Do You Need An Agent? Depends...

Hi there,
Remember me? Well, it's been a busy month around here! The Formatting Fairies have been doing a lot of wand waving, helping our friends to get their books ready for digital publication. There's nothing more satisfying than making it possible for a fellow author to take control of her own career. One of our recent clients, Sarah Mayberry (who writes the MOST addicting contemporaries), said of the Fairies:

"From the moment I made contact with the Formatting Fairies I was taken by the hand and guided through the process of getting my book ready for publication. Cannot thank the Fairies enough for their unending patience with my stupid questions, as well as their flawless formatting. They truly made self-publishing a matter of a few clicks. I'll definitely be using them for my next project."

Thanks so much for that, Sarah! We're thrilled to see HER BEST WORST MISTAKE climbing the charts. It's a great book, so be sure to check it out.

One of the questions I'm often asked when I give workshops on self-publishing is whether I still need an agent. The answer to that, in my case, is an emphatic YES! First, some background. I signed with Kevan Lyon three years ago, and she has been a great partner and advocate ever since. Before I self-published my first book in November 2010, I talked to Kevan and told her what I was planning to do. She was all for it. Unlike some agents who have pushed the panic button over their clients self-publishing endeavors, Kevan has taken a more reasoned approach. She sees the big picture. If I do well with self-publishing, we both benefit. In fact, we already have. Taryn Fagerness, the foreign rights sub-agent Kevan works with, brokered the French sale of my self-published McCarthys of Gansett Island Series. Kevan also represents me to Harlequin for the Fatal Series and is always on the lookout for other opportunities that might interest me. We have a number of irons in the fire, and I consider her a vital partner in my career. I'd never sign a contract without her involvement.

That begs the question of why, if I've done so well in self-publishing, do I still wish to be traditionally published? Because more than half the market is still reading in print. By restricting myself solely to e-books, I'm missing out on a big chunk of the market. That's why I was thrilled to hear last week that Harlequin will bring out my Fatal Series in mass market paperback, beginning next fall with FATAL AFFAIR. I hope to gain a whole new audience for that series as well as my other books. To me, it makes sense to be diversified. While not everyone agrees with that approach, it's what works for me right now. As long as I can continue to self-publish my McCarthy series and other contemporaries, I have no problem also working for a publisher or two to grow the big picture.

All that said, if you have taken your career entirely indie and have no interest in working with a traditional publisher in the future, do you still need an agent? Probably not. If you aren't dealing with contracts, it's probably safe to go it alone. However, the minute you are contemplating signing your name on the dotted line of any contract, I firmly recommend you engage the services of a literary agent or a literary attorney, such as Elaine English.

Another word to the wise about agents. Some of them are offering self-publishing services to their clients. I'm not going to address the potential ethical issues involved with such endeavors because others have covered that subject far more ably than I ever could. I would, however, recommend that you be on the lookout for services that require a percentage of the book's earnings as opposed to flat-fee-for-services, such as those offered by the Formatting Fairies and other similar outfits. Handing over a percentage of your book's proceeds can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, over the life of the book. Ask yourself if editing, cover design and formatting should cost you tens of thousands of dollars. I have no issue with flat-fee services. I have a big issue with ANYONE, agent or otherwise, who charges a percentage for a book they didn't sell to a publisher if they are only providing pre-publication services such as editing, cover design and formatting. Word to the wise: E-books are FOREVER. Be very, very, VERY wary of any service that is tied to a percentage of the book's proceeds.

Questions? Happy to answer them!