10/16/2013

Plans and Agents

Well, it's certainly been an interesting couple of weeks. Shortly before I completed and submitted Extinction Game - that being the next book you're going to get from me in late 2014 - I heard word from my agent, Dorothy Lumley, that she wasn't well. As in, really unwell. I had to read between the lines a little because Dorothy had that very English way of understating things even when things were really, really bad. Bad as in cancer, it turned out. I'd barely found out before word spread through social media that Dorothy had, in fact, passed away, only weeks after informing me her agency - for reasons, again, that were implicit rather than stated forthright - would soon be wrapping up.

Naturally, this came as a shock. Even though I've only ever met Dorothy a few times in the flesh, she's been my agent since, I think, 1997, and was responsible for selling Angel Stations to Tor UK in 2003 (published in 2004). Without her, I might never have had a career. I guess she must have believed in me to have kept plugging away all those years until something finally sold. Occasionally she would venture into the far North and Glasgow, to meet not only myself but various crime writers she represented scattered across Scotland. We'd have a very pleasant chat over tea and scones. To be honest, I really thought she'd be around for forever, more or less. Not only that, I gradually came to realise over the years I had really, really lucked out in finding Dorothy. She was an exemplary agent. You hear so many stories about bad agents. Well, take everything bad about them and Dorothy was the precise opposite.

So now I find myself in the interesting position of not having an agent. I don't know if the agency still technically exists - another agency is taking care of putting Dorothy's business into probate. At some point, I guess, I might get a letter officially setting me free. After that, either I'll hunt out another agent...or I won't. That's something I haven't made up my mind about. When I first got an agent, it was because I wanted to sell a book. Great. Job done. Now I'm selling books regularly to a particular publisher, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. And while there may well be certain advantages to having agent representation, if I do get another agent, I'm going to need to know exactly what they could do for me outside of just signing my cheques and taking a percentage of my income. That, I could do myself. The question now is, what can an agent do for a writer who is already to some extent established?

As you'll guess, I'm far from having made my mind up about anything.

On top of that, we - my wife and  I - are planning on returning to Taiwan early next year for at least another couple of years. That means sorting out my flat, renting it out, and dealing with a hundred and one other things as well as trying to work out the plot for the sequel to Extinction Game. But I'm looking forward to the return trip.

Meanwhile, Marauder seems to be doing quite well. The hardback, last I heard, is already into its second printing. The price on all my ebooks available through Amazon, Kobo, and elsewhere mysteriously dropped to ridiculously low prices, helping to boost their sales, which makes me happy. For instance, Stealing Light is currently only £1.32 on Kindle, and similarly low elsewhere. Curiously, this doesn't mean my publisher and I get less money for it - we get the same money. So it's a win-win situation. If you want to try out my ebooks, you get them dirt cheap, and we still get our money. How long this situation may continue I cannot remotely begin to guess. So if you ever fancied trying some of my stuff and haven't, now is the time.

Edit: I just remembered something. Back before I sold Angel Stations, Dorothy asked me to send her short stories for her to try and sell to the magazines. Let me be clear - this never happens. She was that determined to raise my profile in some way that would see me sell books. I've told people this in the past and they clearly had a hard time believing an agent was willing to represent short stories. That's how good an agent Dorothy was. Believe me, she earned her 10%.
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