Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Longer Looking for Agents

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Last weekend I was the keynote speaker at an e-publishing workshop in Ashland, Oregon, where I also participated in panel discussions. The author on the panel with me kept talking about agents and publishers and what they could do for writers—as a counterpoint to my indie focus. I finally looked at the group of hopeful writers and asked, “How many of you are looking for agents?” Not a single one indicated they were. 

This is a radical change from just a year ago, when so many aspiring writers I interacted with were still “holding out for a traditional contract.” Those Southern Oregon writers, of course, don’t necessarily represent authors everywhere, but I think more and more writers are finally realizing that querying agents is a colossal waste of time and that publishers really aren’t necessary, and in fact, may be counterproductive to a successful novelist career.

This is not true for everyone, but then, playing the lottery is not a waste of time and money for everyone either. A few people get lucky every year. I’m just glad that aspiring writers, in general, are no longer counting on it. They’re attending conferences to learn about e-publishing and taking control of their own destinies.

I did what I could to inspire them.


  1. You are indeed an inspiration. To me and many others.

    I read a blog post the other day where an agent was lamenting the fact that publishers have forgotten the most important part of the team—the author. Of course, he was going over big with writers.

    While I think he made some valid points, I kept wondering why he never once mentioned readers. They're our focus, or at least they should be.

  2. I keep reading quotes from publishing industry leaders who say things like, "We need to do a better job of communicating the value we bring to publishing." And I keep thinking in response that they should worry more about actually demonstrating the value they bring to publishing. As they like to say: Show, don't tell.

  3. You raise an interesting point, LJ. I've often wondered how many submissions agents are getting these days. There was a time when they were overloaded with more than they could handle. I'm thinking that's not the case any longer.

    There was also a time when all I wanted to do was find an agent, but I quickly found out how out of touch they'd become with what readers really wanted. Many were stuck in a rigid framework that was no longer effective. Indie publishing has changed that. It's great to see.

  4. It's good to know that others share my point of view.
    Thanks for your blog.

  5. It's a great time for authors as more and more avenues open up for them, and they become less dependent on the preferences and whims of agents and acquisition editors - and the over-riding focus on what will generate more profits for the publishers.

    The rise in indie publishing opens up all kinds of possibilities for books that don't fit the narrow categories of genre (where to shelve them in a store), and that publishers reject because they're either too short (too thin to shelve in a bookstore without getting lost) or too long (too expensive to produce). Those issues are much less important with e-books, which allows authors a lot more freedom to, for example, write and sell novellas instead of novels.

  6. Just the other day I was glancing the thick folders of agents and queries I have in my filing cabinet and decided I need to shred those files soon, now that I have no desire to hunt for an agent. I often think about the time wasted in waiting for replies from an agent, and even from publishers. Sometimes several months would go by. And too often, no reply at all.

    When I talk about the freedom I now enjoy with self-publishing, it is freedom from wasting months upon months of time. Andrew said it well in regards to agents: “Many were stuck in a rigid framework that was no longer effective.” And L.J., I agree with you—“more and more writers are finally realizing that querying agents is a colossal waste of time and that publishers really aren’t necessary,”

    And you said it well, L.J.,--“taking control” of our own destiny.

  7. I totally agrgee L.J. I'm embracing the control I have over my career. I never would have thought it possible a few years ago but I am putting my novel in the hands of people on other continents...it's amazing. Vendors like Amazon have really opened the doors wide for those willing to step through.

  8. Linda, I'm with you. I'm going to delete all the Word files in my archives with letters to agents. Why be reminded?

    And when you said "months" to hear back from an agent, I laughed. I heard from an agent three years and three months after I sent the original query. The book was already published. :)

  9. Great post LJ.

    I never worked hard to look for an agent. The whole thing seemed ridiculous to me. So many people told me over the years that I was out of my mind. Seems I was just about 5 years too early.

    A woman wrote to me today asking for advice on finding an agent. I get a lot of those. I pointed her to this post today and I hope she discovers the success that many of us here have found.

    Thanks LJ!

  10. I long ago concluded it was chasing the fairy lights. Not that I don't have a thick file of rejection letters.

    Thanks, L.J. Hope to see some of you at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Sacramento coming up the end of the month.

  11. See you there, Mar! I'm looking forward to it.

  12. Call me old fashioned if you like, I still have a desire to be published conventionally. The big publishers know what they're doing in terms of market and promotion. What's more, they employ brilliant people who really love good writing and know how to improve a book from so-so to really good.
    I want my books to have that care and attention so I still believe I need a good agent to nurture and represent me.
    What I'm not so sure of is that I have the time to go through the process!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.