View Full Version : Who comes first?

08-27-2008, 02:17 AM
:e2shrug:OK, who comes first, the agent or editor? I can NEVER get a straight answer to this. Can someone please just say "agent" or "editor"? Please?

Stacia Kane
08-27-2008, 02:53 AM
Do you mean who you should query first?


08-27-2008, 03:07 AM
Yes, query agents first. If all the agents say no, you can still query editors. If all the editors say no, your book is dead.

08-27-2008, 03:37 AM
To expand. If you query editors first and get rejected across the board, then no agent will want to represent you because you have exhausted all options. After all, agents send your work to those same editors, and if they have already said no, what exactly is the agent supposed to do? However if you query all agents and they all reject you, then you can still go to a few editors and try your luck there. Unfortunately you won't have access to the larger houses as most only accept agent submissions, but there are excellent smaller presses out there.

The reason it gets confusing is that sometimes you will read people that say "The only way to get an agent is to already have a publisher, but you can't get a publisher unless you have an agent!" This is usually said out of frustration, or by scam companies trying to convince you it is hopeless to try the normal route and that you should use them instead.

Yes if you get an editor's interest, you can then approach an agent and say, "So I have interest will you represent me?" And maybe they will. Then again maybe they won't. This route usually happens when the author either is sick of querying agents and moves onto editors, or is writing in a very small niche and thinks it makes more sense to go directly to the editor of a small press.

And sometimes things happen in totally weird ways that have nothing to do with any of it.


If you want to get commercially published by a big house (ie Harper Collins), then yes, agent first.

Oh and btw, I know many many many first time novelists who had no connections nor no contract on the table who got agents and subsequently published. I am one of them. So it is totally possible! Remember: never give up, never surrender!

08-27-2008, 05:50 AM

(Just messing with your head)

I went the agent route.

Giant Baby
08-27-2008, 06:14 AM
What they said.

If your goal is a big house, as Toothpaste said, you need an agent. Even if you think your book is better suited to a small press, an agent is likely to know the right editor to approach and will help with contracts and negotiations.

That said, if you don't find an agent, or just don't want to anymore for whatever reason, you can submit to houses that accept unagented submissions. These are suggestions, but there are different, perfectly valid, ways to go.

08-27-2008, 07:49 AM
My goal is just to get published, but I've found lately most people talk about editors rather than agents. So thanks to all! You do not know what a load you have take off my shoulders! Agent it is!!!
:Hail: :Hail: :Hail: :Hail: :Hail: :Hail: :Hail: :Hail: :Hail:

08-27-2008, 05:45 PM
I think the reason that people continually bring up editors is that...well, when you send to an editor, you're sending your pages. So it doesn't matter how rotten your query letter is, if your pages are brilliant, you get attention. Whereas with an agent, most of the time it's the opposite - unless your query is stellar, you get nowhere.

Another writer once pointed out to me that with editors, you are fighting a slush-pile of maybe 500+ at any time. Some agents get 30,000 queries a year. So 1/500 > 1/30,000 according to those odds.

But if you sub to an editor, and the editor rejects it, that door is closed. Considering that there are only 7 or 8 or so of the 'big' houses and only certain lines accept slush, you're really limiting yourself. Whereas with agents, there are hundreds of them. And if one takes on your book, they already know what the editor is looking for (theoretically) and will get you a faster read.

So it's chicken vs egg, in the end. If you get nowhere with agents but you feel your book is strong enough, you might try to send to an editor.

Good luck!

08-27-2008, 06:30 PM
I think the reason that people continually bring up editors is that...well, when you send to an editor, you're sending your pages. So it doesn't matter how rotten your query letter is, if your pages are brilliant, you get attention.

This is not accurate. Editors will still judge your writing skills by the cover letter in many cases, and if the cover letter (which should be pretty much like the query letter, except that it says "Enclosed is..." rather than "May I send...") is bad, they won't bother to read the pages.

Another writer once pointed out to me that with editors, you are fighting a slush-pile of maybe 500+ at any time.

That may well be true of a small press, but at the big houses that accept unagented submissions (Baen, Kensington, etc.) the slush piles are huge.

And "reading the slush pile" isn't one of an editor's top ten, or top one hundred, or top thousand tasks. Whereas "reading queries" is definitely one of an agent's top ten tasks.

08-29-2008, 11:28 PM
Some people like editors because they bypass the agent and get the sale. Even if you land an agent, there's no guarantee you'll sell the book. Personally, I think unless you write picture books (which are handled differently) you're nuts not to go for an agent first. And before the pro-editors jump on me let me explain.

I got my agent last year. She loved my MS but had some suggestions on making it better. I agreed and revised. The book was tons better. That better book got me a very sweet six-figure advance and a three-book deal with a major house recently. I only got that deal beacuse I had someone who knows the biz negotiating on my behalf. The first offer I received was just for one book, with an advance that was huge to me, but nothing compared to my final deal. If I'd gone right to the editor first, I'd have jumped on that deal and been thrilled. My agent also negotiated bonuses depending on how well the book did, and what kind of rights we sold vs what we kept. Not selling away all my rights means my agent can sell the remaining rights and make more money for both of us, and I'll see my book published in mulitple languages and countries.

She earned every penny of her 15%. She's been invaluable to have throughout this process. The legal gunk alone sets my head spinning sometimes, especially when you start talking about foreign rights sales.

I think this is kinda how it works. (nothing proven, this is just my opnion here). Many editors takes unsolicited MS. When they find a book that's pretty good, but unagented, they offer a low advance and a one-book deal and if it sells, great, if not, no loss. They didn't pay much for it. Agents on the other hand, depend on their commissions to live. They need to make sure they get big advances to keep in business. So they only take books they feel are high quality. It's harder to get an agent vs an editor because agents have higher standards. This doesn't mean editors don't, but they're not as do-or-die as an agent. Editors have the leeway to take a risk on a book where an agent might not.

In a business where 90% of the books last year sold under 100 copies, having a great book an agent would be willing to take a chance on is a BIG advantage to a book that an editor is willing to take a low value risk on.

If all someone wants is to see their book published, either way works. But if your goal is to have a career, go agent.

09-26-2008, 02:17 AM
Yep, I'd love to have this as my career. Plus, I think agents are more beneficial than editors when it comes to the publishing process.

Thanks again!