Monday, November 28, 2011

A Literary Agent Versus a Publicist -- Enlighten Me

Someone help me. It doesn’t make sense. Authors write. Their work is reviewed, critiqued, and sometimes even ripped apart by friends, family members, and complete strangers in order to end up with a great manuscript. Once the body of work is ready, many authors compose query letters. Then, despite all of the preparation, the rejection occurs. Are we all that lousy at our craft?

In today’s writing world, are literary agents that important? Do they help you sell books? Not that I can tell. Will they get you a publisher? Supposedly, but with the advent of self-publishing, why is that important?

A publisher eventually will turn to the author to sell books anyway. Why is having a Big Six publisher important? Granted, many of us strive to land a large publisher. Think about it, though. Why is it a necessity to be hooked to a corporate giant? I guess they help promote through their literature, trade shows, advertising and distributing. It used to be that a big-name author would be the leader that would allow a publisher to get a hoard of lesser known authors into a book store.

However, things have changed. Book stores are being boarded up. The Internet has taken over. Hardback and paperback books are being replaced by eBooks. Online booksellers are the wave of the future. The bricks and mortar on the corner book store are falling to the ground.

So that comes back to the original question. Why is having a literary agent that important? What do they do if authors can self-publish and sell eBooks via the Internet?

Maybe having a publicist is more important in today’s writing world than an agent. I’d like to hear your thoughts about that. Doesn’t coming up with a strategy to market make more sense in getting your word out?

Or, if the funds are limited, maybe the best course of action for an author is to do self-promotion. In that case is it possible for an author to utilize the Internet and publicize traditionally enough on this own to make a difference?

Publicists put together PR campaign plans. They act as a liaison between a client and the media. Their connections can be used to land radio gigs or television talk shows. A publicist helps to promote a brand and make it more visible in the marketplace. In a nutshell they create -- buzzzzzzzzz.

So we are back to the beginning. Help me. I’m confused. What is the best way to go? As authors we all want to explore ways to get our word to the public. We seek more readers. We reach out to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube and a host of other online social networking sites. Who has the answer? If there is no set acceptable standard, then what is one to do?

I’d love to hear what has been successful for some other authors. Give me some feedback!

James Ross
Author of Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, Tuey's Course, Opur's Blade, Pabby's Score
Twitter: golfnovels and JamesRossBooks
Publisher Website: and
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Cheryl said...

James, I read mostly ebooks these days. With the advent of instant downloadable books, I actually read more than I had been reading in the past few years.

I do look for recommendations from others. In fact, I read The Help because a friend I know soley through social media suggested it.

Social media greatly influences people. I think you hit the nail on the head when suggesting that PR may be more important than an agent.

Great post.

Jacqueline Diamond said...

Right now, the whole publishing world is spinning around, trying to figure out where it's going to land. I've sold 90 novels (currently published by Harlequin). I'm also reissuing my older books, such as Regency romances. And guess what? I don't knwo the answer, either.

Right now, I have neither an agent nor a publicist, but I wouldn't rule out using either.

Sorry I can't be more helpful.

Emily Ann Ward said...

A good publisher is a publicist, as well as en editor, a cover designer, a formatter, a distributor, a copy-editor, a marketing team, a support group, and much more. Some authors are cut out for self-publishing and treating their books like a full-on business. That's what I'm going to try to do with my fantasy books.

Some just want to write and don't want to deal with a publicist and formatting and cover design and editing and distribution. I think a lot of people are making self-publishing seem really easy and act like all a publisher will do is print your book for you. But come on, there is way more to it than that. And I'm saying that as a self-publisher. Sure, it's easy to put your book up on Kindle, but to actually make a living off of that book? Not so easy.

If I could self-publish my fantasy novels myself but have a good publisher offering me competitive royalties for my young adult fiction, it would be a dream come true. I could still have creative control over some of my books but I'd also be able to reach a larger group of people with other novels. Because I do not have the start up money to hire a publicist or print 1000 books from an offset printer that far trumps the quality of a POD printer or pay for ads on websites where my target audience is or put my books in brick-and-mortar stores (yes, they are going out, but there is still a chance for commercial fiction).

I think those are the chief differences: dedication to writing as a business instead of a career and start-up money.

If I had the money and I could find one with reasonable, competitive rates, I'd hire a publicist. But I'd still be looking for an agent for my commercial YA fiction. But who knows? Maybe after a year of looking for an agent or a publisher, I'll publish those books myself and be happier. I won't have lost anything but time.

LM Preston said...

Going with a large publisher does have certain benefits. You get paid upfront without having to wait until each book sells. You get larger initial distribution and possibly access to other markets like subsidiary rights being sold to producers.

Publishing your own work takes lots of work and money as well as effort. It's a longer road to success, but for the diligent it pays off.

Writers should look at any opportunity to sell their work and get it to market and that means not turning away a large publisher opposed to publishing it yourself.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. The publishing world is so fluid right now, all of us need to come to our own conclusions about new roles in the profession.

Dorothy Thompson said...

Fantastic post, Jim! You only need an agent to get published if you want to go the Big Six route. You only need the Big Six IF and that's a big if, you want to sign a contract granting you lots and I should say LOTS of money upfront. Granted you have to earn the publisher back the money through sales, take Amanda Hocking for example. Self-published. Ebooks. Yet she sold LOTS of books before St. Martin's took her on with a $2,000,000 contract. Someone asked Amanda why if she were selling that many of her books, why did she do an about face and sign on with a publisher? The answer she gave was she wanted someone else to do all the grunt work - cover, etc. and she wanted more time to write. She is an extraordinary person. She marketed the hell out of her books before St. Martin's took her on and by doing this, she was slowly building up her fan base. After all, it's the fans who are buying her books. No marketing is going to help unless you have a fan base or you have (and this is where publicists come in) someone to get the word out about your book to help you build up that fan base. Interesting stuff, I love it!