Sorry this is longer than my usual posts, but I think it's important.
I have been wondering if it's time for me to look for an agent. I have written a killer query letter (with invaluble help from Elana's Book), I have a great synopsis (Thanks to the incomparable Suzy--love you, girl!), and I am ready to go. But I can't make myself do it. I have been on Querytracker a dozen times looking at agents I might want to query, but I haven't queried them. I just really don't know if I want to.
After discovering Writing Excuses at LTUE, I listened to several of the podcasts. One that especially caught my eye was this one about whether authors need agents. It was a response to a series of posts by Dean Wesley Smith as part of his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series, taking on what he perceives as myths about agents:
Agents Sell Books
Agents Know Markets
Agents Care About Writers First
Agents Can Give Career Advice
Since most of the writers I know and whose blogs I read have or are actively seeking an agent, I HIGHLY recommend reading all of these. I found them very thought-provoking and eye-opening. I don't know whether Dean Wesley Smith is right or wrong about agents, but I have read him, submitted to him, and sat in workshops with him (at LTUE many years ago, as a matter of fact), and I consider him someone who knows this business and knows what he is talking about. Some quotes from these articles (which you really must read, whether you agree or not):
From "Agents Sell Books":
The myth is simply: YOU MUST HAVE AN AGENT TO SELL A BOOK
To be clear, I like agents and have no desire to bring them harm. But the myths these days about agents are so thick and have become so ugly to new writers, I figured I had better tackle at least one of them next. And yes, there are more than one.
And in the last 20 years, the biggest myth that has blown up into a damaging myth is that you need an agent to sell a book.
This is, of course, complete hogwash, but I have no doubt some of you reading this are already resisting this idea. You want someone to do the dirty work for you, to do the research, to just “take care of you.” Yeah, that’s going to happen.
From "Agents Know Markets":
Before I get into the silly myth about agents knowing markets better than writers do, let make a few quick, basic points that need to be clear.
—Agents work for writers.
—Agents can’t buy books, no matter how much they talk about “acquiring” a novel.
-–Agents make 15% of what they sell of a writer’s work, never money in any other fashion.
—Agents don’t know enough about writing in any fashion to make a writer rewrite a book. If they did, they would be writing and making 85% instead of 15%.
-–95% of modern agents, especially agents you can get as a beginning writer, have no more clout with editors than a beginning writer does.
—It takes nothing but stationery to become an agent. No rules, no organization, no school is needed.
This advice (from the "Agents Can Give Career Advice" post) really struck home for me at this point in time:
—Write what you love, what you are passionate about, what scares you, what you want.
—Never, ever write to market. Just go into your writing space or office and be an artist.
—Then, when the project is finished, worry about how to sell it.
—Never, ever let anyone tell you what to write. It will kill your writing and your career faster than anything ever will.
Trust your own skills, your own voice, keep learning, and enjoy the writing.
I would also highly recommend listening to the Writing Excuses Podcast on the subject (click the link above), as they also have good advice and a more moderate approach. Like I said before, I don't know whether Dean Wesley Smith is right or wrong, but I think I have figured out what's right for me. Call me crazy, but I think my killer query will be just as great for submitting to editors (yeah, the people that can actually buy the book) as it would be for agents. I think I'm going to stick with the belief that I don't need an agent until I have a contract. (Even then I wonder if an intellectual properties lawyer at that point might be a better choice for me, let me emphasize for me. I'm not trying to say what's right for you or anyone else.) I, of course, reserve the right to change my mind.
Am I crazy? Doomed to failure? What are your thoughts?