My Fear Of Agent Scams — Road To Traditional Publication


Let’s jump back in time about three and a half years. I decided I wanted to write a full novel. I had spent a lot of years writing partial ones but had never actually written one from beginning to end. So, I sat down and that’s exactly what I did. I hammered out a 50,000 word novel, and then thought, Now what? I had all these words compiled. All these characters.

After doing some digging, I learned about self-publishing. I hadn’t considered everything that self-publishing would entail. I just wanted to see my name in print. I did the work to write the book, so why shouldn’t I be able to publish it? That’s fine and dandy and all, but at that time I was quite naive. I didn’t know anything about writing, really. I didn’t know about the three act story arc, I hadn’t read anything online about the craft of writing, let alone Stephen King’s On Writing, one of the most helpful craft-related texts I’ve read; I didn’t know about beta readers, or drafts, or how important cover art really was. I didn’t know that all my friends and family wouldn’t be flocking to buy my book. I didn’t know about distribution or marketing or anything. I thought all I had to do was write the book, send it to my friend who agreed to edit it for me, read through her edits, and that was it. I had a book.

Well, I published that book. And, as I learned more about writing over the next couple of months, I retired that book.

I took it out yesterday, actually–one of the few copies of it in existence–after finishing the first draft of The Rotten Apple (Yay!). As I read through the first two pages, so many things jumped out at me. So many bad, bad things. It’s embarrassing. People paid for that book, and it wasn’t ready. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great story and has potential, but it wasn’t polished. It was barely a second draft!

Now, let’s jump ahead to the present. I now have five self-published books out. I’m not a bestselling author. I don’t live off my writing. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just saying that I’m not where I want to be in terms of my success. I suppose I might be getting there, I guess. And, once I finish college (which will be in May if everything works out), I think I’ll have a little more time to dedicate to marketing.

However, over the past few months I’ve been considering seeking out an agent and going for traditional publication. I’m not giving up on self-publishing. I’m just exploring other options. I love the freedom that self-publishing offers, but I’d still like to be traditionally published. Yet, it worries me somewhat. I’ve heard the stories of agent scams, and that’s what worries me the most. It’s not being rejected from an agent/editor/publisher, it’s knowing that I’m putting in all this work to try and be successful and do what I love, and someone out there is just trying to steal my money. I’ve heard that it’s not difficult to just slap your name on the Writer’s Digest website and call yourself an agent.

I have also considered submitting to some smaller presses that don’t require an agents, but I’ve set a “someday” goal for myself that I need to turn into a “right now” goal to get an agent and try to be published by Orbit Books. It’s something that I won’t handle the way I handled my first book. I won’t blindly stumble into this abyss of agents and queries without making sure I’ve done my research.

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3 thoughts on “My Fear Of Agent Scams — Road To Traditional Publication

  1. Hey Chris, great post. Have you checked out The Dead Robots Society Podcast? I’m a religious listener and I’ve learnt a lot from it. The last two episodes they’ve talked a little about some of the business side of writing, including agents. I’d strongly recommend checking it out (it’s on iTunes).
    I for one will most likely not bother with an agent, if I go traditional and get offered a contract I’m just going to hire a literary lawyer to go over the contract.
    Another avenue that I’m thinking of following is submitting my short stories to magazines. Places like Asimovs and Clarkesworld and see what response I have.

    • Thanks, Peter! I’ll check it out.

      I’ve also considered submitting to magazines.

      As for hiring a literary lawyer, some presses won’t take unsolicited submissions. They’ll only accept them if you’re represented by an agent. Something you may want to consider.

      • That’s something that was addressed on The Dead Robots Society, from what they said all presses will read something if you send it and if they like it they’ll buy it, but if they don’t like it they’ll say they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. I’ve heard a few writers mention this on various podcasts.

        Agents are all mute for me though as I’m not considering traditional publishing at the moment. I might do down the line but ill cross that bridge when I come to it.

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