I had to post about this. Since I believe there is no single right path to publishing, that means for some people having an agent who represents your books to traditional publishers is a valid path. But like other aspects of business, it requires vigilance on the part of authors.
As I posted yesterday, authors MUST respect themselves, and take themselves seriously as business owners, not just as artists. Part of taking yourself seriously is being vigilant about the legal and financial relationships you enter. Like with your agent. Please read this post from Dean Wesley Smith and the comments by Laura Resnick and others that follow.
I like to think of myself as fairly cautious. I call the Better Business Bureau and the Registrar of Contractors before I hire work done. But during the years I was submitting to agents I would have been one of those stupid authors Dean writes about. Even though I’d often heard that a bad agent is worse than no agent, and I asked around before I submitted, I would have rejoiced to have someone represent me, and I would have let a virtual stranger handle my money without a background check. Because that’s the way it was done.
That’s not the way it should be done. Split accounting is the smart way to get your royalties, and it will protect you and your agent from temptation. As for getting an agent, that may be in my future, but if I do, I won’t depend solely on word of mouth to support my evaluation. I’ll ask some hard questions, and if I don’t like the answers, I’ll walk away.