Literary Agents: Not Quite Dinosaurs
Over the last few months, I’ve read posts around the web about how literary agents aren’t needed anymore. Agents are just “middlemen.” Extraneous. Who needs them? Everyone can just self-publish, or work with a publisher on their own…right? Such is the word on the street.
But some people aren’t saying those things. Want to guess who?
(And of course, all the writers still seeking representation from us.)
The people who are loudly proclaiming literary agents “dinosaurs” and “unnecessary” have a limited understanding of what agents do. (Recently, agents Steve Laube and Janet Grant each gave a rundown of what they do in a typical day.)
Agents are not just middlemen. Agents are more than gatekeepers.
Agents are business partners and trusted advisors.
Steve Jobs said, “People pay us to integrate things for them, because they don’t have time to think about it 24/7.” It’s this quote that got me thinking about the value of agents.
Integration is exactly why agents are still so valuable to both authors and publishers. We consume and assimilate reams of information about publishing, distill it, and identify the important parts so we can help authors make good decisions, find good author/publisher partnerships, and ensure the author’s interests are protected.
Those who dismiss literary agents often claim that there is so much information available that anyone can “be their own agent” – or publisher. But as in any walk of life, the more information that is available, the more people need an advisor to wade through it all and know how best to proceed.
There will always be “do-it-yourselfers.” Some people eschew a realtor and go the “for-sale-by-owner” route. Some don’t think they need a financial advisor, so they get a Vanguard account, do their own investing and manage their portfolios. Some fire up TurboTax and do their own taxes, avoiding paying a CPA. Yet realtors, financial advisors and CPAs continue to provide valuable services to the millions who use them.
What agents see, up close and personal on a daily basis, is that most of their authors have no interest in being publishing entrepreneurs. Most of them barely have enough energy to stay on top of all their writing and editing deadlines, not to mention the marketing activities required to sell books these days. Most are not eager to add “self-publishing” or “publish without an agent” to their to-do list.
Most writers want to do what they do best – write and speak – and leave the rest to someone else. We work with these authors every day, and we hear the exhaustion in their voices as they are asked to do more and more on their own. Most of them would say that they’re getting their money’s worth out of their agent.
Yes, things are changing in publishing, but agents are not standing still—we’re evolving along with our industry. Don’t place us on the “endangered species” list just yet!
Do you think literary agents are more relevant these days, or less? Have you thought about the agent’s role in integrating things for authors and publishers—the assimilators of information?
Are writers getting their money’s worth out of their agents? Click to Tweet.
Are literary agents dinosaurs — or work horses? Click to Tweet.
People who don’t like literary agents are just stoopid. Click to Tweet.
Thanks to Sally Apokedak for the Tweetables!