the big question for most first time novelists - after will i ever finish this manuscript? - is, should i get an agent?
i rolled over, on the morning after finishing Ghost Girls, and this thought ran through me: surely getting published cannot be any harder than constructing that motherfucker!
a little bit right and a little bit wrong . . .
right, in that i exerted a little less energy in the 'getting published' process, but wrong in that getting published took more time, month-wise, than writing the first couple of drafts.
this means it took a long time.
whether or not to seek an agent is an important question to consider because finding a literary agent takes weeks. or months. and because the many different pieces of advice - and various warnings about how best to approach the challenge - can prove daunting.
i think it's best to keep it simple.
here are some first thoughts, with a second post re-specifics to follow.
be mindful re internet advice: when i was looking for advice on this subject i found all the internet advice confusing. this, i guess, is because it is a confusing area and one that involves chance and circumstance, as much as the story itself.
so. be aware that all opinions expressed online are based mostly on personal experience. in some cases an agentless writer may achieve immediate success, while an agented writer may take years to find their entry point.
but, in other cases, the opposite is true.
there is no cut and dry path. you need to research and read about/listen to experiences and make the choice that is right for you and your specific book and yes, still, you may make the wrong call.
be flexible: ... like me, you may make what is ultimately the right call (re acquiring an agent), but the outcome will be different than you expected.
like me, even with an agent, you may wind up pitching the book yourself and succeeding. (more on my specific path to publication later.)
however, be mindful that, with an agent, you get an expert and experienced publishing professional who will negotiate the publishing contract, account for the finances, express your wishes to the publisher and others, listen to your frustrations, give you advice and add you to their public list. . . your agent may also seek out publicity opportunities and may market for you.
so it's true that agents do more than sell the book.
be real in a positive way: markets shift. an agent's pitch may hit a certain demand or may meet a quota already fulfilled. if the latter, it does not mean your novel is bad.
an agent is not the pot at the end of the rainbow - publication is.
luck and timing is as much an agent's game as an author's. both agent and author are chasing that rainbow tail. if the agent gives up at a certain point, it doesn't mean your work is any more or less valuable. it is reflection of the market at that time. there is no reason for you not to try again at a later point.
end of day: for unpublished and aspiring authors, i would recommend trying to acquire an agent. i think an agent lends credibility and assists in getting work before the eyes of the big guns.
the key to remember is this: even after the agent's game is up, the market is still there and still shifting.
if you have a product you believe in, chances are that the market will believe too. remember that your agent is only serving you and that you ultimately have the number one belief in your story: if your agent doesn't succeed but the feedback from credible sources is good, and your belief in your story is still strong, then -
timing is everything, and you need to understand this as an author.
this is a more important concept to understand than whether or not to acquire an agent.
part 2 coming soon.