I do not understand hating on agents. I always thought that people thought of us as advocates and editors and friends who believe in them and want to see them succeed. I know that I feel 100% invested in the careers of the authors I work with and their books. I definitely don't work with people only to take my 15% of the pie (which, by the way, is NOT an exorbitant amount! I don't work at the restaurant because I like the service industry, people!).
Me answering phones at the restaurant.
I also think it's silly to proclaim the publishing industry dead and gone just because self publishing is flourishing. The traditional publishing model is changing, yes, and that is something that is exciting and scary, but just because people can publish without an agent or an editor nowadays doesn't always mean that they should. For one thing, unless you have the network of contacts an agent has--not just within publishing houses, but with foreign rights agents, film agents, audio book agents, etc.--and also an intimate knowledge of publishing contracts (and you can't cover this base by just hiring any old lawyer who knows about intellectual property rights), you will not always be giving your book or your career the best opportunities. Mr. Gaughran mentions the fact that David Mamet will be self publishing his next book as a marker that the tide has turned away from traditional publishing, but don't you think that Mr. Mamet can do this and most likely do it well because of the fact that he already has established connections within the industry and a huge readership that was built on his traditionally published works?????
Yes, you can publish on Amazon and with their publishing packages, but do you really think that publisher's marketing, publicity, and sales teams just sit around and stare at manuscripts until it's time to put them in book/e-book form for their pub dates? One commenter on Mr. Gaughran's blog crows about his self-published book selling extremely well, citing a 20,000 copy world wide sales figure. I'm sure that the many people who have bought this book have enjoyed it, but the sale of 20,000 copies worldwide for the life of a book is NOT an example of how self publishing clearly triumphs over traditional. Twenty thousand readers is probably equivalent to the population of Long Island, and when you think of that in terms of the world population, it is a drop in the barrel. The people behind the scenes at a publisher's do so much that influences the reach and accessibility of your work.
Of course, there are incredibly successful self-published books such as FIFTY SHADES OF GREY that have sold equally to their popular, traditionally-published counterparts. But when I even mention the title FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, my brain shudders because that trilogy so desperately needs a critical editor it makes my head hurt.
Which brings me to my final (not really, but I don't want to rant forever) point: You can do it yourself with the help of evil genius Amazon and spurn the agents and editors who you feel you can do without. But when you're placing Amazon in the shoes of these agents and editors, I think a big question to yourself is why you are replacing people who are extreme book lovers with a faceless corporation?
We are agents and editors not because we want to be leaching thieves, but because WE LOVE BOOKS! We love well-developed characters, unexpected plot twists, scintillating romance, and imaginative settings. We understand that obscure reference to Caliban in your third chapter and also know that perhaps it needs to be drawn out more in later scenes to develop a strong theme that your readers will connect with. We additionally know (again because we are book nerds) that a YA novel with a similar idea was published recently and might help you brainstorm an edgier take on other Tempest-like motifs so that your book stands out in the market.
Okay, this post is getting way longer than I wanted it to be, but the moral of the story is that AGENTS ARE NICE AND ALSO USEFUL.