Pub Rants


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STATUS: And here I said I wouldn’t be blogging again for the holiday week. I couldn’t help myself.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT by R.E.M

Yesterday I posted my blog entry rather late at night. This morning when I woke up, realized that there was something else that was hugely bothering me about Hyatt’s post and his accusation that agents would see vanity publishing as a threat.

He makes the rather naïve and short-sighted assumption that an agent’s only job is to act as a conduit between publisher and writer—that our sole purpose in life is to limit the access between aspiring authors and publishing professionals.

In other words, he’s playing off the assumption of what new or uninformed writers might believe about agents.

My job as an agent is to protect the author. Period. And as an agent, I do that in so many ways—fighting hard for fair contract clauses that protect and benefit the writer is just one small example.

If I didn’t embrace this position fully, that my job is to protect, I wouldn’t have spent the last four years devoting countless hours to this blog which freely distributes crucial information about the publishing industry to any writer looking for it.

And for no fee whatsoever. This info is free—in every sense of the word.

Oh, I’m working myself up to quite a rant this morning….I’m going to check my blood pressure now.

42 Responses

  1. Matilda said:

    Hear hear!! Bashing the people whose job it is to protect authors isn’t making these decisions appear any less predatory. I hate to think of what kinds of bad deals would go on if agents weren’t around to fight for their clients’ best interests.

  2. SJDuvall said:

    You have every right to rant about the true aspects of your job. And you’re one of the best agents out there, so don’t let some misinformed blogger get to you. Those of us who follow your blog know what it’s really like to be a good agent.

  3. Kristi said:

    “My job as an agent is to protect the author. Period. And as an agent, I do that in so many ways—fighting hard for fair contract clauses that protect and benefit the writer is just one small example.”

    That’s why you’re such a highly regarded agent – I am very thankful for this blog. Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  4. Christine said:

    Your work ethic and dedication to writers is WHY I am seeking an agent’s representation. I am not a business minded person. I have people talking in my head who need me to write their stories.

    Thanks for a great post — vanity publishing is not the way to go. Period.

  5. JJ said:

    Dear Kristin:

    I have been reading your blog for a long time and I just want to say thank you for everything you do, what you write about, and how you try to teach aspiring writers about the industry.

    I followed you since I was an aspiring writer and now I’m working in a publishing house as an editorial assistant. I will say as one on the publishing side that WRITERS NEED AGENTS. There are many things an agent can do for a writer that we cannot–the most important being the agent can guide the author’s CAREER. I think you’ve proven that over and over again.

    That being said, I would like to make a formal introduction. My name is Sarah Jae-Jones (called JJ) and I was hired along with Dan Weiss (there was an announcement in PM about him) at St. Martin’s Press to find fiction and nonfiction to publish for older YA and twentysomethings. I tried to contact you to discuss whether or not you (and Sara!) had anything on your list appropriate for us, but unfortunately, the only contact email I could find on your website pertained to queries. Please advise–we would love to get in touch with you directly!


  6. Rebecca Knight said:

    Thank you for speaking out against these kinds of posts :). At least now both sides are out there for aspiring authors to read. I hope all newbie authors can see the passion agents like you display for their well being and steer clear of people who would try to use them.

    Bravo, and Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

  7. Rachael said:

    I know that reading your blog has certainly encouraged me to try to find a good agent if I possibly can.

    The whole thing with Harlequin has me really worried to be honest. I’m worried other publishers may go that same direction once all the furor has died down… if the “business model” ends up being successful.

  8. Gordon Jerome said:

    Your job isn’t to protect the writer or fight for them. You couldn’t fight for them and still keep your contacts with editors. What you describe is what a lawyer would do for a writer, and usually when they’re suing their agent.

    Your function, no matter how much you want to agrandize it, is to sell writer’s manuscripts to publishers for the most money they will pay. That’s how you make your money; that’s how your writers make their money. Pure and simple.

    In a world of self-publishing, there is no role for an agent. In a world of vanity publishing, there is no role for an agent. But there will always be writers seeking publishers and wanting to get the best deal possible, so there will always be a role for agents. e-publishing will not change this.

  9. Michael said:

    As someone that has written, co-written, or packaged over 30 non-fiction books, publishes 4-6 books a year through traditional publishers, and designs or art directs all of our covers and interiors, many people have asked, “why do you have an agent?”

    Now I can just point people to your posts when I can’t introduce them to my agent.

    To anyone who’s never bought a house before, I don’t recommend you using the seller’s real estate agent. They aren’t concerned with you getting a home inspection, reducing your closing costs, or seeing the most accurate comps in the area, just that you buy the house.

    And that’s one of the most valuable things about an agent that you alluded to, all of the wisdom and information that went into the last dozen to hundred deals your agent made goes into your next deal.

  10. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I wish I could say something simple and trite like “ignore the haters”, but when they put their words up on the internet, they’re available for everyone to read and thus form (potentially negative) opinions about the other side.

    Anyone who’s done a little bit of research should know that self-publishing just isn’t a threat to the mainstream industry. It just isn’t. Every book that’s been self-published and gone on to great success has done so because it was picked up by a mainstream publisher. Vanity-published books probably sell just as few if not fewer copies, and require the author to pay. If it does eventually gain enough sales/credibility/whatever to threaten mainstream books, it will be a long time coming. It’s ludicrous to think that agents are quaking in their boots because they see it as a serious threat right now.

  11. Mags said:

    One of the things I appreciate about my agent is that he does the dirty work in negotiating the contract and dealing with payment. It preserves the author-editor relationship if we don’t have to have those particular discussions.

    Anyone who reads Kristin’s blog with any kind of an open mind understands the value of a knowledgeable agent.

  12. Eric Riback said:

    Methinks it’s some publishers, not agents, who are worried about the growth of self-publishing as their business models shift. And they may see agents as competition. And in a digital world, you may be.

    Also, in today’s world, a smart self-publisher can easily become a small publishing house and compete with the big guys.

    Thomas Nelson was smart to launch their “assisted publishing” imprint under a different name. Because while Hyatt is right that most consumers don’t know what companies publish the books they read, that is not true for Thomas Nelson, Harlequin and some others that do have brand equity. But these moves reek of desperation. That would be the positive explanation, as opposed to being a craven attempt to suck dollars from their readers who think they can write.

  13. Kim Rossi Stagliano said:

    “My job is to protect the author.” That is a beautiful sentence. My agent went to bat for me at contract time in ways I could not have imagined. Hope your blood pressure is back down. Happy TG.

  14. Laurel said:

    I do not understand, especially in the wake of last week’s frenzied discussion of the same, how he can continue to equate self-pub and vanity pub. Aside from the slap to agents, the confusion for the writers could easily be cleared up.

    Self-pub: Requires author investment. Chances are slim but it could happen. Author assumes all the risk but keeps all the profit.

    Vanity pub Harlequin Horizons style: Requires author investment above traditional self-pub. Chances are like getting struck by lightening. Author assumes all the risk and splits profit 50-50 with publisher.

    What Hyatt said was beyond disingenuous. He is defending an unethical practice. I surmise that he dislikes agents because they explain why this is such a bad idea to his potential customers.

  15. Abigail said:

    It’s great to hear an agent say that that their job is to protect the writer, etc. And it’s never a good idea to assume things, either. 😉

  16. Voidwalker said:

    You tell em!

    Thank you though for all your free information. It is vital to new or wannabe new authors like myself 🙂

    The publishing industry is like a mighty mountain and without people like you, to act as a guide, people like me would fall off the cliffs. 🙂

  17. Jm Diaz said:

    I don’t understand the fear people have of agents. I love the entire concept. I wish I could have auto-agent next time I go car shopping. Then I wont drive off the lot with a crap deal.

    I’m not a big fan of self-publishing either. That’s like defending yourself in criminal court. I mean, sure, Ted Bundy tried it and all, but, well… I’m just sayin’

  18. Bron said:

    I can see why you’re getting so worked up and I think this is a good time to say thank you for all the information you and others provide, every day, on blogs for free. I know since discovering agent/editor/writer blogs, my writing has improved because of the advice that you all give out.

    Look at it this way: those who believe what this publisher has written might end up bypassing agents. But those who know better will query you, and you’ll end up with a list of savvy, appreciate authors (which you probably have now anyway) 🙂

  19. Jourdan Alexandra said:


    Excellent post! Thank you for spending so much time on this blog. It is always wonderfully informative–it was also the first literary agent’s blog I ever read! It was the first solid thing to give me insight to the publishing world. You rock!

  20. Jean said:

    “… this blog which freely distributes crucial information about the publishing industry to any writer looking for it.”

    It sure does, and for that, I am thankful. I have learned a lot from your blog and appreciate your generous sharing of publishing/writing knowledge. This is stuff you can’t find ‘just anywhere.’

    So a huge thank you from me!

  21. terripatrick said:

    Again, thanks. You benefit many writers beyond your client base, with this blog. Some of us hope we will find an agent JUST LIKE YOU, who also represents what we’ve written.
    In a perfect world, my dream agent will see me as a dream client. But – would that be any fun?

  22. Kelly Guentner said:

    Wow. It’s amazing how some people think it’s their place to comment about jobs/industry that they are clearly not knowledgeable about.

    I just can’t wrap my head around the thinking that an agent is nothing more than a filter between publishers and authors.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that the advice and encouragement you offer daily on your blog is much appreciated! (and your blog is the reason why you are my top choice for an agent once I start the query process)

  23. Lorin said:

    This is a bit of a tangent, but your post struck a chord with me. I’m an architect and one of my peeves is people who think that architects are useless. Why should they hire one when they could just talk to the contractor directly? the architect is a barrier to getting the project they want. They never seem to think about how many contracts I’ve read, so I know what a good contract looks like. They forget that I can pick up on errors and tell when the project is being built wrong – often before it even gets built. Maybe I am the only one who sees the parallel (after all, I am not so nice as to give my knowledge away for free!). But its a universal truth that no one likes the people they perceive as gatekeepers, even when the reality is closer to Sherpa than Bouncer.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy your holiday!

  24. Anonymous said:

    I was wondering when stupid comments @ agents were going to start coming out. The way I see it, if ANYONE needs an agent, it’s a writer out there doing it on their own. To succeed you need to build a team. That’s why the saying is keep it small and keep it all-you’ll only go so far without help and people in your corner.

  25. Sharon Mayhew said:


    I hope your blood pressure is okay, after all we are about to embark on the biggest high calorie holiday of the year.

    When I take the step to look for an agent, I will be looking for someone like you. Someone who has my best interest at heart. I just want to write, not to worry about the placement of my work or the contracts.

    Great post! Have a lovely, safe holiday.

  26. Timothy Fish said:

    In all honesty, I tend to agree with Mike more than I do you on this subject because I can see how agents may be afraid that self-publishing will eliminate a need for their position and they will have to go learn how to do something else. But what I tried to show in A World Without Thomas Nelson is that if self-publishing becomes the new normal, we are going to still have a system that looks a lot like the current one. At one time, I thought that widespread self-publishing would eliminate literary agents, but after more careful consideration, it seems to me that this is just a change in technology. The market forces are not driving this change and haven’t changed that much, so the forces that have created the need for publishers and agents to begin with will still be in place, even if every author is expected to publish his own book. We may not call them the same thing, but we will still have organizations that function like publishers and literary agents who will work to get their clients into those organizations.

  27. Anonymous said:

    You are looking out for so many writers by speaking up about these issues. Thank you! Your blog is a great service to us all! Happy Thanksgiving.

  28. Anonymous said:

    I think the motivation for these companies is made clear in Hyatt’s post. Bottom line: it’s a way for them to make money. And where will that money come from? Not from the sale of books. No, the money will come from starry-eyed, unsuspecting, hopeful writers.

    Look at the money source and flow, and it becomes clear what this business model is really about.

  29. JDuncan said:

    It comes down to a pretty simple dichotomy in my opinion. Having an agent actually increases your chances of successful(meaning more than a couple hundred sales and actually not losing money) publication, while vanity publishers do not. Real self-publishing is another animal, which may provide a legitimate alternative for a very limited pool of writers who have a platform and built-in base of readers, meaning mostly in the non-fiction realm. The vast majority (99.9%) of fiction writers can’t and won’t achieve any kind of success, and this has nothing to do with how good a writer you are or how savvy one is.

  30. Anonymous said:

    I think the idea that agents are threatened by self-publishing is retarded.

    And no matter how much people what to change the stigma around self-publishing its not going to happen, because…

    A published author is someone who has been paid for their work.

    A self-published author has paid to have their work to be printed.

    It’s the difference between winning a trophy from Small City Bowling League and driving to the trophy shop and buying yourself one.

    Anyone can buy a trophy, but most people (unless they’re very weird) don’t. I really don’t understand this need to self-publish. Anyone can do it. It’s like those stupid participant ribbons.

    Harlequin is telling desperate author’s that the trophy they bought and the trophy that was won are the same thing. And not only do you pay them to give you the trophy (publish) but they also want 50% of the profits.

    Harlequin is swimming in scum. Anyone who says different is an idiot (and probably was paid to promote the scum.)

  31. Anonymous said:


    Pushing the hullabaloo aside for a moment, I want to tell you how much I appreciate your blog.

    You provide indispensible insight, knowledge, and guidance in every posting. I appreciate your so-called ‘rants’ and your honesty. Thank you.

  32. Deb said:

    Mr. Hiatt knows better. Why would he say this about agents? I cannot for the life of me believe he doesn’t have a pretty comprehensive understanding about what agents do and how they do it.

    My own answer? It’s what he must say if he’s to sell the idea of WestBow being a legitimate enterprise to which aspiring authors will want to send books.

    And checks. Don’t forget the checks.

    Don’t take this posturing too seriously, folks.

  33. Laura said:

    I think these comments coming out of Thomas Nelson and Harlequin about their vanity programs are intentionally disingenuous and clearly aimed at their target market: aspiring writers.

    The business model of a commercial publisher is to make money by selling books to readers.

    The business model of a vanity press is to make money by selling “services” to aspiring writers.

    In terms of business goals, target audience, and fiscal models, the two types of ventures are not in competition and have nothing in common.

    Vanity presses try to position themselves in their marketing to their target audience as being in competition with commercial publishers, but that’s just a marketing scheme to attract the consumer (i.e. the aspiring writer). Unfortunately, though, it’s a marketing strategy that muddies and confuses the nature of commercial publishing to those who don’t know anything about the industry, i.e. a significant percentage of aspiring writers.