The obvious answer to that question is no. Writers have so many options now. Some big publishers have started offering open sessions, when they ask people who don’t have agents to make submissions. You can self-publish your work, and keep all the profit. So why sacrifice 15% of your writing income to a literary agent? Surely it’s a luxury you can do without? To date, I've sold three million novels (including my latest release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion), hundreds of non-fiction articles, and loads of short stories, all without an agent—so it can be done. The problem is, there’s a price—and I’m not talking wholly about money. If your aim is publication, writing a book is only the start. You then have to get it published. Whether you do this yourself, or you’re taken up by a publishing house, you’ll also have to get out there and sell it. The days are long gone when you handed your manuscript over to a third party then sat back, waiting for the money to roll in.
Without an agent, get ready to spend hours online, checking out which publishers are buying in your genre. You'll need to read the type of books on their lists, and target your submissions. If you’re a self-publisher, you’ll need to liaise with professional editors and cover artists to make sure you do justice to your work.
Once you’re published, by whatever means, your book must hit the real and virtual marketplaces. All this eats into time you should be using to write your next book. Most people have to fit their writing around their day job. Which would you rather do in your precious free time—write, or trawl the net in the name of research, getting distracted by the lure of social media every step of the way?
This is where literary agents, with their ready-made networks, earn their money. They take much of the non-writing stuff off your shoulders. They've also got the inside track on current market trends. A lot of writers recoil from phrases like that, which is where agents score. They’re dedicated business people, who know who's buying, and exactly what those potential buyers are looking for. On the other side of the equation, publishers use literary agents as a shortcut—the first stage in quality control. A publisher may be more likely to check out your project if it’s already been vetted by a reputable agent.
Once a publisher says yes, the horse-trading starts. Most writers are loners. Can you honestly say you'd feel happy negotiating the best terms for your contract, if you've never done it before? Professional bodies such as The Society of Authors will vet contracts for you if you're a member, but that takes time to arrange. And if this is your first book, can you really see yourself getting the best deal over publicity arrangements, tour dates, extending deadlines when necessary and sorting out foreign editions and rights? Really?
Writing is a lonely business. A good agent is a supporter, and that’s a great feeling. It takes the pressure off, knowing that someone is taking care of business. It gives you the chance to get the "creative" back into your "creative writing".
To return to what I wrote at the beginning: yes, I might have sold three million books without the benefit of an agent. But how many more books would I have managed to write if I'd had an expert on hand to help me target my work and do all the paperwork, while I got on with the fun stuff?
Have you got an agent? What are your experiences?
I live deep in the English countryside. I met my husband on a blind date, and during a career break to raise our family I wrote non-fiction articles and award-winning short stories for national magazines, to fit in with my parenting timetable.
My first full length novel, Knight’s Pawn, was an historical romance published by Harlequin Mills and Boon under my pen name of Polly Forrester. Then in 2007, Mills and Boon published my first Modern Romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. Since then, I’ve written many full-length historical novels and contemporary romances which have been released internationally by various publishers. In all, my work has been translated into nearly twenty different languages.
My current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is available From The Wild Rose Press at http://bit.ly/1ujX5zc and Amazon at http://amzn.to/1zajHZA (US) and http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv (UK). You can find a selection of my other work at http://christinahollis.com, find out what I’m doing right now by following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChristinaBooks, liking my Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/1Ee1urM and following my blog at http://christinahollis.blogspot.com
His Majesty’s Secret Passion by Christina Hollis
Available from: http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv
Leo Gregoryan is determined to be the perfect king. Loyalty to his country means sacrificing hisown happiness, but he’ll divert the energy he once poured into his dream of becoming a doctor toward royal duties. All he needs right now is a stress-free vacation–no future queen need apply. Sara Astley escapes to the luxurious Paradise Hotel after she’s dumped by her partner, who then stole the promotion she’d expected. She hides her broken dreams behind a tough exterior. Her stubborn streak makes her a challenge Leo can’t resist. His special brand of hands-on persuasion seduces Sara into enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Their fling can't hurt either of them–or so they think. Leo's focussed on being the ideal hero. Sara knows what she wants, and that’s independence. Then a revelation tears them apart, meaning things can never be the same between them...
Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold over two million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at http://www.christinahollis.com. Her current release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, is published by Wild Rose Press.
One Kindle copy giveaway of His Majesty’s Secret Passion
Link to signed copies giveaway on Goodreads
Thanks Christina! I've always been so impressed with the agents I've had contact with. Great people who are passionate about their jobs and the stories they take on. They sure have a lot to offer writers! There are so many different paths we can take. Finding the right one is a very individual experience.
What do you think? Agent or solo? What's the best path for you?