Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Kelly Dyksterhouse Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/12/2022
  • Savannah Brooks Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/19/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Pitfalls of Being Published While Unagented by Elisa Bonnin and Dauntless Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Elisa Bonnin here to share about her YA fantasy Dauntless. I’m excited to read it because Seri, the main character, sounds like a strong character, and the story Filipino-inspired.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A teen girl must bring together two broken worlds in order to save her nation in this lush, Filipino-inspired young adult fantasy novel from debut author Elisa A. Bonnin.

“Be dauntless, for the hopes of the People rest in you.”


Seri's world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.

Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts - a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she's ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace. 

 


Before I get to Elisa’s guest post, I have my IWSG Post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts this month are J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton!

Optional Question: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

I would choose the Harry Potter world. I love fantasies set in our contemporary world and the magic system in Harry Potter. I’d love to have a wand and be able to perform magic spells. There’s so much else I love about the world J.K. Rowling has created.

What book world would you choose?

Publishing While Unagented, and Why I Don’t Recommend It by Elisa Bonnin

In my bio, it says that publishing a book has been my dream since I was eight years old, and that's true. I've been wanting to be a published author for a very long time, and that means I’ve spent a lot of my life working to achieve that goal. I learned that to be traditionally published at a big publishing house, I would need a literary agent, and so I started querying. I went into the query trenches, and like a lot of new writers, I faced a ton of rejection. I considered self-publishing, but ultimately decided that I didn't have the time or the marketing know-how to make self-publishing work for me.

At that time in my life, all I was looking for was my big break, so when I had the opportunity to become traditionally published without an agent, I jumped at the chance. I had submitted my novels DAUNTLESS and STOLEN CITY to Swoon Reads' crowd-sourcing platform, and when I heard back in April 2020 that Swoon, a Macmillan imprint, wanted them, I didn’t hesitate. I knew that I would still eventually need an agent to help me write more books, but that became a far-off consideration, something for future me to worry about. For now, I had my books and I was happy that I had managed to do it "all on my own".

But what I quickly learned, and what I wish I'd known from the beginning, is that there is a lot more to publishing than just writing and selling the book. And while selling books to editors is definitely a huge part of what agents do for their clients, it isn't the only thing. There were more than two years between the date that my books were chosen for publication and their actual publication date, and while many of my fellow debut authors were able to reach out to their agents to help them navigate the more complicated and frustrating parts of the publishing industry, I went through it almost alone.

I say almost, because I've been very lucky. I have a fantastic editor, who has gone above and beyond to answer my questions about the industry and to just be available for me. But I've learned from listening to other writers who've taken my path that it could have been so much worse. I am agented now, and I've also noticed an improvement in how I feel about publishing and what I get out of it.

So in case you find yourself in the same boat, here are some reasons why I don’t recommend going into traditional publishing without an agent.

First off, let’s talk about the contract. Traditional publishing is a lot of things, but at the end of the day, publishers are businesses. While there are a lot of people in the publishing industry who are in it because they love books and want to support authors, the industry itself is mostly concerned with its bottom line. That means that if you aren't careful, you could end up signing a publishing contract with terms that are not ideal for you. Publishing contracts are long, and they are full with legal terminology that might not make much sense to you unless you are already experienced in the industry. Also, as a debut author, you won't know how much of your contract is actually negotiable, and you probably won't know what is fair or expected.

A good agent will know all those things, and will be able to negotiate with your publisher on your behalf to make sure you're getting the best deal possible. Remember that agents work for you, not your publisher, so an agent has a vested interest in making sure that you are being treated fairly. In the worst case scenario, if a good deal can't be reached, an agent can try to submit your work elsewhere, which is something you won't be able to do as an unagented author.

Okay, but after signing the contract, you should just be able to focus on the book, right? Maybe go through a few rounds of editing, with your editor, but there won't be that much for your agent to help you with at this stage?

That's what I thought when I started the publishing process, but I was wrong. It turns out that the publishing process is rather opaque, and if your only point of contact is your editor, you might miss out on things like cover design, scheduling cover reveals, and having some input on your marketing plans. You might also have a harder time negotiating for an extension on deadlines, or might not feel comfortable asking questions about subrights. Again, I was lucky enough to have some input on these things, but if you’re not, an agent can help by acting as the go-between between you and your publisher, helping you keep calm while asking your publishing team the tough questions so that you don't have to.

And then there’s marketing.

This is a big one for me, because as a complete newbie to the publishing industry, I didn't know what to expect from my marketing and publicity team. And while I thought that they did a good job of keeping me in the loop, as soon as I became agented, my agent was able to come up with ideas for things that my marketing team might have missed, or things that I could do on my own that might help.

Finally, there’s the emotional support. Publishing a book is hard, and although a publishing house might have many different people working on your book, you’re also not their only author. It’s extremely helpful having someone in your corner, someone that you can talk to about the anxiety that comes with publishing a book, without feeling like you’re taking up too much of their time. Having that support makes a difference, and when I became agented, I could feel it from day one. Just knowing that someone else is looking out for me takes a huge weight off my shoulders.

I don’t regret any part of my publishing journey. It got me my books, and I love them dearly. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I wish I had known going in. If you ever have the opportunity to become published without an agent, I’m not going to tell you not to take that chance. But I will suggest that you go into it with open eyes, because publishing is really so much more than just getting a book deal.

And if you’re neck-deep in the query trenches like I was, and you get that opportunity, please know that you can reach out to agents before you respond to the publisher. You can add a note in your subject line that says the query is urgent, because you’ve already received an offer. And you can speak to an agent before you agree to anything with your publisher, if that’s what you want to do. If you’re unsure about how to do this, please reach out. You can use the contact form on my website (eabonnin.com). I would be happy to help talk you through it!

At the end of the day, I’m only one person with one story. You’ll have to decide for yourself what’s best for you and your book. But I hope that this post might be helpful to writers who find themselves in similar situations. In the end, we all have to find what works best for us, and I’m personally hopeful that having an agent is what will work best for me.

Thanks for sharing all your great advice, Elisa! You can find Elisa at:

Website: www.eabonnin.com 

Twitter: @eabwrites

Instagram: @elisa.a.bonnin

Giveaway Details

Elisa has generously offered a hardback of Dauntless for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by July 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, July 11th, I have an agent/debut author guest post by Jennifer Unter and Melissa Dassori with a giveaway of Melissa’s contemporary/magical realism JR Silver Writes Her World and a query critique by Jennifer

Saturday, July 16th, I’m participating in the Hip Hip Hooray Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 18th, I have an interview with debut author M.T. Khan Maaeda and a giveaway of her MG contemporary fantasy Nura and the Immortal Palace

Wednesday, July 20th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Alex Slater and a query critique giveaway

Monday, July 25th, I have an interview with debut author Derrick Chow and a giveaway of his MG retelling Ravenous Things

Hope to see you on Monday!

50 comments:

Nancy Gideon said...

An unagented world is kind of a scary place . . .

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Harry Potter is a popular choice.
I'm published without an agent and after five books, I'd say I was much luckier than you, Elisa. I haven't regretted it for a moment and had plenty of help from my publisher.

Pat Garcia said...

Hi, thank you for publishing the article by Elisa Bonnin. I needed to read that.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Cathrina Constantine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathrina Constantine said...

I almost picked the world of Harry Potter too! I love that wizarding world. Have a great month!

Liza said...

I thought a lot of people would pick Harry Potter, but any world that has a Voldermort in it is too scary for me! Elisa, thanks for your perspective on being un-agented. I think there are a few agents out there who, for a fee, will help a writer go through a contract.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great choice!! HP's world would be fabulous!
Congrats to Elisa - Seri and Tsana sound like fascinating characters! There is a LOT to being an indie author - but it's a whole lot of fun!

Diane Burton said...

It would be fantastic to live at Hogwarts and have magical powers. What fun! Congrats to Elisa on her debut release.

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the post today and the incite into publishing. I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/view/yesreaderwriterpoetmusician/689040285048733696?source=share

Melissa said...

And...this is why I self-publish. I lost some years when life put me on a forced hiatus (but then, I wouldn't have been able to meet trad. deadlines anyway), and I had to wait until my nest was (almost) empty to have time to focus on the marketing side of the business, but I still consider myself better off.

Best of luck with your book, Elisa. Regardless of your path, I hope your writing dreams come true.

Melissa said...

Oh, P.S. Natalie, your comment showed up in my email, but not on my blog. Blogger must be glitching.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, same pinch. Both of us want to live in the Harry Potter world. Most probably we would have met there and become friends :)

L Diane Wolfe said...

Have you been to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Florida? You would be in Heaven, Natalie.

Fundy Blue said...

Good book world, Natalie! I loved the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling ranks right up there with Tolkien and Lewis in my estimation. I really liked your interview with Elisa. She makes a great case for having an agent. I love the idea of a Filipino-inspired young adult fantasy novel, and Elisa's sounds like a good read. I wish her luck with her book!

Sonia dogra said...

Hi. This was a very useful read. Elisa's journey is an eye opener. In India, the concept of lit agents is comparatively new but it's coming up.

Jacqui Murray said...

Great discussion of unagented publishing. Didn't know most of that.

Lee Lowery said...

The Harry Potter world would be exciting. I love magic.

Great interview with Elisa. A lot of unpublished authors don't have a real sense of how publishing works at all, and that leads to a lot of disappointment when a book is finally accepted.

Loni Townsend said...

It would be nice to see magic mixing with the real world. Harry Potter's world is a great gateway.

Kate Larkindale said...

I can see how Harry Potter's world could be appealing, but it's not really for me. Great discussion about being unagented and published. There's a lot to think about there.

Jean Davis said...

I have a feeling the HP world would be a popular choice. :)

Good interview with Elisa. Publishing is definitely a lot more than just writing the book and landing a publisher.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Congratulations, Elisa! I agree that having an agent makes things easier but even authors with agents still need to push their bookbabies because no one will push them or love them as much as their authors!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Ah, the Harry Potter world. I thought of that too, Natalie.

Thank you SOO much, Elisa, for this insight into agents and publishing. Truly valuable. All the luck with your new release. Bravo!

Carol Kilgore said...

Lots to choose from with Harry Potter! Each blog I read, I'm like 'ooh, I like this one!' Now I can't decide, LOL.

Liz A. said...

It's great you got a publishing contract before finding an agent. It's nice to hear different stories of how people got their books into the world.

Weaver said...

Go, Harry! Brilliant minds and all that. :D

diedre Knight said...

Harry Potter's world was certainly exceptional, wasn't it?
Such an informative, interesting interview - thanks for sharing. And, congratulations Elisa!

Sherry Ellis said...

Harry Potter's World would never have a dull moment, that's for sure! Great interview! I think a lot of authors can relate to the surprise in finding out how much it takes to market a book!

Jenni said...

Harry Potter's world would be a lot of fun. Although someone said, it'd be better after Voldemort was defeated. What an interesting interview! I know from writer friends that going without an agent can be a mixed blessing. I liked hearing Elisa's story! Big congrats!

C. Lee McKenzie said...

This author had really put her finger on so many pitfalls of the publishing business. A great post.

As to your choice of Harry Potter, I can see you weilding a wand!

Chemist Ken said...

I picked Hogwarts too. Just sounds like a cool place to live--assuming you survive, of course.

Samantha Bryant said...

Good post, as always. I don't know if having an agent would have saved me from any of the woes I've encountered in my writing career, but having support saved my bacon more than once!

Kim Lajevardi said...

Congrats Elisa! Also, Thank you for sharing take on an unagented writer’s journey. I agree that being agents provides so many protections and support.

I’m with you on the world of Harry Potter.

Autumn said...

I would definitely live in the world of Harry Potter too! Congrats on the release of your book!
follow via twitter @akilley

emaginette said...

If this muggle was given a wand that worked, I'd be right beside you. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Angie Quantrell said...

Elisa, thanks for sharing about your publishing journey! Congratulations on your book! It sounds wonderful!

Natalie, I shared this on Twitter. And I follow by email.
angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Tyrean Martinson said...

Elisa, thank you for sharing your publishing journey and congratulations on your book!
Natalie - I love the HP world, too. :)

Tonja Drecker said...

Natalie: I want to visit the candy and magic shops with you!
Elisa: It's always interesting and encouraging to hear everyone's paths. And I already have my hands on an ARC of your upcoming book...which I'm so looking forward to!

Elizabeth Varadan said...

What an interesting post. I, too, was happy to find a traditional publisher (but a small press, getting bigger) without an agent. But I'm happy with my publisher. Great cover design. Great promotion. And really great support. I feel they (the company was formed by two brothers) are friends as well as publishers, and we work well together.

Valinora Troy said...

I'd love to win a copy of the book, it sounds great! Really interesting post, always great to get an insight into the journey of other writers!

tetewa said...

Congrats on the release, enjoyed the post today!

Damyanti Biswas said...

Congrats on your new release! Sounds very promising :D

Megan said...

Thank you for the giveaway of Dauntless - it sounds amazing!
I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1545158551039098881
Bloglovin: ChickensGal
Email (if I am lucky enough to win!): megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com.

Anonymous said...

I could do with a wand and magic most days. A great post.
marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Nancy P said...

Sounds fabulous! positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Rajani Rehana said...

Great blog

Rajani Rehana said...

Please read my post

Beth Camp said...

Another impressive blog post! Who wouldn't want to live in Harry Potter's world? Well, maybe not me. Though I loved the book and movie, I wouldn't quite fit in that boys' school! The interview with Elisa Bonnim was brutally honest and helpful to anyone wavering between self-publishing and traditionally publishing, as I once was, though I took the dive into self-publishing. Well done!

Juneta key said...

I love Harry Potter too

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

Such an interesting post. I remember when I first started out, I had a publisher ask me to send my manuscript before I was agented, and I was really wary for all these reasons. It just felt backwards somehow. I ended up deciding just to query for an agent instead. I think it was a good decision, but I'll never know what might have happened. (I did get an agent, but never did sell that first book.)

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I like the sound of "Dauntless'! I think a lot of us have had that fantasy of living at Hogwarts...