!!

Still chasing the old agent–publisher route to writing heaven? Wake up and smell the coffee!

 

Living in a mud-hut in West Africa I don’t have a TV, so when I need light entertainment I browse agents’ blogs. Better than any sitcom!

A few days back I found one of the more progressive agents (a progressive agent is one who acknowledges ebooks exist) explaining to her loyal hangers-on the need for patience. She explained that, always assuming you had somehow got past the agents’ own gatekeepers and been accepted as a client, “It might take (the agent) a few years, with revisions and submissions, to make a sale.”

I thought, thank God we don’t have to suck up to agents and publishers anymore.

Yet many of us still do. Many of us still slavishly follow agents’ blogs, hoping for some crumb of advice that will somehow transform our writing careers, and then we jump through ridiculous circus hoops, all in pursuit of the holy grail of newbie writing – a traditional publishing contract.

It seems many of us are still living in this time-warp world where you needed an agent to get published. And even when we do understand it’s no longer necessary, many of us still think it’s the best option, and worth trying first.

It’s not. It’s a waste of your valuable time.

It’s a waste of your valuable energy.

And most of all, it’s a waste of your chance to prove yourself.

That’s not to say there are not great agents out there who can be really useful to you. But if you need an agent or publisher at all, you need one later, not sooner. Here’s why:

Agents are not publishers. They sell manuscripts to publishers on behalf of authors. Agents choose what they think publishers will buy. Trouble is, much of the time they have no idea what a publisher will buy, which is why it takes years to sell the book to a publisher. If it gets sold at all. It’s a crap shoot.

Publishers do not sell books. Or rather, they only sell books to book-stores. Publishers have no idea what readers want to read. They rely on agents to give them new books and then they hope the book-store will buy them. It’s a crap shoot.

The book-store will only take what it thinks the public will buy. It may choose a few new names and give them shelf space for a week or two, spine out on a badly lit low shelf in the corner by the toilet. But if they don’t sell in substantial numbers in two or three weeks then it’s game over. Those books are returned. Remaindered or pulped. Another week, another new, random selection. It’s a crap shoot.

And for this privilege you spend years of your life submitting to agents until you finally get one. Joy! So now you’re a “proper” writer. An agent has given you their seal of approval. Congratulations.

But an agency contract is not a publishing contract. It’s the beginning of a journey that may just be the dream, but is more likely to be a nightmare.

Let’s be optimistic and say you spent just one year querying before you bagged your agent. You then spend another year rewriting the script because the agent is making suggestions to make it fit their preconception of what the public will want to read. By suggestions I mean mandatory suggestions. “It’s entirely up to you if you make the changes. The exit’s to your left, by the way.”

Get rid of my favourite character? Guess I’d better do it. After all, these people are professionals. They know best.

Then you watch another year or two go by before the agent finally lands a publisher. And guess what, the publisher’s editor wants some changes made. “Only suggestions, of course. Entirely your choice. The exit’s to your left, by the way.”

And of course, you make the changes. After all, these people are professionals. They know best.

Finally, yet another two years down the line, your novel is published. Only, it’s not really your novel anymore. The agent made you get rid of your favourite character, and the publisher made you change that crucial chapter where… But these people are professionals. They know best, so you listened and obeyed.

And when the publisher sent you that dreadful cover for approval and said, “Feel free to suggest any changes whatsoever. The exit’s to your left, by the way,” you signed on the dotted line. After all, these people are professionals. They know best.

So now your book, with the ending you hate, the key character deleted, and the crap cover, is finally in the shops, in the window display and on the plinth. Oh, sorry. Not the plinth. Or the window display. That’s reserved for mega-sellers and B-list celebrities with silicone implants. In fact, your book on the bottom shelf in that poorly lit corner by the toilet, spine out. And there’s only one copy, so if you do buy it for Mom no-one else will be able to get it.

And how much?! A typo, surely? And oh look, the e-book is even more expensive than the hardback! No-one’s going to buy it at that price.

In desperation you phone your publisher to explain the error.

“No, everything is exactly as we wanted it. Who are you again? Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re very busy being important. The exit’s to your left, by the way.”

So you buy the only copy of your book for Mom. After all, the store will soon order some more in for the teeming masses.

A month later you pop back to the store to get a copy for your great aunt.

“Sorry, that title is out of print. They’ve all been pulped. Poor sales. Fact is, we only sold one copy all month. It didn’t seem worth our ordering any more in. And the cover was so bad we had to hide that one spine out on the bottom shelf in that poorly lit corner by the toilet. The exit’s to your left, by the way.”

The fact is, ninety per cent of all traditionally published books in the US fail to sell 1000 copies. Official APP figures. After a few weeks on the shelves, even when not spine out in the unlit corner by the toilet, if they fail to sell enough they are returned. Remaindered or pulped. Along with that writers career.

So much for the professionals knowing best.

And in that time you wasted querying, waiting for a contract, and finally getting published, you could have been selling direct to readers, on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Waterstone’s, etc.  

Okay, chances are you won’t sell a thousand in the first few weeks on-line either. But unlike the book-store shelf, the cyber-shelves are infinitely long and there’s no time limit. Your writing career doesn’t end if you don’t sell in the first month. Or two months. Or even three.

Fact is, our debut novel Sugar & Spice sold almost nothing for the first three months. Had we been with an agent and publisher they would have shown us that exit to the left, and bolted the door afterwards. Our writing careers would have been over.

Yet in the next three months that same book that had sold nothing suddenly grew wings and sold 50,000 copies! The numbers are now almost double that.

And as an aside, that’s the same book that was rejected by almost every major agent in the UK, many of them telling us it was unsellable. We nearly gave up. After all, these people are professionals. They know best.

Had we been with an agent / publisher there would have been no second book, that’s for sure.

As it is, our second book, Snow White, is three weeks old today. And despite being released in mid August, in peak vacation time, the dead month for book sales, it broke the top 500 on Amazon UK in just eight hours, and is now our second top 100 chart success.

Agents and publishers? It’s a crap shoot.

If you’ve got a good book, go indie. Self-publish and let the readers prove its worth. The agents and publishers will soon come knocking.

Next week here on WG2E I’ll explain why, when one of New York’s biggest agencies did come knocking (all the way across the Atlantic!) we elected to remain indie, and I’ll be revealing just what the real advantages of being indie are.

Meanwhile, how about you? Are you still hankering after the dream ticket? If so, you’ll need a laugh to cheer you along the way. Check out some agents’ blogs. The exit’s to your left, by the way.

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Comments

  1. Sibel Hodge says:

    Great post, Mark! Been there, done that (apart from the actually getting a trad-pub deal!).

    I love this: “The fact is, ninety per cent of all traditionally published books in the US fail to sell 1000 copies. Official APP figures”

    That’s pretty scary! There are soooo many indies I’ve met who’ve surpassed this figure many times over, myself included. If I’d carried on trying to get pubbed the traditional way, I’d probably be ready to stick my head in the oven right about now!

    Congrats on your sales figures – I’m not surprised! Sugar & Spice is a great thriller. And it just goes to show…agents and publishers are not always right. It’s fantastic that now readers are the new gatekeepers of good books :)

  2. Angela K Roe says:

    Terrific blog, thanks for sharing. I agree with you completely and I’m thrilled you didn’t have to resort to sticking your head in the oven!!

  3. I agree so many of these published wouldn’t know a best seller if it jumped up and bit them. What they do publish is mostly awful. I too have had great indie success and decided early on that I didn’t need to go the agent publisher route, I would let readers decide. After all they are the ones that really count. Ebooks don’t have to compete with the big name books on seperate shelves, they are never sold out and are there forever. Why would anyone do anything else? Because there still is that, ‘if you don’t have a traditional publisher you’re not really published’ stigma. But the publishers started that and it is changing, slowly.

    • D. D. Scott says:

      Exactly this, Elizabeth:

      “…readers decide. After all they are the ones that really count. Ebooks don’t have to compete with the big name books on seperate shelves, they are never sold out and are there forever.”

      And forever is a long, long time too!

    • You’re right, Elizabeth, the self-publishing stigma is fading, and as more mega-sellers like Ruth Haris (see my post on MWi today) join us indies it will soon be trad publishing that has the stigma.

      I look forward to the day when trad published books are seen as the second-class option. What, you couldn’t manage on your own so you had to get Messrs Harper, Schuster et al to give you a leg up? How embarrassing!

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      Absolutely that, Elizabeth!

      Ha ha, Mark! One day…

    • Terry Shames says:

      Elizabeth, the stigma part is what is hanging me up. It still stings, even if I think Mark is right. It put me in such a funk. Mark, thank you for this great post that renewed my courage.

      I have, oddly, been accepted by a few agents over the years–supposedly really good ones, but they have never found a publisher for any of my books. I’m gearing up to bypass the whole crap shoot!

      Thanks for the great post.

  4. Linda says:

    Helluva post. Been the agent route, been the publisher/editor route – they couldn’t put me in a box. Found a small e-pub, love them – learned an amazing amount. Sales – don’t know yet, my books only been out for three weeks – but it’s MY book.

    Great post!

  5. K. A. Jordan says:

    Great points.

    A good friend of mine who used to work in Trade Publishing read 100 indie books at random. He decided that 21 out of the 100 were good enough to for his old company to have published.

    There is a lot of pent up demand for fresh stories – Indies are here to meet the readers needs.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Great blog, Mark, & so interesting! Thanks for all of the awesome information. Congrats on your sales!!!!

  7. D. D. Scott says:

    Mark, this is just a brilliant, brilliant debut post! I’m just over the moon to welcome you to The WG2E!

    We’re all gonna learn tons from you and Saffi too!!!

    And congrats on SNOW WHITE being your second book to hit the Amazon Kindle UK Top 100…let’s see if a little WG2E luuuvvv won’t get you into the Amazon Kindle US Top 100 too…

    I’m going to expand on your post in my post tomorrow…and I’ll share the possibilities in real numbers, if an author makes the choice to go the Indie Epub route to avoid being your proverbial book with the “shelf space for a week or two, spine out on a badly lit low shelf in the corner by the toilet.”

    I’ve got an interesting anecdote with your toilet analogy from my previous gig as an Executive Assistant and Shipping Coordinator for one of the Bix Six NY Pubs Returns Centers…stay-tuned for tomorrow’s WG2E…

    • Thanks DD!

      Lookin forward to seeing what you add tomorrow!

      As per mention in comments above, I’ve got THE Ruth Harris over on MWi today, with her indie published thriller Hooked. When authors of this standing are deserting the trad publishers to go it alone it you really have to wonder what future trad pub has.

  8. Great post Mark. You lay out a scenario even scarier than the plot lines in Sugar and Spice ~ Snow White. Waiting for a fatal dose – that never comes.

  9. Brilliant. Every writer who’s still playing the sado-masochistic agent-query game needs to read this.

    I got my wake-up call this week. Well, actually it was “the call” from the agent of my dreams. But she asked for such draconian changes before she’d even offer representation, that my novel would have been unrecognizable. It also would have been so dumbed-down it would disgust my established audience of blog readers.

    So I asked myself–if I’m the one who has to sell this puppy to actual readers, why the hell would I let some intellectually-challenged lightweight force me to turn it into a product I can’t sell? She may know what the trust-fund Gossip Girls on the editorial boards want, but I’m the one who has to reach the buying public. When the author is both the manufacturer and the retailer, what purpose do the middlemen (or middlepersons) serve?

    I turned her down and have made a very different decision which will be announced some time next month. I’ll be telling the full story soon on the blog I share with Ruth Harris, and, I hope, on MWI. :-)

    Thanks Mark! Will RT this like mad!

    • Thanks Anne!

      Strong words there! Phew!

    • D. D. Scott says:

      “the sado-masochistic agent-query game…”…LOL! Well put, Anne!!!

      And wow…what a superfab powerful agent anecdote you’ve shared here! Thanks sooo much, and yes, I can’t wait to hear all the details on this “call”…

    • Meghan Ward says:

      Anne – Thanks for RTing this post, and I can’t wait for your announcement! I’m guessing it has something to do with a decision to self-publish? And I’m curious – was it the agent’s call for draconian changes that transformed her from the agent of your dreams into an intellectually challenged lightweight? Looking forward to your upcoming posts on this topic.

      • Hi Meghan,

        Just this weekend found an email from you that must have come in during my recent travels. Wasn’t deliberately ignoring you!

        Lovely to see you here at WG2E.

      • Meghan, it was the fact she let a brand new intern decide how to “fix” my novel by dumbing it down that really pushed me in another direction. TBA very soon. :-)

        • Ann Best says:

          I’m glad I met you today, Mark, through Meghan (and Anne). After two weeks of blogging inertia, I managed to put up a post yesterday about Self-Publishing. And now, reading this post and all these great comments, I feel like the planets are aligning!

          I do have to say, as Jill (below) says, that I also learned much from the small press that published my first memoir In the Mirror. Fortunately, the cover turned out very well–I’m pleased with it. I think that because I’m a professional editor/proofreader I caught a lot of problems in the editing process, especially at the end with the copy edits–though I was nervous when they did a final edit and I didn’t get to see the end result before it went to press.

          Now I’m learning more and more about promotion, especially since I have to do 99.99% of it on my own–which is one of the reasons why I’ve decided to self-publish my current WIP, a second memoir. Also, at my age (71) I don’t have decades left to wrangle with queries/agents/publishers. I discovered from sad but valuable experience that not all agents/publishers are reputable, barely managing a few years ago to get out of a trap! Now I’ve decided: If I self-publish and fail, it’s on my shoulders; if I succeed, it’s on my shoulders. To me that’s a win/win.

  10. Jill James says:

    It is a scary world, making these choices these days. I’m with a small press and my sales are sad, but I’ve learned so much with my editor and the company that I count it as a very important lesson to learn. I learned to read a contract. I learned to fill out the art form and what I wanted on the cover and why. (very important to know how to articulate your cover wishes to the artist) I learned to do promotion. And I learned to promo and write the next books at the same time.

    • Thanks Jill!

      I’m intrigued by your story. Your sales are sad, yet you are obviously happy with the service you’ve received.

      Of course one person’s “sad” is another person’s “dream”. It’s all relative and much about expectations. Our sales are sad compared to a million-seller, but a million-seller is nothing compared to Stephen King, who is nothing compared to JK Rowling…

      • D. D. Scott says:

        Great points, both Jill and Mark!

        And it goes to show that indeed each author must make the decisions that best help him or her where they’re at right now in their Indie Epub Journey.

        That said, though, there comes a point where you’ve got to just go for the gusto and learn by the seat of your pants ’cause the ride is just too incredible to keep on waiting and wondering “what if”.

        I just don’t ever want to be one of those who is left wondering “what if”…what if I’d had the guts to just go for it!

        I know this decision has been a tough one for you, Jill, and I’m sooo tickled you’re “goin’ for the gusto”, Girlfriend!!!

        • Jill James says:

          Thanks D.D., I’m taking a class this coming week that promises you will be for sale at Kindle by the end of the class. I’m soooo excited to enter the Indie world.

  11. Jeff Salter says:

    Mark, I’d replied on this column when it was still under Tonya’s name — since you were indisposed — and my words so were so witty and brilliant (ha) that Tonya asked me to re-post them now that the column is properly designated.
    Problem is: I don’t remember what I wrote.
    It was something about how your phrasing made the column humorous, but truth beneath was actually quite sad. Going the ‘traditional’ publishing route is like playing the lottery — and the odds are just as bad. Sure, it works out great for a handful of folks every cycle … but the rest just throw their money, time, and hopes … down a rathole.
    Wish I could remember what I wrote before.

    • Jeff, you summed it up perfectly.

      “Going the ‘traditional’ publishing route is like playing the lottery — and the odds are just as bad. Sure, it works out great for a handful of folks every cycle … but the rest just throw their money, time, and hopes … down a rathole.”

      Worse than a lottery in one respect. With a lottery your ticket either wins or loses. Our manuscript was a loser time after time with the agents. But a big winner with readers!

      But supposing we’d given up along the way, with one snarky rejection slip too many, and had thrown our manuscript ticket in the bin…

  12. Pj Schott says:

    I have now filed “you need an agent” in the same advice category as my mother’s “you need a husband.”

  13. Ranae Rose says:

    Great post, Mark. At first I thought I’d quote and comment on some particular parts I liked, but there turned out to be way too many for that! I’m so glad I’m young enough that by the time I’d written books this revolution of sorts was/is going on. The old way of sucking up to the few big publishing machines is so depressing. I wish more people knew all this is happening. Most people (in my experience) when they find out you’re a writer, ask you questions about getting published. But they can’t seem to comprehend that the old way of begging for agents’ attention and hoping to get a foot in the door is no longer necessary, that there are now many much more viable options with smaller presses and self-publishing. It’s frustrating to try to explain. lol

  14. L.A Lopez says:

    Mark, say it like it is!! I can’t tell you how many authors I know, who had agents, who had the author change their book, and still couldn’t sell it, and then when they did, they had to make more changes, which by the time it hit the shelves, the author didn’t even recognize her own work! Now she’s indie, need I say more.

    • Scary tales indeed, LA!

      Anne R Allen, see comments above, had just been through a similar ordeal, but luckily had an escape route.

      Agents can and do make a huge difference to the lucky few. Bur far too many dreams are shattered needlessly.

  15. Paul Dillon says:

    So funny. I think I’m going to post submission guidelines for agents on my website.

    Put your name and the name of your agency in the subject line. Failure to do so will result in deletion.
    Research me. Tell me why you think my novel is a good fit for your agency.
    Your email must be no longer than 200 words and plain text only. If I see bold or italics, I hit the delete button without reading.
    Don’t state the obvious. I know you’re an agent and want to represent me. Leave that out.

    The next few years will be interesting

    • Lovely idea, Paul!

      We’ve been approached by several agents in recent months. Amazing how a book they all hated suddenly becomes wonderful literature when it hits the top of the Amazon charts.

    • LOVE it, Paul! Seriously. This is happening. In fact, it’s happened to Mark. He’s turned down some biggie agencies. And Nathan Bransford, former agent and all-around savvy publishing guy, wrote a post last week asking why successful indies would bother with agents or publishers. Tables are turning.

  16. Ruth Harris says:

    In a way, this is all anyone needs to know: The big, beautiful, 3-story Barnes & Nobel that stood on 68th Street and Broadway in NYC for years no longer exists. It’s been replaced by Century 21 (a clothing discounter). Très depressing.

    Almost all the indie bookstores on NYC’s Upper East Side are gone: Friendly & knowledgable 666. The elegant Madison Avenue Bookstore. The superb Lenox Hill Bookstore. Bookberries.
    All of these stores had devoted customers, the Mad Ave Bookstore knew their customer’s tastes so well , they simply sent books they knew their customers would want. Times long gone, to be sure.

    No stores to sell books. Publishers forced to downsize the staffs of editors & copyeditors & proofreaders that ensured a certain level of quality. Authors, even successful ones, wedged into rule-bound genres. So who are agents going to rep now that authors can self-pub? And why would they bother since advances—except in extraordinary cases—are pitiful?

  17. I don’t often agree with Mark, but I just gotta!

    It is so gratifying to watch us up there in the lists with the big-hitters like Patterson, Cornwell and Nesbo and know that we did it all without the help (or hinderance?) of a gatekeeper.

    Readers are all that matters. No crap shoot there.

    Saffi

  18. Glynis Smy says:

    Found this post while browsing. I needed to read this to push me forward! * I have a dream. Blushes and leaves swiftly.*

  19. Janet Rundquist says:

    A dissenting view ahead:

    First, I will not disagree with going an Indie route. I will not disagree with going the epublishing route. Obviously, these can both be highly successful. I would not ever try to dispute that.

    But is it really any less of a crapshoot? Who is to say you will sell any more print copies as an Indie publisher than through a traditional publisher? Certainly there can be bad and extremely frustrating experiences with agents and publishers, but to say that agents and publishers have no idea re: the market sounds, to be blunt, ignorant to me. I would also appreciate seeing the direct source re: this statement, too: “The fact is, ninety per cent of all traditionally published books in the US fail to sell 1000 copies. Official APP figures.” – so that when it starts the propagation circuit across blogs I can keep the integrity of the fact in my head.

    I realize this is a blog and much of what you are also sharing is a personal and frustrating experience that I can sympathize with (and perhaps even empathize with in the future). I get that. But, sometimes in social media we get caught in an echo chamber, forgetting that traditional publishing, no matter what it LOOKS like is happening or FEELS like is happening because we have our own story we desperately hope will sell, is alive and strong (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/30/death-books-exaggerated).

    I applaud your success in Indie publishing, I really do. Publishing in any form is a risky and exciting adventure. I am just one for balance.

    • Janet Rundquist says:

      And.. because I have probably made myself public enemy number 1 on this site and set of comments, I will add in an ameliorating, though still sincere comment: I also recognize this as a post to inspire and impassion – which is also a good thing (it obviously impassioned me, right?)

    • Janet, thanks for joining us.

      Public enemy # 1? Not at all. Unlike some agents’ blogs, we welcome dissent so long as it’s reasoned, as yours is.

      You ask, is going indie any less of a crap shoot? Emphatically yes. Check out my own site, where NYT best selling author (as in millions) Ruth Harris has chosent to go indie with her latest book. See her comments on this site, above, for further confirmation.

      The problem with the trad route is the time it takes, even if you succeed. We finished our latest book three weeks ago. Three weeks on, i;s a top 100 seller on Kindle UK. If we had been trad it would now be with an agent who would be spending a month or two wondering how they can rewrite it for us. Then they’d start approaching publishers. Maybe by Xmas we’d have a contract. The book would be lucky to see the light of day before Xmas 2012.

      It might well sell, and might sell better than we are now. Trouble is, we wouldn’t have a clue, even if it was selling well, until the publisher dished out the figures. As for actually seeing the money… That would be another six months at least.

      And how much would we get? 15%. As indies we can get 70%.

      And we’ll have got 70% of however many we have sold in that two year gap between writing the book and it actually going on sale with the trads.

      That’s two years waiting wondering if the book is worth following up on. Do we write the next in the series? Supposing it flops? We’d have no idea if we went trad. As it is we’ll have the next book in the series out in November and the third in January.

      I’ll be looking more at this next Sunday. Stick around.

      As for the other side of the story – check out Alan Rinzler, a hugely respected industry insider.

      http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2011/06/05/good-day-sunshine-for-writers/

      And for further examples of indies making waves, check out my own site’s past posts, where inspiration is the name of the game.

  20. CharleyR says:

    Great post Mark! Sorry I didn’t get to it before.
    I’m sure there are SOME decent agents out there who acknowledge that they need to move with the times and adapt to the ebook market and all (they’ll all have to eventually, but whether all will make it I don’t know), but I can see why you make your points. Still, I reckon the blighters will find another way to convince us they’re needed – they’re crafty like that.

    Still brilliant post, and again, well done on the huge success with your books! I really hope St Mall’s does as well when we’ve brushed it all up and stuff – I’m so excited! :D

    - Your favourite minion ;)

  21. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss agents! Yes, they have acted as gatekeepers for many years and that has resulted in a lot of resentment. But a good agent does far more than act as a gatekeeper. A good agent helps from the start of the writing process, and in the case of my Jack Nightingale books I have a full-time member of staff who does a full edit of the book before it goes to the publisher. A good editor will always get you a better contract if ever you come to sign one, and a good editor will sell lots of subsidiary rights that wouldn’t even occur to you – large print, spoken word, translation rights in countries you’ve never heard of. A good agent will sit down with you and help plan out your writing career, and will knock on the doors of TV and film companies on your behalf. Yes, a few self-published authors are selling a fair number of books at the moment, and that’s great, but the vast majority of eBooks that are sold are from established authors with agents. That’s why most of the independent authors who do well – including Amanda Hocking and John Locke – sign with an agent as soon as they get the chance.

  22. Thanks for joining us, Stephen. Just been reading about your contaner ship adventure (here in West Africa the mags come late).

    Re: agents – I did say “That’s not to say there are not great agents out there who can be really useful to you. But if you need an agent or publisher at all, you need one later, not sooner.”

    For writers like yourself who were well estbalished long before digital became an option, and who have a good agent, you’re absolutely right. But for the new writer just starting out? Wha chance of them getting even an average aent, let alone a good one.

    As you remarked over at Joe Konrath’s a while back, many NY agents are arrogant little… I won’t quote you in full here, but as I’ll be explaining on WG2E next week we walked away from a major NY agent who came knocking on our door and who definitely matched your description.

    No question at all having a good agent is great for a writer wanting to go to the next stage. Although Amazon now permits submissions direct they will clearly take more notive of an agented submission. And no question agents can knock on doors for film, tv and foreign rights.

    But for the new writer starting out there are no agents who are going to get them the sort of service your agent gives you. You get that service because of your proven track record which means the agent knows it is time well-invested, not a gamble.

    My point is, the query process is a waste of time for 99% of new writers. Prove yourself by selling direct to readers, with none of these professional servies offered by agents and publishers, and the agents will come after you. And at that point you can debate with them as equals, not desperate wannabes signing on the dotted line.

    A final point. You say, “the vast majority of eBooks that are sold are from established authors with agents.” But Stephen, there’s a reason for that. Established authors have a loyal following by definition. They have agents because when they started out in publishing they had no choice.

    New writers do have that choice. They don’t need agents to get started. Agree they may well benefit later on.

    We’re not anti-agent. We’re talking to several right now. But we do so on a level playing field, not jumping through circus hoops to get their attention, and certainly not listening to crap about which genres we will be permitted to write in or when we can release our next titles.

    Love Inspector Zhang by the way!