Why Pay an Agent?

Two publishing deals were struck this week. One was splashed all over the media, a €500,000 struck by agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor, the queen of the zillion-euro book deal. The lucky author was Kathleen McMahon, a radio reporter with the national Irish broadcaster RTE.

The other was the deal that I struck with an independent publisher called Book Republic. Let’s just say that mine was somewhat more low-key. No advance and no fanfare, apart from the trumpets myself and Book Republic blew on our social media pages.

I can’t lie. When I started to send out my novel, The Pink Cage, I wanted a deal like McMahon’s. Certainly, I felt I needed an agent to make sure I didn’t get ripped off and that my novel found a good home. But while I was sending it out, I proofread a book for a local author called Brian Kennedy who was self-publishing a sports book called Blow it Up Ref! Listening to his story and to  a Liveline radio programme dedicated to self-published books made me think again.

I wasn’t quite ready to shoulder the burden of self-publishing and still hankered after the stamp of approval of a publisher. But I realised that there was a middle-ground – independent publishers who would bear the cost of publishing a book and help me bring it into the world.

So I adopted a two-pronged approach. I still approached agents, but I also began sending to independent publishers. A new site had been born, writing.ie, with details of publishers included in its treasure trove of writerly information. It was on this site that I found Book Republic.

A look at their book list and submission guide made me realise that they could be a good fit for my novel. So I sent it off and got a dizzyingly swift reply, saying that they were interested in publishing me. Fortunately, I was able to tap into some excellent advice that gave me the tools to negotiate the contract. The Irish Writer’s Union is an invaluable source of advice and there are also independent consultants you can hire for a one-off fee.

My deal gives me a sense of ownership over my novel. I get a lot of say in the cover design and in the editing process. I know exactly what royalties I get – and the terms are very fair. Because there’s no agent’s cut, I get to keep more of what I earn. And I will play a big part in selling it. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that I found the publisher and negotiated the terms myself.

So do I have regrets about not paying an agent? Absolutely not.

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