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Thread: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

  1. #1
    Kate Nepveu
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    Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    ... all in one handy post on Neil Gaiman's blog, which reprints a lengthy e-mail (with links) from Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

  2. #2
    aka eraser
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    Re: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    Great link Kate. It's a keeper. Thanks.

    Would you mind repeating the post on the top, stickied thread on this board? It's the one headed: "General tips..." etc. That way it won't get lost as this thread sinks.

    Thanks again.

  3. #3
    HollyB
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    Re: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    Thanks for the great link, Kate.

    I had a question about this quote:

    "If you're writing fiction, the True Secret Answer is 'get an
    offer.' If you've got an offer, you can get an agent. If you don't have an offer, you don't want the kind of agent you're likely to get."

    Does THN mean that you should skip submitting to agents if you're unpublished? Ack!

  4. #4
    maestrowork
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    Re: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    It does seem easier to get an agent when you're "published." So many authors go the independent/small publishers route first...

    It doesn't mean it's impossible for an "unpublished" author to get an agent. Only much harder (you really MUST have a book that would blow them away).

  5. #5
    HapiSofi
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    Re: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    Thanks, Kate.

  6. #6
    Kate Nepveu
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    Re: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    Notice it said "_likely_ to get."

    I know at least two currently unpublished (in novels) authors with agents. I also know that they're really talented and have already written a lot of good, albeit non-commercially-publishable, novel-length fiction.

  7. #7
    Kate Nepveu
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    Re: Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    De nada, HapiSofi. I was surprised it hadn't been posted already, actually. It seems to be making considerable rounds on LiveJournal.

  8. #8
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Exclamation Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

    You HAVE read this, haven't you?
    ICAO
    ---------
    Achievers strive for excellence. Perfectionists drive themselves to extinction. -- A Grapple A Day
    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

    II 2016: 2017:

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kate Nepveu
    Notice it said "_likely_ to get."

    I know at least two currently unpublished (in novels) authors with agents. I also know that they're really talented and have already written a lot of good, albeit non-commercially-publishable, novel-length fiction.
    Kate,

    If you don't mind telling me, what's wrong with these 2(+?) authors' novel-length fiction that it can't be published, if it's good stuff and they're talented?

    (This is my bogeyman: can such a thing as great-but-unpublishable writing exist?)

  10. #10
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    I haven't seen Kate around for a while, so I'll dare answer: The market could be saturated with the stories they've written (in which case they'd need to be GREAT writers, not just good), or not yet ready for them (there's New & Different, then there's Books That Make You Go 'Huh?').
    ICAO
    ---------
    Achievers strive for excellence. Perfectionists drive themselves to extinction. -- A Grapple A Day
    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

    II 2016: 2017:

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW janetbellinger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kate Nepveu
    ... all in one handy post on Neil Gaiman's blog, which reprints a lengthy e-mail (with links) from Teresa Nielsen Hayden.
    Thanks, Kate.
    Janet


    Originality is nothing by judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.
    Author:
    Voltaire


  12. #12
    Board Fanatic airforceauthor's Avatar
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    Good link, Kate, thanks!

  13. #13
    giving resonant directions JamieFord's Avatar
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    Bomb diggity. Thanks Kate!

    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
    , a New York Times Bestseller. Or a handy paperweight.
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  14. #14
    figuring it all out
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    I don't understand....

    In Neil Gaiman's Journal he states:
    1. If you're writing fiction, the True Secret Answer is "get an offer." If you've got an offer, you can get an agent. If you don't have an offer, you don't want the kind of agent you're likely to get.

    I'm confused - a not unusual circumstance I'll admit. Is he being cleaver, Joseph Heller style? What offer is he referring to? An offer of representation by an agent? Or, is her referring to an offer from a publisher? This answer doesn't help me get one or the other.

    (This answer also brings up the whole discussion of "If I have an offer of publication do I need an agent?" I would think thats a 'maybe, maybe not' - it sort of depends upon my personal needs, goals, situation, etc. Not germane here but a thought...)

    Bottom line, this seems like a classic non-answer answer. Clearly I'm missing something or have misread what he wrote. Can someone clearly articulate his intended argument please?
    Last edited by BaldEagle; 10-09-2011 at 08:51 PM.

  15. #15
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Because he is correct. An offer is almost always foolproof enticement to get the agent you want. While they also love books, agents are in the business to make money. A publisher's offer indicates the probability of money.

    However, Neil wrote that a few years ago, and things do change. I've seen many writers get their dream agent off a query and sample materials.

    And here's another issue: if you get an agent based solely off your publisher's offer, is that agent going have the same emotional investment in your work that you do?

    In a roundabout way, I think Neil's underlying point is that you have to turn in the best work possible, to get consideration from either a great agent or publisher. And until you reach that stage in writing, the agents you can get are not going to be the best.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaldEagle View Post
    What offer is he referring to? An offer of representation by an agent? Or, is her referring to an offer from a publisher?
    He's talking about the un-agented author who gets a contract offer from a publisher. It may seem odd to get an agent after an author is offered a contract, but agents are more adept at negotiating contracts and getting the best deal for their clients.

    Here's an example: A friend of mine called me to say that she'd been offered a contract from a good publisher, and she was screeching for an agent to interpret the contract. I contacted an agent friend of mine and put the two of them together.

    My agent friend was able to negotiate a better deal for my writer friend. Furthermore, my writer friend still has her agent and is now working on another book deal.

  17. #17
    Oh, the humanity. Giant Baby's Avatar
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    It was beautiful then.

    The OP is over 6-1/2 years old. If either Mr. Gaiman or Ms. Nielsen Hayden want to stand by their advice then, as considered in today's market, that would be an interesting conversation. But that would be unfair to ask. Absent that, I see this as advice given in a time gone by.

    (There is still a place for this in unusual circumstances with the bigs, and with some small/independent presses, yes. But I'm just covering myself here. That's not what the OP's link was referring to. It's not the norm.)
    Last edited by Giant Baby; 10-11-2011 at 06:59 AM. Reason: Um, what the hell was that extra word doing there? Corrected.
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  18. #18
    Got the hang of it, here tbrosz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by priceless1 View Post
    He's talking about the un-agented author who gets a contract offer from a publisher. It may seem odd to get an agent after an author is offered a contract, but agents are more adept at negotiating contracts and getting the best deal for their clients. ...
    Of course, there's the Catch-22 of getting an offer from a publisher when a large number of them won't look at un-agented manuscripts in the first place.

  19. #19
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Now, they don't look at unagented manuscripts. As little as five years ago, more publishers did. There are so many more queries now, that the agencies have become more of the gatekeepers than the publishers' slushpiles.

  20. #20
    figuring it all out
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    Thanks

    These last three posts make a lot of sense. Thanks folks!

  21. #21
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    The industry changes fast. That's why it's so important for newer writers to research as widely as possible, with current sources. Advice that might have been perfectly reasonable just a few years ago, could stall a writer now. Not to say they wouldn't get published, if the work is good enough. But it might take much longer.

  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW Prophetsnake's Avatar
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    So, would it be a good or bad idea to include an offer made by one of the smaller publishers in your query to an agent, or would this be more likely to get you rejected?

  23. #23
    Oh, the humanity. Giant Baby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prophetsnake View Post
    So, would it be a good or bad idea to include an offer made by one of the smaller publishers in your query to an agent, or would this be more likely to get you rejected?
    Depends. What's your definition of "small publisher"? Not big six, but Soho or Kensington level? POD? e-book only?

    I think, if you got an offer of a real advance (meaning not a PubliSHAMerica $1 advance), it MAY be worth mentioning. This is tough, though, because some houses wtih good reps don't offer advances, but do offer excellent royalties and have distribution, while others offer small advances and then nothing happens. Truth is, you have to check out each publisher individually. If they're a reputable pub who takes care of their authors, include it. If not, don't.

    Sorry not to offer more. Just remember that an agent makes 15% of what you do. If you've been offered $100 for a book upfront, with no appreciable marketing or distribution, is the agent going to be interested in that $15? Maybe, but they'd have to see a whole hell of a lot in your work to inspire faith in future money. Because so far, that money's not working out. And they've gotta keep the lights on.
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  24. #24
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    If the offer is from a legitimate publisher, I'd say include it. Be aware that if it's from an e-pub who doesn't offer advances, some agents may not touch the project anyway (advances help pay them, too!

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW Prophetsnake's Avatar
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    OK, that all makes sense. Up til now I have been holding out on these offers hoping to get a decent agent. I haven't queried all that many agents yet, maybe twenty or so, so i haven't given up.
    The sort of small ones I'm talking about are all e pub/POD.Well the ones I have been interested in, anyhow. Some are obviously crap and not worth going to for a variety of reasons, bu there are a few who have a happy bunch of authors, even if they are making less than a grand a year from their novels. You probably know the sort of crowd I mean.
    You both seem to be saying that having my book with one of those is likely to make it less attractive rather than more, unless it's exceptional.
    Point taken. Another for the "go agent if possible" side.

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