Mur Lafferty, one of the pioneers of podcast fiction, has posted on her blog about her decision to go indie and not seek another agent after the one she had decided they should no longer work together. She likens it to being a ronin, a masterless (and often disgraced) samurai. While that’s a romantic image, I think she has the analogy turned around.
Agents are great. I know people who swear by their agents, talk to them daily on chat, would not make any career move without them. I met a fantastic agent at WorldCon, a very knowledgeable and kind guy. But for me, where I am right now, and what I’m looking to do in 2011, I think the ronin way is the way to go. I’ve been busting my ass for six years, trying build an audience hungry for my work. And now I’m going to attempt to grow that audience, get more readers, and encourage people to buy my books. If I have to do that without an agent, or even without an editor, so be it. I didn’t have plans to be an independent author for the long haul, but it seems that’s where I am.
This is the thing to keep in mind. The agent — and the editor, and the publisher if you go that route — work for you. Without you, there is no book. Period. We are the masters, and the agents and editors are our samurai. They perform valuable services, but you must never forget that without the author, there is no book. It’s easy, the way legacy publishing is structured, to forget that. To feel like you work for the publisher, or worse, you work for the agent that got you the deal with the publisher. After all, these are the people that hand you money (after they take their substantial cut). And in other lines of work, the people that give you money are in charge of you.
Writing is different. Publishers aren’t doing you a favor by deigning to publish your little novel. You are providing them with a way for them to profit off of your work. They add value by editing, distributing and marketing the book (or at least, they used to, which is why so many of us have decided it’s no longer in our interest to work with them, but that’s another rant), but without you, without the book, they have nothing to do.
So keep your heads high, authors. You are storytellers, maintaining a tradition that predates our species. You are the base of the whole pyramid. Don’t let anyone tell you different.