It seems to me that the question of having an agent before you get a publishing contract is weighing on many of our minds lately. Let’s face it, some of us have become so enamored of the battle cry, “You must have an agent to get published!” that it is bordering on becoming one of the Ten Commandments.
I’m afraid I’ll have to call BS on that one. Yes, it is a good idea to have an agent, but if we honestly believe that we have to have one before we can even think of getting published; then how did all those other folks get published without one?
Steven King worked without an agent for three years after Carrie was published, and J.K. Rowling didn’t get an agent until after the first Harry Potter story―which she self-published―began to sell big. So, where did having an agent first factor into the two biggest names in writing getting published? That’s right… it didn’t.
I’m not certain exactly when, “Publish, or perish,” turned into, “Agent, or perish.” But, I do know that it is one of the biggest lies in this crazy business of ours. If either The King, or Ms. Rowling had bought into that lie, Steve would still be teaching High School English class, and Ms. Rowling would still be waiting tables.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have an agent. Having an agent is one of the best things a writer can do. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if you don’t have an agent―well, let’s just say you’ll deserve the screwing you’ll eventually get.
My problem lies with the fact that so many of us have bought into the lie. I have actually noticed aspiring authors ready to commit literary suicide over the fact that they couldn’t get an agent first. They honestly believe that if they can’t land an agent, their dream of being a writer is over. They believe that they must be a horrible writer if an agent isn’t willing to take them on as a client, and they should just quit.
I’ll admit that it is a very good thing to have an agent first, but with more an more agents ‘cherry picking’, this is just not as practical an option as it used to be. When added to the increasing number of writers who ‘found an agent’ after they had a publishing contract in hand, it should be pretty obvious that the old agent first fallacy is falling down like a house of cards in an earthquake.
Plain and simple, brothers and sisters, this is a t-o-u-g-h business. And if you are pinning all your hopes on acquiring an agent first, you are cutting your chances of ever getting published to the proverbial bone.
Yes, submitting to a publisher who accepts unsolicited/unagented material is a slower, and sometimes more ego crushing process. In short, you better bring your A-game. However, if you’re not getting any interest from an agent in the first place―Whaddya got to lose? And I’m not even going to go into the self-publishing/e-publishing arena. But it seems to me that if any of us are really serious about making it in this business, the last thing we would want to do is slam the door in the face of any opportunity to become a successful author.
One thing I can guarantee, gang: If you go into a fight with one hand tied behind your back, the odds are you’re going to get your tail whipped.
The other thing I can guarantee is: If you happen to take any legitimate opportunity to get published, and start making a name for yourself among the only people who really matter―the readers―both agents and publishers will be beating on your door with both fists.
How you got there isn’t nearly as important as actually getting there. No one will care how you snuck into the spotlight, so why cut off possible lifelines when you’re drowning anyway? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Later, Gang. 😉