Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mr. Agent Man (or: Hey, Why Do I Need an Agent?)

As I go through the seemingly endless process of finding a literary agent, the devil sits on one shoulder and an angel on the other, going at it like prize fighters. “You don’t need an agent,” one says. “You’ll do just fine on your own. In fact, you’ll do better because you can keep more of your money!”

On the other shoulder is the voice that says, “But the publishing world is huge and so difficult to navigate for a writer. You need some help!”

I believe there is some truth in what both of these voices say. Sure, I got my first book, DIABLERO, published all by my lonesome by a small press in Atlanta, Georgia and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Nightbird Publishing is a quality publishing house with integrity and vision. They set me up with a book release party in Atlanta, helped get me some book signings, some publicity and were just generally easy to work with and enthusiastic about my book. DIABLERO was one of their best-selling releases up to that time, so I can’t complain.

Then, along came David Niall Wilson and Crossroad Press, who offered to release DIABLERO as an e-book. That deal was also done without the aid of an agent.

So why get an agent?

Well, let me put it this way: I believe I could get along in the publishing world without one, maybe eventually publish a best-seller at some point. I’ve always believed in being self-sufficient and self-reliant, so it would fit right into my philosophy.

But the thing is I don’t want to do it alone. Sure, my family and friends are supportive, but they aren’t in the publishing business and I want someone on my side that is—someone who knows the ins and outs, the loopholes in the publishing contracts, the editors at the publishing houses and the people that will review my book. I want someone on my side that believes in me and my work and will fight to get it out there into the world and make sure I get paid when it does.

I don’t think 15 percent is too much to ask for a little piece of mind.

Whenever I see my novelist friend and mentor Stephen March, the first thing he always asks me is, “Got any offers on that book, yet?” followed by, “Don’t give up and don’t stop believing in yourself.”

I can’t think of any better advice to give a struggling writer. So far I’ve had several agents request my full manuscript and right now it’s in the hands of one of the most influential agents in the world. Not bad.

But even if he says, “No thanks,” I will continue my quest, because eventually I believe someone is going to say, “Yes!”

For more info on my books and other craziness, visit my web site at Toby Tate Stories.