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DirtySyko
05-23-2005, 05:28 PM
Since I'm new to how this works I did some research about agents, what you should and shouldn't do, and all of that good, lovely, nonsense. Anyways, I read that you should get an agent BEFORE you even begin working no your story/book/novel... Infact, it said in your query letter that you should tell your agent when you believe the book would get completed. That seems backwards to me. Shouldn't you have a MS completely done before you even go looking for an agent?

Also, does anyone have any stories about trying to get published without the help of an agent. I don't mean self publishing either, I mean a real publishing company.

And finally... When sending our query letters do you only send one at a time, and wait for the response of each agent individuality, or do I mass send them and wait for multiple agents to call me, then I send out multiple proposals, and then I pick which agent I want to represent me? I'm not exactly sure.

Jaws
05-23-2005, 06:26 PM
It depends. Really. In no particular order, at least the following factors go into the "best" order for "begin writing manuscript," "finish writing manuscript," "get agent," and "submit to appropriate publisher(s)": Whether you've had a comparable book previously published by a commercial publisher
Whether you've ever had any book previously published by a commercial publisher
Whether you have a substantial nonbook publishing record
Whether you're a celebrity
Whether you're an academic or other recognized expert in an area closely related to the book's subject matter
Whether the subject matter is time-sensitive
Whether the subject matter require extensive, subject-unique investigation (e.g., a biography)
Whether the work is fictional
Whether you, as the author, are subject to any nondisclosure agreements even perpherally related to the subject matter
And a bunch of other factors, too, like the particular state of the particular book's market.

The short answer above—"It depends"—is the only correct one. Any "guide" or "book" that tries to say differently is really talking about only a relatively small subset of the publishing industry, regardless of its sweeping rhetoric or the "authority" of the author.

maestrowork
05-23-2005, 06:40 PM
If you are writing non-fiction, you don't have to have written your ms. before you look for an agent. But you'd better have a proposal and sample chapters.

If you are writing fiction, you should have finished your ms. Most agents WILL NOT even reply if you tell them you haven't finished writing it.

Where did you hear that nonsense?

DirtySyko
05-23-2005, 08:05 PM
If you are writing non-fiction, you don't have to have written your ms. before you look for an agent. But you'd better have a proposal and sample chapters.

If you are writing fiction, you should have finished your ms. Most agents WILL NOT even reply if you tell them you haven't finished writing it.

Where did you hear that nonsense?

The article I read about it was at www.howthingswork.com

It was telling you how to get an agent and then to get things published. It first stated how you should contact agents before you've completed your book. Other than that, everything it said seemed pretty reasonable/legit. It was just that one part that threw me off.

gogoshire
05-23-2005, 08:44 PM
That link just goes to the main page. Do you have the exact URL to take us to the article you read?

victoriastrauss
05-24-2005, 06:59 PM
The article I read about it was at www.howthingswork.com (http://www.howthingswork.com)Unless you can verify the credentials of someone writing about a specialized subject (i.e., confirm that the person was qualified to write the article), you shouldn't put any trust in articles you find at sites like these.

- Victoria

FillerFight
06-30-2005, 07:35 PM
This was my question too. I have seen conflicting advice. From the thread "Quality of slush pile items":


I think a query is the best way to go, but if you don't have any other writing credits (and even if you do), you need to have at least half of the book written. There's no way I'd offer an untested writer a contract without the finished product in my hands--which is why submitting is such a Catch 22: you want to write a book about a particular subject but you don't want to spend the time and energy writing it if you can't sell it. So you write a query about it and get a good response, write the requisite several chapters and submit, and often you'll learn that there's not a big-enough market, or the idea isn't really worth an entire book, or whatever the reason.

And I submitted the first 50 pages of my first novel to an agent (through a personal contact). He didn't seem to have a problem with it.

I've also seen advice that you can't as an unpublished or no-reputation author get an agent without the whole novel written. That seems sensible from the agent's point of view. You wouldn't want to take someone on, or make promises to them on the basis of a few chapters, which could then turn in to 250 more pages of cr*p.

The problem for me is exactly what is in the above quote. I want to write, no doubt. I would do it for free forever. But I have very little idea what someone else would like to buy (publisher), buy (reader in B&N), or enjoy generally. Like most people, I think it's brilliant and that's where it stops. I've had a very good response from my writing group, I was invited to a reading series based on the first bit, and I'm fairly sure of what's good and what's not, but getting out of the throng is a different matter. "Some people I know like it" is not good enough.

So, I would like to know from a professional source who would actually be personally invested in it if they would consider my work for such an investment. I would like to know before I spend another 6 months finishing the book. If that's not possible, then I will just have to finish blind. In fact, if I didn't get an agent, I would finish it.

But if there's any chance, I would like to try to get representation (or interest from rep) with the first 100 pages or so. Again, from the agent's point of view, that's definitely not ideal. So the question is this: If you are an unpublished writer who is writing a non-genre, stylistic kind of novel, is it wise to try to get an agent based on, let's say, 100-pages-to-half of the thing?

When I say "stylistic," I mean one could conceivably read part of it and get the "full" effect because it mainly does not depend on plot resolution. It is meant to be literary. When my 10th grade English teacher told us to write about the first 5 chapters of X literary work, she did not assume we couldn't because the plot is not done. Does that make sense?

But a general answer would be appreciated as well.

Thanks

popmuze
06-30-2005, 09:02 PM
As someone who is going through this situation, I can tell you the best thing to do is finish the book. Ironically, most agents and/or editors will then only want to read about 50 pages before returning it to you. So those fifty pages have to be great. If, however, they love the first 50 and want to read the rest, they won't sign you unless you can deliver it. I would suppose, if they do love the first 50 pages, they might be willing to work with you, if the remainder of the book falls short. But not if it isn't even written.
Beyond that, considering the business of getting published in general, you could get a lot of inaccurate and/or discouraging responses to the first 50 pages. It might take a year or more just to get a consensus. It would be too easy then to give up. By writing the whole book, at least you get to experience the creative process to its completion, which is probably the most fun you'll have even if the book winds up being published.

maestrowork
06-30-2005, 09:10 PM
Well, for one thing, I hate to write under pressure and deadlines. I mean, if I submitted the first 3, then the agent said, "Oh, I love it. When can I have the rest?" I don't think I would enjoy it, even if I could do it, to have to finish the ms. in a month!

MadScientistMatt
07-02-2005, 12:08 AM
Maybe he's talking about this page. The author of HowStuffWorks has several books published. However, according to HowStuffWorks, the site's author sold his book without an agent at all. It looks like he sold it directly to an editor at Wiley.

http://people.howstuffworks.com/hsw-book1.htm

He did sell it with a querry letter before writing a manuscript, but he already had a substantial website full of content that would be used in the book. So, in one way, he was already an established expert in that he had set up a highly successful web site which closely resembled the book.

Jamesaritchie
07-02-2005, 06:01 AM
If you're writing nonfiction, there's nothing wrong with contacting an agent firts. But she will still have to see the finsihed book before she will know how good or bad it is.

If you're writing novels, you have nothin to offer an agent until the book is finished. Any agent who will sign on a first time novelist before actually reading the novel is almost certainly an agent you don't want.

victoriastrauss
07-02-2005, 06:38 AM
If you're writing novels, you have nothin to offer an agent until the book is finished. Any agent who will sign on a first time novelist before actually reading the novel is almost certainly an agent you don't want.I agree. Part of what you have to prove as a first-time novelist is not just that you can write, but that you can finish. That's tougher than a lot of people think.

Nonfiction is frequently sold on the basis of a proposal and sample chapters. It's a whole different market.

- Victoria

FillerFight
07-02-2005, 08:55 PM
Part of what you have to prove as a first-time novelist is not just that you can write, but that you can finish.

That's a good point. There's something special about finishing.

I'm thinking of a spin-off thread about whether or not quality can be appreciated from an excerpt or if it has to be what the author considers a complete work... Definitely the quality of craft can be told from a paragraph, but what if the author meets that standard? He could keep an editor/agent going indefinitely on the quality of the writing. Theoretically speaking.

brinkett
07-02-2005, 09:19 PM
I'm thinking of a spin-off thread about whether or not quality can be appreciated from an excerpt
For a novel length work, I think the answer is no. Despite areas of brilliance, the novel might suck overall.

Cathy C
07-02-2005, 09:33 PM
Definitely the quality of craft can be told from a paragraph, but what if the author meets that standard? He could keep an editor/agent going indefinitely on the quality of the writing.


Ah, but while a paragraph might show exceptional skill in putting together sentences, it will NOT tell the editor/agent if you can:

*Write a story that makes sense and is entertaining.
*Create believable characters that a reader will care about
*Have a plot arc with subplots where all of them completely resolve.

In short, the ability to write quality sentences does not mean the writer can complete a publishable book.

victoriastrauss
07-03-2005, 12:27 AM
In short, the ability to write quality sentences does not mean the writer can complete a publishable book.Exactly. And a wonderful beginning does not guarantee a good ending. This is why, for a first-timer, agents and editors will want to carefully evaluate the entire novel. Generally speaking, if you're a new fiction writer and an agent or publisher makes you an offer on the basis of a partial, it should set off warning bells--it's quite possible the agent or publisher is inexperienced, or else has no interest in quality and just wants to charge you a fee. This isn't true 100% of the time (almost nothing is in this biz) but it's far more likely to be true than not.

- Victoria