PDA

View Full Version : Lackadaisical, limited offer of representation - anyone else?



Hathor
02-27-2010, 03:37 AM
I just started querying agents last Friday. So far, most have yet to respond (which is to be expected), with a few quick not-for-me's (including one that said that my story was interesting but not marketable [why not ask about my analysis of the market and competing books first? but I digress]), and a couple requests for my book proposal. (This is a work of nonfiction.)

Now on the day that I sent the proposal to one agent, she writes back that she would be willing to sound out one particular small publisher with a cover letter, following up with my book proposal if appropriate. (Couldn't I just do this myself? The submissions guidelines link for this publisher isn't working, but it is a smallish publisher [Kaplan] so I doubt agented submissions are required.) Then she says: "If you don't get a more ambitious reception from another agent for your work, I'd be happy to talk."

Huh? She won't even read my book and will just send a query to one publisher, if I can't find someone else.

Is this some new trend of doing a minimal amount of work on a book and hoping for a payout, kind of like playing the lottery?

I'm glad I got another request for a book proposal today or I would be really depressed.

agentpaper
02-27-2010, 04:53 AM
Huh? She won't even read my book and will just send a query to one publisher, if I can't find someone else.

Is this some new trend of doing a minimal amount of work on a book and hoping for a payout, kind of like playing the lottery?

I'm glad I got another request for a book proposal today or I would be really depressed.

I could be way off base with this because I write fiction, but I always thought a non fiction book was written AFTER you get the agent. That's why they ask for a proposal instead of sample pages. Am I wrong?

Hathor
02-27-2010, 05:13 AM
No, not always. I happened to write the book first, for reasons I need not go into here.

Agents ask to see a nonfiction proposal even if the book is written, because it is shorter and contains information about the anticipated markets for your book, analysis of competing titles, marketing ideas, a summary of your chapters, etc. Then from that they can decide if they want to read your entire book.

The proposal contains a sample chapter (or chapters, depending on the length of your chapters).

As recommended, I made it clear in both my query letter and my proposal that the book is completed.

cate townsend
02-28-2010, 08:39 AM
I'd wait for a more ambitious response, if it were me.

If you've just started querying, then keep at it some more until you find someone who loves the work and would be heartbroken if you went with someone else. That's the agent who will work the hardest for you.

Like agentpaper, I write fiction, but I've heard that a good agent will submit your book to 6-8 publishers on a round. I'd be wary of an agent who only has one publisher in mind. Just some thoughts. Don't rush into anything.

Libbie
02-28-2010, 10:40 AM
Yeah, I'd hold out until you've made a connection with the right agent. You'll need them to have enthusiasm to sell your book. The response you got doesn't sound all that enthusiastic to me.

Hathor
02-28-2010, 05:47 PM
Oh, I agree with you both. I just found it strange to find an agent offering such a lukewarm response and limited plan. I definitely want someone who believes in the book (even to the extent of reading it :)).

At least she was upfront about it all. It would have been worse if she had requested the book, never read it, but feigned enthusiasm and offered representation, and only then sent it to this one publisher (that I could approach on my own). And even worse still if she tried to get me to pay a reading fee or for editing, etc.

I definitely intend to keep looking. I have three experts in the field who have read the book and written endorsements of it. When I get down I just read what they wrote. (Yes, I do mention the endorsements in my query and include them in the book proposal.) Most of those I've queried haven't yet responded -- and I can find others to query if none of those work out.

It helps to share, though, and I thank you for talking to me!

kellion92
02-28-2010, 08:49 PM
Putting aside the lukewarm, unprofessional, and speculative offer, any agent who can only think of one publisher with which to place your book is not the right agent for your book.

I'd keep querying agents as you've planned. And maybe you could think about querying the suggested publisher directly down the round should the agents not work out... :)

scope
02-28-2010, 09:11 PM
Of course the agent's response is ridiculous. But you are right - kudos to her for being upfront and as you said, not feigning enthusiasm, requesting the book and ultimately offering representation. In a peculiar way maybe we have to admire the way she does business???

jclarkdawe
02-28-2010, 09:54 PM
Personally I think you found a really great agent, just not for you. First off, let's look at the summary of what she said:


Now on the day that I sent the proposal to one agent, she writes back that she would be willing to sound out one particular small publisher with a cover letter, following up with my book proposal if appropriate. ... Then she says: "If you don't get a more ambitious reception from another agent for your work, I'd be happy to talk."Notice the last sentence. She's telling you that she's the fallback position. Remember applying to college and having a fallback college was part of the approach. Same thing here. She's being very upfront with you, and that's good.

She's also telling you that she feels there is a problem with your book, and my guess would be marketability. I wish she'd said what her problem was, but I understand in this day and age not saying. (As an attorney, I tell people I have a "conflict" if I don't want to represent them. It's usually easier than the truth.)

The one thing she is not being is lackadaisical. She knows what she can do, and even more important, what she can't do. People like that are to be valued, even if they are not your best choice. And right at the moment, she isn't your best choice.

I understand your frustration with this response, but I'd be sending her a big thank you and that I'd keep her wonderful offer in mind. Among other things, this might be the best you get.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

shaldna
03-01-2010, 05:16 PM
why not ask about my analysis of the market and competing books first? .


because unless you are a leading literary agent, Executive Editor at Random House or the chief buyer at Boarders, then your analysis of the market means jack.

kellion92
03-01-2010, 05:53 PM
I don't know what Hathor's book is about, but I imagine she has examined the specific topic and market much more closely than most agents, editors, or buyers. They may not agree with her conclusions, but anyone considering the book ought to take her data as a starting point.

Hathor
03-01-2010, 06:54 PM
because unless you are a leading literary agent, Executive Editor at Random House or the chief buyer at Boarders, then your analysis of the market means jack.

Well, then, why bother requiring it in book proposals? And why would all the books on writing book proposals stress how important this section is? All that work that all agents themselves ask for is meaningless to them, contrary to what they say? They are, each and every last one of them, experts in all fields and knowledgeable about every book that has been published in all those fields. They all just decided to ask for market analyses from authors on a whim, gleefully throwing those sections in the trash, unread.

OK, I'm ranting a bit. But I can't quite see where you are coming from or why you assume that my analysis (which took weeks of research and reading of other books) is not worth jack. I hate to think it was a massive waste of time.

Actually, different agents have been saying different things (and no one "leading" has weighed in yet), so I don't know that we can assume that this one agent is right, even if some agents may be omniscient.

Of course, time will tell. If I don't find an agent, there are a number of small publishers that can be approached. I only started querying a week ago; I think it a little premature to abandon all hope.

I hope you aren't saying that, because I received one rejection saying that she feared it might be difficult to place my book with a publisher (said without knowledge of other books dealing with the same subject matter as far as I know), that I should simply give up.

As far as the previous post is concerned, I doubt that there is any book that is of potential interest to one, and only one, publisher. The competing books I mention were published by others, and I describe how my book is different and needed. To mention just this one publisher indicates that the agent didn't read my proposal at all, despite requesting it. (She wouldn't have had the time to read it before her response unless she dropped everything and immediately read it.) I would have been happier with a simple "not for me but keep querying others" or a "not for me -- you may need to query small publishers if you can't find an agent."

But I didn't start this thread to get into an argument about the merits of my book or whether it will ever get published, with or without an agent. I never expected every agent to fall in love with my book. That's why I queried a lot of them and will continue to query until I either find success or run out of folks to query. I just found this "I will spend a few minutes doing something you can do for yourself, and nothing more" response to be peculiar.

Kellion92, thank you.

shaldna
03-01-2010, 07:12 PM
.

shaldna
03-01-2010, 07:16 PM
I don't know what Hathor's book is about, but I imagine she has examined the specific topic and market much more closely than most agents, editors, or buyers. They may not agree with her conclusions, but anyone considering the book ought to take her data as a starting point.


that's a lovely idea, but that's not how it works, because at the end of the day authors aren't the ones to make he decisions about what sells, and that's the fact of the matter.

agents, editors and buyers are the ones who make those decisions, and they know what they want and when.

I might see a huge gap in the market for a book about flying sparkly mermainds falling in love with cheese rolls, and all the research I do tells me the same things, that what the world really needs and wants is fishy cheese roll luvin.

But unless the people who actually make the decisions have come to that conclusion too, then nothing I say is going to make a difference.

nconner
03-01-2010, 07:26 PM
In my experience (how-to/reference books), agents have the most success placing books that they know editors are looking for. Sounds obvious, but people don't always think of the process in those terms. My agent regularly gets updates from the editors she works with, listing topics the editors are currently looking for. She then tries to match up her authors with those topics. So (in my field, anyway) when a proposal comes in over the transom, it's harder to match it up with a publisher that *might* want it. Not that it can't be done, of course, but the agent is more likely to focus on projects that she knows editors are actively seeking.

I don't know what kind of book you've written, but a lot of nonfiction publishers have series (Dummies, Missing Manual, Teach Yourself X in 10 Minutes, and so on) that have a definite series style. In those cases, a book that's already written could be harder to sell because it will likely involve significant rewriting to fit in with the rest of the series. (Again, this might have absolutely nothing to do with your book--just thought I'd toss it out, though.)

Yes, it's important to do a market analysis as part of any nonfiction proposal. When an editor contacts me and asks me to put together a proposal on a topic, I can sometimes get away with just an outline, but often I have to include a market analysis. IOW, even for a topic that the publisher already knows it wants, the author often is expected to do this work.

Finally, just wanted to add that the agent who said the book wasn't marketable probably didn't mean anything more than, "I personally don't know an editor I could pitch this to right now." I don't think it was a comment on the book's broader marketability to readers.

Overall, I agree with Jim. This agent is aware of the limits of her connections and is telling you what she can do within those limits. She knows it's probably not what you want, but she's willing to give it a shot. Keep her in mind. Even though you could submit to Kaplan directly, it's a good idea to have an agent go over the contract, especially if you hope to write more than one book for the same publisher. An agent is also invaluable in finding future projects and helping you plan the direction of your writing career, if that's what you want.

Nancy Conner Holzner

Hathor
03-01-2010, 07:53 PM
If I get an offer on my own, I would obviously seek someone to look over the contract.

Like I said, time will tell. To know what might sell, an agent or publisher would have to know the size of potential markets, their needs, and how well existing books meet those needs. That is the reason for market analyses, or at least so I have read and it makes sense to me. While agents may have sufficient expertise in some areas, I doubt there is anyone who has this knowledge for every field.

I thank those of you who have made positive comments or suggestions.

shaldna
03-01-2010, 09:13 PM
If I get an offer on my own, I would obviously seek someone to look over the contract.




that's advisable whether you are signign a contract with an agent or a publisher. you should get it looked over.

neener
03-06-2010, 02:58 AM
I sort of feel none of my business about this thread, but I just had to add...I agree with Jim. Why burn a bridge? This agent is basically saying that you should look around and find a great agent, but if you can't...she has an idea about one place she could potentially sell it. And who knows? It could work out. I'm just saying if it were me I'd write a nice thank-you, and leave it available as an option if other agents didn't work out.

Either way, it's nice to get a positive response!

Bartholomew
03-06-2010, 04:55 AM
This is a bit of an industry hub, by the by. If your agent sees this post and recognizes that you're referring to her, she may get offended and retract the offer.

Bart