Thursday, January 26, 2006

to agent or not to agent, that is the question

So after returning from my trip from Seattle, I have been mulling over my unagented status. During my trip, I met up with an up-and-coming novelist whose agent got her an advance that left me floored. Other friends of mine are pursuing agents or signing with the idea that the agents will procure movie deals, foreign rights and higher advances.

Which leaves me pondering my options. As the sole bread-bringer of the household, it would be quite beneficial to increase my income and make strides in my career. Maybe, maybe the only way for me to get to the next rung of the ladder is to get an agent to pursue improved opportunities for me.

Part of me thinks that an agent couldn't get me much more than what I've gotten myself. That, in fact, I'll get less because they'll end up taking a cut. Other authors have told me stories about getting huge advances and then the subsequent stalling of their careers because they were unable to sell out their enormous forestallment. The truth is I feel that my books are in a niche market, one with limitations. And that it isn't necessary to carry an agent with me to the ceiling.

However, is that a self-defeating prophecy? Am I selling my work short, already believing in its confines? Perhaps that is all the more reason to get an agent, to break the invisible barriers I have made.

And there is a bit of status in having an agent as well. All author/illustrators whom have “made it” seem to be agented. The image of success is usually incomplete without an agent dealing with the filthy lucre, leaving the artist able to be the creative genius that he/she is.

But agents are not magicians with hypnotic powers. Or are they? When I think over my friend’s amazing advance, I have to wonder.


Blogger nicole said...

Depends on which agent, too. ;)

And there are still plenty of very successful artists and authors who don't have one.

Even with an agent, YOU are the best person to create and sell your work.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Chris Barton said...

Vivian Vande Velde, for one, has been plenty successful without an agent (at least as of an SCBWI conference I heard her speak at a few years back). And there are agented folks who haven't sold anything. So, it's not a necessity or a cure-all.

One thing that helped me decide was to write down what I thought I would be able to accomplish with an agent -- and with the time freed up by having an agent handle certain aspects of my career -- that I wouldn't be able to do on my own.

Keep doing the good work you've been doing, and you'll be in good shape either way.

4:34 AM  
Blogger Grace Lin said...

thanks for your comments. Chris, I read your blog with interest. Though, the part where you said it wasn't about the money actually started swinging me the other way...I'm considering, instead of an agent, hiring a publicist. Should be an interesting investigation!

10:33 AM  

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