Pub Rants

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On Thursday I’m flying to New York City to give a presentation at the Writers Digest Conference on Friday morning. My topic is why a successful indie self-publishing author might want to partner with an agent.

If you are an indie author that doesn’t see the value in having an agent, I’m not really going to change your mind so there really is no purpose in reading my next several blog posts where I share my thoughts. However, if you are curious, I’m happy to share several reasons on why they do. Now of course I can only speak to why several indie authors have decided to partner with me. It’s going to vary depending on the author and the agent.  But I represent several and they find our relationship invaluable.

Thought 1: People are complaining about the archaic nature of publishing and why doesn’t it change.

Okey dokey. Let’s quit complaining and start having conversations to instigate change because how do you think change happens?

In May of 2012, I had Hugh Howey fly out to New York to sit-down with publishers. I thought it was important for them to meet him in-person just so they could see for themselves what a reasonable, personable, and forward-thinking author he was. He was not, and has never been, anti-traditional publisher. In fact, he’s fairly pro-publisher. But a partnership has to make sense and there is a lot of stuff from traditional publishing that doesn’t make sense.

Before Hugh got on the plane, we both knew that it was very unlikely that the meetings would result in an offer that we’d be willing to take.  Yet, WE DID IT ANYWAY. Why? And this might be kind of silly but both of us felt kind of strongly that having in-person conversations with publishers about our sticking points (ebook royalty rate, sales thresholds in out of print clauses, and non-compete clauses) was necessary in order to facilitate possible change in the future. In other words, we weren’t going to see the benefit of it but maybe a future indie publishing author would because we had started the conversation.

And these conversations could only occur via a reasonable author partnering with a reasonable agent who were meeting with affable and reasonable publishers and editors and having frank, smart, and intelligent conversations with them about current contractual sticking points.

For Hugh, it resulted in a very unexpected print-rights only offer five months later (much to our surprise). That was way sooner than either of us had ever thought to hope.

I imagine that in the not-so-distant-future other indie authors (and who might be unagented) might be thanking Hugh for having partnered with an agent (way) back in 2012 so as to have these meetings. Just as they might be thanking Bella Andre and her agent for pulling off one of the first print-rights only deals (that was publicly announced -there might be others I’m unaware of).



13 Responses

  1. Lucy said:

    I’m not sure how much indie authors actually need to be convinced, or whether they just need to know that this kind of partnership is opening up.

    My impression from recent years has been that agents would not even look at dealing with an author who wasn’t seeking a traditional full publishing contract. Obviously the landscape is changing.

    My guess? Let authors know what their options are, and you’ll be inundated with queries seeking this kind of author-agent relationship.

    1. Barbra Annino said:

      Lucy, I agree. As someone who has read countless Twitter and blog posts over the years by agents scolding indie authors for even querying them, this is a refreshing and welcome change.

      And because of those disdainful posts, I stopped bothering to query agents altogether. So when Thomas & Mercer came to me with an offer, I negotiated a five book deal on my own. I’m still open to agents, but it would have to be the right agent.

  2. Ric "The Turtle" Ryan said:

    Yes, Times they are changing. It is coming to a point that what each party brings to the table will be equally important. If publishers want to stay in business they will adapt. As Kristen said, in another post, some are mining the bestseller lists for potential authors. It can be a win, win situation for everybody. Building a following takes time. If an author brings his own followers with him it makes the risk less for the publisher. I have a blog which I enjoy doing and was slowly building a following, then I put my bio on my Pinterest page. I got into it via my wife, I do crafts, Anyhow it has really helped get my hits up on my blog. I know this because the post I mentioned in my bio is now my most visited post.
    My goal is to have 5000 monthly followers before I self publish. It no longer seems so far away. It
    also now seems like a sound decision based on reading some of Kristin’s posts. So if my book takes off I know who I will be looking for as an agent. My blog has been read in 62 countries and I definitely do not know the publishing business. I was self employed most of my life and know that getting the best partner you can improves your chances for success.

  3. Bella Andre said:


    I think your presentation sounds fantastic! I love not only your openness about the way publishing is shifting and changing, but your full-on enthusiasm for it. It’s all very exciting and Steve Axelrod (my agent) and I have had many long and winding and fun discussions about it all in the past 6 months since we negotiated the first print-only deal. We’ve recently agreed to 2 additional print-only deals with Harlequin for various self-published books and pen names. (The 2nd was just announced last week, the 3rd will be announced shortly.) Harlequin has been beyond fantastic to work with on the print side of my books and I’m hopeful that both Hugh & S&S’s success with WOOL and what we’ll see starting May 28th with 10 months of straight back-to-back mass market paperbacks and Hardcover releases for my self-published Sullivan series will help others going forward on this hybrid path.

  4. Randall Wood said:

    “But a partnership has to make sense and there is a lot of stuff from traditional publishing that doesn’t make sense.”

    This is what I feel keeps most indie writers from considering a partnership with a trade publisher, even the ones that occasionally show some recognition of their changing business environment seem to trip over their own feet the next day. Unfortunately, a brief flash of understanding will not be enough for most Indies, at least the ones with any amount of business sense. Until the trade publishers show consistent signs they are changing to fit the new landscape most writers will remain either on the fence or against them.

    Today’s writer is savvier every day, about business, about marketing, and especially about the trade publishers. While I still feel they can play a valuable role, the partnerships they offer will have to be more favorable to the author.
    What you and Hugh have done is, what I hope, just the beginning. I bought several copies of Hugh’s book from multiple vendors and in multiple formats to help it succeed. They were given away as gifts. I did this not so much for Hugh, although he’s a fellow Floridian, but more to make his success live on and open the doors for the rest of us.

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  6. Cynthia Washburn said:

    I like the word ‘partnership’. There always seemed to be too much grovelling going on to interest me much–and I mean author to agent or publisher. That and the 5% to the author and 95% to everyone else that I’ve read about.

  7. Kate Copeseeley said:

    For writers like Hugh Howey, agents are a must. He’s got a huge following and leveraging that into bigger deals takes an experienced agent on your side. (That’s how I see it anyway.)

    But for newbs and midlist authors, I’m just not seeing the benefit of having an agent. If you’re selling say… $1000-$5000 dollars a month or less than $1000, I can’t see an agent being interested in you. I also can’t see a situation where an agent would be warranted.

    Interested to see what the rest of your series will say.

  8. Vincent Paretti said:

    Once indie’s start getting real good at refining all the information out there; eventually there will be no need for an agent. Unless of course, you are successful enough to actually need one, then I could see it. Seems that agents and big publishers are starting to feel the squeeze just like the big book stores and the USPS. Actually, this is what happens when you don’t level the field for really good writers regardless of how good you may think their material is. I read a lot and I enjoy it. It’s really hard for me not to dislike something I have read in the past. I’m doing my first book now and I know it’s going to be good. What will keep that from happening is me and not having any interest from agents or big publishers. I intend to get real good at being an indie and sharing it will other new indie’s. In time, I’ll be on top just from helping those just like me.

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  10. Faye said:

    Awesome meeting you at the WDCE! Your presentation was great! Any chance you can post a wrap up of the conference or pitch slam from your perspective? I wrote my own wrap up and I twondered what the agents thought. I thought we were a pretty fabulous collection of human beings (agents and editors included) 🙂

  11. Christine M. Fairchild said:

    I whole-heartedly agree that there is a need to discuss (and look forward to) a new, happier version of author/publishing relationships. I’m all for print books and trad publishers and book agents.

    What’s baffling to most of us indie authors is the disconnect between the public remarks from those in trad publishing about the indie author movement and/or the denial of how awful the pay has been for authors. So your site and your attitude are both refreshing and encouraging.

    Personally, I went with indie publishing after several talks with agents, 2 of whom told me to go indie since I had a strong book and a marketing background. I’m so grateful those agents are forward thinking and I still recommend them to my students!!!

    Thanks again for your positive influences on a changing system 🙂

  12. Fran Baker said:

    I’ll look forward to your series of posts, Kristin. I’ve been published via an agent, without an agent, and with a literary attorney. I really believe one area agents might consider working with indies is in placing books with foreign publishers. I’ve done this with and without an agent as well, and frankly prefer an agent handle all the details. Well worth the fee!