Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Controlled By Fear

Needing an Agent is an Irrational Fear…

I said that in a webinar today and got a couple comments later from writers who had heard it. And it dawned on me that even though needing an agent is based completely in irrational fears, most writers don’t understand that. Even though it is obvious to me.

So here I am again, trying to talk logic at a myth once again. Almost always a failure, but I keep trying. And Kris and I talking about agents sure stirs up the trolls out there. Wow, you would think it was us that just recently stole the 3.4 million from writers instead of agents.

So logic. I am going to first say it bluntly…This is 2018 and there is no reason at all to use an agent. You can communicate easily with anyone you need to and hire a lawyer for contract help (instead of an English major.) But writers are afraid.

So the fear is described in many ways.

Example One: “But I want to sell to traditional publishers and I can’t do that without an agent.”

First off, lets skip the idea that any writer with a brain would sell all rights for the term of a copyright to their original work to a traditional publisher. Another topic. But the writer has a dream of selling to some baby editor in New York and have their book sprinkled with fairy dust to make it sell more than indie books. So let them dream.

The fear is that they can’t get to editors. Uhh, no. Just do it the way Kris and I used to do it. I sold over 100 novels to traditional publishers and my agent never sold a one. Not one. I sold them all. How? I talked with editors.

Yes, they are real people looking for books. Honest, no matter what you have heard.

And the entire time I sold all those books the guidelines to every house said no unagented submissions. But guess what, if an editor asks for a novel, it is not a submission.

At conferences, I have gotten good laughs more than once seeing editors sitting at tables not talking with anyone while writers lined up to talk with agents. The myth is strong. Agents don’t buy books. Editors do. Duh.

So it is a fear that you might do something “wrong” and not get your book sprinkled with the fairy dust. No thought, just blindly following a myth like all the other sheep. Sad, but fear based.

And stunning to me that there are so many writers who actively want to be sheep in the process.

(Note: I will not help you be a total idiot and sell your book to traditional publishers and lose your copyright. So please don’t ask me how to meet editors. If you can’t figure that out on your own, indie publish.)

Example Two: “But I want to sell my work to overseas markets.”

First off, that is the major area that agents steal from writers. And you most certainly don’t need an agent to talk with overseas publishers. In fact, they won’t. It is a myth that they do. They put your book on a list and send it to some agent in another country and that agent just shows around the top writers on the list.

So how do you get in contract with overseas publishers? Ever heard of email and the internet? Duh. When Kris and I dropped our agents well over a decade ago now, suddenly we got a lot more offers from translation publishers.

And how do they find our books? Let me think… Oh, yeah, we publish them wide all over the world ourselves and they find them or have them recommended and publishers read them. And then the publisher goes to our web sites and looks up our email and emails us.

And if you understand copyright, you know the contract must come to you in your native language. Of course, most writers don’t know that and agents scam writers all the time with that ploy. And most overseas contracts are simple and time-limited. And an hour of a lawyer’s time is cheap compared to agents.

So not understanding a few simple things and fear keep writers from seeing through the agent ploy on this one.

Example Three: “It’s too much to learn and I need to hire help.”

Translation, you are too damned lazy to learn your own business. All based on the fear of missing something if you do it yourself and also based on self-doubt. Trust me, agents will not help you, but they will help themselves to your money.

I could go on, but basically, there is not an aspect of a writer wanting an agent that isn’t fear based. Not one.

And there certainly is no logic to giving your gardener 15% ownership in your home for mowing your lawn.

There was a time in the industry where agents were needed. That time passed about twenty years ago. Writers need to step into this new century, grow a pair, learn their own business, and get past the fears.

You don’t need an agent in 2018.





  • Céline Malgen

    Regarding overseas markets, from the point of view of a non-English speaking country.

    You have to realise that as an English-language writer, you’re really in the best position to sell overseas. Most other countries look up to novels and stories in English as some sort of high standard, just like a huge lot of American movies get translated into various languages and take up most of the spots in cinemas overseas. Many books are published in translation in other countries, it’s very common there (even if in English speaking countries, translations aren’t as popular).

    So guess what? Editors in other countries are very likely to be able to read in English. And therefore be able to communicate with you in English via email. You don’t need an agent to communicate with an English-speaking person via email!

    And editors in any country are much more likely to buy a book in English to translate it into their language than a book in any other language. So writers who write in English have a huge advantage over writers of any other language (which is also why some non-native English speakers would chose to write in English – Aliette de Bodard for instance).

    • Annemarie

      Anyway, as for indie authors wishing to sell overseas as in getting their books translated, I know about two services that connect authors and translators, working on a royalty-split model. What means, no upfront costs for the author . So, even this area is covered. you need nither an agent nor a publisher to sell in French, German, Italian …
      Granted,, you need to control the quality of the work; no fairy dust available there either. *grin*

  • Linda Maye Adams

    I think these are connected to money. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad–and he is absolutely right. People in the U.S. do not understand money. They blame businesses and people who make money because they don’t have any. At my job, I do travel documents. I watch as people sign rental car contracts without reading what they sign, leave a hotel without checking the receipt to see if they were charged correctly, or make sure all the numbers match up on their voucher so they are paid correctly. In fact, I get a lot of people who are like “Can’t you do it for me?” When I tell people to double-check a fix I made, I get, “Oh, no. I trust you.” No! No! It’s your money! Verify!

    So they approach agents with about what they do with their everyday finances. It’s icky, and boring, and really, do I have to do that? Why can’t someone else do it for me? People take advantage if you aren’t paying attention. I’ve been stunned to see it on the travel side. Rental car companies will add prepaid fuel to your bill that you did purchase, counting on the fact you don’t read the receipt when you check out. They’ll tack on insurance when you said you don’t want it. One hotel actually paid for the traveler’s room with another credit card to get the points and then billed back to him–something the traveler caught because he read his hotel bill when he was vouchering and noticed the card number wasn’t his! Most of these people never notice what’s happen until we do random audits and find the charges.

    Think about that. Just agents.

    If business is intimidating, then go out and learn on your own. Simply read books. Check out the Personal MBA: There’s a list of 99 books to give you a broad education. Most are at the library or can be bought used.

    • dwsmith

      Linda, Thank you!! Wonderful information and spot on. And it always shocks people when I stop and read something I am signing.

      And it really shocks writers when at times I have warned them away from certain TOS contracts. Right now in indie, all of the major TOS are fine for writers, but they can change. Kris and I watch that stuff constantly, because they are contracts as well.

    • Isabo Kelly

      Thanks very much for that link, Linda! That’s very helpful. Have read or have samples waiting for several of those books and excited to add more to my list.

  • Janine

    It’s the midst of “pitch season” on twitter and I see all of these writers rushing to get their manuscripts perfected and polished with perfect grammar ready to get an agent. They tell their other writer friends that it’s “the next step to become an author” and pressure many of their other friends that are siding towards indie to get an agent and go traditional because they still look down on indie publishing as inferior or too much work for little exposure. Then again, many of these people that pressure others to get an agent probably what Kris called “one book” writers. Sad thing is that it’s a lot of younger (under 30 or so) writers doing the pressure.

    Viewing all of this as an outsider looking in, it feels much like the power balance is skewed in favor of agents, as in the writer is working “for” the agent instead of working “with” the agent as many on both sides claim.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, Janine, sadly that happens all the time. And the myths get strong with younger writers because as we all know, we were all a lot smarter when we are young. (grin)

  • Harvey

    “At conferences, I have gotten good laughs more than once seeing editors sitting at tables not talking with anyone while writers lined up to talk with agents. The myth is strong. Agents don’t buy books. Editors do. Duh.”

    Sheer gold. I shared this on FB and with several writer groups in Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri. I wouldn’t personally give an agent the time of day if my third finger was a watch, but to each his/her own.

    Happy writing, Dean.

  • Kessie

    For my own amusement, I went looking for any agents who might be defending themselves in this debacle over embezzling agents. I didn’t find any agents, or Google didn’t, but I wound up on the blog of Jim C. Hines. He cited a back and forth with Kris, and went on to talk about how it’s impossible to make foreign deals without an agent. In the comments, other people mentioned how (23 years ago, incidentally) their agent negotiated a contract for 50 times the offered price. The authors there agreed that not all agents are bad just because of one bad apple. I wondered about your perspective on this.

    I’ve also heard that the only way to break into the licensed novel biz is to have an agent, because only an agent can set that up. Is that true? The whole licensed novel thing seems to be a very insular part of the business.

    • dwsmith

      Kessie, any time you decide to give all your money and all the paperwork tracking that money to another person who has no license or controls or fears, you are doomed. Sure, the agent might be great and honest as day, but there are a ton of other people in the process. The 3.4 million was a bookkeeper that not even the agents caught for ten years, even though their writer clients were complaining. The system is flawed completely and just flat out stupid. So saying there are good and nice people in the outdated profession isn’t much a defense for stupidity of writers walking into the system. It is just a writer looking for some way to justify being stupid. Nothing more.

      And if an agent can get more money for a project, an attorney for a one-time fee could get you a lot more. Who do you want negotiating for you? An English Major or a trained lawyer?? If you say English Major, you really are deep in the myth.

      As for writing licensed work like I did for about sixty-some novels, you already have to be an established writer and know an editor. Again, lawyers are fine for the deals. For example, I was sitting at dinner at a conference in New Mexico next to a Bantam editor. She mentioned she had a licensed property she was looking for a writer for and I asked her what it was and she said Men in Black. I told her in no uncertain terms that I was interested, then got home and sent her ten different novel proposals. She picked two and off we went. But I knew her and I was an experienced writer with a track record.

      So after about fifty indie novels published, start meeting editors and you might get in the door. And without an agent. Agents can’t help you there either. Another myth.

      • Kessie

        Oooh, that’s very interesting! So it’s all about going to conferences and shmoozing. I can shmooze. 😀 Right now, I’m writing fanfic for various properties and dreaming of writing the stuff officially.

  • Leah cutter

    Way back in 2009, you made a comment that made me vow to never get another agent. Basically, why would I ask someone who does not practice law to give me legal advice on a legally binding contact? That really shook me up and pointed out how stupid the situation was. Particularly since the publisher is using lawyers.

    Also-way back when, I sent partials directly to editors on your advice. Sent out 5 on a Saturday. By Monday, had 2 requests for the full. Didn’t sell it, published it myself. Was ranked at #11 on Amazon fantasy lists for a while. (I don’t tell people it was the fastest book I’d ever written at the time, 60k, 6 weeks of work, practicing cliff hangers.)

    Now, I publish my own works and my husband’s and we’re both full time writers. Thank you again, both Dean and Kris, for showing me the doorway to this fabulous life! I can’t thank you enough for this second chance at a career.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Leah, but you did all the work and thought things through. All Kris and I do is hold up logic. So all the credit goes to you for doing the work and having fun with this new world. It is a great time, isn’t it? (grin)

  • Jason M

    Dean, I got into a small Twitter fight with a group of academic-minded Ph D writers last week. All I did was suggest that writing a single book over four years (a dissertation) was a very slow pace, even by academic standards. I broke it down by numbers and showed them that their massive dissertation, assuming it’s 70,000 words, amounted to about 40 words per day.

    I understand that academic writing is more labor-intensive, I said. Let’s assume you go ten times slower on a dissertation than on a novel. Therefore, it’s like a novelist writing 400 words per day. My own goal is 2000 words a day, minimum, and it only takes about 3 hours.

    Boy did they did NOT like any of that. Lots of defensiveness. One woman said I was “productivity shaming”, no joke.

    I’ve read you talking about these kinds of squabbles before but had never really blundered into one until now. You were right. The myths run strong and deep. It also might explain why I don’t hang out with any other writers.

    • dwsmith

      Oh, yeah, and they get angry and bitter when defending their myths. The key is to just sort of back away like backing away from a rattling snake.

    • CEC

      My own experience with academic writing is that the time drag doesn’t come from the writing. Instead, it comes from both the research you have to do just to start writing and from the required additions, revisions, addendums, and other assorted @!#$% you have to do to keep your advisor happy (usually b/c they went through the same thing). The actual, legitimate writing time isn’t that big of a drag.

      • Jennifer

        It took me about five months to write my dissertation (~55K words). But that’s misleadingly fast, as I’d already written portions of the literature review for an article and for my proposal. That also includes formatting time — my university has a very particular template, so I had to make sure all my bibliographic entries were loaded in, all my images were properly captioned, etc. And some of that, too, I’d already done in advance (namely assemble the bibliographic data). The actual writing went relatively easily compared to assembling and formatting tables and images.

        I wish I could just publish it :), but I’m waiting to hear from my committee. I assume I’m going to have to do some revising at the very least so they can claim to have paid the minimum of attention.

    • Thomas E

      I don’t think the PhD dissertation is the product, though. The purpose of a PhD is very different than writing a nonfiction book or a novel. In essence the product of a PhD is the creation of a new academic rather than the dissertation itself.

      Horses for courses, of course.

    • John D. Payne

      Friend, if you haven’t written a dissertation (or done a lot of other serious academic writing), and it sounds to me like you haven’t. I’m not going to say that there aren’t doctoral students who spend years doing nothing. There certainly are. But writing a dissertation is just nothing like writing a novel. Like making a bronze statue doesn’t tell you much about what it takes to construct a skyscraper or a jumbo jet. Both worthy endeavors. But not really comparable in any way.

  • Philip

    As an attorney, I couldn’t agree more that it’s foolish to let a non-lawyer review and negotiate contracts on your behalf. In fact, contacts are my legal specialty, I know first hand how long it took me to learn the ins and outs. No one would hire a barber to fix their transmission, so why hire an agent to negotiate contracts?

  • George K

    You can hire translators on a work for hire basis. NEVER agree on a ‘ royalty split’ model. Why on earth would you split your royalties with a translator? Did he or she write your book? Did they plot it or outline it? Did they write the characters? Nope. They are merely taking your words and translating them, that’s all.

    Dean I know your are big onmyth smashing. Please consider this myth that some writers have. They believe that if they hire translators it’s okay to split royalties to avoid ‘ upfront costs’ ( I’m not taking about selling translation rights to overseas publishers).

    This is like hiring a cover artist and agreeing to give him or her a portion of your royalties if they draw a cover for you instead of paying them a fee as work for hire (work for hire= you have the rights to the final product whether it’s a cover or a translation of a work). It is insane, have some pride in your work. It’s your work not theirs.
    Barbara Freethy has translated her books into over 30 languages by finding and hiring translators on a work for hire basis and has never shared profits with a translators. She actually searches for translators with good reps ion Fiverr.

    If you can’t afgord upfront cost of even a fiverr transkator you haven’t sold enough books on the English market to require one yet. Of course as Dean says overseas publishers will approach you bout if you want to handle it yourself you must treat translation service as a work for hire never on a royalty or profit split basis. That’s a scam. Same mindset that makes you believ you need an agent.

    Translation services who work on a royalty split model (ie scam) instead of a work for hire model are no different than an agent who skims off the top of your profits.

    Translation is not creation!

    PS Dean one very famous editor in their book about needing an agent ( a writer digest book from several years ago ) said he views the relationship between writer and agent as a ‘ partnership’ not one of employee and employer. I knew at that point that something was wrong with the whole agent thing. It’s like saying the maid is a partner with the homeowner. And not a normal maid, mind you, but the kind that steals the silverware.

    • dwsmith

      Exactly, George. I agree 100% and have talked in the past here about the stupidity of royalty share of covers and translators. But great to have people reminded on those scams.

      • George K

        Oh that’s great. BTW From what I see on the interwebs a lot of people are so happy you and Kris are talking about agents stealing. The agencies themselves are keeping quiet about the big news. I know you get a lot of angry people when you talk about this but I love the fact that you don’t let it bother you at all but you keep on talking about it. I picture you at your desk just laughing at the trolls. Love you and Kris!!

        • dwsmith

          We find the trolls sad, actually. But we do shake our heads and laugh at times. And it does not bother us at all, other than the slight feeling of sadness about someone wasting their time and part of their life on attacking us. Makes no sense, but alas, a bunch of things make no sense to me. (grin)

    • Annemarie

      Why would you see work for hire and royalty-split as opposed? And it’s not necessarily endless. That what I know of aas service for indies, have a cap – in percentage and time. Not like Dean’s gardener who would own part of the house.

      Translation of literatue certainly counts as creation. If it’s any good, it is a work in its own right. That’s why, – in Germany for example -a translation has its own “copyright” Which is not copyright, but “Urheberrecht”. That”s not the same, at all. Can’t be sold, can’t be taken away; it’s inherent to the act of creation, because it’s a moral right, not a legal right. . Only the use of the work can be sold. And it may not be changed, edited or whatever without the consent of the creator.

      Furthermore, you have to look, where you are: Translation contracs in Germany even have a bestseller clause: Thranslators, working with a publisher, get paid upfront with a fix sum; but then, if the books sells welld, they get a share of the royalties anyway So in the end this is also a royalty-split model, though the translation being paid upfront.
      And this one is “endless”; works as long as the publisher sells the book. And if then the author goes indie, she can’t take the translation and publish it. That would be stealing, because the translator owns it.. Though she had been paid upfront and supposedly also with a share of the royalties. That’s looks to me more like the gardener

      • George K

        Annemarie, I’m sorry but publishers don’t just ‘ honor’ such royalty split clauses in a fair manner. You need to read what Kristine said in her business posts about problems with reversions. You said ‘as long as the book keeps selling’. A publisher can have a book ‘sell’ one copy a year just to keep you from getting your rights back.

        (Editorial comment from Dean… actually, it is worse. Most contracts these days don’t have a speed limit on sales, just that it is offered for sale, so ebooks that don’t sell keep rights. And then if you try to claw the rights back, they make sure you can’t.)

        Barbra Freethy says he pays work for hire only and has over 33 language translations. Not royalty split in any agreement. To quote her:
        “I hired a translator and a separate proofer to proof the translation for each book. In some instances I used a second proofer as well to make sure the translation was as accurate as it could possibly be. I went through for a couple of the translators and another was referred by an author to me. It’s a complicated process, but I do believe the global market is going to grow and I would love to make my stories available around the world in as many languages as possible.”

        Annmarie, you said “ translation certainly counts as creation.” It most certainly does not . According to the Berne convention (and that includes Germany) it counts as a “ derivative work” not as an original creation. That is a far weaker copyright than an original creation (as I will explain below).

        I speak four languages fluently (professional C1 level certified) . I spoke to a man in Greece who was the translator to first translate Ray Bradbury’s “Somethimg Wicked This Way Comes” into Greek back in the early 80s. He is my mentor. I asked him about royalty splits that some dubious translators are asking for now and he told me that it is ridiculous. He said: “ I took Mr Bradbury’s words and simply rendered them in Greek. I did not dream up his work.”

        And THAT is why royalty split is a scam. Listen if I was hired by Dean to translate a Smiths Monthly into Greek or Italian should I share in his royalty profits? Of course not . He took a blank pile of paper and created plots and characters and stories and his creative side breathed life into them. I, on the other hand, took his words and merely picked the correct equivalent word in Greek or one of my other languages and wrote them in. I created NOTHING. word selection in translation is a nice skill but it is hardly a ‘creation’.Case in point: I read about an indie author who sold his rights for a language for his book ( I can’t remember the language but it was an Eastern European one I think). When the rights period was over he hired a work for hire translator to translate his novel into that same language. The foreign publisher sued him saying that he used their translation because it was so close to theirs when they had the rights. He did not of course but he had hired a translator who translated the book into the same language and OF COURSE the translation was very very close to the same . Why? Because you cannot say for example “ she pulled out a gun and shot him” any differently in a target language IF direct translation (and not reworded paraphrases) of the original English novel is the purpose. This is why translation is a much weaker copyright.

        If you translate a book the same as another translator you are protected under the law because translation is not original creation. If However you copy a novel (story,plots, characters etc) you are nit protected because original creation is considered a unique application of skill nit one that can “naturally “ be rendered the same naturally without purposeful copying. If I and another translator translate a Bradbury story the same it’s not plagiarism but if I happen to write Martian chronicles and have a few things here and there it’s considered copyright infringement. Because the skill involved in word and phrase selection for translation is a NATURALLY reproducible skill without purposeful plagiarism (ie you can only say ‘ she shot him ‘ couple of ways in the transition if it’s a direct translation. She killed him would nit be a good translation)

        Word selection is not creation.
        Translation is not creation. That is , it’s not ORIGINAL CREATION.

        If I had a hand in written a Smiths Monthly or a poker boy story as a coauthor of DWS I could say it’s fair to get a royalty split. But if I merely took Deans words amd translated them I am in NO WAY creating a unique story. I am performing an easily reproducible service that any other good translator would perform the same way.

        Finally unless you are selling well in the vast English speaking market why would you want to translate into another language before you could afford it? ( ie before you could hire a work for hire person who you would pay upfront?). You don’t HAVE to accept royalty split deals for translation work If you have no upfront money.
        Wait until you get your work into the vast ( I mean vast) English speaking market and get some money from their amd THEN hire a translator on a work for hire basis .

        According to Amazon the English speaking market for ebook amd book market is Larger than the next FIVE markets COMBINED. That means: Spanish, French,, German, Japanese and Chinese. So if you have no money to pay up front don’t give away your magic bakery copyright wait and sell in the English market and take the profit from some of those sales and then hire a translator on a work for hire basis for say Spanish ( for starters) and go from there .

        Note to Dean sorry for this long post but these kinda of scams really bug me. It’s like writers are looking for ways to get fleeced, by getting an agent by sharing royalties when they don’t have to, by ignoring learning about business etc.

        • George K

          Ps about the legal case above: the publisher LOST because the judge said any good professional translations of a book will always be very similar since in both translations from the English original the point is to get the equivalent meaning and that often means the result will be very close to other translations into the same language.

        • dwsmith

          George, agree with just about all of it. I added one comment because of the contracts I have been seeing, but I add my caution to Georges, this is a scam area and while it is covered in a form of copyright, George is right that it consists of a derivative work, and has different rules. So follow George’s warning on this one with translation rights. Caution.

          • George K

            Thanks Dean. Please pardon the typos as I did not read over the comment to spellcheck..
            I find Some people are simply overawed by certain skills such as fluent translation but it’s just a learned skill like copy editing.

    • Prasenjeet

      Babelcube works on a royalty split model. But I’ve read their agreements and the author’s right reverts after five years. Of course, you have to give more than sixty days notice. So, it’s not royalty split forever.

    • Anon

      Royalty share is also very common in audio narration. I’ve never really understood why so many authors think it’s okay to do it. It doesn’t make sense for the author, and it’s a bad deal for the narrator. That would be like having someone mow your lawn once a week for years, and instead of paying them, telling them they’ll get a percentage of whatever the house eventually sells for when you sell it. Dumb from both sides. But people are antsy to get into audio, so they do it. Though I wonder if they’ll do it less now that ACX not only gives authors no control over pricing but has raised most Whispersync prices from 1.99 to 7.49, which has made a lot of authors’ audio sales drop dramatically. I wouldn’t be surprised if most good narrators stop even taking royalty split jobs.

      As for covers, most cover artists I see work on an “I own the copyright to the image and are licensing exclusive use rights to you” model. I’m guessing this is because they use stock photos and it involves photo license details. But if you can find a quality cover artist who’ll include the copyright to the cover (aside from stock licensing issues) in the purchase price, you’re doing really good. Ideally, when I have the money, I’d like to move to being able to hire fully custom work so that the cover copyright can more reliably be part of the deal, but for now, I don’t have that kind of cash, so I’m dealing with the “exclusive license” option, even though it’s not ideal.

  • mickie dreysen

    Hi, Dean,
    After Kris’s articles and yours over the past couple weeks about agents, I did something evil: I sat down and worked through some math, using the 15 percent ask by agents, and assuming the best agent with a heart of gold.
    Basically, the conclusion I come to is that, for a first novel, if the best-hearted, most honest agent in the world spends more than a single day on it, from first read all the way through publication (at 5K average advance) they’re losing money.
    For a full-fledged pro getting 40K advances, if the best-hearted, most honest agent in the world is spending more than a week from first read through publication, they’re losing money.
    Even if I (naively) assume the agent with a heart of gold, at best, a newbie writer is getting 8 hours of their time; a full-time pro is getting 5 days. Maybe the full-time pro gets something out of that, but that also includes press, booking gigs, all the gold-label stuff we’re told that agents add to the process.
    I don’t see how it’s possible at all that a new writer, or a pro struggling through a slump, is getting anything tangible at all, in exchange for 15 percent ownership of their book.

    • dwsmith

      Agents booking press gigs?????? I damn near fell off my chair laughing at that one. For a moment I saw pigs flying.

      And you are right, no writer gets anything of real value from an agent for 15% ownership in a property. That’s why I use the gardener analogy. Agents are lucky they manage to make a phone call or two for most writers, and if you ask too much from an agent, you become a trouble writer and they never return your phone calls.

      Sorry, still laughing at the agents booking press trips.

  • Dayle

    Fear can be, and often is, irrational. And that’s okay. We can’t control our own emotions, and I would never, ever tell someone they’re wrong for feeling what they feel.

    BUT, we CAN control how we react to those emotions.

    In 2011, I took your and Kris’s workshop on Be Your Own Agent. It was just before the indie revolution took off, when submitting to NY was the only option. I spent the four or five days in a state of fear. I hate negotiating. I hate talking on the phone (thankfully, that’s a bad thing to do anyway). I desperately wanted someone to take care of all this—to take care of me.

    But I knew that wasn’t possible, which was why I was at the workshop. I faced my fears, and chose to learn instead.

    It’s still scary. But my career is more important than that.

    It’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to let the fear rule you.

  • NPhoenix

    I have found myself verbally attacked on more than one occasion when citing you and Kris and your stances on agents over the years. I stumbled across one of your guy’s blogs back in…. uhm ’12 (I think it was Kris’s popcorn kittens post shortly after I decided I was going indi)? And I’ve always found myself agreeing with you guys on the agents issue. The idea of getting an agent never made much sense to me even before then, I just couldn’t figure out why it made me uncomfortable. I had a couple friends lambaste me when I shared Kris’s post on the agency stealing, then they went on to write anger fueled ‘Not all agents’ posts on their social media. I just shook my head and didn’t bother responding, they don’t want their nice little bubble to burst, and the myth is so strong I just don’t have the energy to fight it (I’d rather write stories than social media comments). It’s very sad to see seemingly intelligent people vehemently defend their choice to put themselves in a position to get ripped off. And when they DO get ripped off they’ll wring their hands and whine “But he seemed like such a *nice* guy!”. Anyways, thank you for your posts on it (and your tip of the week vid, I found myself nodding my way through it). I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for you and Kris to warn people who don’t want to be enlightened. I figure if you guys can make it and make money without agents, (and you DO) so can I.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, we make more money without agents than we ever did with them. But the angry folks defending the rights of agents to steal from writers will say we are “special.” (grin) Just makes me shake my head at how people can defend theft from writers. I kind of consider all of us writers in the same boat, working together to share information and help each other where we can. But some folks want to believe more in the religion of agents than the reality of theft and making more money without them.

  • Rikki Mongoose

    I’ve just sent to self-pub service 4 books (four). All in Russian.

    Now I’m translating 2 of them to English (not so fast process, but not much slower then writing them :))

    Guess, do I need an agent to put them to servers of Amazon overseas? 🙂

    A friend of mine had sold 1st volume of his series to A*** Publishing (one of main publishers here). So, his spends and earnings were following:

    ($1 = ~60 rubles)

    Spellcheck and book doctor – 20 000 rubles.
    Small positive review in a zine – 15 000 rubles.
    Personal page in Facebook – 30 000 rubles
    Send books to readers who were writing revies – about 5 000 rubles.
    Advertisment – 30-35 000 rubles.

    Royalities – 35 000.

    So, the publishers didn’t sell even the 3000 copies they printed, And they refused 2nd volume.

    Probably, he needs an agent, don’t he? Earning -70 000 rubles (-$1116) isn’t enough, you should spend no less then 100 000 to be a true writer.

    Now he’s so frustrated and dreams about revolution. I’ve sent him address of local office of Communist Party and link to self-pub service I use.

    Now I guess what he’ll choose 🙂

  • Janine

    There’s one analogy that really fits well with this situation (and I can’t take full credit for this one, heard it elsewhere): For a diner at a restaurant, that steak dish feels like a special experience just for them. For the chef, you’re just order number 57 of the day. It’s like agents really when you think about it. To you, that agent is taking care of you and doing all the grunt work like the star that you are, when really, you’re just another writer out of dozens they serve.