I got the following question from a top writer who knows the answer, but I am sure he wanted me to make this very clear. So here I go.
Question: Are there good agents who perform according to the guidelines I have been talking about in these blogs?
The answer is: Yes, of course.
And even though I am getting known as anti-agent, I am not. Kris has a great agent that works perfectly with everything I have been talking about here. And I have had three good agents that worked perfectly for me as well. I am not agented at the moment because, as it has turned out in the last few years, I haven’t needed an agent’s help for anything. I might in the future, and if that day comes, I will hire a good agent (for me) in a heartbeat.
What I am banging against is not only the bad agents, the new agent model of rewriting their client’s work, and the refusing to mail work, but the stupidity of how writers deal with agents caused by the myths spread everywhere. And these myths, as Laura Resnick has pointed out in many of her great comments, are deep in all of us. I was no exception.
So, yes, there are great agents and good agents, and I think there are agents that fit every different writer’s style. Just this weekend I gave advice to a first time novelist (who just sold a four book deal ON HIS OWN) as to how to find a good agent and what to watch out for and if he was on the right track with his agent choice. (I thought he was.) Those that know me and listen to me and actually don’t get angry at every word I say realize I actually have no problems with agents.
I have problems with writers and how they deal with agents.
I believe we (writers) are all responsible for our own careers. We make the choices, we are the bosses. If a writer wants to hand over their entire income and career to a stranger without checking on them, just because of a myth, they make that choice. So I have nothing against agents at all.
Let me say this clearly: Bad agents would not exist without uninformed writers.
I am trying to help the writers get through the myths so they can make smart agent choices. Nothing more.
Now, one more point. I get a vast amount of anger directed at me by new writers because I challenge these myths and tell them they have to learn the business themselves. I understand clearly that the first defense when you don’t like message is to tear down the provider of the message. I expect that and the anger at me comes with two major focuses.
One: “Oh, he’s been around a long time and doesn’t know how it really is now.”
Two: “Oh, he only writes Star Trek and doesn’t know.”
Answering #2 first, the fact that I only write Star Trek must come as a complete shock to the fine folks at Pocket Books, who haven’t had me write a Star Trek book for almost nine years. (Hard Rain came out in 2002, I wrote it in 2001. However, I did keep editing for Pocket Books for a few years after that on Trek.) In fact, I haven’t written a media book of any type at all for over six years. I wonder how I’ve been making my living? Hmmmmmm…. The idiots who toss this out have never heard of pen names, of course.
Answering #1. Go to the top of this page and click on the “Workshops” tab. Kris and I, sometimes with the help of major writers and major New York editors, have been teaching workshops now to newer professional writers for over ten years, off and on. Most who have sold first novels out of the writers who have attended (a lot of first sales over the years, actually) have done it on their own, then gone and gotten a good agent, often with advice and help from me and Kris. A few got agents first and then sold, which is also just fine. Whatever works.
So, to be blunt, I have stayed completely informed about the current world, and stayed in close contact with hundreds of newer writers working to break in. I know the current world and what it’s like to break in. I have to do it as well every time I start a new pen name.
So I am not, in any way anti-agent. There are good agents out there. Great ones in fact.
But I am anti-uninformed-writer. I believe that the more informed and clear thinking writers are as a class, the better we all are in this business.
That clear enough?
(Next Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing chapter coming on Monday.)