View Full Version : Book Deal, No Agent

07-04-2008, 12:38 PM
I just got offered a book deal, a nifty advance and everything! However, I do not have an agent. While I totally trust the publisher, I can't help thinking I should hurry (before the editor-in-chief gets back from vacation) and try and find an agent. Or not? It seems kind of rude to me for some reason--am I insane?

How does it work when you do it backwards (book deal first, no agent)?

07-04-2008, 01:57 PM
I can't help you with your question - I don't have an agent for my books. But very well done on getting a publisher.

07-04-2008, 02:40 PM
Thank you Mumut! Ah-ha, but you show me it can be done. I always assumed everyone had the agent first or went and nabbed one after they got an interested publisher. For some reason I had the impression that going in without an agent was the wrong thing to do.

While I don't personally mind dealing with the publisher by myself, I keep thinking that I do have a list of dream agents in my head and this might be a great opportunity.

Old Hack
07-04-2008, 02:51 PM
In my experience, you'll get a better deal if an agent negotiates it for you than if you do it yourself. I've been an editor AND a writer, and have seen the thing from both sides. It depends: what sort of book is this? Who is the publisher? What have they offered you?

If you do go through this yourself get a copy of Jenna Glatzer's "The Street-Smart Writer" as there's an excellent section in it about contract negotiation; and read agent Kristin Nelson's blog (Pub Rants: don't have a link to hand but there's one on my blog, which you can find beneath this message), as I'm sure she's discussed this in some depth.

07-04-2008, 03:01 PM
Old Hack (love your name), thanks so much for the reply. I do know of Pub Rants. I will check there and read through her blogs. And yes, I will order Jenna's book too. I heard that Negotiating a Book Contract by Nevine is supposed to be good. I ordered it from Amazon but they don't deliver to Japan so I'm having my parents send me. It all feels like a race with time.

07-04-2008, 03:03 PM
I just got offered a book deal, a nifty advance and everything! However, I do not have an agent. While I totally trust the publisher, I can't help thinking I should hurry (before the editor-in-chief gets back from vacation) and try and find an agent. Or not? It seems kind of rude to me for some reason--am I insane?

How does it work when you do it backwards (book deal first, no agent)?

Depends on how much you know about reading a royalties sheet, foreign rights, taxes in multiple territories etc.
Feel confident about all this? Then maybe you don't need an agent

07-04-2008, 03:09 PM
It isn't a race with time. TAKE YOUR TIME, please. If you don't have a legal background, you need someone with experience to look over the contract for you.

Are we talking about a traditional publisher? E-publisher? That's going to make a lot of difference when you're talking contracts. Check the Backgrounds and Bewares section of the forum--and also Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware! I think you can get Jenna's book for free download--I remember seeing something about that earlier this week on the subboards here.

Whatever you do, do NOT rush to sign anything. It is sometimes easier to land an agent with the backwards approach "Hi; I've already been offered a contract and I need an agent to negotiate the deal." It's time to check your options as far as representation goes.

Just inform the publisher that you're finding someone familiar with intellectual property law to look over the contract. If they're legit, they'll wait.

07-04-2008, 03:09 PM
Don't feel confident at all....

Thanks Waylander!!

07-04-2008, 03:15 PM
Mscelina, a traditonal publisher with a strong track record. Did tons of creative googling and found nothing but wonderful things written about the publisher and the people in charge (I can PM you the name. I'm still a little nervous about saying it outloud when nothing's been signed...like it all might disappear. I may be entirely too superstitious).

But yes, I think I need to slow down and take a breath. You hit the nail on the head.

I will definitely check out the download of Jenna's book! Thank you!

07-04-2008, 03:18 PM
Thank you Mumut! Ah-ha, but you show me it can be done. I always assumed everyone had the agent first or went and nabbed one after they got an interested publisher. For some reason I had the impression that going in without an agent was the wrong thing to do.

In Australia it is harder to get an agent than to get a book published. When I started I didn't dream of looking for one overseas. I sent my work to a big publisher and six months later received a rejection slip. My second big publisher also insisted in being the only one to have my submission at that time. He took six months also. By this time I thought I'd be published posthumously if I kept doing this, so I looked at smaller publishers and landed one first time. I now have a second publisher in Canada.

The only problem is that a smaller publisher doesn't have the clout to get the book into all the big book shops - not for a first-time author, anyway. But I've enjoyed book signings, talking at schools, service clubs, on radio - in fact anywhere I can get an invitation. I've been recognised in some stores by total strangers. The only problem is making sure the store has wide doors - really increases the size of the cranium for a while!

So I wish you seriously good marketing with your book.

07-04-2008, 03:19 PM
Then I'd say that you definitely need to find an agent ASAP. If a traditional publisher has offered you a contract, you're going to need someone to parse through the legalese and get you the best offer possible under the circumstances in terms that you can understand.

Seriously. Hop to it.

07-04-2008, 03:25 PM
Hop to it...bwa ha ha...that was hilarious...the bunny and all.

I spent most of today writing up my query and going back over those dream agents to see what they want exactly and if I am that person that they want...exactly. Now, how many is it cool to send too at once? One? Five? More?

07-04-2008, 04:21 PM
I'd say at least get a lawyer to look at your contract. I've heard that you need to be protected against publishers doing screwy legal things, so I guess they are not totally honest if that is the trend.

07-04-2008, 04:24 PM
A lawyer, unless he/she has experience with IP laws, will not be helpful with a book contract. IP laws are veeeeeeeeeeery different from regular contract law. Only an agent or an IP attorney are qualified to break down a publishing contract.

Claudia Gray
07-04-2008, 04:32 PM
Get an agent, get an agent, get an agent. A friend of mine was offered a very nice deal, multibook, with a legitimate publisher before she was agented, and she happily signed on the dotted line -- for a smaller royalty percentage than standard, and on a contract that gave away all rights save copyright. The publisher didn't cheat her, but they maximized their own profits; this is natural. You should be at least as able to stand up for your rights as the publisher is able to stand up for theirs. Please do NOT think of getting an agent as demonstrating any lack of trust -- this is business standard, and any legitimate publisher is going to understand that.

Besides, trust me, it will never be easier for you to get an agent than it is right now. You've got a deal right there -- find somebody who's right for you, contact them about the deal, and you are very likely to sign someone up within days. This will help you out down the line.

James D. Macdonald
07-04-2008, 04:36 PM
This is a common way for things to go.

Okay, what you do: First, don't accept the offer. Say, "Gee, thanks! I'll have my agent get back with you!"

Then call the #1 agent on your wish list on the phone. Tell him/her that you have an offer and you'd like him/her to represent you.

There's an outside chance that agent won't be able to take you on. That same afternoon, call agent #2 on your wish list.

I'm betting you'll never get to agent #3.

All publishing contracts favor the publisher. Agents know where the landmines are buried. And you'll want an agent for the subrights, reversions, and other stuff down the road.

07-04-2008, 04:47 PM
The couple of published friends I have don't have agents. They have done quite well for themselves but if an agent makes you feel better or safer, or if you are dealing with a larger publisher then go right ahead. Congrats on your offer :0)

07-04-2008, 05:45 PM

First, congrats! Excellent news. Enjoy the rush.
Now. Take off your writer's hat. Put down the dreams. Business is business. I totally agree with Claudia and James.

Little story: I once spotted an oil painting I wanted at a garage sale. The frame was chipped and there were spider eggs clustered in the corner. The marked asking price was $25. I stood there for a long while, considering the purchase. The homeowner saw me contemplating things, so approached me and offered to lower the price to $20. I smiled and said I'd think about it. I moved on to the lamps and the china table. The homeowner, seeing her chance at a sale evaporating, approached me again and offered to throw in the teapot I was holding. Painting and teapot, $20. Deal, I said.

That seller was happy as a clam. I was happy as a clam. She'd sold the painting! Yay! She pocketed the twenty. She'd made a nifty deal. And no doubt she congratulated herself on her savvy in recognizing a hot buyer and not letting the sale slip away.
She'd interpreted my hesitation as reluctance. In fact, I was wrestling with my conscience. This woman didn't know what she had. I did.

All you know is that you have a willing buyer in hand. How much do you really know about what you're selling? I mean, its potential in the market?

The value of an agent is her knowledge. Cchances are, she'll pay for herself in about eleven seconds, both with larger advance and better terms. That's what happened for my first book. The good offer got better in a blink of an eye. And the publisher wasn't the least bit put out about it. Agents are advocates and ombudsmen for their authors as well. It's not just about up-front money.

Oh, and my painting? It's been appraised at $5,000.

07-04-2008, 06:32 PM
Madderblue, I was in the same situation. Here's what I did: I asked my editor if he knew any good, reputable agents I could talk to. He cheerfully responded with one name, a guy he enjoyed an excellent working relationship with and who had an impressive background in the editorial side of publishing. It was perfect. The agent actually threw away the original deal and negotiated a higher advance ;)

Ask your editor.



Soccer Mom
07-04-2008, 06:38 PM
I agree with Memnon. No need to feel sneaky or disloyal about it. Simply tell the EIC that you are very pleased they've accepted you book and are seeking an agent to represent you in the negotiations for this book and the many future books you have planned. It's business. No big name publisher is going to mind that at all.

(and congrats BTW)

07-05-2008, 12:43 AM
You have all the chips in your lap. How great is that?

A great traditional publisher who loves your work and wants to sign you. The offer of a significant advance. Beside my belief that you absolutely need an agent, you've never been in a better position to get one (a good one) than you are at this very moment. You're bringing everything to the table for the agent. The agent can only improve upon what has been offered you, and will help you in countless other ways.

I'd suggest you make a list of your top 10 agencies. Prepare a letter and tell them exactly what's going on and that you need to know within two weeks (or so) if they are interested and want to discuss representing you, starting with your "bird in the hand." I would also tell each that yours is a simultaneous submission since you are working with a very tight time frame.

All the best.

07-05-2008, 01:06 AM
I think you should phone them. There is no need for the regular letter exchange. Just do what Uncle Jim says. Get their phone numbers, and start dialling. Good luck. Aim high.

07-05-2008, 01:47 AM
Good morning! I was thinking about this thread all night. Hence, I woke up before six o'clock on a Saturday and ran downstairs. Thanks to everyone for commenting. And sorry the thread had to be moved, debated this one...

I love the idea that this is the ripest time for me to get an agent. It truly feels that way. I mean, say I did sell it on my own and THEN go back to find one after the fact? It just wouldn't be the same. I feel like Cinderella right now.

Memnon, I never every thought of asking the publisher. Brilliant idea!

KCH, I loved the picture story. A good deal really is when all sides think they are getting something. And having knowledge on your side is always an advantage.

James, I also never considered calling. A little math with time differences and it's a go! If any one of my top three said yes I'd faint dead away...drop the phone...oh, the phone bill...!

Thanks again, this is exactly what I needed to hear.


07-06-2008, 01:04 PM
Just an update. My number one pick e-mailed me hours of my initial query and said to send everything for him to look at. It was the fourth of July still and his (and everyone's) auto response said he'd (they'd) be out of the office until Monday. I thought that was mighty sweet of him.

In Japanese there is an onomatopoeia "doki doki" it's the sound of one's heart beating excitedly...nervously... I am so "doki doki", man.

07-06-2008, 08:47 PM
Good luck, Madder, and congratulations. Everyone's advice is sound. I hope the agent you contacted will do wonderful things for you.

07-07-2008, 01:37 AM
Thanks! Today I'm going to get out of the house and visit a coffee shop, have lunch with friends. This checking my e-mail every two minutes is wearing me out! ;)

07-07-2008, 07:02 PM
Madder, congratulations! What wonderful news. Reading this thread was a bit like reading a novel and waiting "doki doki" for the ending.

Fantastic news. Continued success! :D

07-08-2008, 01:23 AM
Alas, my number one passed. But he was very kind and recomended someone else at Writers House. In retrospect, he is correct. She is a better fit. Now, I must shoot off a query to her. My "doki doki" is still going strong.

:e2heartbeThis can't be good for the heart.

Soccer Mom
07-08-2008, 01:24 AM
Oooh, a Writer's House recommendation. Good going. Now go snag that agent!

07-08-2008, 05:47 AM
Don't have a heart attack just when things are going so well! You're still in the driver's seat.

Everything happens for a reason and it was good of the first agent to recognize someone else would be a better fit and recommend them.

Whoo hoo!

07-08-2008, 06:03 AM
Thank you, Soccer Mom!

Bluestone, yea, I've calmed down somewhat and have spent some long hours researching agents from other places as well. There really are loads of great people out there. But I also see how no matter how good an agent is a great fit is most important. You really want someone who is going to love you as much as you love them...so to speak. I'm sure the 'marriage' analgy has been made before....