Why do writers even bother with agents nowadays? Like anyone else – publishers included – agents don’t know how to gauge the tastes of the public. It’s all relative – it’s all based on what’s sold before. Publishers look at how a previous book sold, if an author has had one. Agents look at what’s hot in the market. As if trends will last.
As Williams Goldman, the screenwriter of All the President’s Men, The Princess Bride and many other films, said in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, about the movie business, “nobody knows anything.“. You could say the same thing about publishing.
Cara Carmack is the latest author to get into traditional publishing after selling something like 32,000 copies of her book Losing It.
After selling that many copies, at a better royalty rate than she would get with a traditional publisher, she still went with a traditional publisher. People still want what’s seen as recognition from the old-school way of doing things. That’s understandable.
But what’s funny is how the self-published lists are the new scouting reports for agents looking to sign new talent. These are likely to have been authors whose work would have been rejected by these very agents had it come in as part of the old submission process. As far as agents are concerned, you’re not going to be a success unless you’ve already proved yourself to be successful. It’s a closed loop – only opened by self-published writers. Who then decide to sign with the people who might have rejected them in the first place. Oh, well.
If you’re building a platform, you’re trying to leverage your growing audience. You may already have a book contract, may be weighing offers, might decide to self-publish – in any event, you’re likely to have options. You can use your page hits, comments and web metrics to convince a publisher of how well you’re doing with an audience if that publisher is looking for signs of how well your book will do. Or you could just do it yourself and capitalize on that audience loyalty without going through the middleman.
But you’ve got more choices than ever before.