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View Full Version : Is it normal for an agent to rep for magazine submissions?



GulfCoastMama
11-15-2010, 11:21 PM
Hi. I have a phone conversation scheduled this week with an agent who seems to be expressing interest in my book of 'creative non-fiction' essays, but I am a little confused. Hopefully someone here can advise.

She has stated that since I do not have an extensive 'platform' (UGH, hate that word!), she thinks my essays would do better sold to magazines instead of in book form. Apparently she wants to set up a phone conversation to discuss this option.

Although I know many agents will represent their clients on all fronts, does it seem a little unusual for an agent to rep someone INITIALLY with magazine submissions? It does seem her firm has repped several people in the past who have first appeared in magazines and then sold their work in book form after gaining exposure (they seem to enjoy 'developing' new talent). Could this be a part of a long-term plan? Is she, perhaps, just having this conversation to give me pointers for the future and does not plan to rep me at all (I know this is a stupid question - why would a sales rep waste time on someone they can not make money from?). And: how could it possibly be worth an agent's time to rep for magazines (unless, of course, these are some pretty high-level publications)?

I have searched high and low for discussion of agents repping people in this fashion, but find little info and am a little confused. If anyone has useful feedback, please do let me know as I want to be prepared for whatever may come in our phone talks. I'm just not familiar with going this route.

As an additional note, without saying who the agency is, the reputations of all the players are stellar and they are very connected within publishing. This is basically a dream agency for me. She seems to really like what I am doing, as she requested revisions and after they were completed, proceeded in converstaions with me as stated above.

I would be so grateful to anyone who has feedback on this situation, i.e. a writer who has been in this position before and/or an agent who has operated in such a way. Thanks so much!

thothguard51
11-16-2010, 12:07 AM
Two thoughts... IF she is legit...

1...Is she saying she will rep to magazines for you as an agent or she is going to suggest how to do it yourself? The reason I ask, is because their is not much pay in this and I don't see how she is going to recoup her time.

2...If she is serious, then I think she is looking at long terms relationship and trying to build her client from scratch. Are you ready for a long term relationship because it will take time, more than the standard one year contracts most agents offer to new writers.

If she ask for any money to do this...run.

GulfCoastMama
11-16-2010, 12:14 AM
Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. I really appreciate it.

She did not specifically say that she will rep me on this, thus the questions. Just said she wants me to 'consider' this route. The thing that makes me think it is worth her while is that the other people on their list that they obviously have done similar things with appeared in TOP magazines as serials. I would guess that if someone is able to swing a serial deal in one of the majors it may be worth something. But who knows? I am just so curious and intrigued.

Oh, I am well aware that an agent should not ask for money up front. I am not too concerned about that, this is someone who is very top notch ;-) I have no doubts at all about the agency's credibility.

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2010, 01:00 AM
Welcome, GulfCoastMama!

It is very rare for agents to come near short story collections. You have checked her out at Preditors and Editors (http://pred-ed.com/)?

Unless I knew the agent personally, or she was referred as a consultant through other writer friends, or she would be representing me, OR if she was here particpaitng with writers and giving o her time, I would be leery of an agent who wanted me to consider a route that did not benefit her. This is because I know legitimate agents are extremely busy and live off the sales. But, this is just me. :)

Twizzle
11-16-2010, 01:37 AM
It is very rare for agents to come near short story collections.

If I'm reading the OP right, this is actually for a collection of narrative non-fiction essays. Think more Sedaris. :) Very different.

Have the phone call. See what she's suggesting exactly first. But yes, I've had an agent tell me the same thing. This agent does sub to top magazines for his clients--his explanation, it gets you read more seriously and builds great credits to sell that book. But let me add, these stories sold were in addition to the collection as well. It was done to build that platform in preparation for submission of books he believes in (though he does it in-between books for established NF clients too).

I'm also taking a workshop now with an agent on narrative nonfiction, and she says the same...sub your stuff to mags first then compile...however, she wants you to query after building those magazine credits yourself. Half the class so far has been about that very issue and how. *sigh* So, like I said, see what she's suggesting first, you know? Good luck!

GulfCoastMama
11-16-2010, 01:57 AM
Thank you all for your feedback. But as I have already mentioned, SusanL, this is a top agency that is very, very legitimate. They have worked with many bestselling authors and well known celebrities.

YES, Twizzle, I think you understand EXACTLY what my product is :-) It is narrative non-fiction, and is actually ... dare I say it ... humorous (how did you know???).

I am glad to hear feedback from someone who has heard something like this firsthand. When you say you know an agent who subs to mags, do you mean simply as a platform-building favor, or that the agent is taking a commission?

Honestly, I cannot imagine what the point of this upcoming conversation is unless she has some sort of plans that involve repping me, at least at some point in time. Why would she waste the time having this conversation at all?

I guess maybe I need to just stop thinking about it and let what will happen unfurl.

Twizzle
11-16-2010, 02:22 AM
YES, Twizzle, I think you understand EXACTLY what my product is :-) It is narrative non-fiction, and is actually ... dare I say it ... humorous (how did you know???).

Me Spidey-senses. :)

No, seriously, I'm engulfed in it right now. My next project, it's nnf, so it's all I've been thinking and doing. And then there's this workshop I took. It's been a trip. I must have sensed a kindred spirit, eh?


I am glad to hear feedback from someone who has heard something like this firsthand. When you say you know an agent who subs to mags, do you mean simply as a platform-building favor, or that the agent is taking a commission?


Commission. Actually, I know a third in that everything and anything I wrote was supposed to go thru his hands first.

But in all honesty, while an agent might offer advice as a favor, I can't imagine they'd actually sub for you and not take commission. But that's only what I can't imagine, not what I know. The cases I know about were done on commission for their clients.

Don't worry about it meanwhile. Have the call, see what she suggests, then take it from there. And check out markets for some of your stuff. It'll keep you preoccupied. Let us know how the call goes too-I'll be crossing my fingers for you!

GulfCoastMama
11-16-2010, 02:33 AM
Thanks Twizzle. I appreciate your feedback and support more than you know. By the way, we are kindred spirits, as I feel exactly as you do about Harry Connick Jr.

Twizzle
11-16-2010, 02:47 AM
By the way, we are kindred spirits, as I feel exactly as you do about Harry Connick Jr.

You mean Harry drizzled in chocolate and dipped in wine, I presume. Because if that's the case, why yes. Yes, we do.

I'll shall so have to find you next I tweet. :)

Now hang on and keep all hands on the vehicle as we veer back OT. Wheeeee!!!!!

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2010, 07:08 AM
If I'm reading the OP right, this is actually for a collection of narrative non-fiction essays. Think more Sedaris. :) Very different.



You are absolutely right! That's what I get for quick reading and responding during the lunch hour.

Susan Littlefield
11-16-2010, 07:10 AM
GulfCoastMama:

Good luck with your phone call with the agent. :)

Jamesaritchie
11-16-2010, 06:48 PM
It is unusual. Agents usually represent collections as a book, and expect the writer to sell the essays/articles/short stories to magazines on their own before the book is sold.

Truth and Fiction
11-16-2010, 08:08 PM
Yes, it would make sense to first place some of the essays in the bigger magazine markets. The big markets (New Yorker, Paris Review, even Tin House has a special address for agented submissions...) take submissions via agents. For example, I honestly wouldn't bother submitting a short story to the New Yorker unless an agent was doing it on my behalf.

Just talk to her and figure out 1) which markets she thinks are appropriate for your work and 2) her overall plan for your work.

This is all assuming her goal is to get you in some of these large markets and then try to sell the book, hopefully for more money if you get the exposure.