Saturday, March 19, 2011


by June Shaw

Some writers believe they need an agent to sell any books, and some think just the opposite.

I'm somewhere inbetween.

I had an agent--a good one--back when I was trying screenplays. He came highly recommended but wasn't interesteed in a script I was shopping. He wanted to see the novel I had begun because like many agents in that industry, he attempted to sell books that would be made into movies.

The day after he received my partial, one of his readers phoned me. "I love this!" she said, adding that her boyfriend got mad at her because she was reading my work while they were on a date at a restaurant, but she liked it so much she couldn't put it down. "You have got to send me the rest of it--here's my address--hurry!"

I was thrilled. In no time, my book would be a best-seller. A few days later I received a contract from her boss, rushed to sign it, and send it back priority.

He shopped a partial of my manuscript to a handful of publishers. I asked who he'd sent it to, and he sent me names of places.

But all of those publishers focused on romance. My book was women's fiction. I did what I'd heard suggested and called him. We chatted a couple of minutes and I asked, "How do you like my book?"

"Actually, I didn't read it, but my reader is definitely picky, and she loves it."

I thanked him and decided it was best if I tried to get an agent whose main interest was novels. (I do know scripts are much shorter and faster to read than books.)

Since then I have sold three novels on my own. I probably would like an agent, but in the meantime, I have discovered it's not impossible to sell books yourself. I'd just want an agent who could get as excited about my work as that first agent's reader.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I haven't had much luck with agents either, June. My last one talked me out of three contracts and I wound up selling the books myself. I've heard over the last couple of years that a number of New York-based agents have either left the business or were prosecuted for embezzlement of clients' funds. So maybe we're better off on our own.

Earl Staggs said...

With publishers in trouble and buying fewer books, agents must be in a feeding frenzy like hungry sharks. (I wonder if they eat their own kind.) Jean may be right, and we're better off on our own now.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Over the last ten years, I've had three agents with different agencies and didn't find any particularly useful. There was no accounting of what was being sent and no accounting of the results. I fired all of them.

Jaden Terrell said...

I had one who disappeared (he represented both Chester and me, and we're fairly certain he passed away) and another who tried his best, but my work wasn't ready. I struck gold with my current agent.