I have been querying my completed/edited/polished commercial fiction/crime suspense to traditional literary agents and would prefer to not self-publish. The responses to my queries have been routinely form letters, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I must pass. Please understand this is a very subjective business. You should keep looking for representation because what works for one agent (or publisher) may not work as well for another.”
Today, I received a kind rejection that include this bit of information:
Besides the traditional agenting route, keep in mind that there are now other possible options for you—for instance, crowdfunding platforms might be something to consider: sites like Unbound, Kickstarter, and Publishizer might be of interest. Publishizer with books, matching with publishers—we’re doing some work with them and they are a great group. That said, of course you should check out all options for yourself.
Do I remember you saying that even if an author had a publisher, they still need an agent? If so, how would any of the above help? Wouldn’t the above simply be another self-publishing avenue?
I've heard of Kickstarter of course, have even sent some dollars to various projects, but had not heard of the other two. So, I scouted around a bit.
Publishizer was a little different. They offer access to "publishers" as their unique selling proposition. To be fair, they're pretty transparent about which publishers are interested in a project, and they tell you which projects got signed and with whom.
The publishers however are mostly ones I hadn't heard of (two exceptions: Weiser, Harvard Square Books) and "partnership publishers"--companies that "help" you self-publish for a chunk of change.
For none of these choices would you need an agent.
The key value of an agent (our unique selling proposition if you will) is getting you a deal you can't get on your own. All of these publishers seem to allow access without needing any expertise or inside knowledge--what I bring to the table.
There's nothing wrong with crowdfunding a book, or using a service that provides a platform for your book to be noticed as long as you fully understand what that means. Crowdfunding means you're self-publishing. The value of a place that sells "notice" is how many, and what kind of eyeballs are looking.
There may be agents who scout around those sites looking for projects. It sounds like you heard from one of them. But, most agents find their projects through incoming queries or by referral. That hasn't changed in forever.
I've mentioned the option of self-publishing to some queriers in the last couple years. It's mostly when they are writing memoir that isn't suitable for general trade publishing.
But you're not writing memoir, you're writing crime fiction. It's difficult to successfully self-publish crime fiction unless you've already got an established audience.
I'm not sure why the agent mentioned this avenue to you unless s/he doesn't know much about self-publishing, or more likely, just uses it in a form reply to queries s/he's not pursuing.
For whatever reason: If you're hearing a lot of no at the query stage, you know your query doesn't work. Get some eyeballs on it. Then make sure you've written a novel that builds on and expands the canon. Writing a book that's just like a bunch of other books I've read isn't going to do the trick any more.