Publisher vs Agent: Grudge Match

Just kidding, there’s no grudge.

In my last post I alluded to having a decision to make regarding the fate of my novel, since it is now fully back in my hands after the rights were returned to me by the previous almost-publisher. And that decision is one I suspect a lot of writers can relate to: do I submit it to publishers directly, or do I query agents to represent me?

The vast majority of writers I know out there in social media land deal directly with publishers. I believe they do this for a couple of reasons, chief among them being that they write some pretty far out stuff. Many of my writer friends specialize in extreme horror, bizarro, splatterpunk, etc.—which can be a bit of a niche market. And that seems to be one of the biggest questions I have to ask myself when it comes time for me to make the decision: is my novel marketable enough for an agent to want to take it on?

Initially, I shied away from querying agents. I felt my book was just not a good fit for the types of books I saw agents selling to publishers. Not because it’s a crime book, but because it’s not a typical crime book—there is a detective in the story, but he’s not the protagonist, and there’s no mystery to be solved. It’s a story about (mostly) bad people doing (mostly) bad things. It’s also chock full of profanity and violence—I suppose you could call it “gritty”. But now, as I’ve revised and revised, and honed and rewritten parts of it, it’s starting to resemble something a little more marketable. I mean, it’s still violent, and the first use of the “f” word happens halfway down the first page, but it has…a different “vibe”, as the kids call it. Now I’m starting to believe that it’s marketable because it does resemble more mainstream books, but it’s different enough to stand out from the pack. Hopefully. *fingers crossed*

Now, for the uninitiated, there’s something you should know: querying agents is a grueling process. I looked into it when I first starting submitting the novel to publishers. If you’ve been writing and submitting for any amount of time, you’re probably used (or getting used) to rejection, which is good because if you decide to query literary agents, you will probably be rejected A LOT.

There are pros and cons to either path I choose, and I guess the biggest is that submitting to a publisher is a lot of work that and agent could help with, but of course an agent will need to be compensated, to the tune of approximately 20%. From where I sit currently, that seems more than fair to gain access to their knowledge and help. But it all comes down to each individual, so of course your mileage may vary.

I’m sure there are other writers out there wrestling with this (or maybe who have just wrestled with it), and I’d love to hear which way you’re leaning. I’ll update you when I do make my decision, and keep you posted as rejections pile up—the one sure thing whichever way I go.


Published by Kenneth Jobe

Kenneth Jobe is a writer, photographer, musician, and Native Californian living in the Midwest with his wife and son. His fiction has been published in Jitter, The Rusty Nail, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep, Volume 2.

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