An Open Letter To Agents

This post, by author Courtney Milan, originally appeared on her site on 7/26/11.

I wrote a very long blog post last night. In fact, I’m not done writing it. It was so long, I’ve split it into two. This half is still pretty darned long. This is the less technical half, the shorter half (gnn, yes, really, sorry!) and it’s the half that I’m going to address to agents.

I want to be clear about one thing–while this is an open letter to agents in general, the agent I’m not addressing this to is mine. She and I have had several conversations about this new world, and I know we’ll have more. What has impressed me about her response is that when I’ve gone to her with a concern, she has thought about it, talked about it with others, and come back to me with a response that tells me that she gets where I’m coming from, that she respects me as an author. This shouldn’t be taken as a passive-aggressive dig at her; everything here I’ve already told her, and then some. If I ever need to tell her something, I’ll send her an e-mail or give her a call, and I know she’ll respect and listen to what I have to say. 

{Edited to add the next morning: Please see my mea culpa here.}

So, to every agent in the world who is worried about the new world in publishing, except Kristin Nelson:

You want to know the number one question that authors are asking me about my self-publishing venture? Bar none, it’s this: “How are you dealing with your agent?” I can’t think of a single published author who wanted to ask me questions about self-publishing who has not asked that question, and wanted to talk about it at length. The ratio of questions about my agent to questions about everything else that I’m doing has been about 15:1. I’ve talked to other agented authors who have self-published, and they are also fielding questions about their agents, I suspect at approximately the same ratio.

Agents, I don’t think you have any idea how much your writers are talking about you right now. Seriously. I don’t think you have any idea. I am getting multiple e-mails every day from writers who are worried about what their agents are doing, and who are worried about how to handle agents, and who want to be fair to their agents but also don’t want to pay them a percentage when there’s little to no work involved, and/or the agent handles little of the risk.

Read the rest of the post on Courtney Milan‘s site, and also see this follow-up post about why the author feels it’s unethical for literary agents to act as their clients’ publishers