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Thread: Agents charging Fees

  1. #51
    HConn
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    Re: close out savings

    Yesterday I sent an email to the Absolute Write folks that suggested they create a read-only FAQ forum where informative threads could be archived. That way, as each new person turns up asking questions/making claims they won't have to be answered or refuted all over again. Folks here could just say "Check the FAQ."

    I nominate this thread for the first slot in that forum. Hapi's posts are worth saving and sharing with everyone that ventures here.

  2. #52
    HapiSofi
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    Re: Dang it--

    Hi, Newsflash. Bored now.

  3. #53
    James D Macdonald
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    Re: close out savings

    Okay, "Newsflash," you're on.

    Saturday, March 20th 2004, 2:30 pm. In the bar at the Rye Town Hilton (Rye Brook, NY). That's the bar closest to the indoor pool.

    I look like I do in the picture at the left; to make it easy for you I'll even wear the same jacket.

    If your bona fides check out I might even introduce you to some publishing people.

    I wonder what excuse you'll have for not showing up?

  4. #54
    newsflash
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    Ward steps in...

    Hi Mr. McDonald,

    I take it the Beav, er, I mean, Hapi, has got chores to do this weekend. I'm glad.
    He really needs that.

    Just kidding. Actually, sure, I'm game.

    But hey now, it's my invite - I said I'd spring for the suds therefore, I think, protocal has it I gets to call the watering hole. So what are you, on the New Haven Line? What say we meet up at GCT? Or nearabouts? Ever been to Rudy's? Me, I like old man geezer bars. Pickled eggs, whores with bellies and bud on tap. You should be prepared though, you might actually like me. Anyway, weekdays are generally better for me.

    But I ain't going to post my email address so how do we firm this up?

    btw, are the comic book writer?

    newsie

  5. #55
    James D Macdonald
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    Re: Ward steps in...

    I told you where to be, "Newsflash." See you there.

    Bring picture ID, a manuscript you've worked on, and a couple of your reader's reports.

  6. #56
    James D Macdonald
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    Re: Ward steps in...

    Well! Guess who was a no-show?

    Big surprise there....

  7. #57
    HapiSofi
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    Re: Ward steps in...

    Gad! I'm shocked!

    I suspect that Newsflash/Richard Fletcher either lives in Florida with his moll the real-estate agent, or in Southern California. But really, he could be anywhere. What we know for sure is that in spite of his offer, he didn't turn up this weekend to have a drink with Jim Macdonald.

  8. #58
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Fee-charging Agents

    And with that Newsie vanished, never to be seen again.

    I don't know who he really was and don't suppose I ever will. Paul Anderson? Robert Fletcher? Janet Kay? Someone else?

    Since then I've visited the spot where Fletcher's agency supposedly has its New York offices, only to find that they aren't located in that building. What is in that building is a mail-forwarding service.

    Oh, well. Newsie, if you're out there, the offer's still open. Let me know how to get in touch with you and I'll buy you a beer in New York City.

    For everyone else: Real agents (the kind who make sales to real publishers) don't charge up-front fees. Not for reading, not for critiques, not for editing. Agents make their money off commissions on works they've sold.

    Honest information about agents and publishers

  9. #59
    I heart Malamutes! :-) JerseyGirl1962's Avatar
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    What a great thread

    HapiSofi's reply to that newsflash person really opened my eyes as to what goes on in the publishing business.

    As I have a character in my current WIP working at a publshing house (albeit many decades ago), I'm going to rethink a few things. Not that I have that particular character raking in the dough (far from it), but I'm going to take a few things from that in-depth reply and possibly rework parts of the story that are located at that house.

    I'm glad this thread was brought back to the top! This should be required reading for all of us who are either still plugging away at our first novel or who are beginning to shop it around. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

    ~Nancy

  10. #60
    Watching Tiaga's Avatar
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    Wow! Kudos to our senior board members. What a remarkable exchange. This thread should be required reading by all. Thanks to Hapi, James, Victoria, Shawn and Ann.
    6' 6" from nose to tail, 183 lbs, 0 to 30 mph in 3 seconds...it's your move!

  11. #61
    practical experience, FTW Dhewco's Avatar
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    I would have killed for a chance to sit with UJ...I don't drink but I would've bought him one. Maybe when I sell this silly ms, I can take a trip to NY. Heh, ah, but to dream.


    David

  12. #62
    banned as an incurable tosspot
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    Awesome

    Quote Originally Posted by Dhewco
    I would have killed for a chance to sit with UJ...I don't drink but I would've bought him one. Maybe when I sell this silly ms, I can take a trip to NY. Heh, ah, but to dream.


    David
    Wow, this is an amazing thread. Maybe we need an amazing thread area.

  13. #63
    1.0
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    An interesting exchange. Here is my two pennies, then.

    First post virgin peeps, so bear with me.

    Firstly, a little about me. I'm currently an unpublished writer. I started writing when I was 24 and finished my first novel when I was 25. It took me a lot of effort and a lot of planning, but it was worth it. I had moved to a foreign country to take advantage of the writer's tax advantages there, had slaved away over a cheap-a$$ laptop that my parents had bought me for approximately $100, and spent the best part of nine months writing. And writing. And writing. My girlfriend at the time (now wife, thankfully) said: "the only thing I get to ever see of you is your back". It was a camera angle I had never thought existed. It certainly made me think, but it never made me stop my single-mindedness.

    I moved to London, once the book was finished, intent on getting it published and "making it". I quit my job in the Auld Country, said farewell to my new-found friends, then headed to London. I had 246 quid in my pocket; the remainder I had spent on taking my mother around the country in a small Volkswagen Polo. Since she had let the place of her birth approximately 30 years earlier - and had never been back - I figured it was the least I could do. So, with my 246 quid, I moved into my aunt's house in London, and, amongst the seven cats and smell of cat's piss, started to mail literary agents.

    I spent a lot of time choosing the right stationery. I spent a lot of time choosing (what I thought) was the right literary agent. And finally, on a rainy day in London, I went to the post office and mailed my magnum opus, registered post.

    I never received a response. Three weeks later and feeling disheartened, I tried again. This time, I had more luck. At least this time I got something back for my efforts, albeit a rejection letter. It was short, succinct; to the point. I checked the manuscript - looked closely at the stamp hinges I had glued on various pages. None of them had been touched. The book, it appeared, had never been read. Thoroughly rejected, I sat down with my book and began to read. Critically. Carefully. I didn't have much money left and no money means no time. I only had one last attempt at this before I would have to start working again, so I had to make it good.

    I spent my last remaining pounds on a huge, fifty pound bag of rice and a catering size tin of powdered chicken soup. Once my supplies were in, I settled down and began to wield the literary version of a battle-axe. In four weeks, I shaved 70,000 words off a 250,000 page book. The end result was a much tighter and better manuscript, and I was pleased. I couldn't stand the sight (or smell) of chicken soup of course, but the book was better. Much better.

    I re-submitted it, this time to a very well known literary / talent agency in London. The agency was one of the biggest, so grandiose were my plans (or ego - you pick). Unbelievably, I even got a chance to meet Kate Winslet in the office (fresh out of her Titanic days, which was a huge - yet secret - thrill). Yes indeedy, there were signs of stardom everywhere, even from the literary agent who appeared to be promising great things. As he said, as he shuffled the papers of *my* book, he had "loads of publishers lined up" saying "this is really a great book".

    After that meeting, I almost floated home. About a week later, the floating stopped. No word from the agent. I held on. Another week went past. No word. And another week. And another. Eventually I rang *him* (something I had been strictly told *not* to do by his assistant) and was told he now had "no further interest in my book". When I asked why, he stated "because I can't bond with it". With images of superglue in my mind to *make* him bond with it, I slowly put the phone down then, right there and then, refused to ever write again.

    Sadly around four years later (two years ago) I broke my promise and wrote another book. I had tried to avoid writing as much as possible. I had become a drunk (not *officially* - I never joined the AA or ever got accused of being an alcoholic), but when you're drinking eight pints a night with mates, one cannot be called a model of sobriety. I travelled extensively. I switched jobs numerous times. I got into fights. I did "interesting" things. And throughout every one of them, the little imp - the same imp that had been created as a result of a scuba diving accident all those years ago - sat on my shoulder saying "you should be writing, you should be writing, you should...". Sadly, even to this day he still does the same thing.

    Nowadays, I sit at a crossroads. I am 34 years old. I am a reasonably successful IT Project Manager. I earn a lot of money. And yet, the laugh of it is - I hate IT. I hate my moral position, which I currently equate to that of a corporate prostitute. I hate automation. I hate technology, even though it fascinates me. I like quills and parchment. I like horses and candlelight. I am a romantic stuck in an increasingly technological world.

    And now, to the crux of the matter: would *I* pay for a literary agent to read my book?

    If I could go back in time and rest in my twenty-five year old's body for a moment to consider the question, the answer would be an emphatic "yes". I *would* pay for consideration by an agent. And agent, like anyone else, has to turn a coin. If he can turn a coin easier - and thus have more chance to pick up a winning novel - by charging fees, then by all means. When I was twenty-five, I would have done anything - *anything* to have been published. A fee would have been the last of my worries (after all, I had my rice and my chicken soup!).

    Nowadays, I am slightly more jaded and perhaps more cynical. Having owned three businesses, I know how the system works. I know that, for their fee, I would have to be assured that the agent was actually *doing* something and not just taking me for a ride. However, if I knew they were, I would gladly pay. I would have then, and I would continue to do so, now. After all, I am a corporate prostitute. I have seen commercial schemes that would make a footpad blush with shame. Agents charging money to read submissions? Small change. Distributors making 40% / Booksellers making 50% / authors making 4%? Now *that's* a crime worth discussing.

    I don't know if this answers anyone's question, but it may give a different perspective on things. Those agents that take money to read may - or may not - be charlatans. However, I think pre-judging them on this fact alone is a little foolhardy. Like any business venture, the only advice I have is: do a little research. Are you getting value for money? If the answer is yes, go for it. The investment might reap dividends. If not, look elsewhere; you may just save your cash. Whatever your decision might be, fortune favours the bold.

    Best to all,

    1.0

  14. #64
    I write novels
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1.0 View Post
    Those agents that take money to read may - or may not - be charlatans. However, I think pre-judging them on this fact alone is a little foolhardy. Like any business venture, the only advice I have is: do a little research. Are you getting value for money? If the answer is yes, go for it. The investment might reap dividends. If not, look elsewhere; you may just save your cash. Whatever your decision might be, fortune favours the bold.
    Welcome to AW. You might want to read more of this thread and others in the Bewares and Background Checks forum to see why writers should avoid fee-charging agents. (Short version: professional agents do not charge fees, they earn a commission on sales made.)

    And I would venture to say that fortune, in publishing, favors the persistent writer who learns the craft and the business.

  15. #65
    practical experience, FTW LloydBrown's Avatar
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    1.0, your post made for some entertaining reading. I imagine that, with a little polish and a little better understanding of how the publishing industry works (it doesn't work with 250,000-word behemoths from first-time novelists, for example), you'd have made it if you had kept trying. You gave up too easily. Two rounds of rejections is nothing. Publishers reject books for a litany of reasons, only one of which is "Your book's not good enough for me."
    Lloyd Brown
    www.lloydwrites.com


  16. #66
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    What you don't mention is whether you are interacting with other writers, swapping critiques and improving each other's writing. If you are not doing this then I strongly urge you to seek out a writing group suitable for your genre. If you are in London still then there will be plenty of groups

  17. #67
    I heart Malamutes! :-) JerseyGirl1962's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waylander View Post
    What you don't mention is whether you are interacting with other writers, swapping critiques and improving each other's writing. If you are not doing this then I strongly urge you to seek out a writing group suitable for your genre. If you are in London still then there will be plenty of groups
    Or 1.0 can try one of the online crit groups.
    Screw the new blog, I've resurrected my old blog: Writerly Stuff.

    I twit, therefore I am?

    Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison

    It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~Robert Benchley

  18. #68
    I heart Malamutes! :-) JerseyGirl1962's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1.0 View Post
    After that meeting, I almost floated home. About a week later, the floating stopped. No word from the agent. I held on. Another week went past. No word. And another week. And another. Eventually I rang *him* (something I had been strictly told *not* to do by his assistant) and was told he now had "no further interest in my book". When I asked why, he stated "because I can't bond with it". With images of superglue in my mind to *make* him bond with it, I slowly put the phone down then, right there and then, refused to ever write again.
    As you unfortunately found out, waiting on one agent takes way too long; you could grow gray hairs by waiting on one agent. Best thing is to send out a bunch of queries at a time, say 5 one week, 5 the next. That is, after culling your agent list down to only those that rep your genre.

    Quote Originally Posted by 1.0 View Post
    Nowadays, I sit at a crossroads. I am 34 years old. I am a reasonably successful IT Project Manager. I earn a lot of money. And yet, the laugh of it is - I hate IT. I hate my moral position, which I currently equate to that of a corporate prostitute. I hate automation. I hate technology, even though it fascinates me. I like quills and parchment. I like horses and candlelight. I am a romantic stuck in an increasingly technological world.
    You sound like my husband.

    Quote Originally Posted by 1.0 View Post
    If I could go back in time and rest in my twenty-five year old's body for a moment to consider the question, the answer would be an emphatic "yes". I *would* pay for consideration by an agent. And agent, like anyone else, has to turn a coin. If he can turn a coin easier - and thus have more chance to pick up a winning novel - by charging fees, then by all means. When I was twenty-five, I would have done anything - *anything* to have been published. A fee would have been the last of my worries (after all, I had my rice and my chicken soup!).
    Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. As someone else suggested, go through the other threads here in the Bewares section. Time after time, those fee-charging agents will take your money...and do nothing. Oh, some might send stuff out to publishers, but it'll be the wrong publishers.

    These scam agents already have your money, so where's the incentive for them to send stuff out at all? That's how they perpetuate their scams, that's how they stay business, year after year.

    Don't get taken. Take the time to go through the threads. Educate yourself before you lose your money, before you lose a significant chunk of your life to such charlatans. If all you want to do is see your book bound so you can hand it to your wife and friends, then do it on the cheap: Go to Lulu.com and set it up there.

    But if you'd like to see your story commercially published, take the time to get better, to have fresh eyes look over your ms., the whole nine yards. It might take a while, but you can go through threads here and see that there are plenty of first timers who've been published. (Of course, even the best sellers were once first timers.)

    Please, please, please rethink your position on this. Don't throw your money away.

    Oh, and . I hope you enjoy your stay here.

    ~Nancy
    Screw the new blog, I've resurrected my old blog: Writerly Stuff.

    I twit, therefore I am?

    Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison

    It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~Robert Benchley

  19. #69
    Absolutely Fazed
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    Welcome to AW, 1.0. I hope you stick around, because you will find a lot to learn about how publishing works. Did I read you correctly that you gave up after two rejections? Just two? Not two hundred, but two? Go read the Rejections and Dejections threads. See the people who have gotten six in one day.

    As for paying agents to read your stuff: why should they? Read it, that is. They already have your money. They can cash the check and then give you vague, yet promising compliments about what a terrific book you wrote and how they're sure to make it a bestseller. I can do that for you, and I won't even charge you.

  20. #70
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1.0 View Post
    I spent a lot of time choosing the right stationery. I spent a lot of time choosing (what I thought) was the right literary agent. And finally, on a rainy day in London, I went to the post office and mailed my magnum opus, registered post.

    I never received a response. Three weeks later and feeling disheartened, I tried again. This time, I had more luck. At least this time I got something back for my efforts, albeit a rejection letter. It was short, succinct; to the point. I checked the manuscript - looked closely at the stamp hinges I had glued on various pages. None of them had been touched. The book, it appeared, had never been read.
    The reason, I suspect, is that you sent the full manuscript without contacting the agent first. Agents generally want to look at a smaller sample of your work first, in order to evaluate whether it's worth their time to ask for more. If you send the whole ms. without an invitation to do so, it's pretty much an automatic reject.

    - Victoria

  21. #71
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    One reason why it's bad for writers to pay reading fees is that the number of so-called "literary agents" would multiply ten-fold almost overnight if it wasn't against AAR rules and discouraged by all of the watchdog sites. Then think about how difficult it would be finding a "real" literary agent in that kind of mess. The scams would be creating false publishing companies so they could claim they'd sold books that hadn't actually been sold. Okay, so there's already some of that going on, but it would be much worse. In fact, even some of the legitimate companies would find it difficult to resist easy money for reading just a page of each submitted manuscript.

    Reading fees are bad for writers. Writers are responsible for creating the product that agents sell and make a commission upon. Writers are responsible for creating the product that publishers sell to readers. Reading is how agents and publishers determine what products they want to resell. They are your customers and your manuscript is your catalog. In other industries, businesses don't pay customers to read their catalogues, so why should you pay a reading fee for someone to read yours?

  22. #72
    1.0
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    Just stopped by...

    ...and couldn't resist a post. This is how addictions start.

    Despite being conversant in IT, I still haven't figured out how to use the forums properly. In other words, I haven't figured out how to paraphrase correctly. I *could* learn, but the dinner is burning and the cat is fighting outside. So, I'll try and round-up what answers I can and answer in turn. Old-tech, but then you already know I'm a neo-luddite, right?

    Okay, starting from the top:

    Read some other threads and ensure you're not swimming with sharks: good advice, and I may do. However, I'm not to bad on detecting horse sh*te when it's being shovelled and I tend to think: "if they're going to screw me, I'll know it". That said, if I bother trying to sell my stuff like I did before, I'll do my homework. Promise.

    250,000 words and the first time novelist:
    Sure, but a good book is a good book, right? It shouldn't matter if it's 250,000 words or 25,000....
    Sadly, that's how I *used* to think until I found about the horrible (and deadly boring) world of accountancy (apologies to anyone crafted in that particular...(black?) "art", btw). Thankfully, a wee bit of sense managed to penetrate my early years of writing and I shaved the first book down to 170,000 words. Still it seems sad that a book that *is* 250,000 words has to be considered more unsaleable than a mere 120,000 worder. A good thing there weren't any publishers around when the bible was written, then...(and thanks for the compliment Lloyd - much appreciated).

    Birds of a feather flock together...:
    I'm not mingling with other writers, nor, to be honest, do I feel like I....should. This sounds egotistical, and that's the last way it's meant to be portrayed. Instead, I think it's closely linked to how my siblings and I were brought up: "Do it on your own, or don't do it at all". I like listening to other people and I love helping others. It's partly what makes me tick. But help...*me*? I don't know. I really don't. It almost seems like...well, cheating. (I know this sounds highly illogical, but I can't find any other way to put it. It's almost like there's a reset button being pushed whenever I think of the idea. I think, if I'm honest, that when you're the son of immigrant, working-class parents, it's almost programmed into you: no-one owes you anything, sunshine. So get out there and do it yourself). Lastly, on this subject: where I live today, literary culture takes a large backseat to sport. Yeah, I know. It's awful.

    Try online crit groups...if you've got the bollix for it:
    Thanks, JerseyGirl. I almost feel stupid on some of these answers. It would never occur to try them. I still find it hard to believe that total strangers would actually act neutrally about one of my efforts and not tear it to shreds like it probably deserves. But I'll have a look. Promise.

    Use the shotgun approach when it comes to mailing your stuff to agents:
    If I ever send my first two - and any other books I write - out for publishing, I will. I obviously received some bad advice years ago (waaaay back in '98 from a British agent that specialised in non-fiction, bizarrely enough): "don't send your book to more than one agent at a time. It's poor manners." I think I took this to heart at the time and sadly, there wasn't really a Net as full of information about cracking it as a writer as there obviously is now. Just empty, rain sodden streets of London and the warm, exotic receptions of the big publishing houses that one was never invited into to. However, again, good advice. Cheers!

    You sound like my other half...:

    Gawd. Poor you.

    Take your time, learn the ropes, don't throw yer money away...:

    Again, good advice. However, you know what? I like writing *books*. No disrespect meant, but it seems to be an awfully sh*tty time when to even get recognised for what you've written, you've got to become a:

    - Salesman (or "Salesperson" if you prefer non-gender specific references)
    - Editor (who's going to buy your book if it isn't at least coherent?)
    - Webmaster (yeah, I know - get someone else to build it. But people do that and their site invariably ends up looking like something Pablo Picasso would whip up on LSD; i.e. something ugly. With web design, unless you pay someone decent, you don't get the results).
    - PR ('nuff said)

    Earn enough of those badges and you start to move away from writing. In fact, earn enough of those trades and yeah, suddenly you'll be more marketable at your day job (look at me, I'm an unqualified consultant!), but your writing will suffer. Why? Because you'll have become a market trader, not a writer. I know there's little I can do about this situation, but I just find it a miserable place for writers today to find themselves in. "Being able to write ain't enough, pal; you'd better get with the program and figure out how to sell that baby or you'll spend the rest of your life living in a tenement block! Mwahaha!". A sad situation, folks.

    Contact the agent first, bugsy, goddit?:
    ...and I did. And they asked for the full manuscript. And then I had fun receiving it back with stamp hinges intact. I had even more fun burning the rejection letter, though.

    Agents - real or otherwise- multiply when you add money AND if you pay an agent, why should they work any harder?:
    Yes, I agree: if agents started charging again, they'd multiply like fleas. Every Tom, Dick or Harry would be jumping on the bandwagon; it'd be the new real estate boom. However, I still have my position, as untenable as it may appear: if a professional agent charged me a reading fee for a fast and professional acceptance or rejection, I would pay it.
    I would, too. If I could have back in '98, I definitely would have. It might have made me stop grinding my teeth at having to become a corporate prostitute in the wonderful world of IT. Sure, I might have been slightly poorer, but at least I would have *known*. As it was, I got a response from the first agent I sent my book to (but they didn't read the book), the second agent went a whole lot further but ended up not biting (or should I say "not bonding"), and the third agent I sent my second book to was as communicative as the Sphinx (in other words, I never got a response).

    As for whether or not an agent would have any reason to work hard after they take your reading fee, of course they would. Anyone who cared about their craft, would. Apart from the financial incentive to work harder for extra commission, there would also be the professional pride in helping a writer to become a master of their craft. And that, my friends, is what we *really* play for. Plasma televisions and bigger cars have their allure, but nothing is as attractive as accomplishment. The same rule applies for a teacher watching a pupil accomplish their first sums as it does to a writer finishing the last sentence of a great book.

    I suppose my final position would be this: you pay a plumber or a tradesman (tradesperson) to come out to to your home when you have a problem. Even if they find that yes, your cistern *is* perfectly functional, Mr 1.0, they'll still charge you a call-out fee. Like a plumber or a sparky, agents have to rent premises, too. They also have utility bills to pay, as well as heating and telephone bills. Of course there's a few thousand shysters out there willing to take coin for doing nothing. But there's always going to be those types of individuals. Always have and always will. So, if we take the tradesperson analogy, why should writing be any different (and if you're thinking that I'm equating writing with shovelling faeces, then...lol. Yeah. I'm not *really*)?

    Again, apologies for the long diatribe. A fascinating subject and I look forward to defending my position a little more concisely next time.

    Slan go foill,

    1.0

  23. #73
    practical experience, FTW Tilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1.0 View Post

    I suppose my final position would be this: you pay a plumber or a tradesman (tradesperson) to come out to to your home when you have a problem. Even if they find that yes, your cistern *is* perfectly functional, Mr 1.0, they'll still charge you a call-out fee. Like a plumber or a sparky, agents have to rent premises, too. They also have utility bills to pay, as well as heating and telephone bills. Of course there's a few thousand shysters out there willing to take coin for doing nothing. But there's always going to be those types of individuals. Always have and always will. So, if we take the tradesperson analogy, why should writing be any different (and if you're thinking that I'm equating writing with shovelling faeces, then...lol. Yeah. I'm not *really*)?
    I can see your logic, but that's how successful agents work. They make their money by selling books to publishers. They don't need to charge writers. The agents who need to charge writers are the ones who can't sell books to publishers. They're not the sort of agent you want.

    These are a couple of good articles on researching and finding agents:

    http://www.sff.net/people/victoriast...entsearch.html
    http://www.sff.net/people/victoriast...ackrecord.html

  24. #74
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Thing is, there are two groups in the world of agenting:

    The people who charge fees. The people who sell books. No crossover.*.

    For the purposes of education, please read: Slushkiller and On the Getting of Agents.




    Now about that 250,000 word (or 170,000 word) book. Maybe not the best book for a first timer (though you can find examples (Jonathan Strange) where it worked). Here's why:

    There's a cost to printing, and that cost goes up with the number of pages in the book. The cost goes down with the number of copies printed. There's a price above which the readers won't pay (even for a book by an author they know and like), and there's an expected number of copies a first novel by an unknown is likely to sell. Please note that readers drive publishing. The number of copies they're willing to buy, and the prices they're willing to pay, are the limiting factors.

    The question is, can your 250,000 word book be printed in the numbers it's likely to sell, at a cost that will allow the publisher to put it in stores at a price the public will pay? Answer, generally, is no.

    A writer later in his career, with higher expected sales, can get the larger print run that will take the cost of printing low enough to allow the higher page length with a cover price that's under what Joe Reader is willing to pay.

    If a publisher can't sell a book at a profit he's not going to buy it. If a publisher isn't going to buy a book, even the best agent in the world can't sell it. More, the best agent in the world isn't even going to try. Therefore, no very long first novels.

    Your 250,000 (or 170,000) word book might make a lovely second or third novel in your career as a writer.


    (And just as a by-the-way, I didn't sell my first novel until I was 35.)

    -------------
    *Not actually 100% true: Andy Zack (for a while at least) would expedite reading your manuscript if you paid him to. He'd still reject it if he didn't like it, but he'd get to it sooner. And for years and years Scott Meredith (rest his soul) had two sides to his agency: the side that represented writers like Norman Mailer (where he didn't charge fees) and the side that charged fees (but didn't accept anyone). For your money you'd get rejected by (a nameless intern hired by an assistant to ) the same agent who represented Norman Mailer! Now that Scott has gone on to that great slushpile in the sky, scammers can no longer point to him when they charge their fees and say "We're just like Scott Meredith, one of the biggest agents in America!"

  25. #75
    ... with the High Command Dave.C.Robinson's Avatar
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    The problem is that selling books is hard work and sitting back and charging reading fees isn't. If you have bills to pay you're going to focus on whatever brings in the money or you will go out of business. So agencies that charge fees are going to be rewarded for focusing on getting fees from writers, and all the time spent doing that is time they aren't spending on selling books. Because it's a revenue stream, they'll also be less selective, which means they'll accept more clients which will mean less time spent selling each book. It's not good for writers or for publishers.

    In theory, there could be agents that do charge fees and also sell books. However, a universal fee-charging model in the industry would make those who do sell books much harder to distinguish from those who only collect fees. It's a slippery slope and given the size of the industry, the only way to handle it is with a flat out ban on charging fees.


    Grasshopper, you too can master the ancient martial art of BIC FOK. (Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard.) Find me on Kindle: Against the Eldest Flame, the first Doc Vandal adventure; Amadar, a heroic fantasy adventure; Price of Imperium, space opera with a street-level twist.

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