Good morning Janet! Well, it’s early morning here on the East Coast of Australia, anyway.And I’ve been lying awake wondering something. Here in Australia, from what I can tell, publishing houses deal with unagented authors as well as agented ones.(1)Would publishing houses prefer to deal with the former (unagented)?
(2) Or the latter (agented)?
(3) Or is that difficult to say, as in America it seems they only deal with the agented variety? And if it’s the former - they’d prefer unagented writers - why is this so?
(4) Can they get a bigger slice of the pie if the author receives little or no agent assistance?
(5) Or are we talking about only unscrupulous organisations here? I’m assuming these do exist...Anyway, my mind was happily turning that hamster wheel. And I had no answers, and wasn’t sure how to google such things, hence this email.
Any and all enlightenment greatly appreciated!
Now, let's go back to questions #1-#3
Remember: I don't work for a publisher, and never have. I talk to a lot of them, and I pay a lot of attention to when editors talk about agents.
What I know I've gleaned from that.
My sense is that most publishers like to have an agent on the writer's team.
It saves them difficult conversations at times.
It provides an intermediary when one is needed.
And probably best of all, it means someone else has to explain royalty statements and returns to a new author.
Earlier in the process, it means the editor doesn't have to read a lot of queries to find a good book and an author who isn't an asshat. Agents do that work.
I've run across editors who loathe agents.
When you dig deeper it's usually because the agents they dealt with didn't do their job very well.
Disappearing after the sale is the biggest complaint.
Not keeping the writers from doing stupid stuff is another.
I've run across publishers who won't deal with agents.
I believe that to be a serious red flag (obvious bias of course.)
A publisher who doesn't want the author to have a knowledgeable advocate is a publisher trying to pull a fast one (OPINION!)
And the question you didn't ask, but I see looming in subtext: do you keep more money if you don't have to fork out a commission? Contrary to what you might think, probably not. There aren't a lot of studies about how an agent gets a client more money than a non-agented client would but here's my experience.
Unagented writers often take the first deal offered. They're reluctant to negotiate because they don't want to anger the publisher.
Agents often do several rounds of negotiation to improve the offer, which includes improving the amount of money offered as an advance, limiting the grants of rights, and improving the split of proceeds on rights granted.
In other words, I say with confidence, most writers will benefit from having an agent, and most publishers understand we have value to them as well.