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D.J.
06-14-2005, 02:13 AM
Please don't throw things at the screen after reading a question I'm sure many of you are tired of answering/debating, but...
I've read enough to be confused about where to begin. Should I query agents or should I query publishers? Does the type of work or genre ever affect the answer to that question? If you don't mind giving me your opinions or the straight facts, I'd be ever so thankful!! :)

Cathy C
06-14-2005, 03:26 AM
There's not a terrific answer for this, D.J., or at least there are a LOT of answers which may or may not suit your situation.


Here's the low-down:

An agent exists for the purpose of using their contacts in the publishing world to sell a book and to represent the author in contract negotiations. They get paid from 10% to 20% (most often 15%) of any money the writer makes. Most agents used to BE editors somewhere -- otherwise they wouldn't have contacts in the publishing world and are of little use to you. Good intentions aside, if an agent can't get in the door of a publishing house any better than Joe NewbieWriter can, then why bother? BUT, as I said on another thread, an agent plans to pay his (we'll use this for gender neutral for the moment) own salary with the money he earns from YOUR book and the books of others. He also has to pay the office rent, the equipment leases, the secretary's salary, etc., etc. So an agent is, by necessity, much more picky than an editor. They can't AFFORD to take too many chances on books. If they can't immediately think of one, or even three, good homes for the book, they'll move on to the next manuscript.

An editor exists for the purpose of making the PUBLISHER money. They get paid a salary and whether or not your book does well in the market is of little value to them (except that they try to get promotions and raises by finding HOT TICKET books that sell millions! I would have LOVED to have seen the look on J.K. Rowling's editor's face when the first sales reports came in!) But publishing is a crap shoot and editors know it. All they can do is use their best efforts to try to find a good book that the public will hopefully like. So, they're more willing to take chances.

So, you have to ask yourself: Do you understand contracts, and can you negotiate your own terms accurately in the industry? Do you KNOW what rights you're likely to get and what you should give up? Should you allow the publisher to option your next book? How would you write the remainders clause?

If you don't know the answers to these questions, then you should do one of two things: find an agent first, or find an entertainment attorney and skip the agent to go directly to the publisher. An agent is concerned with your CAREER as a writer, whereas an attorney is not. Specialty attorneys, such as ones who practice entertainment exclusively, are very expensive. They charge upwards of $250 an hour (mine is $350.) I use both an attorney and agent in some specific situations and one or the other most times.

Neither decision is BETTER than the other. It all depends on you and what you want. Not much help, I know -- but it's the best I can offer. :D

D.J.
06-14-2005, 03:35 AM
There's not a terrific answer for this, D.J., or at least there are a LOT of answers which may or may not suit your situation.

Here's the low-down:

. :D

Wow! Thank you very much. That has helped me begin to understand a bit better their roles. I've also heard about some going to the publisher and then if they get a book deal getting an agent. They are able to hold more leverage in finding a good agent that way. What do you think about that?

alanna
06-15-2005, 06:53 AM
I give Kudos to Cathy also. great info! thanks!

dragonjax
06-15-2005, 06:27 PM
Another thing, which I heard from one agent speaking on a panel discussion. Keep in mind that publishers have a boilerplate contract. Agencies who have a history with those publishers have already re-negotiated that boilerplate contract so that their version of this boilerplate is already more in the favor of the author, meaning that when an agent negotiates a contract for an author, he's already starting off in a better position. An unagented author receives the standard boilerplate contract, and then has to negotiate from there.

There's more that an agent offers a client than just negotiating the contract. But getting the manuscript in front of an editor's eyes, and then negotiating the contract, are the primary roles.

D.J.
06-15-2005, 06:32 PM
There's more that an agent offers a client than just negotiating the contract. But getting the manuscript in front of an editor's eyes, and then negotiating the contract, are the primary roles.

So, you think you should go with the agent first to have a better chance to even get your ms/script looked at? I was almost leaning towards approaching publishers and then getting an agent if I were given an opportunity for a deal.

azbikergirl
06-15-2005, 06:43 PM
I don't know if this is a wise strategy or not, but my plan is to try first to get an agent (so far, my query hasn't gotten my ms. on anyone's desk!), and if I exhaust my list, start sending my ms. to publishers. If (When?) I get a Yes from a publisher, I'll start calling and/or emailing the agents on my list (the ones who've said no), tell them I've gotten an offer and ask if they could negotiate the contract for me. I figure that, even though they said no to me before, with a publisher already willing to sign, it's easy money for the agent.

Julie Worth
06-15-2005, 07:01 PM
Please don't throw things at the screen after reading a question I'm sure many of you are tired of answering/debating, but...
I've read enough to be confused about where to begin. Should I query agents or should I query publishers? Does the type of work or genre ever affect the answer to that question? If you don't mind giving me your opinions or the straight facts, I'd be ever so thankful!! :)

After months of unwilling study of the subject, here is what Iíve discovered:

1. Get an agent. The problem here is that agents prefer the previously published.

2. Get a publisher. But most publishers want you to have an agent.

3. Get a readership. In other words, self-publish and work like the devil in hopes you can make enough sales to interest either an agent or a publisher.

4. Get an author. Make friends with a person who already has an agent, and get the agent via this personís recommendation.

5. Kill or sleep with someone famous.

Iíve run through the first four. Will advise on the fifth.

D.J.
06-15-2005, 07:18 PM
After months of unwilling study of the subject, here is what Iíve discovered:

1. Get an agent. The problem here is that agents prefer the previously published.

2. Get a publisher. But most publishers want you to have an agent.

3. Get a readership. In other words, self-publish and work like the devil in hopes you can make enough sales to interest either an agent or a publisher.

4. Get an author. Make friends with a person who already has an agent, and get the agent via this personís recommendation.

5. Kill or sleep with someone famous.

Iíve run through the first four. Will advise on the fifth.


ROFLOL! I guess what I had suspected is true!

Darin C. Bradley
06-15-2005, 10:16 PM
So, you think you should go with the agent first to have a better chance to even get your ms/script looked at? I was almost leaning towards approaching publishers and then getting an agent if I were given an opportunity for a deal.

Forgive me if I'm offering advice that's already been presented, but I'd caution you not to approach too many publishers first. The problem with this strategy is that you may (in the event of rejections) end up burning bridges between your manuscript and the array of publishing houses that might be interested in your material. Once a manuscript is rejected, it's dead to that house -- so, when you do go and land an agent after having exhausted your list of target houses, that agent is going to have a harder time shopping around a manuscript that has already been around the block and (theoretically) been rejected.

I just recently signed with an agent, and when I told him that I'd only burned one bridge at one publishing house, I think I heard him cry a little -- it was very touching. :)

I, of course, could be utterly wrong in entertaining this viewpoint. If a more experienced poster has more to say on the topic, by all means, listen to him or her.

D.J.
06-15-2005, 11:24 PM
Forgive me if I'm offering advice that's already been presented, but I'd caution you not to approach too many publishers first. The problem with this strategy is that you may (in the event of rejections) end up burning bridges between your manuscript and the array of publishing houses that might be interested in your material. Once a manuscript is rejected, it's dead to that house -- so, when you do go and land an agent after having exhausted your list of target houses, that agent is going to have a harder time shopping around a manuscript that has already been around the block and (theoretically) been rejected.

I just recently signed with an agent, and when I told him that I'd only burned one bridge at one publishing house, I think I heard him cry a little -- it was very touching. :)

I, of course, could be utterly wrong in entertaining this viewpoint. If a more experienced poster has more to say on the topic, by all means, listen to him or her.

Congratulations on your gaining an agent and not losing too many publishers! LOL! I'm now switched back to agent first...argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for posting!

dragonjax
06-16-2005, 04:52 AM
Completely agree with Darin. Good luck, Donna!

alanna
06-16-2005, 05:01 AM
So would you guys say submit it to a few (3-5) carefully selected publishers and then go for an agent if it is rejected by all? (This is assuming that your book is actually decent, and not a pile of horse manure, which I often think has more literary value than some of the stuff I write.) :)


-alanna

victoriastrauss
06-20-2005, 01:13 AM
My two cents...if you're trying to market a novel and your goal is publication with an imprint of one of the large publishing houses, your best bet is to get an agent. Many of these imprints simply won't consider unagented submissions at all. Those that do accept unagented work give it very low priority. It may take them a tremendously long time to look at the submission (a year or even more), and when they do it probably won't be a careful reading by an editor but a glance at the first few pages by an assistant or an intern, or a group read at a slush party. Books do get plucked from the slushpile, and editors like to talk about this this--but the truth is that it doesn't happen very often. The vast majority of sales to large publishers--for new writers as well as established ones--are agented sales.

Given the timeframes involved in hearing back from a publisher, I think a writer's time is much better spent seeking a (reputable, successful) agent. It can take as long to find an agent as a publisher, but once you do the agent can cut publisher response time way down and get your work onto the desk of an editor who will pay real attention to it.

Exceptions: if you're marketing nonfiction, romance, or children's books, you have a somewhat better chance without an agent, because editors in these areas are more willing to consider unagented authors. Also, if you're interested in submitting to smaller, independent publishers, an agent often isn't needed: most independent publishers are willing to deal direct with authors.

Someone said above above that agents prefer published writers (another version of this myth: "You can't get published without an agent, and you can't get an agent without being published"). This really is not true. Publishing credits will certainly give you a leg up, but if you haven't published before it won't count against you, as long as you have a marketable work that the agent thinks he can sell.

- Victoria