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yeswecan
03-04-2009, 04:15 AM
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon11.gif Are Agents Willing to Sign New Authors in Tough Times?
Q: How much must an agent read to know whether or not they want to sign a potential client? How likely will they read the whole ms.? Does a ms. have to be 99% perfect or are they willing to iron out any problems?

I've heard some agents and editors can tell within the first five pages if a novel is publishable/marketable. Are they less willing to work w/ new authors in this slow economy or due to lack of time? Obviously other factors are involved...Any thoughts/ experiences? Thanks!
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Madisonwrites
03-04-2009, 07:17 AM
Yes, agents are willing to sign new authors at ALL times. Of course, there are times where they seem to sign more than other times, but don't stress about being a newb. I'm still in the query process myself. Just write the best story and query you can and you'll be fine. :)

Good luck and happy writing! :D

Danthia
03-04-2009, 05:16 PM
I was just reading the other day where someone (I forget who and where) said it's actually cheaper to sign a new author for a lower advance than a mid-list author right now. So there are pros and cons on both sides of the argument.

But yes, agents will sign anyone who has a great book they think they can sell and make money off of.This is a business, and everyone needs to make money.

Agents can tell a lot about a book by a few pages. If the writing is professional, if there's a strong voice, if the story hooks and moves well. It's very similar to what readers do when they shop for books. How many times have you picked up a book that looked interesting, read the back (the query), then read a page or two to see if you liked it? You said yay or nay based on that. Agents treat books no differently. If there's something really compelling about it (a great idea, a great voice, a quirky concept) they might even slog through some rough patches to see if it goes anywhere.

Perfect is a misleading word, because everyone has their view on what that means. Zero typos is not a perfect novel if the story sucks. A great story is not perfect if the writer has fifteen typos on every page. And worst of all, a novel can be perfect -- clean, tight writing, good voice, good narrative -- and be a plot agents see 10 times a day. That will still get rejected (though likely with encouraging words to query again with a new book)

Some key things on a perfect book...

Voice is one of the most important. Agents say all the time how they got a query and just loved the voice and asked for more, even if the query had problems. A strong understanding and use of the English language is another. You're trying to be a professional writer, so you'd better know your stuff. An occasional typo won't kill you, but if it's clear you don't know spelling, punctuation and grammar, you're sunk. And the story needs to be fresh, original, and great. This is probably one of the hardest because it's so subjective.

Agents will work with a writer on a story they feel has merit, but it has to be pretty close, and the non-fixable things have to be there first. (Like voice and writing skill). No agent will teach you grammar, but they will help you tweak your plot if everything else clicks for them and they feel the book just needs a nudge to be sellable. They can fix plot. They can't fix voice.

Cathy C
03-04-2009, 07:22 PM
Q: How much must an agent read to know whether or not they want to sign a potential client? How likely will they read the whole ms.? Does a ms. have to be 99% perfect or are they willing to iron out any problems?

I've heard some agents and editors can tell within the first five pages if a novel is publishable/marketable. Are they less willing to work w/ new authors in this slow economy or due to lack of time? Obviously other factors are involved...Any thoughts/ experiences? Thanks!

If the first few pages have a "voice" and style that interests them, they're quite likely to want to read at least a partial (often interpreted to mean 3 chapters or 50 pages) If the book's still holding their interest after the partial, they'll ask for the full.

Does it have to be 99% perfect? No. But it sure as heck helps! And I'm not just talking about grammar, composition and spelling--but plot, characterization and timeline. The more "shelf-ready" the book is when they get it into their hands, the more likely they can make a quick sale. But, if the agent sees really strong potential with a few "tweaks" sure they'll make suggestions. Sometimes the suggestions work, sometimes not. A lot depends on how creative the writer can be (because it won't be the AGENT or EDITOR who's making those changes. It'll be you, the author. They'll only say things like, "Chapter 2 drags. Lose the second day but keep the same details.")

Absolutely, an editor or agent can read 5 pages and know whether they're going to want to see more. In five pages, they will learn:

1. Whether the writer can handle realistic dialogue.

2. Whether the writer has created a believable reality.

3. Whether the protagonist(s) has "personality".

4. Whether the plot moves along and the reader knows what the plot IS.

5. Whether there is an understanding of punctuation, spelling, composition and such.

There's a lot to be learned in five pages. Either they "sing" and drag the reader along, or they don't. It's that simple. Readers of genre fiction in today's world want a fast start. There are only a few genres that still allow for a slow-building plot. That first chapter is critical to the book, and the opening pages critical to the first chapter.

I don't know of an agent out there who isn't looking for new talent. Yes, the economy's tight, but there are still "hot" genres screaming for budding stars. And really, even in the "not so hot" genres/categories right now, that can change tomorrow. Who would have thunk a few years ago that a memoir about a dog (Marley & Me) would be such a hit? :Shrug:

yeswecan
03-04-2009, 09:16 PM
Great advice, thanks to all! My full is with two agents now so let's hope I did all the right things you mentioned. As a journalist, I'm not as concerned about grammar and typos etc as storyline, characters and plot...novels are new terrain. Wish me luck--same to you!

MKL1025
03-10-2009, 10:12 PM
I was just reading the other day where someone (I forget who and where) said it's actually cheaper to sign a new author for a lower advance than a mid-list author right now. So there are pros and cons on both sides of the argument.



I wonder if you're referring to the Waxman Agency blog, where my agent, Holly Root, recently wrote about how it's easier for her to sell a debut novelist than it is an author with a rough sales record.

DeleyanLee
03-10-2009, 10:44 PM
Agents (and editors) are always interested in signing someone who's going to make lots of money. It's how they make their money.

Our challenge as writers, of course, is to be that someone who's going to make lots of money.

yeswecan
03-11-2009, 03:58 AM
So true! How to do it is the multi-million dollar question...

New Q: What's better: Big Fish/ LIttle Pond or Vice-Versa?
Trying to decide which agents are best...the ones in high-profile agencies or perhaps the small, single-owner agency? I'd love to hear from agented writers so I can tailor my queries. Any thoughts?



I wonder if you're referring to the Waxman Agency blog, where my agent, Holly Root, recently wrote about how it's easier for her to sell a debut novelist than it is an author with a rough sales record.

Yes, I've also heard that pubs often prefer new writers cuz they're (usually) cheaper, and can build a following--or become an "overnight" or unexpected success. e.g. Twilight, etc.
Can you post Holly Root's blog link?

Thanks for keeping this thread alive!

ChaosTitan
03-11-2009, 05:41 AM
New Q: What's better: Big Fish/ LIttle Pond or Vice-Versa?
Trying to decide which agents are best...the ones in high-profile agencies or perhaps the small, single-owner agency? I'd love to hear from agented writers so I can tailor my queries. Any thoughts?


In a way, the answer to this will depend on your needs as an author. Do you like the idea of being one of a select number of clients chosen by a one-man agency? Do you prefer the idea of being repped by an agent with a long list of super-star clients, simply for the power? Are you somewhere in the middle?

My agent owns his own agency, and I am super happy with him and everything we've worked on together (it boggles the mind to think it's been almost a year now). He is always available via email and cell phone, and has never taken longer than a day to respond to either. He is careful to explain contract information in great detail when I ask.

Most of all, he loves my work. And this is the thing that I think a lot of querying writers don't really understand the value of. A lot of form letters say "not right for me/I didn't love it," so it's GOOD that they rejected you. Agent-love makes all the difference, because you need someone to champion your work.

I wouldn't want an agent to sign me simply because he thought he could sell my book, while secretly hating my writing. *shudders*

So yeah, derail. Sorry.

Summary: I like to swim in a small pond. :)

yeswecan
03-11-2009, 06:29 AM
Thanks for the awesome reply, Chaos! So far that's been my preference as well...
I'd rather be spoiled than ignored! LOL

I don't think any of the agents have a super list of clients so that's fine.
Re: my requests, the super agent seemed very interested at first but is taking forever to respond, while the smaller agency asked about a series and gave me a time limit for a response. Just wondering if the "big name" opens doors or if it all depends on the book? What about their sales ability? We'll see what happens..

ps/Do you write mysterie/thrillers? Can I ask if your agent got you a decent deal? How long did your books take to sell?

pss/Just checked out your blog--your book sounds amazing! Best of luck!

ChaosTitan
03-11-2009, 06:36 PM
Just wondering if the "big name" opens doors or if it all depends on the book? What about their sales ability? We'll see what happens..

From what I've seen, it's a little bit of both. Sure a Super Agent will have more clout in certain areas, but every agent worth their salt knows editors and they know what those editors are looking for. It's why agents rarely* take on works outside of their regular genres--if they've never sold it before, they may not have a clue who to sell it to.

*I say "rarely" because it does happen, and it can happen with awesome results. But it is rare.


ps/Do you write mysterie/thrillers? Can I ask if your agent got you a decent deal? How long did your books take to sell?

Urban fantasy, with a splash of darkness. :) My agent got me a very nice deal, actually. We had three editors offering after less than a month on submission. But I realize now that I was a bit of an anamoly--submission rounds can take many months, so I was lucky mine sold so quickly. Right story, right timing, I think.


pss/Just checked out your blog--your book sounds amazing! Best of luck!

Thank you! Good luck with your querying! :)

Bubastes
03-11-2009, 06:40 PM
Agent Kristin Nelson just signed a new author. She gave a little pep talk in her post:

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/03/5-in-4-weeks.html

yeswecan
03-11-2009, 09:36 PM
That's good news! Too bad she mainly reps romances...

Chaos, your agent sounds so great, I'm even tempted to query him...LOL

Trouble w/ unknown agents is you really can't approach their clients before you get an offer, so how do you find out if they're really any good, esp if they don't have a website? If they do, you can't go by the agency's reputation alone. They all sound good "on paper" (online), but many haven't posted recent book deals due to the economy. All seems like a crapshoot at times...

New Q: How do we research the right agent for us, besides the obvious? Personality, passion, enthusiasm--i.e. How do you know they really like you and your writing, and aren't just looking for new clients or a (not-so?) quick sale?

MKL1025
03-12-2009, 12:40 AM
Can you post Holly Root's blog link?



www.waxmanagency.wordpress.com (http://www.waxmanagency.wordpress.com)

Here you go!

ChaosTitan
03-12-2009, 06:26 AM
New Q: How do we research the right agent for us, besides the obvious? Personality, passion, enthusiasm--i.e. How do you know they really like you and your writing, and aren't just looking for new clients or a (not-so?) quick sale?

While you're in the querying stage, it's difficult to get in-depth about an agent. Once you read the point where the agent is making an offer of representation, request a phone chat. Talk to the agent about your book, their agency, their submission plan, anything you want to know. If you're good with people, you can get a really good sense of someone through a conversation and (hopefully) get an honest gauge of their feelings about your writing.

I spoke with one other agent before choosing mine. She was very gracious and complimentary, and easy with answers. However, something just didn't click for me. Sometimes it's as easy as that.

yeswecan
03-12-2009, 09:23 AM
Thanks, Chaos! Hope I get that chance--or two...I'm a journalist so used to doing interviews, but often hard to "read" people over the phone. Hope I have your instincts IF and WHEN? that day comes...As the song goes, the waiting is the hardest part.

Q: Wonder if I should tell the first agent that my full is w/ two other agents? (They've had it four months!!) Wish I had a firm offer so I could speed things up, but even if I did, I'm sure I'd have revisions to do first...sigh...

ChaosTitan
03-12-2009, 05:35 PM
Rule of thumb for that: don't ask, don't tell. If one of the agents hasn't asked if you're being read by anyone else, don't offer the information.

scope
03-12-2009, 08:57 PM
You received some great advice from ChaosTitan. I have one question. The agent you refer to who has had your full for four months - have you heard anything from her? If not, suggest you send a status query. Anything might have happened, including your work getting lost or misplaced, or the agent no longer beng there.

yeswecan
03-12-2009, 10:40 PM
I know--Chaos is full of great advice!
Yes, the agent e'd me last week (out of town) and said they'd get back to me soon but nothing so far...I even offered to re-send since I've tweaked it since then. Obviously they're not that excited if they're dragging their feet.

But now I'm in limbo--the other agents have had it only for a few days or weeks. I want to give the other agents a chance and to be prepared, just in case I get THE call.
I can always dream...

Q: How soon do agents respond w/ offers? I know it all depends but I thought that they'd move faster if it was positive. Isn't it usually sooner than later?

ChaosTitan
03-13-2009, 07:01 PM
I think we're going to have to sticky this thread as some sort of FAQ when we're done. ;)



Q: How soon do agents respond w/ offers? I know it all depends but I thought that they'd move faster if it was positive. Isn't it usually sooner than later?

One day to many, many months. It depends on a lot of factors.

* How soon did the agent manage to read the manuscript? Even requested material has its place in line. Agents will always focus on current clients first, so if they are negotiating a contract, working on revisions, or doing any of the bazillion things agents do for clients, your work will end up at the bottom of the To Do pile. If the agent is particularly busy, it could be months before they even read it, let alone make a decision.

* Are they the only ones making the decision on whether or not to sign you? Agents who run their own agency make their own decisions. Many of the larger, multi-agent agencies have meetings in which they discuss potential new clients with the rest of the staff. So even after sitting on the To Do pile for three months, your manuscript may have to wait another week or two for partner presentation. And even then, your work could be vetoed.

* The agent just might not be sure. I've read many times on agent blogs that they receive a project that they really like, but just aren't sure about. So they let it sit for a while and think about it. Maybe they aren't sure if they have the contacts to sell it. Maybe they know something needs revising, but can't immediately put their finger on it.

* The manuscript got lost and unearthed months later. ;) Sounds silly, but it happens.


So after all of these things (or none of them) happen on the agent's side of things, you'll get a positive response in one of two ways: I'd like represent you, OR, I'd like to talk with you about possible revisions.

Some agents won't want major revisions, some will. Some agents will sign you right away and do revisions afterward; some agents prefer to do the revisions before they offer. I've heard of it happening all ways.

yeswecan
03-13-2009, 09:55 PM
CHAOS: HOW ABOUT WRITING A BOOK ON WRITING?

Awesome advice, as always! You sound like an agent...how about a book? Why not collect your responses on AW and do a how-to book for writers? Seriously--you've done most of the work!
Does your agent rep non-fiction as well? (Maybe you can co-author the book w/ your agent?)

OK, that makes a lot of sense, and explains why it's taking so long. That makes me question the idea of a big-name agency if every decision takes forever...I may hear from the one-person agent (one month) before I hear from the first agent who's in a big firm (four months). I offered to re-send but they said it wasn't necessary so it must not be lost. I'm happy to revise if I get a serious rquest and great feedback...

One more Q: How do you research an agent if they don't have a website? Is it OK to query their clients BEFORE you get an offer--or AFTER? They're established and respected but don't have much info online. (Found them in a client's book) Any ideas?

I know the market sucks, but the economy will surely improve by the time your book comes out. Best wishes!