We asked agent Scott Eagan his thoughts about where the publishing industry is heading, indie publishing and a myriad of other things and he graciously agreed to share them here. Scott is the founder of Greyhaus Literary a small agency only focusing on Romance and Women’s fiction. He currently taking submissions.
Here’s what he had to say.
I am really excited about being here today! I was asked to
talk about something that has really been on the top of a lot of conversation
loops recently in the publishing world. The question was whether or not a
writer needs an agent, and, as an extension of that, whether or not going
through the “traditional” routes of publishing is the best way to go.
Obviously, as an agent, the expectation is that I would say,
“Of course you need an agent.” Why wouldn’t I? This is my job and I certainly
don’t want to see it go away. But I have to say, looking at this profession,
not as an agent, I would still say a writer, if he or she were planning on
going into the traditional routes of publishing does need an agent. Simply put,
there are far too many benefits a writer receives from having an agent.
First of all, we need to stop and ask what an agent does for
a writer. The common misconception that a lot of the “anti-agent” writers have
out there is that we just pick up a phone and call the publishers or send the
projects to them. Those individuals often make the claim, “why do I need to
have someone read a contract when I can do that myself.” Although contracts and
making those sales are part of what an agent does, there are a lot more things
that we do.
Agents provide editorial services to writers. We look over
projects, make recommendations and get you heading in the right direction to
greatly improve the chances that your book will be picked up by a publisher.
Since we are in contact with editors, we have the chance to know a bit more of
what they are looking for and what they are shying away from right now.
Secondly, an agent really works with you in a team effort
when dealing with the publishers. Editors will frequently state that they
simply want to stay out of the business side of things. They want to work with
their writers and focus on the stories. For that reason, they often pass all of
the business “stuff” over to their contracts people and marketing people. They
would work with the agent. Now, if something does come up and we have to play
“good cop, bad cop” the writer can continue normal relations with the editor
and the agent can do the dirty work.
Having an agent also gives you a bit more leverage with
editors when future projects come up. When an editor knows a writer has an
agent, they already know that writing has gone through initial readings and
probably had some editorial guidance. They also know that the agent will keep
the writer on deadlines and make sure the work is coming in. It is this
knowledge that often leads the way to those special request projects – the
anthologies, the Christmas editions and so forth.
This is simply three of the key reasons for having an agent,
but obviously there are a lot more. In simple terms we are talking about having
someone else on your team.
Now, when it comes to whether or not a writer needs to go
through traditional publishing, I have to say this all depends on the book. In
fact, the real question is not whether you “need” to go through traditional
publishing, but whether or not your book fits with traditional publishing. Many
writers that take the indie publishing or self-publishing route simply have
stories that don’t fit with the marketing plan of the traditional houses. I
always use the analogy of a hardware store. They know their market. They know
their clientele and they know what sells and doesn’t sell. Now, if a farmer
comes in and wants the hardware store to sell their corn or eggs, the store
simply will turn them down. Why? The farmer’s products don’t fit with the
marketing plan. The farmer has to go to someone who does sell corn and eggs.
The same goes for publishing. Sure, there are a lot of writers out there with
stories to tell, but they all don’t fit at say a Simon and Schuster. Some of
these stories have too small of a niche, maybe too local of a focus.
Please don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying one route is
better than another. I am simply saying that the book dictates which publishing
route you should take.
I also want to add that many self-published and indie
published authors believe this is the way to build your career so they can move
on to bigger and better things. Again, this is a myth. Yes, the practice in
writing is going to help, but when it comes to the publishers looking at that
work when they look at a new project, it really doesn’t play a role. Editors at
the traditional houses don’t say “Wow, look at what this person has done! 10
books with Smashwords! I must sign them!” They are simply looking at the
quality of the writing and whether or not the story fits what they are looking
for at that time.
I think the thing to remember here is that writers have a
lot of choices. Have an agent if your writing needs one. If you want to writer
for indie publishers or take the self-publishing route, you simply won’t need
an agent. If you want to write for these smaller houses and it feels right for
you, then do it. The choice is yours.