I'm lucky where I am. I can write a book and submit it straight to any publisher in Southern Africa. We do not need agents to get books published. They have no use here. It's difficult for me to see why I must pay someone 10% of my income for passing my book onto a publisher. It's sort of like the way I don't believe in the insurance industry. And much like that same insurance industry, agents have created a situation in which their purpose seems indispensable. But they are- dispensable that is. I am evidence of that fact.
I'm sure many writers will read this and say- "But my agent is so _____. " Fill in the blank with the word of your choice- wonderful, helpful, insightful, connected....etc. Good for you, I say. I'm happy you think they're earning their 10%. At the very least we should expect that, don't you think?
But my agent gets me the best deal- you say. Well does he now? Has he ever negotiated for 18% royalties and an advance that does not get deducted from those royalties? I have. With. No. Agent.
I'm sure agents have their purpose, just like insurance. They make you feel good when you have them even though they appear to be chowing your money for no sensible reason. I don't need an agent to tell me I'm a good writer or to direct me toward what is marketable or to work on my behalf. I know I'm a good writer if my book gets taken by a publisher. I know what is marketable because I pay attention. Why should I put degrees of separation between my interests and the people who can make my interests come to fruition?
I realise in Europe and America most publishers won't accept manuscripts except through an agent. That's a drag and I feel for writers there. I know if ever I want my books published in those places I'll likely have to submit. Unfair laws and rules can be found everywhere. Agents are a great outsourcing scam from the publishing industry. Instead of having to hire people to go through towering slush piles (I despise that term by the way) they have organised a way to get writers to pay agents to do the job for them. They're quite clever these publishers.
The point I'm trying to make here is as the publishing world gets tossed upside down everyone might use this opportunity to thoroughly analyze the use of middlemen in the process. As far as I'm concerned, agents should be the first to go. Already publishers are saying that there is no money for marketing, the author must do it all. Are you trying to tell me an agent is more important in getting your book sold than a marketing budget? Let's take the 10%, what would have gone to the agent, and use it for marketing instead of digging in our own pocket as publishers would like writers to do now.
Is it fair to force us to get agents so our books can be considered and then with the other hand take more money from us to fund our own marketing? I have no problem marketing my books, I do have a problem popping out money to a person who is nothing more than a go between. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I say the time of the agent has expired.
The song sung everywhere is that the publishing world is changing- good- then let it change.