Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ever Thought About Going It Alone?

As a Guest Blogger, Nicole O'Dell Talks About Publishing Without An Agent

One Isn't Always the Loneliest Number

I’ve never considered myself to be a rule breaker. But if you looked at my publishing history, you might think differently.

Let’s take a look at some “unbreakable” industry rules:

→ An unpublished author cannot sell an unwritten fiction manuscript.

In 2008, as an unpublished author, I got a two-book deal for unfinished fiction.

→ An unpublished author can only gain the attention of an agent or editor at a conference or by referral.

Not true for me. I’ve never been to a conference. (I’d LOVE to go but my toddler triplets have other plans for me right now.)

→ An unpublished author cannot approach publishers without an agent.

That two-book deal I mentioned above? There have been two more two-book deals since then. That’s six books since 2008 - with no agent.

In my few short years in the publishing industry, I’ve toiled many hours over the question of whether or not to find an agent to represent my work. In 2008, I was blessed beyond measure to receive a contract for my first two books through direct communication with Barbour Publishing. I didn’t have representation, my manuscripts were incomplete and I was unpublished at the time. I truly believed that my idea was going to sell my books, so I decided to give it a try on my own. Plus, I figured it would be just as difficult to get my ideas in front of an agent as it would be to go to the publisher directly. I broke several industry “rules” by going about it in that way, but it worked for me.

Granted, there are only a few publishers that are open to unagented authors, and fewer still who will contract a novel without it being complete. I happened to find a publisher who did both.

Sometimes, it’s just not the right time to work with an agent. If you’re an unpublished writer whose work is unfinished or unpolished, you’ll only damage the potential of a future contact by approaching them prematurely—after all, what do you expect them to represent? A hope and a promise?

Or, perhaps you’re like me and you’ve gotten your first contracts, written some books, secured future contracts and see a nice steady road mapped out ahead of you—you may not feel you “need” an agent right now, either.

Would things have been different for me if I’d had representation from the beginning? I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a negotiator—I’m a contract signer. I’m not a sales person—I’m just a grateful working writer. I’m not an industry-savvy professional—I’m just a learn-as-I-go hard worker. So, in all likelihood, my advance would have been a little higher. Perhaps my royalty split would have been a little tighter. And, an agent would have definitely encouraged me to perfect my work more, knowing that I was still in the throes of learning. But, I think all of that is true for any author, with or without an agent. There’s always something to second guess.

If I were to seek an agent for future projects, I would want someone who believed in me as an author and wanted to manage my career, not just one book. She/he would be able to negotiate killer contracts, ensure that excellent books are published, guide me toward making sure they are marketed properly, etc. My perfect author/agent relationship would include a joint ministry focus, an overall approach to branding and a shared outlook on the future. That’s a tall order. Many agents don’t want to participate in all of that, and that’s fine. But, I would rather not sign with one at all than to settle for anything other than that.

Sometimes it’s okay to work alone. Your writing career doesn’t begin the day you join forces with a literary agency. You can still be a working writer, still pursue contracts and still chase your dreams one step at a time until the doors to the hallowed halls of the perfect literary agency open for you. The key is to keep going, keep writing and keep your eyes on your goals.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story. Congrats on your success, Nicol!


Free Blog Counter
Poker Blog