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View Full Version : Bye Bye, Slush Pile Dream



jst5150
01-20-2010, 07:01 PM
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703414504575001271351446274.html


Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won't read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Web was supposed to be a great democratizer of media. Anyone with a Flip and Final Cut Pro could be a filmmaker; anyone with a blog a memoirist. But rather than empowering unknown artists, the Web is often considered by talent-seeking executives to be an unnavigable morass.

Thoughts on how information like this changes your approach, if at all and on how the industry is changing?

waylander
01-20-2010, 07:22 PM
I think we have enough counter examples within the recent history of AW to declare this b#llocks

James D. Macdonald
01-20-2010, 07:49 PM
All that's possibly changed is the location of the slush pile.

As to what the web is supposed to be ... well, it isn't supposed to be anything.

Jamesaritchie
01-20-2010, 07:52 PM
On the one side, don't believe everything you read. Don't believe anything you read, until after you check it out for yourself.

On the other side, who the heck said it wasn't supposed to be this way? The number one way computers, word processors, and the internet had to bring in millions of new wannabe writers because it became so easy to write something and add it to the slush piles.

Slush piles were never a good thing, they were, however, the only thing, the only way it could be done. Now there are other ways to find good writers, so why deal with slush when you don't have to do so?

Cathy C
01-20-2010, 08:03 PM
And yet it's interesting how many debut authors are appearing on the shelves. One reason I've heard for the sudden rush of debuts is that it's less expensive for a pub to take a chance on a new talent than to pay larger and larger advances for an author just selling through. Don't know if it's true, but it makes sense.

But I do agree with the article that there are a LOT more people entering into the field. It might be because of the economy. People with time on their hands want to find a secondary source of income (or, in many cases, a primary source.) Thankfully, I don't fear the success of others. It just makes me step up my game to stay on the field. :)

Momento Mori
01-20-2010, 08:51 PM
WSJ:
rather than empowering unknown artists, the Web is often considered by talent-seeking executives to be an unnavigable morass

That's probably because the web is an unnavigable morass. Where does WSJ think talent-seeking execs should go on the web to find unknown artists? Do they all hang out on one website, or are they instead scattered around the ether?


WSJ:
It does create an incredibly difficult Catch-22 on both sides, particularly for new writers wanting to get their work seen," says Hannah Minghella, president of production for Sony Pictures Animation

Have those new writers tried contacting an agent?


WSJ:
As writers try to find an agent—a feat harder than ever to accomplish in the wake of agency consolidations and layoffs

Eh? There may be more manuscripts being submitted to agencies because of the recession (with people seeing writing as a fast way of making a buck), but agency consolidations and layoffs does not automatically mean that fewer new manuscripts are being seen. So far as I'm aware, the only limit as to the number of authors an agent can take on is the maximum they feel they can devote sufficient time and attention to.


WSJ:
At William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, Adriana Alberghetti only reads scripts sent to her by producers, managers and lawyers whose taste she knows and trusts. The agent says she receives 30 unsolicited e-mails a day from writers and people she doesn't know who are pushing unknown writers, and she hits "delete" without opening. These days, she is taking on few "baby writers," she says, adding that risks she would have taken five years ago she won't today. "I'll take very few shots on a new voice. It's tough out there right now," she says.

That's one agent at one agency. It therefore cannot be taken as representative of the industry. Plenty of agencies are open to queries from new writers and you don't need a recommendation first.


WSJ: (BOLDING MINE)
A primary aim of the slush pile used to be to discover unpublished voices. But today, writing talent isn't necessarily enough. It helps to have a big-media affiliation, or be effective on TV.

It's always helped to have a big media affiliation or be effective on TV (or better yet, have your own show on TV). However those people are few and far between and agents and publishers recognise that a good book is a good book, regardless of whether it's produced by a telegenic supermodel or John Merrick's clone.


WSJ:
"These days, you need to deliver not just the manuscript but the audience," says Mr. Levine. "More and more, the mantra in publishing is 'Ask not what your publisher can do for you, ask what you can do for your publisher.'"

For non-fiction, yes - it helps. But fiction has established markets and established audiences.


WSJ:
The first, "The Reaper," came out in July and sold moderately well. Last November, the publisher released another Authonomy offering, a young adult book called "Fairytale of New York," which has sold over 100,000 copies and is a best seller in Britain. HarperCollins also launched a similar platform for teen writers called "InkPop."

Fairtale of New York is not a YA book - it's chicklit and it was released through AVON, not Harper Collins main imprint. If WFS can't get the genre right, I'd question the sales figures.


WSJ:
One slush stalwart—the Paris Review— has college interns and graduate students in the magazine's Tribeca loft-office read the 1,000 unsolicited works submitted each month.

Most magazines take unsolicited stories. It's how they secure their content.


WSJ:
In 1958, Mr. Roth was an unknown who had barely been published when a short story called "The Conversion of the Jews" was plucked out of a heap at the Paris Review—by Rose Styron, wife of William. The next year it was published as part of "Goodbye, Columbus."

Wow. There's nothing like using a recent example of someone plucked from a publisher's slushpile who went on to achieve glory. Unfortunately, this is not that example.

MM

kuwisdelu
01-20-2010, 08:56 PM
All that's possibly changed is the location of the slush pile.

Yep. Except for some smaller publishers and certain genres, most of us have already been giving our slush to the agents...


As to what the web is supposed to be ... well, it isn't supposed to be anything.

Whut??

I was told it was for porn!!

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-20-2010, 08:58 PM
Slush piles were never a good thing, they were, however, the only thing, the only way it could be done. Now there are other ways to find good writers, so why deal with slush when you don't have to do so?

I'd like to counter - why go looking for writers when you have a whole stack of them in your office waiting to be discovered?

Honestly, I don't know of any other 'good' way to find writers. Those display sites are probably just as filled with bad writing as the slushpile is. No one's odds are any better by being on a display site, and if they honestly were good there wouldn't be so many of them (and I think some have tanked). Plus it's a huge red flag when an 'agent' or 'publisher' goes looking for writers because 10 times out of 10 they don't know what they're doing anyway. Yes it's tough out there, but the slush isn't going anywhere.

Cyia
01-20-2010, 09:05 PM
Courtesy of Janet Reid's blog:

SLUSH WORKS (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2010/01/slush-works.html)

katiemac
01-20-2010, 09:27 PM
All that's possibly changed is the location of the slush pile.

As to what the web is supposed to be ... well, it isn't supposed to be anything.

Yep.

Libbie
01-20-2010, 10:03 PM
It hasn't changed my approach at all, to be honest. I've always wanted to have an agent anyway for two reasons: 1) Somebody to pitch an unholy shit-fit on my behalf if the publisher does anything I don't like, and 2) somebody to (hopefully) arrange an auction or otherwise negotiate a more favorable contract that I just don't have the knowledge to negotiate on my own.

I do think the industry is changing thanks to technology -- not just the internet, but the ease of e-publishing for e-readers (or the future ease, at any rate.) But I think it's changing in the sense that it's going to start getting a lot more guarded. Having professional representation can be seen by many as a sign that the work and the author have already passed a kind of quality control -- they've already made the grade with somebody who (supposedly) knows the business and knows quality. That weeds out a lot, and the crop of weeds is getting larger the easier it is to publish and to expose one's writing to the world.

Phaeal
01-20-2010, 10:47 PM
It I've always wanted to have an agent anyway for two reasons: 1) Somebody to pitch an unholy shit-fit on my behalf if the publisher does anything I don't like...

Never mind reason two. I love people who will pitch unholy shit-fits on my behalf. Now I just have to find some. ;)

blacbird
01-20-2010, 11:36 PM
Now there are other ways to find good writers,

And those are? Meaning (see bolded word), what other ways to find good writers are there now that didn't exist before?

caw

C.M.C.
01-21-2010, 01:07 AM
To draw a parallel: people have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of the world.

Same thing here.

geardrops
01-21-2010, 01:08 AM
Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won't read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

Most of this isn't novels. That which is... now agents have a slush pile.

:: shrug ::

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2010, 01:20 AM
And those are? Meaning (see bolded word), what other ways to find good writers are there now that didn't exist before?

caw

The internet, for one.

KiraOnWhite
01-21-2010, 01:25 AM
I would just like to say how I find 'stealing ideas and material' to be ridiculous. There will still be hacks looking for trouble from best-selling authors and lazily written thinly disguised works, and I guess it's up to us to scoff at them as a discouragement.

aadams73
01-21-2010, 01:26 AM
Oh look, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!

Again. Like it has every week for decades.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2010, 01:30 AM
Most of this isn't novels. That which is... now agents have a slush pile.

:: shrug ::

Well, to play devil's advocate, this, too has changed. In the bad old days, slush piles were mostly novel partials and full manuscripts. Almost every publisher out there accepted both.

Agents do not. Now you have to get through the query process before you can get into a real slush pile. I suppose you can technically call the queries slush, but it's nothing like the slush piles of the good old days.

Magazines still have slush piles for short stories, but most magazines also use the query process for nonfiction.

Slush piles certainly are not dead, but they are getting rarer, and probably will vanish completely one day, at least if you mean the old fashioned kind.

blacbird
01-21-2010, 01:49 AM
The internet, for one.

So, agents surf the internet looking for new writers? Really? What do they look at? Blogs? E-zines? Individual vanity sites? The SYW forum here?

caw

Slushie
01-21-2010, 01:55 AM
Damn. Slush is dead? Then I just changed my username for nothing.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2010, 02:02 AM
So, agents surf the internet looking for new writers? Really? What do they look at? Blogs? E-zines? Individual vanity sites? The SYW forum here?

caw

No, but writers should be surfing the net looking for agents. Including twitter, agent blogs, etc.

The first contact with an agent or editor does not have to be through the slush pile now.

There are also one heck of a lot more conferences and seminars now, including ones held online.

Shadow_Ferret
01-21-2010, 02:12 AM
Doesn't change a thing. I've never sent anything directly to a publisher anyway.

Kilawher
01-21-2010, 02:17 AM
So, agents surf the internet looking for new writers? Really? What do they look at? Blogs? E-zines? Individual vanity sites? The SYW forum here?

caw

When I interned at a literary agency, my boss-agent had me scour blogs and journals for good writers/people with something interesting to write about, and contact those people to send something in. So yes, it does happen.

djf881
01-21-2010, 02:22 AM
So, agents surf the internet looking for new writers? Really? What do they look at? Blogs? E-zines? Individual vanity sites? The SYW forum here?

caw

If you have a hit blog or twitter feed, like Tucker Max or Gawker, you'll get calls from agents. It's basically like getting an agent by self-pubbing and selling 20,000 copies.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-21-2010, 02:26 AM
If you have a hit blog or twitter feed, like Tucker Max or Gawker, you'll get calls from agents. It's basically like getting an agent by self-pubbing and selling 20,000 copies.

Where are agents finding the time? Considering how the bulk of them speak like there's barely enough time in the day to do what they do already, how many seriously have time to surf the net looking for new voices? And how many authors have gotten calls from agents that resulted in the sale of their book?

blacbird
01-21-2010, 02:37 AM
If you have a hit blog or twitter feed, like Tucker Max or Gawker, you'll get calls from agents.

Gee, that sure does sound a lot more promising than querying. I gotta go down to the Hit Blog store and get me one of these, right quicklike.

caw

djf881
01-21-2010, 02:59 AM
Where are agents finding the time? Considering how the bulk of them speak like there's barely enough time in the day to do what they do already, how many seriously have time to surf the net looking for new voices? And how many authors have gotten calls from agents that resulted in the sale of their book?

I think there are a handful of agents who kind of specialize in high-profile bloggers. They probably find time to surf the web by ignoring your query.


Gee, that sure does sound a lot more promising than querying. I gotta go down to the Hit Blog store and get me one of these, right quicklike.

caw


I assume you're joking, but if you're not querying is probably easier than becoming a celebrity.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-21-2010, 03:21 AM
I think there are a handful of agents who kind of specialize in high-profile bloggers. They probably find time to surf the web by ignoring your query.

Like who? There's a lot of generalities floating around the thread and nothing concrete. If this is actually a growing practice amongst agents surely someone knows who's doing it.

Dungeon Geek
01-21-2010, 05:31 AM
Some agents may be scannin' blogs and such for writers, but they must have lost faith in, or got too overwhelmed by, the query slush piles! I just don't see the logic in it. So you visit a website (they're hard to find) and then you have to read it and research the writer and then maybe contact him. No way I'd do that when there's a nice bundle of info setting in front of me--called the query letter. It tells you a lot of what you need to know. It saves a lot of time and work, actually. Sure, slush can get anyone down, but ultimately, slush = bread and butter.

I don't believe that starting a blog is the way to get an agent or publisher. Where's the proof of that? Agents are too busy reading slush for the most part and dealing with the authors they've already signed. This sounds like someone's pipe dream at best.

Editors are able to push slush onto agents simply because they can. It's a weird system that allowed agents to get overwhelmed like this. But agents have to have a way to get clients, and the best way (by far) is still the slush pile. Agents could force the slush back onto editors quite easily, though. All they'd have to do is stop taking on writers who aren't already under contract to editors. Post the same notices that editors have posted in reverse (sorry, no writers accepted who don't have editors!). That would force the editors to open the doors to the unagented again, ha, ha. Either that, or both would hold out on each other and the whole industry would collapse from lack of new blood. :)

Maybe an electronic screening process could weed out shitty writers. For example, it evulates your mansuscript, and if there's a bunch of spelling, format, and grammar mistakes, you get an auto rejection. If you pass that (and from what I gather, very few mansuscripts in submission would pass that) you're headed for the slush pile. Thus, the shitty writers who didn't take time to learn basic grammar and who don't bother proofreading or following guidelines get shut out without wasting the agent/editor's time. Just an idea, but with a good program, it might work.

djf881
01-21-2010, 07:33 AM
Like who? There's a lot of generalities floating around the thread and nothing concrete. If this is actually a growing practice amongst agents surely someone knows who's doing it.

Why don't you ask somebody who 20k Twitter followers which literary agents have emailed them?

There was a New Yorker article a couple of years ago about someone at ICM e-mailing Gawker to try and put together a book deal for them. I think there is an agent over there who does a lot of that.

Byrd Leavell at Waxman Literary Agency did the same thing for the guy who does the "Shit My Dad Says" Twitter. That guy also got his Tweets optioned to be a sitcom, incidentally.

I promise you, though, these people are not looking at random blogger accounts to see if there is good writing on them. If your daily posts generate hundreds of comments from people you don't know, and you have tens of thousands of daily unique pageviews, you may be getting in the right ballpark to get interest from literary agents. But even then, they might not want to read your fiction.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-21-2010, 07:38 AM
Why don't you ask somebody who 20k Twitter followers which literary agents have emailed them?

Maybe because the burden of proof is on you? This really sounds far-fetched to be honest, and the fact that you've offered nothing to back up your statements except vague answers makes it really hard to believe. And one example. One example does not a trend make. If you're going to say that this is something real agents are doing and expect people to take it seriously, you need to back it up. Offer more than one example. Because it honestly sounds like you're trying to claim something you have little or no proof of :Shrug:

Cyia
01-21-2010, 07:46 AM
Agents will check the blogs of people who post to their threads. Stupid me stopped blogging over the holidays and went back to find a message from one I follow telling me I needed to keep it up to date because agents occasionally check writer blogs if a comment catches their attention. I was kicking myself that I didn't see that comment for almost a month.

But that's a LONG way from an agent trawling for clients by reading a blog.

djf881
01-21-2010, 07:51 AM
Some agents may be scannin' blogs and such for writers, but they must have lost faith in, or got too overwhelmed by, the query slush piles!


Debut fiction authors who nobody knows need to pursue agents.

But agents tend to contact people with strong platforms for potential NF books. A lot of these people are to busy doing whatever creates this platform to have considered writing. Agents will help these people develop proposals, and hook them up with ghostwriters if necessary, because the person's CV makes a deal very easy to secure.

Agents also contact celebrities, because being famous also makes a deal easy to secure. Madonna has a story she tells her kids? Book deal! James Franco wrote some short stories in his literature class? Book deal! A book needs to reach a much smaller number of people to be a success than any other kind of mass media, and celebrities, even internet celebrities have enough public awareness to generate profits for a publisher.

Most bloggers and tweeters don't manage to get anyone to notice them, and agents aren't looking at those pages. But if you are famous on the internet, you can probably leverage your renown into a book deal.

Picking up a client who is fairly famous or who has a proven track record of some kind is pretty close to free money for an agent.




I just don't see the logic in it. So you visit a website (they're hard to find) and then you have to read it and research the writer and then maybe contact him. No way I'd do that when there's a nice bundle of info setting in front of me--called the query letter. It tells you a lot of what you need to know. It saves a lot of time and work, actually. Sure, slush can get anyone down, but ultimately, slush = bread and butter.


These aren't random websites. Agents aren't looking at your mom's blog with four posts and fifteen pageviews. The people getting these deals are authors who have an existing fanbase and a potent promotion engine.




I don't believe that starting a blog is the way to get an agent or publisher. Where's the proof of that? Agents are too busy reading slush for the most part and dealing with the authors they've already signed. This sounds like someone's pipe dream at best.


Of course not. Anyone who thinks that setting up a blogspot account is a ticket to fame is a fucking idiot. On the other hand, if you're Arianna Huffington or Tucker Max or the people who started Gawker, the situation is a little different.

djf881
01-21-2010, 08:00 AM
Maybe because the burden of proof is on you? This really sounds far-fetched to be honest, and the fact that you've offered nothing to back up your statements except vague answers makes it really hard to believe. And one example. One example does not a trend make. If you're going to say that this is something real agents are doing and expect people to take it seriously, you need to back it up. Offer more than one example. Because it honestly sounds like you're trying to claim something you have little or no proof of :Shrug:

Any blog that got turned into a book probably happened because an agent contacted the blogger rather than the other way around. Think about Tucker Max, Anonymous Lawyer, Shit My Dad Says, and probably fucking I Can Has Cheezburger. There have also been a shitload of book deals for Twitters lately. Google it.

A guy named Seth Harwood failed to get an agent through traditional means (despite being an Iowa MFA). He started giving his book away as a podcast, got a lot of followers, and leveraged that into a book deal.

Agents who are not particularly tech savvy were not necessarily looking at these sites, but younger agents who see a lot of these websites and understand the number of eyeballs involved know that it's a sure thing that someone who has 200k daily web visitors can move at least 20k books.

It's not common. If your blog is not popular enough that you can classify yourself as a minor celebrity, you probably won't get an agent through your blog. But anyone who can draw a lot of attention to themselves is interesting to literary agents, because literary agents like to eat occasionally, and query letters taste like shit, even if you dip them in ketchup. I bet agents are leaving tons of voice mails for the goddamn Jersey Shore kids.

djf881
01-21-2010, 08:21 AM
FYI:

http://mashable.com/2009/12/17/blog-to-book/

The book buying public wants pictures of funny road signs and cute animals. Proceed.

Toothpaste
01-21-2010, 09:12 AM
I imagine agents don't tend to scour the internet for blogs looking for books to publish. However, if a blog becomes famous (a la Julie and Julia) so everyone is talking about it or by chance catches an agent's eye, yes, I can imagine an agent contacting an author of a blog to offer representation. However, as djf881 said, I don't think this happens very often to authors of fiction. This is a far more likely scenario for non-fiction writers.

As to the notion that the slush pile is dead. What nonsense. It still exists, it's just not in the hands of publishers anymore. The hidden premise to all of this, which I rather dislike, is that agents are less discerning judges of taste and that somehow makes the slush pile unworthy to be in their hands. Agents know their stuff, and aren't evil. I think I'll make that into a bumper sticker.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2010, 06:13 PM
Some of the best agents out there have no blog, no website, no listings anywhere. By and large, you do not find them, they find you, whether it's through a short story published in a magazine they like, or through an editor who knows the first time novelist doesn't have an agent, or through a recommendation from another writer/agent/editor, or by seeing the writer's name often enough online.

Either way, I think calling the query process a slush pile is a bit strange. Yes, technically, it may be, but it bears no resemblance at all to slush piles of the past, since teh manuscript itself is not yet being considered, and may never be, no matter how good it is.

With a traditional slush pile, agents and editors see the manuscript itself. With the query process, an editor or agent may see no more than fifty to sixty manuscript per year out of thirty to fifty thousand queries.

gothicangel
01-21-2010, 06:35 PM
Some of the best agents out there have no blog, no website, no listings anywhere. By and large, you do not find them, they find you, whether it's through a short story published in a magazine they like, or through an editor who knows the first time novelist doesn't have an agent, or through a recommendation from another writer/agent/editor, or by seeing the writer's name often enough online.



A friend of mine was offered a book deal on the back of a published short story. Editors and agents are story lovers too. They enjoy reading outside of work as much as the rest of us.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2010, 08:20 PM
A friend of mine was offered a book deal on the back of a published short story. Editors and agents are story lovers too. They enjoy reading outside of work as much as the rest of us.

I have two writing friends who had good agents seek them out after short story sales. One was published in Yale Anglers' Journal, which I would have thought was relatively obscure, but it's apparent a pretty big deal in literary circles.

It happens.

CAWriter
01-21-2010, 11:15 PM
But agents have to have a way to get clients, and the best way (by far) is still the slush pile.

This may vary by agent. The agents I know (a half-dozen or so I'd call friends) get far more new clients from conferences than from the slush pile. Sure, they get excited when they do find that gem that was randomly sent to them, but they are more likely to move forward with someone they've met eye-to-eye. They've heard both their writing voice and their personal voice, they have an idea of whether they'll have a good working relationship, etc.

It's true that not every agent attends conferences and that not every writer can get to one, but in my writing circle, there have been far more deals (author/agent and author/editor) made as a result of relationships established in person than any other way.

I agree that the slush pile has been largely pushed onto agents, and they do (mostly) work their way through them. Sandra Bishop (agent with Chip MacGregor) addressed this on their blog last week. You might find it interesting: http://chipmacgregor.com/ (scroll down to January 15).

blacbird
01-21-2010, 11:25 PM
Either way, I think calling the query process a slush pile is a bit strange. Yes, technically, it may be, but it bears no resemblance at all to slush piles of the past, since teh manuscript itself is not yet being considered, and may never be, no matter how good it is.

Me too. It does seem to be a switch in the definition, and by the old context, the original contention of the linked article, that the "slush pile" is dead, is probably correct. But I believe it was Uncle Jim his own self, in another thread not too long ago, who discussed unsolicited queries as constituting an agent's slush pile.

caw

Dungeon Geek
01-22-2010, 02:05 AM
It's not bye bye slush pile dream. It's hello slush pile dream. Because if more and more agents are going to a few conferences to find writers to sign, the vast majority of writers is going to be left out. This scheme of dumping the slush onto the agents is not working very well to begin with, and if agents start looking elsewhere for writers, the whole thing is just going to collapse. This will force editors to open the doors to unagented writers once again, because no matter how you slice it and dice it, you've got to look at 5000 turds to find one diamond.

Let me repeat that: You've got to look at 5000 turds to find one diamond. The agents going to conferences with a few hundred writers are going to be hard-pressed to find that one diamond. So, if they really don't want to read slush, they might have to settle for a turd. This turd is then submitted to an editor who is hoping for a diamond, but since he pushed the slush onto the agents, all he gets is a turd.

Where is this all leading? It's the slush pile, bro, or we go bankrupt. Once the editors get enough turds on their plates, they'll blame the agents for not letting the diamonds through. And then, in an effort to keep their jobs, they'll open the doors to unsolicited manuscripts. Gosh, it's funny how these things run full circle.

icerose
01-22-2010, 02:36 AM
It's not bye bye slush pile dream. It's hello slush pile dream. Because if more and more agents are going to a few conferences to find writers to sign, the vast majority of writers is going to be left out. This scheme of dumping the slush onto the agents is not working very well to begin with, and if agents start looking elsewhere for writers, the whole thing is just going to collapse. This will force editors to open the doors to unagented writers once again, because no matter how you slice it and dice it, you've got to look at 5000 turds to find one diamond.

Let me repeat that: You've got to look at 5000 turds to find one diamond. The agents going to conferences with a few hundred writers are going to be hard-pressed to find that one diamond. So, if they really don't want to read slush, they might have to settle for a turd. This turd is then submitted to an editor who is hoping for a diamond, but since he pushed the slush onto the agents, all he gets is a turd.

Where is this all leading? It's the slush pile, bro, or we go bankrupt. Once the editors get enough turds on their plates, they'll blame the agents for not letting the diamonds through. And then, in an effort to keep their jobs, they'll open the doors to unsolicited manuscripts. Gosh, it's funny how these things run full circle.

I've yet to see an agent starved of clients and offering crappy manuscripts because all the diamonds have vanished.

I'm calling BS.

Toothpaste
01-22-2010, 02:50 AM
Um agent slush piles have existed for a while now. This isn't a new development. It seems to be working just fine with many a bestseller being found (Harry Potter, Twilight anyone??).

Prove where it isn't working exactly. Prove where your prediction is founded in truth.

Clair Dickson
01-22-2010, 02:54 AM
Where are agents finding the time? Considering how the bulk of them speak like there's barely enough time in the day to do what they do already, how many seriously have time to surf the net looking for new voices? And how many authors have gotten calls from agents that resulted in the sale of their book?

Agents do not work 24/7. They may be overwhelmed at times but they still have lives beyond agent work. Lives that, like the rest of us, may include surfing the web, reading zines, blogs, or even watching TV. You know, for fun. And if they happen to find something interesting, or a new voice, then they might persue it. Their work day may be packed, but it doesn't mean they don't do normal things like other working people.

And they do solicit authors from time to time.

Want an example? Hi. I'm an example. TWO different agents have asked me to submit my novel for consideration-- both because of my short stories as published in zines, though they came upon said stories in different ways. (Sadly, I apparently suck at writing a novel, so nothing has really come of either solicitation.)

As for the OP's article... this is nothing new. Someone decries the "death" of how things used to be and how "great" things were once upon a time. :rolleyes: And yet people still get published.

Dungeon Geek
01-22-2010, 04:06 AM
I've yet to see an agent starved of clients and offering crappy manuscripts because all the diamonds have vanished.

I'm calling BS.

Right, they're not starved of clients because they have slush piles. If they started ignoring those slush piles, then it's turd time in my view. Do the math. You need large numbers of manuscripts in order to find a worthy one. A conference is nothing more than a tiny slush pile--a good place to look now and then, but not your primary focus. The numbers just aren't there. AND THE WRITERS AT THOSE CONFERENCES ARE NO BETTER THAN THE WRITERS SITTING ON THEIR BUTTS AT HOME. WHoops, my caps lock key got stuck there. :) So, it's illogical to rely on a smaller slush pile (even with the personal perks), which is what you find at a conference. Avoiding the work load doesn't make for finding great manuscripts, and if someone takes the lazy route hoping it will lead to diamonds, they're deluding themselves. Hey, I understand why it happens (if indeed it does to any significant degree, of which I'm still not convinced), but it doesn't mean it's a great idea. Does the slush pile suck? In some ways, it sucks rotten eggs, but you still can't run from it and expect great success. If you could, the agent doors would snap shut so quickly it would make writers' heads spin. So let's get real.

The query slush piles are indeed still going strong, and there's a reason for that. It's where the numbers are. Most agents aren't reputable enough to turn up their noses at the slush. The few that are...well, there's always the bigshots in every industry who aren't easy to contact. In general, though, if the agents give up on the slush, the slush will have to go back to the editors. The numbers are just too important, with no viable alternative on the horizon.

So I'm calling BS on the notion that the slush is disappearing, when there's not a shred of evidence to the contrary.

Toothpaste
01-22-2010, 04:17 AM
Dungeon Geek - towards whom are your comments directed? I think that's what's confusing us. Your first post appeared to be that since agents now have slush piles as opposed to editors we will all be doomed, but you have since cleared it up saying that your point is that the slush pile exists and it is ridiculous to think otherwise.

But . . . no one here has said otherwise. The only place from which the slush has disappeared is the editor's desk. Others here have pointed out that agents ALSO find MSs in other ways, but the slush pile is still the number one resource for many of them.

No need to tell anyone to get real, I think we all agree agents have slush piles.

CAWriter
01-22-2010, 06:47 AM
Right, they're not starved of clients because they have slush piles. If they started ignoring those slush piles, then it's turd time in my view. Do the math. You need large numbers of manuscripts in order to find a worthy one. A conference is nothing more than a tiny slush pile--a good place to look now and then, but not your primary focus. The numbers just aren't there. AND THE WRITERS AT THOSE CONFERENCES ARE NO BETTER THAN THE WRITERS SITTING ON THEIR BUTTS AT HOME. WHoops, my caps lock key got stuck there. :) So, it's illogical to rely on a smaller slush pile (even with the personal perks), which is what you find at a conference. Avoiding the work load doesn't make for finding great manuscripts, and if someone takes the lazy route hoping it will lead to diamonds, they're deluding themselves. Hey, I understand why it happens (if indeed it does to any significant degree, of which I'm still not convinced), but it doesn't mean it's a great idea. Does the slush pile suck? In some ways, it sucks rotten eggs, but you still can't run from it and expect great success. If you could, the agent doors would snap shut so quickly it would make writers' heads spin. So let's get real.

The query slush piles are indeed still going strong, and there's a reason for that. It's where the numbers are. Most agents aren't reputable enough to turn up their noses at the slush. The few that are...well, there's always the bigshots in every industry who aren't easy to contact. In general, though, if the agents give up on the slush, the slush will have to go back to the editors. The numbers are just too important, with no viable alternative on the horizon.

So I'm calling BS on the notion that the slush is disappearing, when there's not a shred of evidence to the contrary.

Have you been to conferences? I'll admit I write in a niche (although a fairly large one) and attend primarily conferences in that niche. I've attended one leading conference for the past 15 year (and been on the faculty, etc). In recent years, talking with agents, they have all mentioned that the quality of attendee is so high that they find themselves with too many good choices. These agents (and editors) would completely disagree that the quality of what they see at that conference is "no better than the writers sitting on their butts at home." If you read any number of agent blogs, I bet you'd find that sentiment expressed. There is a general consensus that it DOES make a difference when someone takes their work seriously enough to pay money to show up to learn from industry pro's, take that to heart, apply it, and then meet with an agent or editor about it. You're right, it is a numbers game, and the numbers favor those who take some extra steps/put in extra effort to make their work the best it can be.

And if their livelihood depended completely upon the slush pile, then there wouldn't be agencies, such as there are, who only take new clients by referral or invitation (those invitations being extended after meeting at a conference or trade show, or, to a lesser degree, achieving notariety of some sort).

We can agree to disagree. I disagree with your foundational premise that slush piles are where the predominant number of "diamonds" reside.

It would be interesting to get the resident agents to weigh in on this.

Dungeon Geek
01-22-2010, 07:20 AM
Dungeon Geek - towards whom are your comments directed? I think that's what's confusing us. Your first post appeared to be that since agents now have slush piles as opposed to editors we will all be doomed, but you have since cleared it up saying that your point is that the slush pile exists and it is ridiculous to think otherwise.

But . . . no one here has said otherwise. The only place from which the slush has disappeared is the editor's desk. Others here have pointed out that agents ALSO find MSs in other ways, but the slush pile is still the number one resource for many of them.

No need to tell anyone to get real, I think we all agree agents have slush piles.

My "get real" statement was directed at anyone who thinks the slush pile is dead, because I disagree with that notion. I wasn't targeting anyone specifically in this thread, though if there is anyone posting in this thread who thinks slush is dead, then my statement applies to that person, because I disagree with them and I think their view is not realistic. But it looks like you're pretty much in agreement with my point of view, so I certainly wasn't directing it at you.

Dungeon Geek
01-22-2010, 07:36 AM
Have you been to conferences? I'll admit I write in a niche (although a fairly large one) and attend primarily conferences in that niche. I've attended one leading conference for the past 15 year (and been on the faculty, etc). In recent years, talking with agents, they have all mentioned that the quality of attendee is so high that they find themselves with too many good choices. These agents (and editors) would completely disagree that the quality of what they see at that conference is "no better than the writers sitting on their butts at home." If you read any number of agent blogs, I bet you'd find that sentiment expressed. There is a general consensus that it DOES make a difference when someone takes their work seriously enough to pay money to show up to learn from industry pro's, take that to heart, apply it, and then meet with an agent or editor about it. You're right, it is a numbers game, and the numbers favor those who take some extra steps/put in extra effort to make their work the best it can be.

And if their livelihood depended completely upon the slush pile, then there wouldn't be agencies, such as there are, who only take new clients by referral or invitation (those invitations being extended after meeting at a conference or trade show, or, to a lesser degree, achieving notariety of some sort).

We can agree to disagree. I disagree with your foundational premise that slush piles are where the predominant number of "diamonds" reside.

It would be interesting to get the resident agents to weigh in on this.

Yeah...we need some agents to weigh in on this. Anyway, my feeling is that there are a lot of very determined writers who, for whatever reason, aren't very good. These writers are just as likely to turn up at a conference because they do in fact take themselves very seriously. Look, the conference is appealing because it seems like a possible good alternative to the ugliness of slush. But in my opinion, the numbers are just too small to make it a viable alternative. Otherwise, agents would be closing the submission doors for good and just attending conferences. I don't see that happening. Do you? I'm sure some agents trawl the conferences and the web for writer blogs, but it's just a side deal. There are plenty of serious, talented writers who can't travel to conferences for whatever reasons. Can agents afford to brush them off? In my view, hell no. Neither can editors.

This idea of finding new blood at conferences only, and shutting down the slush piles, is old and crusty. Writers conferences aren't new. They've been around for ages. So why didn't the slush pile die back in the 80s or 90s? Or five years ago? Heck, the Internet has been going strong for years now. But the slush piles are still open--and not just among agents. There are plenty of publishing houses that still allow unsolicited manuscripts as well.

blacbird
01-22-2010, 12:30 PM
There are plenty of serious, talented writers who can't travel to conferences for whatever reasons. Can agents afford to brush them off?

Most agents? Yes.

caw

Dungeon Geek
01-22-2010, 01:32 PM
Most agents? Yes.

caw

Wow! Most of them can afford to brush off a bunch of serious, talented writers? Well then agents got it made, man! Heck, I should become an agent. I'll have talented writers coming out my wazoo. :) Heck, I'd keep my slush pile closed most of the year and just live the good life. So where do I sign up? :partyguy:

Libbie
01-22-2010, 07:06 PM
I would just like to point out that I am going to be a debut novelist, and I just received an offer of representation from a major agency. I got there via the slush pile. So it does happen -- at least as of 21 January 2010. :) Keep your chins and hopes up, people!

icerose
01-22-2010, 07:17 PM
The vast majority of agents always have their slush pile open. The only time I have seen it closed is if they're having a baby, or their lists are so full of good clients they are forced to focus on the clients they already have and do right by them rather than keep piling up the books they have to try and sell.

djf881
01-22-2010, 07:55 PM
I don't think agents get a lot of clients at conferences, and I am very skeptical of the idea that conferences are a better route to representation than querying.

If you are a good writer and you write a good query, and you query to a number of appropriate agents, you will get partial or full manuscript requests. If you pay to go to a conference to do face-to-face pitches, you might also get requests. At that point, you're in the same pile. So what have you paid for?

One thing I think is true is that writers who have not been able to get any manuscript requests because their queries and sample pages are weak may get some manuscript requests through face-to-face pitches. Maybe the flaws that are clear in their pages aren't evident in their pitch, or maybe the agents request a lot of materials at conferences because they don't like rejecting someone to her face.

But to get an offer of representation, you have to be submitting one of the best handful manuscripts the agents get pitched that year, and people who are racking up dozens of rejections and no requests probably aren't. If you are good enough to get an agent, you can get an agent by querying.

Has anybody on here gotten an agent at a conference?

kullervo
01-22-2010, 08:24 PM
Has anybody on here gotten an agent at a conference?

Nobody gets an agent for showing up anywhere. They get an agent because their book is good and the agent thinks they can sell it. Period. They may have happened to meet the agent at the conference, but it was the book that did it, not the meeting.

djf881
01-22-2010, 08:26 PM
There is a general consensus that it DOES make a difference when someone takes their work seriously enough to pay money to show up to learn from industry pro's, take that to heart, apply it, and then meet with an agent or editor about it. You're right, it is a numbers game, and the numbers favor those who take some extra steps/put in extra effort to make their work the best it can be.


If that was true, they would encourage you to list your conference attendance in your queries. Agents do not want to know how hard you worked. They want to know how well you write and how good your book is.




And if their livelihood depended completely upon the slush pile, then there wouldn't be agencies, such as there are, who only take new clients by referral or invitation (those invitations being extended after meeting at a conference or trade show, or, to a lesser degree, achieving notariety of some sort).


Agents that don't take queries don't take pitches at conferences either, and agents who are interested in unknown, debut authors tend to take queries.

Amarie
01-22-2010, 08:27 PM
Has anybody on here gotten an agent at a conference?

I don't know about AW, but I posted this survey a few weeks ago. Of the 55 debut 2010 YA/MG authors who participated, I think about 6 got agents through conferences.

I've been to many conferences, even though I got my agent through a slush pile query, and I would say conferences are useful if you have a good query that is getting no requests or you know you have a manuscript that doesn't fit into a neat genre category. In the first case, a face to face meeting with an agent might help you figure out why you are getting no requests, and in the second, agents almost always agree to read 30-50 pages, so you can at least get your manuscript in front of someone.


ETA: Sometimes good queries get no requests, because the premise isn't interesting enough, unique enough, or the type of story isn't popular at the moment.


http://community.livejournal.com/10_ers/377542.html

Libbie
01-22-2010, 08:35 PM
Nobody gets an agent for showing up anywhere. They get an agent because their book is good and the agent thinks they can sell it. Period. They may have happened to meet the agent at the conference, but it was the book that did it, not the meeting.

Right. Conference pitch vs. query pitch are just two of several ways to interest an agent in your book.

(I should point out that the other ways are either dependent on who you know, or frowned upon.)

CAWriter
01-23-2010, 12:25 AM
I would just like to point out that I am going to be a debut novelist, and I just received an offer of representation from a major agency. I got there via the slush pile. So it does happen -- at least as of 21 January 2010. :) Keep your chins and hopes up, people!

Hey! Congrats on your big news (way to slide it in there all subtle-like)!

This discussion probably goes to serve the point that writers MUST do their homework on the agents they submit to if they hope to be successful. Some may find a good percentage of their new clients via slushpile. Many (that I know personally), don't.

When I responded to this thread initially, I had just read Sandra Bishop's post (that I linked to above) and had this quote from her in mind:


And I think writers would even agree that digging through the slush pile is just not the most efficient place to look for such success.

blacbird
01-23-2010, 12:44 AM
Agents that don't take queries don't take pitches at conferences either

Not true. At least not by statements of many agents themselves, who list on websites or other media that they don't accept unsolicited queries, and acquire new authors via conferences or recommendations.


and agents who are interested in unknown, debut authors tend to take queries.

Probably, but again, not categorically. And, regrettably, the percentage of agents saying that they don't accept unsolicited queries seems to be growing rapidly.

caw

wrangler
01-23-2010, 12:48 AM
It doesn't change my approach at all...I'm not stopping until I get published AND I also want a book on the NY Times Best Seller List.

djf881
01-23-2010, 12:55 AM
Not true. At least not by statements of many agents themselves, who list on websites or other media that they don't accept unsolicited queries, and acquire new authors via conferences or recommendations.


I don't think a lot of those agents who don't take queries are hearing pitches at conferences. Anyone who is looking to represent debut authors is going to be taking queries, and anyone who doesn't want new authors is not going to be hearing pitches at a conference.

Conference attendees are better than the average query, but the very best stuff probably isn't available at conferences. For example, top MFA grads probably aren't going to conferences. People who get lots of requests from their queries have no reason to go to conferences.

I'd be really interested to hear if there are any agented writers who made an initial contact at a conference and ended up getting an offer.

blacbird
01-23-2010, 01:24 AM
Damn if I know. Why don't you ask 'em?

caw

CAWriter
01-23-2010, 02:13 AM
I'd be really interested to hear if there are any agented writers who made an initial contact at a conference and ended up getting an offer.

Ok, I'll admit my bias here. All of my success I'd attribute to conferences. At my first significant conference, I had two publishers (Thomas Nelson and Harper San Francisco) take my proposal back to committee. I got a publishing deal from that. (I secured an agent after the offer came; the Harper editor had suggested I get one. That agent came through a contact I had with someone in a different part of the business.)

My agent ultimately left the agency and when I went looking for a new agent, I made that contact through a conference as well. There were others I was invited to submit to and all of those were initially conference relationships, except the one with whom I'd been friends before she became an agent.

I could probably point you to more than a dozen writer blogs where the writer met their agent at a conference as well. Again, that may be unique to the CBA niche, but agents there will tell you they see more quality submissions at a conference than they do in their slush/query piles.

HapiSofi
01-23-2010, 04:20 AM
That WSJ article is abominably stupid and misleading. I don't want to spend the next couple of hours dissecting it in detail. Maybe I'll say more about it later on. Right now, all I have to say is:

1. Notice how they didn't interview any editors at houses that still read slush, and didn't cite sources and specifics when they made assertions about them? Katherine Rosman knew what her story was before she researched it -- and she didn't do much research.

2. Throughout the story, she conflates reading practices in book publishing and the movie industry, without once acknowledging that they're very different industries with unrelated slush-reading practices. This renders her analysis and commentary meaningless.

3. Judith Guest and Stephenie Meyer didn't get offers from the first publishers and agents they contacted? Big deal. Not every book is for every reader. For example, I didn't like either of those first novels. If Katherine Rosman thinks they're so wonderful that no one could ever justly reject them, that's her problem.

HapiSofi
01-23-2010, 04:25 AM
Okay, one more bitchy remark. I assume that if Katherine Rosman has a bee in her bonnet about rejections, it's for the usual reason.

Jamesaritchie
01-23-2010, 05:03 AM
Darned few agents get many clients at conferences, and that isn't why most agents go to conferences. I doubt any good agent finds more than ten percent of her clients at conferences, and, in fact, a lot fewer agents go to conferences than most think. When they do go, it's usually for the money.

As for taking writing seriously, who cares? A good book is what sells, not the writer's attitude. I've been in and around publishing for thirty years now, and I've yet to hear an agent or an editor ask how seriously the writer takes his writing, or ask about the conferences he's attended. Either he has a good book, or he doesn't.

Nor has any agent or editor ever told me they see more quality at conferences than in slush. In fact, conference material is just slush that comes with a mouth attached. Most of it is horrible.

Slush piles do work, but slush piles ARE dying out. They simply are. When I first started writing, almost every publisher out there accepted manuscripts, and even almost all the agent accepted partials, rather than queries. This is no longer true.

blacbird
01-23-2010, 05:11 AM
Either he has a good book, or he doesn't.

Well, it mostly starts as: Either he has a good query, or he doesn't. If the latter, the book might as well not exist.

caw

ChristineR
01-23-2010, 05:23 AM
I've never understood the advice about conferences. Don't agents get paid to go to those things, at least if they listen to pitches? They're not there to find slush, they're there to listen to pitches and give feedback. Hence they will spend time on pitches they think are useless, at least to themselves, give feedback, and collect the money. I'd think your chances at a conference would be worse, not better than standard slush. If the agent thinks your book is grand, but can't sell if for some reason, she won't waste her or your time on it if it's sent to her--in the time it takes for you to get to the conference, you can query ten agents, all of whom are probably more likely to take you on.

Now just getting good advice is a different matter, but again, I've never been convinced that you'll get better advice from a conference than from the various free and cheap sources out there.

HapiSofi
01-23-2010, 08:21 AM
As for taking writing seriously, who cares? A good book is what sells, not the writer's attitude. I've been in and around publishing for thirty years now, and I've yet to hear an agent or an editor ask how seriously the writer takes his writing, or ask about the conferences he's attended. Either he has a good book, or he doesn't.
True, true, true. There've been bestselling authors who've practically had to be kidnapped and held hostage to get them to deliver their next book. As long as the books (and their sales) repaid the effort, their attitude didn't matter.

I've never understood the advice about conferences. Don't agents get paid to go to those things, at least if they listen to pitches?
I can only speak as an editor, but I've never gotten more than airfare, a hotel room, and my meals for doing that gig at writers' conferences. In return, I worked nonstop all weekend, which is why my enthusiasm waned for going to them. I've heard rumors that there are conferences that give agents and editors a cut of the take. I've never been offered that.

They're not there to find slush, they're there to listen to pitches and give feedback.Those are the aspects of it the conferences sell to attendees. If that were all that was going on, agents and editors wouldn't have much reason to go. Pitch sessions are like face-to-face slush.

Hence they will spend time on pitches they think are useless, at least to themselves, give feedback, and collect the money.Just about all pitch sessions are useless, especially if you don't get to see a sample of the authors' actual writing. At best, they're like a live-action query letter.

I'd think your chances at a conference would be worse, not better than standard slush. If the agent thinks your book is grand, but can't sell if for some reason, she won't waste her or your time on it if it's sent to her--in the time it takes for you to get to the conference, you can query ten agents, all of whom are probably more likely to take you on.I thought a lot of the attendees were mostly there for the morale boost.


Now just getting good advice is a different matter, but again, I've never been convinced that you'll get better advice from a conference than from the various free and cheap sources out there.I did the best I could for the writers who pitched me their books, but we only had a few minutes to talk. IMO, they'd have done better to come to AW and read stuff like Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, or saved their money and gone to a more extended workshop.

Dungeon Geek
01-23-2010, 09:54 AM
Slush piles do work, but slush piles ARE dying out. They simply are. When I first started writing, almost every publisher out there accepted manuscripts, and even almost all the agent accepted partials, rather than queries. This is no longer true.

Are you factoring queries only into the slush pile, or just partials or fulls? It seems to me the query slush is still pretty deep.

Jamesaritchie
01-23-2010, 07:02 PM
Are you factoring queries only into the slush pile, or just partials or fulls? It seems to me the query slush is still pretty deep.


Just fulls and partials. This is what traditional slush piles always were. Queries may be slush, but they are not novels and partials, and you have to get through the query process before anyone will even consider your actual novel.

Even worse, most publishers who still have traditional slush plies almost never actually buy a novel from one. It made big news a few years ago when one large publisher did buy a novel from slush. . .the first one in ten years.

The way it works now, publishers simply do not need to hire first readers for slush, and they don't need to worry about rejecting slush unread. Actually buying a novel from slush is such a rarity today that even accepting slush is more about getting along with writers than with finding new writers.

Libbie
01-23-2010, 07:54 PM
Okay, one more bitchy remark. I assume that if Katherine Rosman has a bee in her bonnet about rejections, it's for the usual reason.

You're my fave.

blacbird
01-24-2010, 12:20 AM
Just about all pitch sessions are useless, especially if you don't get to see a sample of the authors' actual writing.

Wouldn't this be equally true of queries-only submissions to an agent? Which most agents explicitly request?

caw

Jamesaritchie
01-24-2010, 04:58 AM
Wouldn't this be equally true of queries-only submissions to an agent? Which most agents explicitly request?

caw

This is why a writer should ALWAYS include at least the first three pages of the manuscript with a query letter. Miss Snark said five is the unwritten rule, but I find three fits better in an envelope, and still does the job.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-24-2010, 05:31 AM
But why would you include material that wasn't requested? Wouldn't that get you an instant R instead of getting read? If their guidelines just ask for a query letter, that's what I'm sending. Plenty of agents who want to see the first three or five or fifty pages clearly state it, I imagine those who only ask for a query letter aren't expecting (or wanting) people to send any part of their manuscript with it :)

blacbird
01-24-2010, 12:01 PM
This is why a writer should ALWAYS include at least the first three pages of the manuscript with a query letter. Miss Snark said five is the unwritten rule, but I find three fits better in an envelope, and still does the job.

Ditto what LeBlanc just said. Why in hell would an agent wanting to see a few pages of text not say so, up front, instead of "Query only"? This kind of disingenuous crap drives me crazy.

caw

Anaquana
01-24-2010, 12:33 PM
I would never send anything that an agent hasn't asked for.

Most agents I follow say they look to see if a person querying them has the ability to follow directions. I would imagine that sending them stuff they haven't requested would fall under the "can't follow directions" heading. Not the sort of impression I want to make.

waylander
01-24-2010, 01:06 PM
But why would you include material that wasn't requested? Wouldn't that get you an instant R instead of getting read? If their guidelines just ask for a query letter, that's what I'm sending. Plenty of agents who want to see the first three or five or fifty pages clearly state it, I imagine those who only ask for a query letter aren't expecting (or wanting) people to send any part of their manuscript with it :)


Fair enough, when the agent specifies exactly what they want i.e. 'send a query letter only', that is what you send.
When they say 'send a query', then you include the first 3/5 pages because that is what a std query consists of.

Jamesaritchie
01-24-2010, 09:23 PM
I would never send anything that an agent hasn't asked for.

Most agents I follow say they look to see if a person querying them has the ability to follow directions. I would imagine that sending them stuff they haven't requested would fall under the "can't follow directions" heading. Not the sort of impression I want to make.

First, following directions is good, but not uincluding sample pages is just dumb. An agent stupid enough to pass on a good book because of three sample pages is an idiot, and won't be in the business long.

Miss Snark called this an unwritten rule for good reason.

And, frankly, why in God's name are so many writers afraid of irritating agents? An agent is my employee, not the other way around. I'm not going to send her a full, or even a partial, but she needs to see sample pages, and any writer needs to have the agent look at sample pages.

A lot of talented writers can't get an agent to request a full, or get a very, very low percentage asking for a full, because they write a bad or boring or same old same old query letter. But if those first three to five pages make an agent want to see more, even a lousy query letter can still get a request.

Agents are not special people, they do not employ writers, they have no power over writers, or over editors, for that matter, and writers need to have the writing read, not just a query letter that tells an agent about the writing.

Really, an agent who tosses out a query because sample pages are attached or sent along is not an agent you want representing you.

Anaquana
01-25-2010, 12:07 AM
James, it's not a matter of being afraid to irritate agents, it's a matter of being polite and following the rules they've set up to make their jobs easier. My feeling is that if they pass on simply a query without seeing sample pages, then that's their loss. There are plenty of other agents out there who ask for sample pages to be included along with the query.

I've gotten up to a request for a full from agents who only wanted a query letter. I've also been rejected right off the bat by agents who request the first three chapters and a detailed synopsis with the query. Same query, same first pages, same synopsis.

ChristineR
01-25-2010, 12:15 AM
I certainly see the logic of including a few sample pages (why not? Can't hurt?) but it does give the impression that you haven't actually researched the agent and read their guidelines. Anyone who appears to be doing blanket query blasting is in trouble. So I guess it would depend on the individual agent, and of course you can only guess which category your agent falls into.

Dungeon Geek
01-25-2010, 12:52 AM
Why would agents want a writer to ONLY send a query and reject writers for sending sample pages. That makes no sense whatsoever. What the hell harm does it do to stick a few pages in an e-mail or envelope? If he or she doesn't want them, they have the right to ignore them.

That's as bad as agents who spend all their time blogging and come off as know-it-alls when they don't know much of anything about writing. Who the hell wants an agent like that? It would be better to have your cousin act as your agent than it would be to sign with an agent like that.

Anaquana
01-25-2010, 01:07 AM
Another reason not to do it is because it comes across as arrogant. It sends the message that you don't have to follow the rules because you're some super special snowflake of awesomeness. If I were an agent, I might not auto-reject for it, but I would do some serious thinking about whether I want to work with somebody who thinks they're above following the guidelines.

Or, as Christine said, it could make you look ignorant. Neither quality is endearing.

Rolling Thunder
01-25-2010, 01:17 AM
First, following directions is good, but not uincluding sample pages is just dumb. An agent stupid enough to pass on a good book because of three sample pages is an idiot, and won't be in the business long.

Miss Snark called this an unwritten rule for good reason.

And, frankly, why in God's name are so many writers afraid of irritating agents? An agent is my employee, not the other way around. I'm not going to send her a full, or even a partial, but she needs to see sample pages, and any writer needs to have the agent look at sample pages.

A lot of talented writers can't get an agent to request a full, or get a very, very low percentage asking for a full, because they write a bad or boring or same old same old query letter. But if those first three to five pages make an agent want to see more, even a lousy query letter can still get a request.

Agents are not special people, they do not employ writers, they have no power over writers, or over editors, for that matter, and writers need to have the writing read, not just a query letter that tells an agent about the writing.

Really, an agent who tosses out a query because sample pages are attached or sent along is not an agent you want representing you.

I'm bending a promise I made to myself, but I think it needs to be done in regard to this discussion. I agree with James on this issue and I've found he's not the only one making these suggestions. Agents are a necessary part of the publishing process --but they are far from being the only avenue to being published.

I've found this writer's perspective to be valuable to me. Some won't agree with it, but it's worth contemplating the value of such advice. Follow the link and click on the agents section.

Dean is updating his blog regularly so there is much more to read and consider. YMMV, so decide for yourself what works for you.

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=600

djf881
01-25-2010, 02:32 AM
Another reason not to do it is because it comes across as arrogant. It sends the message that you don't have to follow the rules because you're some super special snowflake of awesomeness. If I were an agent, I might not auto-reject for it, but I would do some serious thinking about whether I want to work with somebody who thinks they're above following the guidelines.

Or, as Christine said, it could make you look ignorant. Neither quality is endearing.

Sending five pages with a query letter is such a standard practice that no agent is likely to look askance at it, even if their guidelines say "query only." Ms. Snark and Janet Reid have bitched about people who don't follow the guidelines, but agents who only like to receive queries by snail mail have requested materials from people who e-mailed them. If your book is the hotness and they want it, your attitude isn't a big issue, unless you're so comprehensively unpleasant that the agent can't stand the idea of having to communicate with you semi-regularly.

Being polite and following the rules is generally a good idea, but if your book is awesome, it doesn't matter that much. And "I am super-awesome" is a better tone than "thank you so much for your consideration, oh god of the slushpile." If you don't think you're super-special, why are you doing this in the first place? I, for example, am fucking awesome.

Anaquana
01-25-2010, 02:45 AM
DJF, I know that I'm super-special, however, I generally don't go around advertising that fact. Self-confidence is admirable. Arrogance is ignoble.

These are just my opinions, of course. Take them or leave them. If you want to send five pages to every agent you query, more power to you. I'll do what I feel is the appropriate thing to do and follow the guidelines. Not because I'm meek or a lemming or think agents are gods of the slush-pile, but because it's the right thing to do.

If my book is as great as I think it is, then somebody somewhere is going to want to rep it, whether I send them five pages or not.

HapiSofi
01-25-2010, 03:45 AM
Five sample pages is a gross screening device for being able to write passable prose.

Some book ideas and query presentations are so obviously good that they need no additional material. Others look like they could be good -- assuming the author knows how to write. A few sample pages are enough to establish that basic competence.

Why five sample pages? At a guess, because six sheets of letter-size paper plus one legal envelope weighs one ounce, so you don't need an extra stamp.

aadams73
01-25-2010, 07:35 AM
If my book is as great as I think it is, then somebody somewhere is going to want to rep it, whether I send them five pages or not.

Not necessarily. What if your query lacks zing but sounds mildly interesting? An agent might glance through those five pages and decide that while your query is sub-par, you can actually produce decent prose. If you don't include the five pages, s/he will probably pass.

For what it's worth, I got my agent after sending five pages she didn't request. She emailed, asked for a full based on those five, and that was that.

Anaquana
01-25-2010, 07:38 AM
Well, my requests for more are more than double the number of rejections, so my query isn't lacking, that's for sure.

ETA: And most of them are from queries only.

Jamesaritchie
01-25-2010, 07:19 PM
Another reason not to do it is because it comes across as arrogant. It sends the message that you don't have to follow the rules because you're some super special snowflake of awesomeness. If I were an agent, I might not auto-reject for it, but I would do some serious thinking about whether I want to work with somebody who thinks they're above following the guidelines.

Or, as Christine said, it could make you look ignorant. Neither quality is endearing.

That's just it. It does not come across as arrogant. With every agent I've talked to, and certainly with every editor, it comes across as intelligent.

Arrogant is an agent who would reject a query because the writer included sample pages. That's arrogant beyond belief. And just plain dumb.

But writers really need to get over the, is it "fear" of agents? Agents are employees. not bosses, and within reason, employees are the ones who are suppsed to follow instructions, not employers.

It would be silly to send a full manuscript without a request, but it's equally silly to think, "Oh, if I dare include sample pages, the agent will think I'm arrogant and refuse to work for me."

Dungeon Geek
01-25-2010, 10:01 PM
This is indicative of a bigger problem. If writers put agents on such high pedestals that they're afraid of being labeled arrogant at the drop of a hat, that means those writers will probably do ANYTHING to sign with such agents. And a lot of agents don't work out. They have to be fired. They don't always know what's best. They usually don't know anything about writing, but some of them will ask for novel rewrites. An informed writer is going to say: "Sorry, I don't do rewrites for agents. Your job is to sell my book to publishers and negotiate contracts."

Much of this is due to the mistaken belief that any agent is a great agent, and that any agent is sure to lead to success. Terribly wrong on both counts. Many agents are so bad your best friend could call himself an agent, take you on as his employee, and have just as much success (or lack thereof) as countless other agents. Then you could submit to all those places that don't take unagented material because you'd be represented!

Silly system we have these days, isn't it? No wonder certain agents (thieves) continue to make money by charging up-front frees. News flash to writers desperate for an agent: Before you pay up-front fees to an agent who does nothing but make a living off desperate writers, hire your best friend for free.

Agents are a dime a dozen, and cheaper if you want to go the route I mentioned above. To find the good ones, you need to check backgrounds and credentials and see what they've published, among other things. YOU are the one seeking to HIRE the agent, so it's up to you to evaluate their worth.

If you're scared of offending by offering a small sample of your work, then you're not acting like someone who is trying to hire an employee, but more like a writer desperate for someone to represent them.

In my good-natured opinion, of course. :)

waylander
01-25-2010, 10:08 PM
Do you have an agent?

Anaquana
01-25-2010, 11:27 PM
Wow... so many false assumptions being thrown around here. I have said repeatedly in this thread that I'm not afraid of agents nor do I put them on pedestals.

I've gotten into Twitter and blog discussions with quite a few of them where I've *gasp* disagreed with things they've said. I've crossed agents off my list of ones to query because I don't agree with their methods or things they've said. These are not the actions of somebody who is scared of being "labeled arrogant at the drop of a hat" or willing to "do anything to sign with an agent".

My opinion comes from things that agents have said in blogs and Twitter and my own personal thoughts on the matter. Yes, I do think it comes across as arrogant to send somebody something they haven't asked for. Especially when most of them are so inundated with material, they take months to get back on a simple query. Pardon me for trying to be polite and not contributing to the insane wait times.

I said before and I'll say it again - do whatever the hell you want to do with your query letters. Send five pages, write it on sparkly notepaper with stickers. It's not my query and not my career. I simply gave my opinion on the matter.

With that, I'm out of here.

BenPanced
01-25-2010, 11:47 PM
Five sample pages is a gross screening device for being able to write passable prose.

Some book ideas and query presentations are so obviously good that they need no additional material. Others look like they could be good -- assuming the author knows how to write. A few sample pages are enough to establish that basic competence.

Why five sample pages? At a guess, because six sheets of letter-size paper plus one legal envelope weighs one ounce, so you don't need an extra stamp.
It does make sense since you're dropping a step in the process, cutting it down by a few extra days/weeks.

Dungeon Geek
01-26-2010, 12:44 AM
Do you have an agent?

Are you making me an offer? PM me your list of agent credentials and I'll think it over carefully and get back to you. :)

Dungeon Geek
01-26-2010, 12:48 AM
Wow... so many false assumptions being thrown around here. I have said repeatedly in this thread that I'm not afraid of agents nor do I put them on pedestals.

I've gotten into Twitter and blog discussions with quite a few of them where I've *gasp* disagreed with things they've said. I've crossed agents off my list of ones to query because I don't agree with their methods or things they've said. These are not the actions of somebody who is scared of being "labeled arrogant at the drop of a hat" or willing to "do anything to sign with an agent".

My opinion comes from things that agents have said in blogs and Twitter and my own personal thoughts on the matter. Yes, I do think it comes across as arrogant to send somebody something they haven't asked for. Especially when most of them are so inundated with material, they take months to get back on a simple query. Pardon me for trying to be polite and not contributing to the insane wait times.

I said before and I'll say it again - do whatever the hell you want to do with your query letters. Send five pages, write it on sparkly notepaper with stickers. It's not my query and not my career. I simply gave my opinion on the matter.

With that, I'm out of here.

Sorry, Anaquana. I wasn't speaking to you directly, but just giving my opinion in general. If it works for you to do it your way, that's great. I was just giving some cautions to writers who do put agents on such high pedestals it runs them into trouble. I assume this website gets a lot of writers visiting who read this stuff, so if it helps one writer make a smarter choice, it was worth blabbing about.

Jamesaritchie
01-26-2010, 02:23 AM
I'd also say stay away from agents who are on twitter.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-26-2010, 02:31 AM
I'd also say stay away from agents who are on twitter.

So you'd stay away from someone like the Dystel & Goderich Literary, Nathan Bransford and Colleen Lindsay (of FinePrint Literary Management), successful agents who all use Twitter?

willietheshakes
01-26-2010, 02:36 AM
I'd also say stay away from agents who are on twitter.

Why?

ColoradoGuy
01-26-2010, 03:25 AM
I'd also say stay away from agents who are on twitter.
I'm not sure my agent even knows what Twitter is. Which is fine.

blacbird
01-26-2010, 04:09 AM
I stay away from anyone who's on Twitter.

caw

Momento Mori
01-26-2010, 04:13 PM
Dungeon Geek:
a lot of agents don't work out. They have to be fired. They don't always know what's best. They usually don't know anything about writing, but some of them will ask for novel rewrites. An informed writer is going to say: "Sorry, I don't do rewrites for agents. Your job is to sell my book to publishers and negotiate contracts."

What complete and utter bollocks.

My agent has given me comments on my novel. I am finishing my revisions in line with the same. Some of her comments I agree with (and they have helped to strengthen the story). Some of her comments I disagreed with (but thinking about those points helped indicate other weaknesses within the text, which I have hopefully fixed).

All of those comments have been with the intention of making a stronger and therefore more sellable manuscript. They come precisely because she knows how to sell a manuscript, not because she's telling me how to write.


Dungeon Geek:
If you're scared of offending by offering a small sample of your work, then you're not acting like someone who is trying to hire an employee, but more like a writer desperate for someone to represent them.

An agent is not your employee. If you're going to classify the relationship as anything, it's closer to a partnership. As a result, they have to want to work with you as much as you want to work with them.

Sometimes, ignoring an agent's submission criteria works. But this is only sometimes. More often, the ones who ignore it find themselves at the bottom of the pile and those piles are very big.


Dungeon Geek:
I was just giving some cautions to writers who do put agents on such high pedestals it runs them into trouble. I assume this website gets a lot of writers visiting who read this stuff, so if it helps one writer make a smarter choice, it was worth blabbing about.

Judging from your earlier response to waylander, I presume that your "cautions" haven't helped you to get an agent so far.


blacbird:
I stay away from anyone who's on Twitter.

Agreed. I just don't get Twitter. I set up an account, used it once and never got the whole devotional following thing. Give me a good old blog any day of the week.

MM

willietheshakes
01-26-2010, 05:56 PM
I stay away from anyone who's on Twitter.

caw

See ya!

Toothpaste
01-26-2010, 08:28 PM
Guys . . . the twitter theory . . . not a great one. More and more people are going on Twitter, and I have to tell you, as an active user myself, it takes NO TIME out of my day. There are top agents on twitter, good, amazing, talented, kind agents. I think possibly some of you might think the only agents on twitter are the ones analysing queries together or being a bit snarky. But there are others who don't participate in that, who are on twitter so they can help promote their authors - they link to their authors' blogs, post news about their books . . . wouldn't you like your agent to also help promote your work?

Momento Mori
01-26-2010, 08:53 PM
Toothpaste:
Guys . . . the twitter theory . . . not a great one. More and more people are going on Twitter, and I have to tell you, as an active user myself, it takes NO TIME out of my day. There are top agents on twitter, good, amazing, talented, kind agents.

For myself, I'm not questioning the ability of agents who use Twitter and I don't have any negative feelings about their use of it. Like you said, it's potentially a very good marketing tool for their client's work.

My comments are led by the that I'm not a fan of Twitter, so I don't follow anyone who Tweets. It's a personal preference, rather than a qualitative judgment.

MM

BenPanced
01-26-2010, 08:58 PM
Same here. I'm beginning to wonder why in the fark I even bother with Facebook and MySpace.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-26-2010, 09:33 PM
Yeah, but saying 'I'm not going to query agent X because they use twitter' is foolish IMO. If they're making good consistent sales who cares if they use twitter or blogs? I don't like twitter at all and don't use it (and don't want to really), but I'm not going to avoid a perfectly good agent just because they use it.

Toothpaste
01-26-2010, 10:14 PM
For myself, I'm not questioning the ability of agents who use Twitter and I don't have any negative feelings about their use of it. Like you said, it's potentially a very good marketing tool for their client's work.

My comments are led by the that I'm not a fan of Twitter, so I don't follow anyone who Tweets. It's a personal preference, rather than a qualitative judgment.

MM


Well I'm confused then. If you don't mind agents using twitter, don't question their abilities, and that you agree it could be a good forum for them to promote their authors' works, why would you not want to submit to agents on twitter? Don't forget, you agreed to Blacbird's comment of: I stay away from anyone on twitter.

What does your personal preference about twitter have to do with anything? I would understand it better if you had a real moral judgment about twitter: Anyone who uses Twitter is evil, and I can't be represented by anyone who's evil.

But I sincerely don't understand why when you don't think twitter affects their job you wouldn't want an agent on twitter. You do know that you can have an agent on twitter and not be on it yourself right? That you are under no obligation to follow them on twitter if you sign with them.

Oh and btw, I'm on twitter. Does that mean you have to stay away from me too? :)

I'm guessing you were merely using blacbird's comment as a launching pad to discuss why you don't get twitter, not to reinforce the idea that any agent on Twitter is someone to stay far away from. But that's me reading further into what you said, so I can't be sure.

Truly I am really confused. :P

Momento Mori
01-26-2010, 10:38 PM
Toothpaste:
Well I'm confused then. If you don't mind agents using twitter, don't question their abilities, and that you agree it could be a good forum for them to promote their authors' works, why would you not want to submit to agents on twitter? Don't forget, you agreed to Blacbird's comment of: I stay away from anyone on twitter.

Because:

(a) I've got an agent, so I'm not submitting to anyone; and

(b) I took blacbird's comment as a tongue-in-cheek comment about the evils of Twitter generally, rather than an indictment on agents who Twitter, so was responding in kind. If I misunderstood blacbird's comment then I apologise for inadvertently diverting the thread.

So I don't think we're actually arguing here, but in case we are (and because Alex holds a v. scary sword):

1. I would have no issue with submitting to an agent who Twitters or blogs if they've got a good track record of selling the type of fiction I'm writing. In fact, checking out Twitter and blogs can be a good way of keeping track of what they're looking for and tailoring accordingly;

2. I don't personally like Twitter, so don't follow anyone on there, regardless of who they are or what they're doing. I don't even follow Stephen Fry. And I love Stephen Fry;

3. I do read blogs like a hardcore addict - if I could inject blogs into one of my veins, then I happily would.

Erm .. so yeah. No drama here. :)

MM

Toothpaste
01-26-2010, 10:48 PM
Okay cool :) It seems my conclusion then was correct. Love it when that happens . . .(would like it if it happened more frequently)

Twitter is an interesting beast. At first I really didn't like the concept of it at all. Then when I felt the pressure to join to self promote I started to get to know it. I still don't get the people who feel like sharing deeply personal things with the world on it (but the same can be said of blogs etc), but I have grown to quite like it. I've met a lot of authors on twitter, networked very well. I've had people review my books because they found me on twitter. It's been quite good for me as an author. I'm not sure I'd be on it if I wasn't one though.

Anyway . . . I'm taking this thread down a totally different path so I'll stop.

Oh and do not fear Alex and her sword, she only decimates evil. Which you clearly are not.

Richard White
01-26-2010, 11:47 PM
I don't know, Toothpaste.

She looks awfully shifty to me.

You might have Alex warming up, just in case. *grin*