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WHY I'M NOT CHASING AN AGENT TO REPRESENT MY WRITING

Posted on January 14, 2016

Diarmuid recently posted here: Just out of curiosity, why do you choose not to send the first book of a new series off to a traditional publisher in the hopes that they pick it up? I can appreciate the frustration involved in the process, and perhaps you do submit your books to agents and publishers all the time, but I ask out of respect for your work that I have read. Would it not be a dream to be picked up by a house? Perhaps this may make an interesting blog post at some point?

Excellent question and one I've thought about a great deal.

Here are some of the reasons why I'm not looking for an agent:

1) Momentum: Right now, there are so few barriers to getting my work out there. I write, I edit, I publish. This has allowed me to average 4-5 books a year for the last four years. Shopping every new property with agents will slow down the momentum.

2) Had an Agent Before: I had an agent early on, many moons ago. She was very enthusiastic and shopped my original Monsters in Boxers novel around New York for a year. We parted ways when nothing materialized. Granted, that book no longer exists as it did when she shopped it around. I completely rewrote it last year, and it's a thing of clever monstrous beauty.

3) Agent Hunting is a Time Suck: Six years ago, I tried to send out a few new books to agents. Nothing. I then met fellow writer, Keith Robinson, and he put together my website and showed me how easy it was to self-publish. Four years in now, and I have twenty novels to show for it. I may not have a large readership or much income from my writing yet, but I'm immensely happy on the creative front.

4) Age and Priorities: I'm in my forties now and want the time I can carve out of my busy schedule as a teacher, father, and all the regular responsibilities all of us have at this age, to be for writing and producing and not searching for agents and publishers.

5) A Do-It-Yourselfer: I've always liked working by myself or with a small group. When I worked in comics as a writer and artist, the projects I self-published or did with small publishers were always more fulfilling than my work with the bigger publishers like Marvel and DC. Plus, I'm crafting my own characters and not those of others. Yes, drawing Spider-Man for a Look-and-Find book was fun and paid well, but I greatly enjoyed working on Wingnut and Fidget so much more.

6) Building a Body of Work: I look at this long term. If the next twenty years go by and I only produce a book a year and shop it around to no avail, I don't feel like I've done all that much. If I use the next twenty years to write three books a year (and that's the minimum of what I can truly do), I will have an impressive body of work.

7) Avoiding Only Getting One Shot: I read about authors who get their first book out from a publisher and it doesn't do as well as they want it to do and the writer is dropped, tarnished and jaded. If I build an audience over many years and across many projects and earn the attention of an agent or publisher, it makes it more likely that the one-and-done scenario won't transpire.

8) Stubborn: I stubbornly believe that talent and drive create opportunity. My work shows that I can craft stories with imaginative world-building, characters with depth, and plots that motivate the reader to keep reading. Writing so much these past four years has put me close to 1.5 million words, and I can see that my writing has evolved and is there. I know what it takes to craft a story that engages. My two recent novels, Untimely Agent and We Kill Humans, are reaping the benefits of me putting in so much writing time over the last four years. If I spent time hunting for an agent, I really think my output would've been halved. I believe Malcolm Gladwell said that to be an expert at anything, you have to practice for 10,000 hours. Well, when a reader picks up one of my books, they will see that I've truly put in the time.

9) Creatively Wide Open: Working without a publisher or agent allows me to go where the wind takes me. I can spend time on a multitude of projects and put new ones on my schedule when it suits me. That doesn't mean I move from project to project willy-nilly. I have a plan. I don't abandon projects. For example, I try to do new projects alongside ones that are series. This summer will see the final volume of my zombie trilogy along with new projects like We Kill Humans and Here is Where I . . . The Apparatum series I did with Keith Robinson is two complete novels. My Graham the Gargoyle series, my oldest, has three complete novels and I have ideas for two more, but the third one didn't leave on a cliffhanger. If I get back to Graham in a couple of years, it's okay. I love the ability to move about and work on different genres and characters.

10) Invested: I'm invested in writing for the next twenty years. My enthusiasm is very high and I am highly motivated. I know that I have amazing follow through when it comes to sticking to a mission. Writing is something that means a great deal to me. If I didn't do it, there would be something missing in my life. I am sure many other writers feel this degree of passion. I am fortunate to know that this is what I want to do with my talent. Readers who get behind me will be along for a ride that is filled with wild and wooly imaginative worlds and characters.

As you can see, it's not one overriding reason that drives me to eschew getting a publishing deal, its many interconnected factors. It works for me just fine because of where I am in my life. If I was in my twenties, I think looking for an agent would be more on my mind. I'm not against finding success, but I want it on my terms. Good things come to those who wait. I firmly believe that the number of years you spend working to reach your success equal the number of years you'll ride your success.

Thanks for posting. Now go out and grab Untimely Agent. I'm betting you'll really dig it!

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Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2016...
yes, and I'd like to add that being published "traditionally" is not necessarily the best business move. Typically, a publishing house might put out, say, ten books a year, and only 2-3 will have strong financial and promotional backing (usually reserved for their big name authors). The rest have to fend for themselves.

I've read many cases of authors who have had to market their own books as much as they would if they were self-published, only for a fraction of the earnings. Why should we do that? Why give the publisher our rights and then do the work for them and earn less?

Traditional publishing only seems to work if they take a big chance on you and promote the heck out of you with strong adverts, huge front-of-store displays in Barnes & Noble, and the rest. Otherwise, forget it.

There are also plenty of cases where self-published authors actually make a whole lot more money than they would if they were traditionally published, even when a publisher comes along and offers a hefty sum.

So... no. I wouldn't dream of trying to get my book traditionally published now. If one of the big houses came to me and offered me something, then I'd consider it, but otherwise I'm happy as I am.
Comment by DIARMUID on THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2016...
Thanks for taking the time to give my question a well considered response! You make some a lot of interesting points and I appreciate your candour :)

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