Agents and the Changing world of Canadian Publishing

Recently I had lunch with an agent friend of mine and the topic of how traditional Canadian publishing is changing came up. There are more writers who are focusing on POD or self publishing routes but who are then seeking out agents to try and publish their second books, and there is great debate about what agent fees and services should now encompass.

In the past, most agents would take on clients, waive fees and just take the typical 15% royalty rate and leave it at that. Not so anymore. It has become quite clear that with the downsizing of staff and editors at publishing houses agents can no longer afford to wait until they sell a book to be paid- the time it takes to pitch books eats up thousands of unpaid hours.

Flat fees for different agent services such as referrals, manuscript evaluations, editing, and the writing of query letters and proposals are becoming common place. You may ask “why wouldn’t I just self-publish if I have to pay for these services?” My answer to that is when you pay an agent for those items you get: quality of work, credibility, and hopefully book sales.

An agent is someone who has skills at speaking the language of books, chasing down editors and publishers who are reluctant to return your calls, and negotiating the best deal for you and your book. They spend hundreds of hours scouring your manuscript, making sure it is free of typos, and presenting the best part of the book to prospective publishers. Self-publishers don’t do that and freelance writers only do portions.

Nowhere else can you expect the whole package- so why not spend a little money making sure you have the best of both worlds?

If an agent asks you for money for certain jobs- don’t walk away fuming. Recognize the time and professionalism that it takes to work on your book and consider paying for those services.
( and if you are so inclined- don’t forget cigars and scotch- that seems to be a trend with me, but hey- I’m an easy going agent!).

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