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Gillhoughly
12-19-2010, 08:55 PM
The First Sale Myth, The Rejection Myth, My Agent Will Take Care of Me Myth, etc.

Truer words and all that:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=2525

Wayne K
12-19-2010, 09:00 PM
If I Could Just Get An Agent My Book Would Sell and I Would Have It Made.


I didn't think I'd have it made, but, Yeh, my first tough lesson. I'm not being as naive this time

Gillhoughly
12-19-2010, 09:06 PM
I dealt with a writer who hit the NYT bestseller list--for 3 whole weeks.

Her 2nd book didn't do as well, and her publisher didn't pick her up for a third.

Of course, she copped a LOT of "I know everything now" attitude when she hit that list and none of the editors--including me--wanted to deal with her. No one likes when a writer is screaming that every single word dripping from their screen is precious gold.

OTOH, I've dealt with a dozen other writers who are consistently on that NYT list who present a wholly professional attitude. They get that editors just want to make their book better.

I keep THEM on my speed-dial!

DamaNegra
12-19-2010, 09:13 PM
I think the first one is more important. Ego is one of the most dangerous things in this writing business, and people quickly forget how fallible they are.

Wayne K
12-19-2010, 09:13 PM
I dont think I could feel that way. I mean, I can see that I'm getting better, and I'd go as far as to say I'm good, but overconfidence has never been one of my shortcomings.

Where do these people come from?

Calla Lily
12-19-2010, 09:22 PM
Great article.

thothguard51
12-19-2010, 09:28 PM
Good link Gill, and you really need to get something put on that eye.

MarkEsq
12-19-2010, 10:24 PM
Fantastic article, and interesting comments, too.

I do wonder, though, what people think of his comments about what he calls the agent myth. In part:

If the writer believes this myth, they will never offer their book to an editor. I know of many, many writers who have been writing for years and never once, not once, offered their books to anyone who could actually buy and publish them.

My own view is that agents are necessary for the new writer, and if our work isn't good enough to snag one then it's unlikely to grab an editor of a paying publisher.

OneWriter
12-19-2010, 10:37 PM
I think the first one is more important. Ego is one of the most dangerous things in this writing business, and people quickly forget how fallible they are.

Isn't that what the query-hell is for? I never had a huge ego, but when I finished my third novel, I thought this time I'd nailed it. I got so many rejections that when finally I got a letter where the agent stated how much he loved my ms I thought he was pulling my leg.

ETA: And actually, most writers I met at conferences tell me that you never feel you've made it. They also report of writers who have had movies made from their books who don't think they've made it and still doubt they can ever write another book just as good. :Shrug:

DamaNegra
12-19-2010, 10:46 PM
I dont think I could feel that way. I mean, I can see that I'm getting better, and I'd go as far as to say I'm good, but overconfidence has never been one of my shortcomings.

Where do these people come from?

Probably this (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=199452) has something to do with it? Believe me, I've met people who are thoroughly convinced that even their flatulences are fragant.

Margarita Skies
12-19-2010, 10:54 PM
Read and even favorited. Thank you so much for bringing over this link.

branchwag
12-19-2010, 10:57 PM
Thanks for posting this. At times I feel like I have to rush and find an agent and get my books published and just get out there before I explode from impatience, but then it's things like this that remind me that I have time as a young writer to learn a lot before I put my book out there. I should just slow down and take into account that it's not going to happen overnight and that learning the most I can before I take the wrong step forward is the most valuable thing I can do.

rugcat
12-19-2010, 11:27 PM
My own view is that agents are necessary for the new writer, and if our work isn't good enough to snag one then it's unlikely to grab an editor of a paying publisher.I have to agree.

I've seen this occasionally said before, by other established writers, but they all seem to be slightly blind to the fact that although they can send a ms directly to an editor and have it considered, new writers, for the most part, cannot.

And of course, they all have agents, and very good ones.

Great article, though.

Plot Device
12-20-2010, 01:15 AM
Good stuff. Quotable. :)

Shadow_Ferret
12-20-2010, 01:27 AM
Well, that's a depressing list. One more nail in the coffin of my attempt at a writing career.

Rhoda Nightingale
12-20-2010, 01:49 AM
I have to agree.

I've seen this occasionally said before, by other established writers, but they all seem to be slightly blind to the fact that although they can send a ms directly to an editor and have it considered, new writers, for the most part, cannot.

And of course, they all have agents, and very good ones.

Great article, though.
Thanks for saying this. I like everything in this article except the bit about agents. In fact, I'm a little hamstrung over the writer's anti-agent attitude on the whole. Agents are good for writers, are they not? I don't have any delusions about immediately selling my first novel once I snag an agent, but still.

Ineti
12-20-2010, 02:28 AM
Thanks for saying this. I like everything in this article except the bit about agents. In fact, I'm a little hamstrung over the writer's anti-agent attitude on the whole. Agents are good for writers, are they not? I don't have any delusions about immediately selling my first novel once I snag an agent, but still.

You need to read most of Dean's posts (and especially the comments to those posts) to get that he's not really anti-agent. He's much more pro-writer being smart about not getting into a bad situation or signing on with a bad agent.

Agents can be good for writers, especially writers at the early stages of their career. Assuming the agent is legit and professional and not scamming the writer.

kaitie
12-20-2010, 03:11 AM
The anti-agent thing bugged me, too. It seems that I see this more with people who established careers a decade or two ago. I first looked into publishing ten years ago, and even then it seems that there was more of an option to go agentless. I'd actually decided at the time that I was going to hit publishers first and consider looking for an agent if I got a contract.

I never actually did any of that submitting because my book sucked, but when I started looking into it again, it seemed that I pretty much had two choices--go with an agent and have a shot at the big houses, or find a small publisher. I'd consider submitting to somewhere like Tor if the agent thing doesn't pan out, but I'd like a shot at the big houses. Maybe that's unrealistic of me, but that's just my thinking.

And to be honest, I never submitted to an editor after my last book bombed for the same reason Mark said. If it wasn't good enough for an agent, why would a publisher want it?

FOTSGreg
12-20-2010, 04:07 AM
Um, guys, read the rest of Smith's blog postings there. Pay especially close attention to his Killing The Sacred Cows Of Publishing blog as well as the other one. Nowhere does Smith say that agents are not worthwhile.

In his latest post or therabouts, he also gives a formula/challenge for getting your stories to make money.

Unfortunately, I'm nowhere close right now - but then again, it's a 5-year plan so I don't need to be (so what if I started back in 2007 - I didn't have a plan or a clue then).

Domino
12-20-2010, 04:16 AM
As a new writer, I felt better reading-"You never really feel like you made it." Good to know I'll be in this hell for the rest of my writing life :)
However, as someone without an agent, I've noticed an awful lot of houses won't even look at your manuscript without one, so I "assume" they are pretty necessary-although not a guarantee of success.
Am I wrong?

Izz
12-20-2010, 04:26 AM
Great article.

I can see how his comments re agents could be seen as anti without the context of what else he's said about agents. But yeah, he's very much about writers being smart and learning to understand the industry.

kaitie
12-20-2010, 04:29 AM
Um, guys, read the rest of Smith's blog postings there. Pay especially close attention to his Killing The Sacred Cows Of Publishing blog as well as the other one. Nowhere does Smith say that agents are not worthwhile.

In his latest post or therabouts, he also gives a formula/challenge for getting your stories to make money.

Unfortunately, I'm nowhere close right now - but then again, it's a 5-year plan so I don't need to be (so what if I started back in 2007 - I didn't have a plan or a clue then).

I read his entire post on agents specifically as well to see if I was misunderstanding, and a lot of what he says contradicts the majority of what I've learned. Maybe I'm just a newbie who doesn't get it because I'm not in the industry, but I also don't plan to take one person's word over everyone other bit of advice/information I've seen.

I was especially unimpressed when he said that if it's an agent who blogs he/she should be avoided because the person has too much time and it means they aren't successful. I can think, off the top of my head, of six or seven blogs by agents with amazing sales. Hell, go look at Kristin Nelson's stats for the year. I'd be proud to have her as my agent.

So yeah, I agree with some of what he says, but I'm taking the bit about agents with a grain of salt. I'm not saying that he's a hundred percent wrong, and clearly I have no standing to know one way or the other, but yeah. I'd need some really good evidence to back it up other than "my experience has been..."

And while he says agents are handy for dealing with business stuff the author doesn't want to do and negotiating contracts, he's essentially saying that the reason most people think they need an agent is incorrect.

Jamesaritchie
12-20-2010, 05:01 AM
I read his entire post on agents specifically as well to see if I was misunderstanding, and a lot of what he says contradicts the majority of what I've learned.

Learned form who? Most of what you see aorund teh internet is not only myth, it's nonsense, and much of this nonsense comes directly from agents.

Dean Wesley Smith gets it all right, and he busts a hundred myths. Nor is it just his opinion. Many other pro writer visit his site and post the same opinions.

When he says it's a myth, it really is a myth.

rugcat
12-20-2010, 05:51 AM
Learned form who? Most of what you see aorund teh internet is not only myth, it's nonsense, and much of this nonsense comes directly from agents.

Dean Wesley Smith gets it all right, and he busts a hundred myths. Nor is it just his opinion. Many other pro writer visit his site and post the same opinions.

When he says it's a myth, it really is a myth.I had not realized that once one becomes a pro writer, one's opinions are magically transformed into facts.

When DWS says that buying into the myth that once you have an agent you've got it made is both untrue and destructive, I think he's exactly right.

When he implies that it's pointless to approach agents until you've sold a book and that you should instead be sending your work to editors, he's demonstrably wrong.

As I noted, writers who subscribe to this theory are almost invariably those who broke into publishing some twenty or thirty years ago, when things in publishing were very different indeed.

amrose
12-20-2010, 05:59 AM
Moral: Never rest on your laurels.

Ineti
12-20-2010, 07:38 AM
I'd need some really good evidence to back it up other than "my experience has been..."

Shoot, don't take Dean's word for it. Read the lengthy comments other professional writers post on his blog entries. They're often even more informative than the original post. Laura Resnick's comments in particular.

And if you're taking Dean's comments with a grain of salt, that's great. That's exactly what he's encouraging writers to do--take everything you hear about publishing with a grain of salt, whether it's coming from an agent, an editor, a fellow writer, a wannabe, etc. Gather lots and lots of info and sift for the nuggets of value.

kaitie
12-20-2010, 10:10 AM
That's what I try to do, and is just the kind of person I am. I want to make sure information is backed up.

I know that the agents and editors whose blogs I read, and a lot of the opinions I've seen here, give the same sort of advice. And yeah, I do read more from agents, but I also read editors' too.

I admit that I might be wrong. It could be that the secret code for making a living means you never let an agent sell your stuff, or you never let an agent help you revise anything, or agents are poor judges of what's good and bad.

Here's what I know based on what I've learned, however. There are an awful lot of agents out there who were once acquiring editors. Am I meant to believe that those agents who once did this for a living have no knowledge of what an editor might want, or how to improve a manuscript?

I know that there are people on here who have gone through agent revisions, a lot of people, and had their books sell. Would those books have ever sold without those revisions? Especially in today's climate where all you hear is that books that would have gotten you a contract five years ago now wouldn't because they're too much work, and editors want it to be 95% there before they ever even see it? I think there are a lot of people who, had they listened to this advice, would have manuscripts that wouldn't have found a publisher. Does that mean that their experiences don't count?

I know that there are publishers who say they won't even look at a manuscript that's unsolicited, and maybe, again, this is secret code where the truth is they read every single one of those manuscripts, but I know I've seen examples on here that have said they outright throw them out unread. Maybe they're lying? In any case, I know I've seen big publishers talk about how receiving agented material works, and that sometimes depending on the agent your work might move to the top, or if they select unsolicited manuscripts that agented work gets read faster and will get a response much faster.

So yeah, I could just take my chances and send a bunch of unrequested manuscripts (or queries or whatever) to Random House and hope for the best, but I'm probably going to end up languishing on a desk for a year, whereas if I had a good agent, it would be moved to the top. Might I get the contract either way? Maybe, but I'd at least with an agent I'd know it had been seen and considered, and probably quickly to boot.

Sure, I don't want an inexperienced agent who can't make sales, but why would I go with an agent like that anyway? And to say that the only agent you'd want is the one you can't get if you're previously unpublished? I don't know. I've seen an awful lot of agents with big sales for debut authors.

Maybe I'm just being naive. I'm sure Mr. Smith would say I am. I'd like to hear what an editor has to say about this, to be honest.

rugcat
12-20-2010, 11:50 AM
Here's what I know based on what I've learned, however. There are an awful lot of agents out there who were once acquiring editors. Am I meant to believe that those agents who once did this for a living have no knowledge of what an editor might want, or how to improve a manuscript?
My agent was an editor and senior editor for years before turning to agenting. Her editorial help and suggestions have been more than invaluable. I trust her editorial judgment as much or more than any editor.

She's never quashed my voice. She's simply pointed out areas of weakness, and explained why they were a problem, (like, "this scene smacks too much of coincidence. I think it would be stronger if there was a solid reason they both ended up at the same place at the same time." )

Not all agents are like this, I'm sure. I'm lucky. But she also got five different editors, at major SF/F houses, to read my first UF ms and get back to me in less than a month.

So yeah, I think trying to get an agent is a worthwhile endeavor.

Anne Lyle
12-20-2010, 11:58 AM
I know that there are publishers who say they won't even look at a manuscript that's unsolicited, and maybe, again, this is secret code where the truth is they read every single one of those manuscripts

The secret code is that "unsolicited" doesn't mean "unagented", it means "from someone we don't know from Adam".

At a convention in 2009, I picked up a major UK SF&F editor's business card and an invitation for my friend to query (my own wasn't completed at the time), just through chatting to her in the book-signing queue. This year I met a publisher at the bar and pitched my own work, with the same results.

Ironically, I now have a very good and professional agent interested, partly because the publisher is - pretty much as DWS says. But it took work on my part, just like conventional querying. I don't agree with everything DWS says, but a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. You're better off getting an "in" with a small press and working your way up.

Axler
12-20-2010, 06:52 PM
One quote jumped out at me:

But so many writers I know are not moving at all right now, just focusing on what worked five years ago. That way is career death I’m afraid. I had one writer say to me last month, “You said…” I asked when I had taught the writer that fact. The writer said in a workshop seven years ago. I said I was right then, but for today’s world that no longer applies. The writer just couldn’t grasp that a major business like publishing could change so fast.

There are a couple of folks on this site who really need to take this to heart the next time their fingers are aching to type "YOU'RE WRONG!".

Rhoda Nightingale
12-20-2010, 07:16 PM
On the agent thing: Okay, I get what some of you are saying about how Dean's words shouldn't be taken out of context, and he isn't anti-agent but anti-scammer-agent. Which makes sense.

However, wouldn't it be more helpful for new writers if he spelled this out more clearly?

KathleenD
12-20-2010, 07:31 PM
I've been lurking at DWS's site almost as long as I've been lurking here, and he has specifically addressed the "yes, but you broke into publishing before agents were so important/required by publishers" thing.

He runs a workshop where everyone in it has to send their completed manuscript directly to editors... even those at places where the guidelines say "no unagented manuscripts."

Every time, the process results in sales. Not ten years ago, not even five.

I admit the thought of breaking a rule makes me twitch, but that's because I'm a compulsive guideline follower. But I also have to admit that I followed his writing suggestions for the second novella I ever wrote... and it sold.

Toothpaste
12-20-2010, 07:49 PM
Smith has quality things to say, and very not quality things to say. Like James (and Ineti) he supports the agents not touching a manuscript philosophy. He also explains how a quality agent will never take on a new writer, so you need to build up a resume as well as several other just plain falsehoods. So there are definitely elements to his advice I wholly disagree with, but I think it comes down to my belief that there isn't one large entity known as "agent". There are many different kinds of agents, who got themselves into agenting through many different routes, and these different kinds of agents can each be equally effective or ineffective depending on the human behind the title.

I know James and Ineti will disagree and point to the professionals who agree with Smith. Yet I can point to professionals here who disagree with him. Namely, me. Or do I not qualify as professional enough for some reason?

The important thing to do is to decided for yourself what method works best for you. Because this is isn't a one size fits all situation. For example, my previous agent would only let me know once all the editors she had subbed to had passed on my work. My new agent keeps me posted as it happens, and lets me know every single stage we're at. I really prefer this latter way of doing things, but I could see how many would prefer the former as in "You do your job, I'll do mine, and we'll reconvene." Btw, my old agency was one of the top ones in the UK and represents the likes of Lee Child etc. So keeping an author out of the loop somewhat (which goes against what I know James professes) does work for many professional authors.

Anyway, Smith rubs me personally the wrong way. He, like some members here, speaks his words like they are absolutes not giving room for possible variations in personality and taste. But once in a while, when it isn't about agents, he does offer some wisdom that I quite like.

kaitie
12-20-2010, 09:06 PM
That's what bothers me most, Toothpaste. It's not so much that I feel like he's lying--it's that he's speaking in black and white terms as if his way is the only way and everything else is wrong.

I've known enough success stories to know that they do happen with agents. Also there are clearly people who have managed to sell a book directly to an editor, so that happens as well. Both might be equally valid, one might work better than the other (hard to say from what we see here), etc., but if both have worked for people, it's not really fair to completely discount the other side, is it? Again, I'd need to hear an editor say this is okay, or a cavalcade of people proclaiming "I did this for my debut book and sold it to Random House" before I'd try it.

Anne, that's not entirely right. What he's specifically suggesting is to send full manuscripts to editors unsolicited. He actually said something about when publishers switched to asking for partials, only the "stupid writers" actually did that and the ones who got sales still sent in fulls.

I think meeting people at conferences is a good idea, but the chances of actually succeeding that way? I can't imagine them being very high. Even if I could afford to go to one conference a year, I can't imagine pitching a ton of editors at the event, and it would require the editor who would want to take on your work to be there as well, which isn't necessarily likely. Not to mention a lot of conferences are expensive or far away and cost prohibitive to people like me who have no money. I think a personal connection like that is a great way to bypass an agent, though, and I'd hope no one was thinking I was suggesting that would be a bad idea.

Also, whoever made the comment about scam agents, see, the thing is he never says scam agents. He says he's talking collectively about any agent who is willing to take on a debut author--which is one not worth having, in his mind. Again it's the absolute thing. He's putting every agent who takes debut authors into one group.

Are there agents, particularly new agents, who got fired from being editors and know nothing and can't make sales? Probably, and we've certainly seen a lot of people claim to be agents with no experience here. But I'm also sure (because I've seen them) that there are a lot of former editors with many contacts who worked for twenty years in various roles in the industry, who take on debut authors, and who make massive sales for them. Look at aadams.

Ineti
12-20-2010, 09:23 PM
Also, whoever made the comment about scam agents, see, the thing is he never says scam agents.

Out of curiosity, did you read all his entries on agents? This one in particular covers the various scams some (not all) agents have made use of:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=2077

Reading all his articles (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860) on agents will give you a broader perspective as well, if you have the time to read them all plus the great ongoing commentary from various writers, pro and otherwise.

Jamesaritchie
12-20-2010, 09:37 PM
I think it's good to remember that an agent's stats have nothing whatsoever to do with whether a myth is or isn't a myth. The worst agents in the myth area, the worst agent to have if you want the best career, are often those with the best stats.

There's nothing wrong with allowing an agent to handle your books, to be the one who sends them to editor, if this is how you want to do it, and Dean Wesley Smith says this.

I think you have to read ALL the blog entries dealing with agent/publisher/writing myths before you really know what he's talking about.

kaitie
12-20-2010, 09:54 PM
I read a few of them, but not all, no. I'll go back later today when I have some more time and go through them.

waylander
12-20-2010, 11:26 PM
At a convention in 2009, I picked up a major UK SF&F editor's business card and an invitation for my friend to query (my own wasn't completed at the time), just through chatting to her in the book-signing queue. This year I met a publisher at the bar and pitched my own work, with the same results.


I did this too.
My book then passed 18 months in the editor's 'to be read pile', always being displaced by something agented, until I finally got an agent and it got read.

Toothpaste
12-21-2010, 12:34 AM
There's nothing wrong with allowing an agent to handle your books, to be the one who sends them to editor, if this is how you want to do it, and Dean Wesley Smith says this.

I think you have to read ALL the blog entries dealing with agent/publisher/writing myths before you really know what he's talking about.


James, I have. And he isn't against using agents, true. But he does pass out a lot of misinformation, especially about what the role of an agent "ought to be" - the role that you yourself prefer, ie: no editing just submitting - and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong. There are great agents who used to be great editors and who can help their authors immensely in an editorial role and to flat out deny that that is possible is just so illogical it makes my head explode. Now this isn't to say that as an author you can't choose what kind of agent you want, one who edits or one who leaves well enough alone, I am merely saying that there are quality agents for both wants. Further what really bothers me is he perpetuates myths about how to get an agent ie: how if you're a nobody you simply can't get a quality agent.

I'll repeat what I said above, I think he has some good advice, I just wish that he wouldn't be quite so absolute with it, and I really wish he'd stop perpetuating those how to get an agent myths that suggest that it's near impossible to get one as an unknown quantity. That is a myth I fight every single day, and one that drives me batty as I don't have a single author friend who was a known quantity before she/he got their agent.

Toothpaste
12-21-2010, 12:48 AM
Ineti - I hope nothing in my post caused your head to hit the wall, I'd hate to cause you physical pain :) . I also don't know how anything in my post in any way could cause you such frustration in order to hit your head against a wall. All I'm saying is, different strokes for different folks, and I'm tired of reading absolutes that suggest that if you don't do it this one way, you're doing it wrong. Nor am I denying that in certain areas Smith has some good advice. I just can't trust him 100% when he perpetuates the same agent myths as vanity publishers is all.

Especially not when I have professional personal experience of the opposite. Now I know he's got a lot professionals who support him, but, again, I have to wonder why my experience is somehow less relevant than theirs. I really don't understand that. After all, I've been with two different agencies in two different countries, been published around the world, and have dealt with agents and publishers for several years now. I know editors at the top six, I also have bestselling authors as friends, I have editors of small presses as friends, I have authors who have sold to small niche publishers sans agents as friends. I have self published authors as friends. I know a lot people who have gone many different routes, routes which served each of their needs perfectly. I have never ever said there was only one way to do anything, so Smith's method doesn't bug me. What bugs me are his inaccuracies. That's all. Not his philosophy.

Or . . . is it that I'm not allowed to comment on his inaccuracies because he himself points to taking all advice with a grain of salt - despite his penchant for absolutes?

cwfgal
12-21-2010, 02:30 AM
... All I'm saying is, different strokes for different folks, and I'm tired of reading absolutes that suggest that if you don't do it this one way, you're doing it wrong. Nor am I denying that in certain areas Smith has some good advice. I just can't trust him 100% when he perpetuates the same agent myths as vanity publishers is all.

Especially not when I have professional personal experience of the opposite. Now I know he's got a lot professionals who support him, but, again, I have to wonder why my experience is somehow less relevant than theirs. I really don't understand that. After all, I've been with two different agencies in two different countries, been published around the world, and have dealt with agents and publishers for several years now. I know editors at the top six, I also have bestselling authors as friends, I have editors of small presses as friends, I have authors who have sold to small niche publishers sans agents as friends. I have self published authors as friends. I know a lot people who have gone many different routes, routes which served each of their needs perfectly. I have never ever said there was only one way to do anything, so Smith's method doesn't bug me. What bugs me are his inaccuracies. That's all. Not his philosophy.



I agree with Toothpaste and Katie. Smith's absolutes don't sit well with me and I think some of his advice is not only wrong but insulting. And I think I qualify as a professional in this business. I've been with three different agents and two publishing houses, I've had five novels published, a sixth is coming out this year, and I just contracted for two more. My ex-editor at one of the NYC Big Five is an agent now--I'm betting she knows how to suggest changes to a ms that will make it stronger and more salable, and that most writers would benefit from her advice.

Just because Smith's way works for him (and I think that is in part because of the type of books most of his have been) doesn't mean it's the best way for someone else. Share your experiences, but don't preach them as gospel.

Beth

ChaosTitan
12-21-2010, 02:40 AM
I had not realized that once one becomes a pro writer, one's opinions are magically transformed into facts.

When DWS says that buying into the myth that once you have an agent you've got it made is both untrue and destructive, I think he's exactly right.

When he implies that it's pointless to approach agents until you've sold a book and that you should instead be sending your work to editors, he's demonstrably wrong.

As I noted, writers who subscribe to this theory are almost invariably those who broke into publishing some twenty or thirty years ago, when things in publishing were very different indeed.

Exactly.


I agree with Toothpaste and Katie.

Me, too. You, Toothpaste, Kaitie and rugcat have already stated why, so I won't repeat you guys.

Hallen
12-21-2010, 05:05 AM
I liked reading his stuff -- but, I'm taking it with a grain of salt like most everything else. Beyond some of the great counter-posts here by Toothpaste and others, I get the sneaking suspicion that he's selling something. And he is: his seminars. His perspective may be true to him, and his seminars may be extremely valuable to writers, but I always question someone's perspective when they are also selling something to go with it.

I was reading this http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=357 and it seems so counter to what I've seen other places, that it gets my hackles up a bit. It is also, as pointed out earlier, very black and white. Good agents won't work for you unless you have a big contract in hand. All other agents are scam artists. That's what it reads like. Maybe that's not his intent, but he is a writer. It seems to me if he wanted it to read otherwise, he could have made it that way.

Libbie
12-21-2010, 07:34 PM
Well, that's a depressing list. One more nail in the coffin of my attempt at a writing career.

For corn's sake, dude. It's a career like any other. you have to work hard at it and have realistic expectations in order to find success. Success is out there. Lots of people achieve it. They're the ones who work steadily and manage their expectations.

Libbie
12-21-2010, 07:38 PM
My agent was an editor and senior editor for years before turning to agenting. Her editorial help and suggestions have been more than invaluable. I trust her editorial judgment as much or more than any editor.

She's never quashed my voice. She's simply pointed out areas of weakness, and explained why they were a problem, (like, "this scene smacks too much of coincidence. I think it would be stronger if there was a solid reason they both ended up at the same place at the same time." )

Not all agents are like this, I'm sure. I'm lucky. But she also got five different editors, at major SF/F houses, to read my first UF ms and get back to me in less than a month.

So yeah, I think trying to get an agent is a worthwhile endeavor.

It's not only agents who've had experience as editors. I took umbrage at Dean's statement that "young agents" will damage a writer's work. I've had the somewhat unusual experience of working with two different brand-spanking-new agents who've had no experience as professional editors, and both have been incredible. Both have improved my writing greatly with their suggestions, and neither has suggested changes I thought detrimental. While it's true that nothing has sold yet, one of them did get a major publisher to request my partially written manuscript for consideration -- something that even published novelists rarely experience.

I don't think it's fair to decide that all agents are bad, and new agents in particular. Let it be on the writer's shoulders to weed out the unpromising new agents from the promising ones.

KTC
12-22-2010, 01:32 AM
I dont think I could feel that way. I mean, I can see that I'm getting better, and I'd go as far as to say I'm good, but overconfidence has never been one of my shortcomings.

Where do these people come from?

This exactly. I'm just beginning to think I may be somewhat good. I can't see me ever thinking I'm great. I lack confidence. I couldn't imagine a universe where I suddenly had it. Not going to happen.

KTC
12-22-2010, 01:34 AM
James, I have. And he isn't against using agents, true. But he does pass out a lot of misinformation, especially about what the role of an agent "ought to be" - the role that you yourself prefer, ie: no editing just submitting - and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong. There are great agents who used to be great editors and who can help their authors immensely in an editorial role and to flat out deny that that is possible is just so illogical it makes my head explode. Now this isn't to say that as an author you can't choose what kind of agent you want, one who edits or one who leaves well enough alone, I am merely saying that there are quality agents for both wants. Further what really bothers me is he perpetuates myths about how to get an agent ie: how if you're a nobody you simply can't get a quality agent.

I'll repeat what I said above, I think he has some good advice, I just wish that he wouldn't be quite so absolute with it, and I really wish he'd stop perpetuating those how to get an agent myths that suggest that it's near impossible to get one as an unknown quantity. That is a myth I fight every single day, and one that drives me batty as I don't have a single author friend who was a known quantity before she/he got their agent.

Dead on post. Well written...well thought out...well executed. (-:

Phaeal
12-22-2010, 02:05 AM
This exactly. I'm just beginning to think I may be somewhat good. I can't see me ever thinking I'm great. I lack confidence. I couldn't imagine a universe where I suddenly had it. Not going to happen.

The Fat Lady thinks you're great, KTC.

Axler
12-22-2010, 02:26 AM
James, I have. And he isn't against using agents, true. But he does pass out a lot of misinformation, especially about what the role of an agent "ought to be" - the role that you yourself prefer, ie: no editing just submitting - and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong.

Here we go...

An experience that runs counter to someone else's is just flatly declared wrong.

Nor is what DWS blogs about misinformation--beyond being that it's information that some folks really just don't like.

Ineti
12-22-2010, 02:33 AM
Here we go...

An experience that runs counter to someone else's is just flatly declared wrong.

Nor is what DWS blogs about misinformation--beyond being that it's information that some folks really just don't like.

Toothpaste doesn't deal in absolutes, though. ;)

Irysangel
12-22-2010, 02:39 AM
Here we go...

An experience that runs counter to someone else's is just flatly declared wrong.

Nor is what DWS blogs about misinformation--beyond being that it's information that some folks really just don't like.

I find this ironic, as the entire statement she made was more or less that "Just because one published author says it doesn't mean that it is true for all published authors".

This statement holds for both sides of the argument. Just because Toothpaste says it doesn't mean you have to agree with it, and just because DWS states it does not mean that Toothpaste has to agree with it.

People are entitled to read his comments (and Toothpaste's!) and make their own judgments. We are all wearing big boy/big girl pants here.

izanobu
12-22-2010, 04:17 AM
For what it's worth, I've been submitting novels directly to editors since last Feb and have had full requests and personal, nice rejections from publishers whose guidelines state "no unagented submissions".

I think what any good advice boils down to is "do what works best for your goals and stay in control of your own career". If that means getting a non-scam agent, do it. If you're like me and would rather just sub directly to editors, do that. There's no one way to being a professional writer other than writing and submitting work. If you're writing and submitting, then the rest is just details and there are many paths to take. :)

Axler
12-22-2010, 05:07 AM
"and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong."

That's dealing in an absolute.

But then again...this is Absolute Write, so...

cwfgal
12-22-2010, 05:43 AM
"and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong."

That's dealing in an absolute.


You are correct. Believing the rules in this biz are hard and fast is an absolute...a wrong one. There are always exceptions and there are many ways to find success. Hell, I just read a starred review from PW for a bestselling book that is part power point. Who'd a thunk it?

Beth

KingM
12-22-2010, 06:02 AM
There are always exceptions. You can also cross a busy freeway blindfolded and perhaps reach the other side alive. That doesn't mean I recommend it. ;)

Axler
12-22-2010, 06:58 AM
I've been a full-time writer for 25 years and a full-time novelist for 15...the only absolute I'm positive about publishing is that there are no absolutes.

When somebody insists that publishing is immutable and unchanging, the same now as was in the dawn of our days and as it will be for all tomorrows, I know they're either in a state of terminal denial or teetering on the brink of a psychotic break.

J_Jammer
12-22-2010, 07:34 AM
I didn't think I'd have it made, but, Yeh, my first tough lesson. I'm not being as naive this time

I didn't fully believe this one, but I did not think of the editor as much as I should have.

Thanks for sharing this. The rest of them I never thought. I would never think I made it after any of those. It's like getting a job at a company that pays you $100,000 yearly and yet you stop working the moment you get the job....you won't have the job for very long...

Writing, like any job, is constant work.

I look forward to the hard work no matter what it is. Seriously, I do. :D

Smish
12-22-2010, 08:05 AM
"and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong."

That's dealing in an absolute.

But then again...this is Absolute Write, so...

Editing someone's post in a way that completely takes it out of context isn't particularly persuasive...

Toothpaste
12-22-2010, 08:35 AM
"and I know you believe this to be a hard and fast rule, but you're wrong."

That's dealing in an absolute.

But then again...this is Absolute Write, so...

Sigh. Seeing as I'm the one being mocked for being so against absolutes and then - ha ha! See you used an absolute! I'll try to explain.

James (and DWS) has said as an absolute, that any agent that edits a manuscript is a bad agent. Full stop. He doesn't offer examples of when that might not be the case. He firmly believes that any agent who gives editorial advice is doing an author a disservice.

Now. Even if all I have is my own personal experience of my agent helping me immensely with my writing, that is proof enough that James is wrong. Do you see how?

Because James deals in absolutes (like his buddy DWS), if there is one moment where his absolute is proven to not be the case, that makes his entire point wrong. Because his point isn't that "some agents edit their authors' work badly", which is utterly acceptable and true - how can we deny it, I mean there has to be at least a few agents out there who suck at editing, in fact I have a friend who has just such an agent. His point is that ALL agents suck at editing, and that any author who allows an agent to edit is therefore a fool.

BUT. Because I have proof of at least one author's agent who was a good editor, I can therefore prove James's absolute, unequivocably wrong. I can't disprove the notion that some agents suck, and I have no desire not to. Nor (I say for the nth time) do I believe all authors ought to choose agents who edit. But something is only absolute if it is absolute, one exception to the rule blows an absolute argument out of the water and makes such an argument WRONG.

I have given nothing but allowances for every kind of preference. Ironically I note that Ineti (who only reappeared to diss me, nice) and James and Axler are happy to promote the absolute of DWS (and our very own James) while mocking the fact that I spoke such a way when actually I didn't at all.

Axler - show me where I said publishing was "immutable and unchanging", show me how in my telling James that his absolute was wrong I somehow myself was being absolute. Saying that something isn't a hard and fast rule is actually pointing to how things AREN'T absolute. You, as a matter of fact said just the same thing about how the only thing that was absolute in publishing was that there weren't any absolutes.

Suppose in response I had said to you, "There are absolutes in publishing". Would you not then have said, "Uh, no, there aren't, you're WRONG."??

Truly coming back and seeing you and Ineti (winking from the shadows) mocking me like this stuns me. My argument is pretty darn clear. And the fact that you mock me and support DWS when HE'S the one speaking in absolutes, and I'm the one saying there aren't any (and further even acknowledging much to my chagrin that at times he makes valid points) is really really weird.

blacbird
12-22-2010, 08:53 AM
For what it's worth, I've been submitting novels directly to editors since last Feb and have had full requests and personal, nice rejections from publishers whose guidelines state "no unagented submissions".

I (and many others here, I'd guess) would very much like to know more about how you managed to accomplish this. I don't believe it's the common experience.

Izz
12-22-2010, 09:25 AM
Here's an interesting survey Jim C. Hines did in regards to first novel sales:First novel survey results (http://www.jimchines.com/2010/03/survey-results/).

From the link, for purposes of determining the criteria used (as we're here talking about selling novels unagented to major presses):
For this study, I was looking for authors who had published at least one professional novel, where “professional” was defined as earning an advance of $2000 or more. This is an arbitrary amount based on SFWA’s criteria for professional publishers. No judgment is implied toward authors who self-publish or work with smaller presses, but for this study, I wanted data on breaking in with the larger publishers.

Down the bottom of that survey is a graph breaking down, by decade, how these first books were sold. And while, in the 2000s, just under 70% of these authors sold their first novels through an agent, just under 30% sold direct to the publisher. Less than the decade before, which was less again than the 80s, but that shows selling direct to a publisher is still a viable option, even for a debut novelist.

Here's another interesting survey, also linked to by Jim C. Hines at the end of his article: http://megancrewe.livejournal.com/251212.html. Of the 272 authors Megan Crewe surveyed, 121 sold their first book without an agent. She doesn't break it down by decade like Jim Hines, but it still makes for interesting data.

Ineti
12-22-2010, 09:36 AM
I (and many others here, I'd guess) would very much like to know more about how you managed to accomplish this. I don't believe it's the common experience.

EDIT: Izz beat me to the Jim Hines reference.

Pretty straightforward, really. Many writers chose to approach editors before agents, or editors in addition to agents, rather than push for an agent first.

The myth that you must have an agent first is something that Dean Smith and others have been fighting a long time, and it seems that the informal statistics gathering supports the idea that no, you don't necessarily need to pursue an agent first.

As far as specifically how, you can do some research and figure out who edited novels similar to what you're writing. Make a list of those editors and publishing houses. Put together a killer query letter, short synopsis, and sample pages, and send that package off in the mail. What's the worst that's going to happen? You'll get no response or a 'no thanks'. But maybe, if the query package is solid, the editor might ask for more.

An editor's not going to blacklist you if you mail them something professional--there's no secret all-inclusive editor email distribution list that they'll post to and say "Writer X just sent me an unsolicited query--DOOM THEM!" It's more a writer getting over the fear of breaking a "rule" and taking a chance and spending some postage.

blacbird
12-22-2010, 09:52 AM
Put together a killer query letter

There's always that effing catch. I've done that, over and over, and succeeded in killing my opportunity, every time.

kaitie
12-22-2010, 09:57 AM
Well, it probably isn't a problem if that's all you intend to do. But let's say you do that and then decide you want to send to agents. You're going to have a much harder time picking someone up if your manuscript has already been shopped around.

And it's entirely possible that an editor might read a query and toss it without reading anything else, but would be willing to read pages or a manuscript if that same book was being offered up by an agent who had a good relationship with that editor.

I'm not saying you might not have it all work out. I'm just saying that there are other potential consequences not being considered. Of course, if you don't care about submitting to agents at all, then I suppose it doesn't make much of a difference. You'll either sell or you won't.

I am astounded at the numbers on that graph, though. I think I'll stick with my trying to find an agent first route.

izanobu
12-22-2010, 10:12 AM
Um, there's no magic to it... I just pick editors off of Publisher's Marketplace (I go by genre and then down the list of who has bought what recently for the most money) and then send a query letter, a couple of chapters, and a short synopsis. All formatted standard, paperclips (never staples) and with SASE enclosed. It's not rocket surgery, just a professional novel submission package :)

(I do basically the same for e-mail queries, only I just send it all pasted into the email- no attachments unless requested, and I generally keep the sample pages to 8-10 for the email so it isn't too much to scroll through to get to the synopsis.)

My policy is to do whatever works and be professional and educated about whatever path you decide to take. There's no penalty for sending out a professional package, the worst that an editor will say is "no thanks, not for us".

Axler
12-22-2010, 04:38 PM
Suppose in response I had said to you, "There are absolutes in publishing". Would you not then have said, "Uh, no, there aren't, you're WRONG."??

Nope. I'm opposed to making flat declarations that spring from people's personal, subjective experiences. That's why I qualified the statement you reference with an "I know."

I may know it. You may not. That doesn't make you wrong. You just don't know what I know.


Truly coming back and seeing you and Ineti (winking from the shadows) mocking me like this stuns me. My argument is pretty darn clear. And the fact that you mock me and support DWS when HE'S the one speaking in absolutes, and I'm the one saying there aren't any (and further even acknowledging much to my chagrin that at times he makes valid points) is really really weird.

And I think you are really, really reading a motive in to rather than out of...at least as far as I'm concerned.

I wasn't mocking you...if I were, I'd have been a several degrees more obvious about it. Questioning the logic behind an argument is not the same as mocking it.

In my opinion DWS is no more dealing in absolutes than some folks who post on these boards with a Messianic, absolutist fevor that the way they know publishing works is the only way it works.

At least DWS points out that everybody should take what he posts with a grain of salt.

I don't support DWS particularly beyond the fact that I'm aware of his credentials, background and years of experience as a professional writer...which gives his opinions more weight (again, as far as I'm concerned), than the opinions of people who haven't achieved what he has or been where he has been.

Doesn't mean I buy into everything he posts about.

Toothpaste
12-22-2010, 05:40 PM
Well then I'm afraid I must bow out of this conversation, it is getting too illogical for me. I never said that James and DWS were wrong to suggest their opinions. I said they were wrong to be absolute in them. Just as you are saying over and over that I am wrong in making flat declarations (which I haven't been). Let me try to explain once more to you, it is THE EXACT SAME THING. But to make you feel better, I will structure my argument like yours. Axler. I am opposed to people making flat declarations that spring from people's personal experiences. Take James for example who flat out declares that any agent who edits is a bad agent because that's his personal experience. I'm against him saying that.

If you can't see how you are doing the exact same thing that I did, well, there's no further point in trying to structure my argument.

And just in case you're skimming my posts and have yet to read this point, though why you'd read it now therefore I have no idea . . . heck I'll even make it all caps just so you can see: I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH AGENTS WHO DON'T EDIT. I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH SAYING THAT ALL AGENTS SHOULDN'T EDIT. THERE'S AMPLE PROOF TO DEMONSTRATE THAT SOME AGENTS ARE FANTASTIC EDITORS. JUST AS THERE IS PROOF THAT SOME AGENTS SUCK AT EDITING. THEREFORE IT CAN'T BE ABSOLUTE THAT ALL AGENTS ARE BAD EDITORS. AND YET AS AN AUTHOR YOU STILL HAVE TO CHOOSE WHICH KIND OF AGENT YOU WANT, AND ONE CHOICE ISN'T SUPERIOR TO THE NEXT. I HAVE NEVER SAID IT WAS. KNOW WHO HAS?? DWS AND JAMES. AND THEY HAVE SAID IT ABSOLUTELY.

I suppose my last grasp at logic will be to ask you to re-read all my posts in this thread and tell me where I ever said I knew exactly how publishing worked and that there was only one method. If you are still stuck on me saying James was wrong to be absolute, I can't help you. But if you actually get past that you might notice I support some of what DWS says and that I conclude with the usual "whatever works for you". Is that the "Messianic, absolutist fevor" you were talking about people having here at AW? Because to be truthful, we do say "whatever works for you" A LOT here, so I suppose that could be seen as Absolute Write's Absolute Truth. I dunno.

As for mocking, I find this:
Toothpaste doesn't deal in absolutes, though. ;) to be sarcastic and unhelpful.

Unless of course Ineti was being supportive of the fact that indeed I don't deal in absolutes - but I just think he was being mean and sarcastic. Considering he has yet to respond to anything I've written that was directed at him suggests too he doesn't consider anything I have to say worth his time. Except when it comes to putting me down. But you're right. Maybe it isn't mocking but just being insulting. I apologise for using the wrong word.

Phaeal
12-22-2010, 06:17 PM
When I'm offered the frequent choice of "My way or the highway," I always choose the highway. I've racked up a lot of mileage since first discovering this thing called the Internet.

Just saying before I look for the on-ramp. ;)

willietheshakes
12-22-2010, 07:14 PM
Well then I'm afraid I must bow out of this conversation, it is getting too illogical for me.

I think bowing out is your best bet, Toothpaste, and you did it with grace and aplomb.
When I saw this thread was about DWS, I knew I wouldn't be posting in it at all, largely due to a long history of Axler and I disagreeing -- often vehemently -- about the merits of some of DWS's views.
It's not worth my time, or the emotional/head space, and it's not worth yours, either.

mscelina
12-22-2010, 07:25 PM
I think bowing out is your best bet, Toothpaste, and you did it with grace and aplomb.
When I saw this thread was about DWS, I knew I wouldn't be posting in it at all, largely due to a long history of Axler and I disagreeing -- often vehemently -- about the merits of some of DWS's views.
It's not worth my time, or the emotional/head space, and it's not worth yours, either.

Agreed. Regardless of what some might think, publishing is subjective on many levels and no two authors' paths are the same. Any author who is spouting off a laundry list of 'this will happen' and 'this will not' isn't being fair to the younger writers looking for guidance. (Although, I did find some merit in the DWS post, it's not gospel by any means. By and large helpful, but not gospel IMO)

No need to set yourself up to have potshots taken at you, Toothpaste. *shrug* An argument over semantics isn't worth all this crap.

Wow! Do I feel like an absolute messiah now! If the heavenly choirs will start up with the Magnificat (A minor please) I'll adjust my halo and ascend to my reward.

Christine N.
12-22-2010, 11:34 PM
Having glanced over the article, I will say that the myths he lists are spot on. Evidence of the 'first sale, I have it made/ writers who think their words are golden once they get that acceptance' are rampant over at PA - writers who think a) that their publisher is on the up and up and b) that now that they've been 'accepted' they know everything.

Once you've been accepted, you'll never be rejected - HA! I got dumped by a publisher after two books (business changing direction, nothing to do with my sales). Jane Yolen just got a rejection letter. JANE YOLEN.

All of the other myths he lists are pretty much those that have been around for as long as publishing has been around. Authors NEED to understand the business of publishing, even when they have an agent. Naive authors are setting themselves up for trouble.

Do I believe that there are some agents who try to make 'unique' voices into cookie cutter books? Sure, but that does not mean the ALL do. Some also edit and are VERY good at pulling out the best parts of the story and cleaning up a book WITHOUT changing the voice.

Blanket statement about ALL agents are no better than blanket statements about ALL authors. There are good and bad, and then there's even good and bad for YOU. DWS really needs to qualify that, I think. I agree with Toothpaste when she says that the only absolute in publishing is that there ARE NO absolutes.

I've submitted directly to editors, but only those I have met at conferences and have permission from. Because that's good manners.

But yes, a savvy author is a better author, no matter if they have an agent, and editor, or a sale.

cwfgal
12-23-2010, 12:01 AM
When it comes to submitting to editors directly rather than to agents, DWS's experience colors his opinions. Many (perhaps most, I didn't count them) of his books are TV series-based novels with already established characters (Star Trek) and those types of books are often solicited and handled in-house without the involvement of agents. It's really a form of fan fic with payment attached. I also think both DWS and James base many of their opinions on the way things were a decade or two ago rather than on how things are now. It was easier to query an editor directly out of the blue back then, whereas it's much harder now. Because of the huge proliferation of submissions that has arisen out of the personal computer phenomenon, agents have become much more of a gatekeeper.

Beth

Izz
12-23-2010, 12:12 AM
When it comes to submitting to editors directly rather than to agents, DWS's experience colors his opinions. Many (perhaps most, I didn't count them) of his books are TV series-based novels with already established characters (Star Trek) and those types of books are often solicited and handled in-house without the involvement of agents. It's really a form of fan fic with payment attached. I also think both DWS and James base many of their opinions on the way things were a decade or two ago rather than on how things are now. It was easier to query an editor directly out of the blue back then, whereas it's much harder now. Because of the huge proliferation of submissions that has arisen out of the personal computer phenomenon, agents have become much more of a gatekeeper.

BethFor the sake of correct stats (i don't have a stake in this discussion one way or the other), around half of DWS's books are media tie-ins. That's 50 out of nearly 100 books sold over the course of his career.

I'd also be careful about calling them 'fan-fic with payment attached,' Beth, because many media tie-in writers see that as an intentional insult to the work they do (and many other writers use it as such; though i'm not saying you are here).

And as far as whether his strategy still works, here's a quote from a comment he made in his Sacred Cows post on agents (Sep 2009):
over the last two years, writers who have come to my classes have sold 21 first novels. 18 were without agents on the sale, all but three retained an agent after the offer.So selling direct to publisher is still an option, regardless of whether you write media tie-ins or not. Whether it's the right option for a writer is for them to decide. Like i said, i have no stake in this discussion one way or the other, but i do think writers should have as much information as possible to base their decisions on.

kaitie
12-23-2010, 12:15 AM
I'm also going agree with Christine that it strikes me as more professional to follow the guidelines. I just read through the submission guidelines for a publisher, and one of the things highlighted specifically was the need to follow the guidelines and that if it asks for five chapters, you don't send the full manuscript, etc.

Maybe it's not an instant rejection if you don't, but I can see it coming off one of two ways: I'm either a writer who hasn't done my research, or someone who thinks the guidelines don't apply to me. I'd hope they'd lean ignorance and be more forgiving, but neither is the impression I want to give.

kaitie
12-23-2010, 12:18 AM
And as far as whether his strategy still works, here's a quote from a comment he made in his Sacred Cows post on agents (Sep 2009): So selling direct to publisher is still an option, regardless of whether you write media tie-ins or not. Whether it's the right option for a writer is for them to decide. Like i said, i have no stake in this discussion one way or the other, but i do think writers should have as much information as possible to base their decisions on.

Do you have information on what publishers those sold to, however? Are all of the sales to small presses, e-presses, and publishers that accept unagented submissions? Or are they all to the big six?

Because there are plenty of people on here who have submitted directly to editors and found success even when they haven't had success with agents. I'm probably going to send to a couple of the whole agent thing doesn't pan out. But there are a lot of smaller presses especially that still accept unagented submissions.

If those are where they're selling to, then I don't see how his advice is an advantage over anything else, but if they're selling to the big six for major advances? Then I'd give a lot more credence to what he's saying.

I'd love to see the info on that if anyone has it.

Izz
12-23-2010, 12:46 AM
Do you have information on what publishers those sold to, however? Are all of the sales to small presses, e-presses, and publishers that accept unagented submissions? Or are they all to the big six?

Because there are plenty of people on here who have submitted directly to editors and found success even when they haven't had success with agents. I'm probably going to send to a couple of the whole agent thing doesn't pan out. But there are a lot of smaller presses especially that still accept unagented submissions.

If those are where they're selling to, then I don't see how his advice is an advantage over anything else, but if they're selling to the big six for major advances? Then I'd give a lot more credence to what he's saying.

I'd love to see the info on that if anyone has it.No, i can't find any specifics for DWS's data (though i'll keep looking). However, that survey i linked to earlier (Jim C. Hines) had as a qualifier that the advance had to be 2K or more which, though not particularly large, is the qualifying point for SFWA membership. He also differentiated between small presses and other publishers in that last graph (nearly 30% sold direct to a pub that wasn't considered a small press). Hines survey did focus more on genre writers though.
ETA: There's also a graph further up the page breaking down sales data after 2005. Close to 40% of those were direct-to-pub, though some of them might've been to small presses, as the last graph shows about 5% of first sales in the last decade of those surveyed were to small presses.

Another factor in an SFF writer's favor if they want to go the direct-to-pub route is that many of the major SF houses/imprints still openly accept unagented submissions.

There are pros and cons to every way a writer might decide to go. But at least there's more than one way to choose from.

kaitie
12-23-2010, 12:57 AM
I agree. I was just thinking from the standpoint of what DWS is saying himself.

There are plenty of people who submit to smaller houses instead of agents who make sales. I'm just wondering if his particular technique works for people getting into others.

Izz
12-23-2010, 12:59 AM
I was just editing my post above when you posted now, kaitie. I've added a bit more data.

izanobu
12-23-2010, 01:15 AM
DWS writes books not under his name as well (he's currently writing thrillers I believe) and doesn't publicize some of his pen names for pretty obvious reasons (I don't think his publisher wants myth-busting DWS associated with them, for one). He's refuted a lot of the "fan-fic for pay" and "don't know the market now" stuff on his blog in various posts if you'd care to find them :) The gist is that he and his wife teach workshops and keep up on the now of submitting and publishing, not the 20 years ago (and they are both still actively submitting themselves).

Here's one example of someone who (eventually) did things without an agent: http://www.matthewlieberbuchman.com/?p=12
I'd say Sourcebooks counts as a bigger publisher, yes? If you read the comments on DWS's site and pay attention to who is commenting you'll find other authors who have contracts and books out with big 6 imprints as well. (I'm pretty sure Ace, for example, counts as a big publisher, yes?)

Anyway, if you want an agent and think that's the way, get one. For me, I'm submitting directly to (big 6) publishers because I don't see the need for an agent at this point. I can write my own queries and keep track of my own submissions. If/when I get an offer, then I'll revisit what an agent as opposed to a knowledgeable literary lawyer can do for me and decide if I want to get one then. I have queried one agent because I know her somewhat personally and think she'd be exactly the kind of agent I want, but if she doesn't take me on (she has all three of my novels at the moment), it's really no loss. While I'm waiting for a response, all those books are out being seen by editors who can buy them. I'm in control of my career, and that's the way I prefer it :)

Anyway, it's pretty simple. Do whatever works for you and take responsibility for your own career and your own learning. No right way to go about that other than what works and is professional :)

cwfgal
12-23-2010, 01:15 AM
For the sake of correct stats (i don't have a stake in this discussion one way or the other), around half of DWS's books are media tie-ins. That's 50 out of nearly 100 books sold over the course of his career.

Thanks for the info. I haven't counted (many of the links I saw on his site were to short stories, not books). But I'll take your word for it because the numbers don't matter. The point I was trying to make is that most of the media tie-in books I saw of his were earlier in his career, so it gave him an "in" with editors. Once you become a known entity, it's much easier to submit direct, even if the guidelines say you can't, especially if it's to the same house you've been working with (though I don't know if his non media tie-in books were with the same house or not).

There are plenty of writers who "broke in" the same way and eventually moved on to non media related books. It's a perfectly legitimate way to get into the business. I have a friend who did something similar, though her first books were part of an established book series, not TV, and a stand-alone she wrote later hit the NYT bestseller list. But I don't think Smith's site makes it clear that that's how he did it. The odds of finding success when you don't have a track record or referral, and you submit cold to an editor who doesn't know you, at a house that has gone on record as saying they don't accept unagented submissions is pretty damned dismal.



I'd also be careful about calling them 'fan-fic with payment attached,' Beth, because many media tie-in writers see that as an intentional insult to the work they do (and many other writers use it as such; though i'm not saying you are here).


It wasn't meant as an insult. Anyone who can make money with their writing has my respect.


And as far as whether his strategy still works, here's a quote from a comment he made in his Sacred Cows post on agents (Sep 2009): So selling direct to publisher is still an option, regardless of whether you write media tie-ins or not.

I think it will always be an option, just not a very likely one if you are submitting cold to larger publishing houses. For the smaller ones, it's very much an option and fairly common. Without knowing who those writers were and who they sold to, it's hard to know how significant that claim is.



Whether it's the right option for a writer is for them to decide. Like i said, i have no stake in this discussion one way or the other, but i do think writers should have as much information as possible to base their decisions on.


I agree, which is why I pointed out that Smith's success with his method employed a very specific career path.

Beth

cwfgal
12-23-2010, 01:23 AM
Another factor in an SFF writer's favor if they want to go the direct-to-pub route is that many of the major SF houses/imprints still openly accept unagented submissions.

I think we cross-posted. The genre thing is a good point. The SF houses do seem much more open to unagented submissions.




There are pros and cons to every way a writer might decide to go. But at least there's more than one way to choose from.

This, yes.

Beth

cwfgal
12-23-2010, 01:31 AM
Anyway, if you want an agent and think that's the way, get one. For me, I'm submitting directly to (big 6) publishers because I don't see the need for an agent at this point. I can write my own queries and keep track of my own submissions. If/when I get an offer, then I'll revisit what an agent as opposed to a knowledgeable literary lawyer can do for me and decide if I want to get one then. I have queried one agent because I know her somewhat personally and think she'd be exactly the kind of agent I want, but if she doesn't take me on (she has all three of my novels at the moment), it's really no loss. While I'm waiting for a response, all those books are out being seen by editors who can buy them. I'm in control of my career, and that's the way I prefer it :)


I'm curious about a couple of things you wrote here. Your comment about being in control of your career makes me wonder...do you think a writer who submits to agents isn't in control of his career? And if you do, why? And if you do all the work an agent normally does and get your own contract, why would you pay an agent after the fact? What makes the one agent you are interested in, "exactly the kind of agent I want?"



Anyway, it's pretty simple. Do whatever works for you and take responsibility for your own career and your own learning. No right way to go about that other than what works and is professional :)

I agree. Whether or not you have an agent, every writer should take responsibility for their own career and learning.

Beth

Ineti
12-23-2010, 01:45 AM
do you think a writer who submits to agents isn't in control of his career?

I know the q wasn't directed at me, but I can say that I know two writers firsthand and a handful secondhand who have made comments about their writing and their agents that makes it fairly clear the writers have put their careers in their agents' hands. A direct quote from one of them was "I had a great idea for a UF novel but my agent said it was a saturated market and that I shouldn't bother."

Agents should not be dictating to a writer what they should or should not be writing. I'm really bummed because this writer is a friend of mine and she's stalled out, largely because she still thinks what her agent thinks of her career is best.

Writers have to manage their own career. If you subscribe to the 'agent is an employee' idea, don't let your employee tell you how to run the business of you.

singsebastian
12-23-2010, 02:09 AM
I think it is important for us writers to remember that we can always learn. Our Editors/Agents are supposed to help us.

Also - I know that I will not be on the top seller list of whateve-rcity right off the bat. If I am, that's awesome and I'm happy. However, I won't flaunt it because that's just mean. No one likes know-it-alls. :)

And - I can always learn. Writing is the story that never ends. No matter what you do.

Irysangel
12-23-2010, 02:20 AM
I know the q wasn't directed at me, but I can say that I know two writers firsthand and a handful secondhand who have made comments about their writing and their agents that makes it fairly clear the writers have put their careers in their agents' hands. A direct quote from one of them was "I had a great idea for a UF novel but my agent said it was a saturated market and that I shouldn't bother."

Agents should not be dictating to a writer what they should or should not be writing. I'm really bummed because this writer is a friend of mine and she's stalled out, largely because she still thinks what her agent thinks of her career is best.

Having worked with 3 agents, I don't know that I agree with the statement that an agent should not be dictating to a writer what they should be working on. If the writer says "I'm going to write my next book about sparkly vegetarian vampires!!", the agent would be remiss NOT to say that they don't think they can move something like that in this market. A lot depends on the relationship with the agent, too.

If I call my agent and tell her I want to write a romance about a woman that cheats on her husband and she tells me that she doesn't feel it's something she can sell, I have two choices. I can write it anyhow and market it myself, or I can skip writing it and write something that my agent CAN sell. Neither one involves a tying of hands. I would much rather my agent tell me up front that it's not something she is interested in, rather than me spend 6 months writing the book only to turn it in to her and then have her say "No thank you".

But again, this all depends on your relationship with your agent AND how you work as a writer. I pitched one idea to my agent and she didn't like it. I was halfway done with the project. I wrote it anyhow. It's on submission someplace that I sent it to myself.

Mileage totally varies from agent to agent (and really, writer to writer). If my agent tells me not to write *everything* I pitch to her, then we have a working conflict. But this has never been the case.

My agent does not dictate what I should write - she has quite simply told me up front whether or not she can sell something. How I choose to move forward with that information is up to me.

Irysangel
12-23-2010, 02:22 AM
Writers have to manage their own career. If you subscribe to the 'agent is an employee' idea, don't let your employee tell you how to run the business of you.

Actually, I just re-read this and saw this and I think this really comes down to the crux of the matter.

If you subscribe to the 'agent is an employee' idea, you probably find DWS's posts extremely helpful.

If you subscribe to the 'agent is a consultant' idea, you probably find DWS's posts less helpful.

(I also get the impression that this is as polarizing as political parties sometimes, heh)

izanobu
12-23-2010, 02:31 AM
Yeah, pretty much the same story Ineti said is one I've heard from writers over and over (there are multiple places just on AW where a writer will say something like "I had this book but my agent said s/he wouldn't send it out because it wasn't what was selling/wanted/good enough etc"). I queried this particular agent because I know she'll send out what I want her to, be fine with me writing multiple books a year in multiple genres, and won't try to slow me down, rewrite me, or dictate what I should be writing.

You do have a point though, I'm already doing what an agent does, but not all an agent does. I don't know yet if I want to handle foreign rights sales, or other sub-rights sales myself (with the help of a lawyer when needed, obviously). There are plenty of things that, after a book deal, I might want a good agent to help out with. It'll entirely depend on what I want to do with my career. So I'm not closing the door and saying "I'll never have an agent", I just know that at this moment I have no need to hire a stranger to do the things I can do myself. Hopefully that clears that up :)

Irysangel
12-23-2010, 02:52 AM
Yeah, pretty much the same story Ineti said is one I've heard from writers over and over (there are multiple places just on AW where a writer will say something like "I had this book but my agent said s/he wouldn't send it out because it wasn't what was selling/wanted/good enough etc"). I queried this particular agent because I know she'll send out what I want her to, be fine with me writing multiple books a year in multiple genres, and won't try to slow me down, rewrite me, or dictate what I should be writing.

You do have a point though, I'm already doing what an agent does, but not all an agent does. I don't know yet if I want to handle foreign rights sales, or other sub-rights sales myself (with the help of a lawyer when needed, obviously). There are plenty of things that, after a book deal, I might want a good agent to help out with. It'll entirely depend on what I want to do with my career. So I'm not closing the door and saying "I'll never have an agent", I just know that at this moment I have no need to hire a stranger to do the things I can do myself. Hopefully that clears that up :)

And this makes total sense. If it's something you want to submit on your own, you don't want to be edited, and you're not ready to go after sub-rights...then you really don't need an agent at this point.

I do have a friend who has an amazing relationship with her editor. She talks to her more than her agent. The agent never fights for contract changes or a raise for this author. The agent does not sell foreign rights. The agent does not edit her or advise her. I have asked this friend WHY she continues to pay this agent and she has no idea. ;)

OTOH, I am constantly emailing my agent and bugging her or seeking advice. She is worth every penny to me. :)

singsebastian
12-23-2010, 03:11 AM
I didn't have a good agent. They took me on and we signed the contact and blah, blah. I don't know if agents are supposed to read the book or not, apparently they are?

anyway - I didn't get any feed back and the agent said that they'd give me an e-mail update at the end of each month. It was more like two months or longer. But I figured she was just busy. So no news of anything. I sent one e-mail to see what was going on and then she said that she couldn't do anything for me and dropped me.

Which was good because I think that if I dropped her - there would be some sort of payment involved on my end....ah, its been a while.

cwfgal
12-23-2010, 03:58 AM
Yeah, pretty much the same story Ineti said is one I've heard from writers over and over (there are multiple places just on AW where a writer will say something like "I had this book but my agent said s/he wouldn't send it out because it wasn't what was selling/wanted/good enough etc"). I queried this particular agent because I know she'll send out what I want her to, be fine with me writing multiple books a year in multiple genres, and won't try to slow me down, rewrite me, or dictate what I should be writing.

Fair enough. I suppose people want different things from an agent.

Frankly, I wouldn't want an agent who will just send out everything I want her to simply because I want her to. I want an agent who will give me feedback on the state of the industry, and what the editors she's lunching with and talking to are looking for. I want an agent who is on top of the trends. I don't want to spend time figuring that out and traveling to NY for editorial lunches (not that they'd meet with me anyway). I'd rather write.

I want an agent who I know has a feel for strong writing, plots, and prose who isn't afraid to give me honest feedback on my work (knowing that any changes I make are totally up to me.) I want an agent who will dicker and bargain the money and rights for me because I suck at doing that and I have the final say on any offers anyway. I want an agent with the Hollywood connections I don't have, and don't have the time or connections to make. I want an agent who is skilled at interpreting royalty statements, and who has access to Nielsen numbers to compare those statements with so she can find any errors that I wouldn't have the knowledge to find unless I fork over thousands of dollars to subscribe to Nielsen. I want an agent who can call me up and say, "Hey, you know that time travel novel we shopped around two years ago that no one wanted? Well I had lunch with an editor today at such and such publishers and she's looking for exactly that. I'm sending it over." I want an agent who can handle all that industry stuff while I write. And in no way does having an agent who does all this make me feel like I don't have control over my career. If anything, it makes me feel like I have more control than I would on my own because of all she brings to the table.



You do have a point though, I'm already doing what an agent does, but not all an agent does. I don't know yet if I want to handle foreign rights sales, or other sub-rights sales myself (with the help of a lawyer when needed, obviously). There are plenty of things that, after a book deal, I might want a good agent to help out with. It'll entirely depend on what I want to do with my career. So I'm not closing the door and saying "I'll never have an agent", I just know that at this moment I have no need to hire a stranger to do the things I can do myself. Hopefully that clears that up :)

It does, and thanks for taking the time to answer. Clearly some folks are comfortable doing all the things I noted above on their own. If they don't mind spending the time and money needed to do them, kudos to them (and more power to these multi-taskers!)

I'd rather let someone else do those things for me and spend the time I would have spent doing them myself writing instead. I guess it's a matter of personal choice and what works. For a couple of years I had an agent who wasn't very good and I agree with those who say it's worse than no agent at all. But the two other agents I've had (one retired, one still my agent) have been worth every penny I paid them...and then some.

Best of luck to you and thanks again for taking the time to answer.

Beth

izanobu
12-23-2010, 05:55 AM
Yeah, for me, I'd prefer to let everything I write have a chance to sell rather than letting a stranger tell me what might or might not work (when they don't know either, since no one knows what will sell or not other than "good story told well" which is also somewhat subjective). That's just my preference though. No one knows what the next best selling thing is going to be, so I don't worry about it. I'm just going to keep writing the best books I can and sending them out to people who can pay me for them (following Heinlein's Rules, pretty much). I realize that this approach isn't comfortable for everyone, but the worst thing that can happen if I send an editor a book they aren't interested in is for them to say "no thanks, not for me".

Write. Submit. Write. Submit. That's my job :)

KTC
12-23-2010, 04:09 PM
Sigh. Seeing as I'm the one being mocked for being so against absolutes and then - ha ha! See you used an absolute! I'll try to explain.

James (and DWS) has said as an absolute, that any agent that edits a manuscript is a bad agent. Full stop. He doesn't offer examples of when that might not be the case. He firmly believes that any agent who gives editorial advice is doing an author a disservice.

Now. Even if all I have is my own personal experience of my agent helping me immensely with my writing, that is proof enough that James is wrong. Do you see how?

Because James deals in absolutes (like his buddy DWS), if there is one moment where his absolute is proven to not be the case, that makes his entire point wrong. Because his point isn't that "some agents edit their authors' work badly", which is utterly acceptable and true - how can we deny it, I mean there has to be at least a few agents out there who suck at editing, in fact I have a friend who has just such an agent. His point is that ALL agents suck at editing, and that any author who allows an agent to edit is therefore a fool.

BUT. Because I have proof of at least one author's agent who was a good editor, I can therefore prove James's absolute, unequivocably wrong. I can't disprove the notion that some agents suck, and I have no desire not to. Nor (I say for the nth time) do I believe all authors ought to choose agents who edit. But something is only absolute if it is absolute, one exception to the rule blows an absolute argument out of the water and makes such an argument WRONG.

I have given nothing but allowances for every kind of preference. Ironically I note that Ineti (who only reappeared to diss me, nice) and James and Axler are happy to promote the absolute of DWS (and our very own James) while mocking the fact that I spoke such a way when actually I didn't at all.

Axler - show me where I said publishing was "immutable and unchanging", show me how in my telling James that his absolute was wrong I somehow myself was being absolute. Saying that something isn't a hard and fast rule is actually pointing to how things AREN'T absolute. You, as a matter of fact said just the same thing about how the only thing that was absolute in publishing was that there weren't any absolutes.

Suppose in response I had said to you, "There are absolutes in publishing". Would you not then have said, "Uh, no, there aren't, you're WRONG."??

Truly coming back and seeing you and Ineti (winking from the shadows) mocking me like this stuns me. My argument is pretty darn clear. And the fact that you mock me and support DWS when HE'S the one speaking in absolutes, and I'm the one saying there aren't any (and further even acknowledging much to my chagrin that at times he makes valid points) is really really weird.

You always say things better than I ever can. Again, a great post. Just so you know...some of us agree with you completely.

Phaeal
12-23-2010, 07:08 PM
Actually, I just re-read this and saw this and I think this really comes down to the crux of the matter.

If you subscribe to the 'agent is an employee' idea, you probably find DWS's posts extremely helpful.

If you subscribe to the 'agent is a consultant' idea, you probably find DWS's posts less helpful.

(I also get the impression that this is as polarizing as political parties sometimes, heh)

I can't subscribe to the "agent as employee" theory. They're too hard to get, which employees ain't these days. Of course, it all depends on what the employer is offering.

Maybe I should mention how I offer family health/dental insurance in my query letters? And a pension plan? And big parties on all holidays, including St. Swithin's Day?

Irysangel
12-23-2010, 07:20 PM
Maybe I should mention how I offer family health/dental insurance in my query letters? And a pension plan? And big parties on all holidays, including St. Swithin's Day?

Shoot, if you offer a pension, *I* will be your agent. I know a few editors... ;)

Manuel Royal
12-23-2010, 08:04 PM
I'm relieved that I didn't fit any of those myths. I never expect to "have it made" (though not having to worry about money would be great). I want writing to be my job, where I get up every day and work on the current project, keep trying to improve my craft, and manage to make a living. I already knew that past sales are no guarantee of future sales; seen too many writers appear on the bestseller lists and then fade away.

I also know I'm not putting in enough hours.

Christine N.
12-24-2010, 12:15 AM
Yeah, for me, I'd prefer to let everything I write have a chance to sell rather than letting a stranger tell me what might or might not work (when they don't know either, since no one knows what will sell or not other than "good story told well" which is also somewhat subjective).

And here's my issue with that (take it for what you will): most agents talk with editors regularly. They know what the editors are looking to acquire and what they're not.

You and I, unless we lunch regularly or correspond with editors often, do not. Not that a truly good and original story isn't wanted, but a good agent will have an idea of what editor at what house is likely to buy your story. Which is exactly what you pay them to do while you write the next book. And most agents I know say that they absolutely MUST LOVE the book to take on the client. So then it's a matter of finding the right agent for you and your book, who will then find the best home for it, instead of randomly looking at lists of publishers and scattershotting it into the universe. An agent who LOVES your book will try like heck to sell it.

Some people don't want to do that, and it's fine. But me, I'd rather give it to someone who's going to send it to the right places and the right people the first time.

izanobu
12-24-2010, 01:06 AM
Well, one... the whole "agents know markets" thing has been dealt with before. (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=720)

Two, I *love* my books. No one is going to devote as much care and time to my career as I do.

Three, editors don't know exactly what they want until they see it (and even then, they can't always get their marketing departments to agree). No agent in the world can predict what will or won't sell, they just make guesses based on information that may or may not be correct. I study the market also (it's called reading, paying attention to publishing industry information, and reading Publisher's Marketplace to see what editors are buying which books). It's not exactly scattershot. But if that's the way you want to see it, that's ok. Clearly the un-agented approach isn't for everyone. That's fine. For me, for my career at this point, I'm fine with submitting potentially to the "wrong" editor, whatever the means, to have a chance to hit the right editor (the right being whichever buys the book). And I'm making my own connections and learning about what an editor might or might not want (through personal rejections etc) at the same time. Not an approach that works for everyone. The nice thing about getting published is that beyond writing, learning, and submitting, there's no one right way to go about it.
Do whatever works. It's your career and no one is going to care about it as much as you do, nor is anyone else responsible for it.
(And if, in a few years after I've submitted 10 or 20 books and if I haven't sold any, maybe I'll revisit my method, but I'm satisfied with my results so far (in less than a year) and I'll stick with what is working for me at the moment).

Axler
12-24-2010, 07:36 PM
DWS's post about agents is one I accept pretty much as is due to my own experiences.

Agents, first and foremost are salespeople. Any other noble qualities or aspirations writers want to ascribe to them are down the rungs of the priority ladder.

Christine N.
12-24-2010, 11:55 PM
Well, that's great, unless you have no idea what editor at what house likes Historical Fantasy or Fairy Tale retelling, vs. the editor who likes realistic fiction. They work at the same house and don't deal in the same type of book.

The agents that I sub to KNOW these things, because they TALK to these editors regularly. That is NOT a myth.

But then again, YA and children's is very different than adult markets. It's a much smaller universe. I know several editors at big six houses, but very few of them would I submit to, because one deals in nonfiction, one doesn't look at fantasy, and the other deals in picture books. THAT is the kind of stuff a good agent will know and most authors won't. *shrug* I happen to know what they like because I've met them at different conferences where they state unequivocally what they will and won't look at.

Does it mean I don't submit to editors? Heck no, if I find one that is looking for stuff I've written. I've had good luck with those that I have submitted to thus far (meaning requests to read) but I had permission to submit to them because I attended the conference and KNOW they would be at least interested in the subject matter. Most agents (at least in the YA world), have a list of editors and what they look at. Does it mean there can't be an exception? Nope, but I doubt the nonfiction editor is going to even give a second glance to my Historical Fantasy, because they simply don't deal with it.

It's like sending a SF manuscript to a house that doesn't publish SF. They won't look at it, no matter HOW good it is.

My personal feeling is that I'd rather spend the time my agent is submitting my book around, writing the next one. So that when she sells that book, and they say "what else do you have?" I can show them. That's the way it works in my part of publishing.

Your mileage, of course, may vary depending on the market you write for. Some people like to be more hands-on too, and there's nothing wrong with that either, if it works for you.

izanobu
12-25-2010, 03:41 AM
Exactly. I don't send fantasy to mystery editors. It's fairly easy to find out what editors at which houses are buying what between paying attention to what imprints publish which authors and by reading Publisher's Marketplace and reading the descriptions and genres of which books each editor and imprint are buying. It takes very little investment of time to figure out who might be interested in whatever book I'm writing. :)

kaitie
12-25-2010, 08:40 PM
It might be easy to figure out what they're buying, but what if they're looking for something new? Sure, you can look at what someone's bought and make some good guesses. We're just saying that there are things a writer can't know. I know a lot of agents will always say "This is what I have a lot of, this is what I'd like to see." I'm sure there are editors who feel the same way.

Christine N.
12-26-2010, 08:54 PM
Oh, absolutely. And I hear about that stuff at writer's conferences where agents and editors are guests.

I mean, they do this all day every day, unlike me who needs a day job.

DreamWeaver
12-27-2010, 12:16 AM
If I call my agent and tell her I want to write a romance about a woman that cheats on her husband and she tells me that she doesn't feel it's something she can sell, I have two choices. I can write it anyhow and market it myself, or I can skip writing it and write something that my agent CAN sell. Of course, there's also the Garth Stein option. When Stein told his agent that the new book he'd just finished writing was narrated by a dog, his agent told Stein that he couldn't sell a book like that. So Stein went looking for a new agent. The book, "The Art of Racing in the Rain", made the NYT hardcover fiction list (IIRC it peaked at #13), and last I checked had spent 65 weeks on the NYT trade paperback bestseller list.

I admit, firing your agent is a pretty scary option. But it is an option.

Ineti
12-27-2010, 12:23 AM
I admit, firing your agent is a pretty scary option. But it is an option.

Sure, it's an option. If an employee (or partner, depending on how you view it) doesn't or won't do their job, why not fire them or otherwise part ways?

Sure, it could get awkward if you've sold stuff through the agent and they continue to get monies from the earlier sales after you've parted ways, could be a problem if they're not prompt in getting paperwork to the writer.

kaitie
12-27-2010, 01:43 AM
I think part of what bugs me about the conversation right now is the "doesn't/won't do their job" thing. It makes it sound as if the agent is just being a lazy bum refusing to do his job. Sorta like the guy who sits around in the lounge all day watching YouTube videos on his cell phone and munching on snacks stolen from the vending machine and saying "Yeah, I'll get to it."

If an agent says "I can't sell this," it doesn't necessarily mean that they're being lazy. Yes, I suppose from a technical standpoint he's not doing his job in that he's not selling that particular book, but there could be reasons for that. For instance, it could be that the agent doesn't have the contacts, in which case sure, getting a new agent could work. But it could be because the book isn't good enough, or because the idea is like five billion others, or any number of reasons.

As someone mentioned earlier, I see agents as at least having in part an advisory role. Now, I like my ideas and I'm not going to be too keen on having an agent say "You can't write this," but that doesn't mean I'd disregard advice, either. I could always write what I want on the side and sell it on my own, or have it just for myself. If one idea is likely to be a sure sale and one is too generic and not likely to get an editor, of course I want to be told that.

Obviously sometimes people will have different visions and won't get along, and that's fine. I've heard plenty of stories on here of people who had an agent and later parted ways, so I know it happens. I just dislike the way in which we're referring to scenarios.

As for it being awkward, maybe it's just me, but I'm not entirely certain why it would be. I'm sure depending on the personalities involved someone might hold a grudge, but I wouldn't expect to have problems with anyone not getting me paperwork or continuing to profit from earlier sales just because I changed agents. Maybe that's naive of me. I think I tend to try to think the best of people, however, and give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me reason to think otherwise.

Christine N.
12-27-2010, 02:16 AM
Sure, it's an option. If an employee (or partner, depending on how you view it) doesn't or won't do their job, why not fire them or otherwise part ways?

Sure, it could get awkward if you've sold stuff through the agent and they continue to get monies from the earlier sales after you've parted ways, could be a problem if they're not prompt in getting paperwork to the writer.

It may not be that they're not doing their job. If an agent doesn't know where he can sell a book like the one their client has written, well, then, they don't.

A mystery writer with an agent who specializes in mysteries probably won't know where to sell that writer's first foray into science fiction. And he's being honest if he says he doesn't know if he can sell it, because it's not his market. Not all agents DO everything. A YA agent with a client who crosses over into the adult market will probably be all right with that client trying to find an agent for their adult works, or at least trying to sell it on their own.

And I have many friends who have parted with their agents, because people change and grow. It's not the end of the world, just business. Agents aren't gods, but they are professionals (the good ones, anyway).

ETA: I didn't read Kaitie's post before I wrote mine. She's already said it, but I guess it could bear repeating.

FOTSGreg
12-27-2010, 03:30 AM
See, the thing of it is, the agent is your employee. They're not your partner. They're not your editor. They're not your publisher. They work for you. You pay them a percentage of your money to do a specific job. If they cannot do that job for one reason or twenty then it's time to look for an employee who can do the job.

Writers have allowed themselves to get into the viewpoint where agents and publishers control the writers. That's not the way the system is supposed to work. Publishers and writers are supposed to be partners. Agents and writers are supposed to be employee/employer - nothing else.

When agents start controlling access between writer and publisher o telling the writer they cannot do something then the agent has moved out of the role of employee into a role of gatekeeper and key master. They, at that point, deserve to be none of those.

Go shopping for another agent. Agents ought to be hungry enough to snap up a proven writer with a track record in a heartbeat.

Liosse de Velishaf
12-27-2010, 03:49 AM
See, the thing of it is, the agent is your employee. They're not your partner. They're not your editor. They're not your publisher. They work for you. You pay them a percentage of your money to do a specific job. If they cannot do that job for one reason or twenty then it's time to look for an employee who can do the job.

Writers have allowed themselves to get into the viewpoint where agents and publishers control the writers. That's not the way the system is supposed to work. Publishers and writers are supposed to be partners. Agents and writers are supposed to be employee/employer - nothing else.

When agents start controlling access between writer and publisher o telling the writer they cannot do something then the agent has moved out of the role of employee into a role of gatekeeper and key master. They, at that point, deserve to be none of those.

Go shopping for another agent. Agents ought to be hungry enough to snap up a proven writer with a track record in a heartbeat.


Even if you subscribe strictly to the "agent as employee" point of view, there's still a significant amount of (healthy and unhealthy) disagreement about exactly what it is you employ them to do.

Some authors like to have editorial support from their agents. Some like to have their agents keep them abreast of the market. Some prefer a submitting machine with contract assistance. All of these are valid and viable relationships for different authors.

Now, if I tell an agent I don't care whether they think it's marketable, I expect them to either sub the MS or--if they don't think have the knowledge or connections--let me find someone who will.

izanobu
12-27-2010, 04:09 AM
There's no such thing as a "sure sale" :)

And yes, people want agents to do different things for them, so they should know what they expect their agent to do or not do (just like you should know before you hire a CPA or a lawyer what you want them to do or not do) and make that clear to the agent. An employee giving advice is one thing and any writer should listen to advice and then decide whether or not that advice works for them and their career.

Only you are in control of your own career. I think that's what DWS's message is over and over, especially in the "you've got it made" category of things. I see so many writers who think that getting an agent will be the thing that makes it so they have it "made" and it makes me sad because getting an agent means only that one person with particular tastes likes your work enough to want to try to sell it for you, not that your career is guaranteed now. Getting an agent gives you no money and means you still have to get that one person with purchasing power to like your book enough to buy it. It only takes one editor in love with your book to push it through. Which is why, for me personally, I submit directly to editors. Because when I get that one person who loves my book, I'll get a contract and a check, not a possibly empty promise that my book might sell.

Some people want the promise and want someone else to handle their business for them. That's fine (as long as they hire the right employee and it suits what they want for their career). That's just not the only way, and having an agent doesn't mean you have it made. I think that's the point here, at least that I'm trying to make :)

Liosse de Velishaf
12-27-2010, 04:26 AM
I think most people in this thread would agree that having an agent doesn't mean you have it made, but that's only one of many, many things that DWS claims.

Irysangel
12-27-2010, 04:48 AM
See, the thing of it is, the agent is your employee. They're not your partner. They're not your editor. They're not your publisher. They work for you. You pay them a percentage of your money to do a specific job. If they cannot do that job for one reason or twenty then it's time to look for an employee who can do the job.

Actually, if we want to be technical, an agent is not my employee. I do not pay employer taxes for 'hiring' an agent, nor do they receive employee benefits. An agent is a contractor or a consultant that I pay a fee to do a job for me.

If you look up the IRS definition of a contractor, it is a person who receives a payment for a job that you want them to do. As the payor, you cannot tell the contractor how they should do the job, only that they should do it. That is one of the benefits of being a contractor - you have no boss other than your clientele.


When agents start controlling access between writer and publisher o telling the writer they cannot do something then the agent has moved out of the role of employee into a role of gatekeeper and key master. They, at that point, deserve to be none of those.

I agree that an agent should not control access between writer and publisher. I had one agent that did that and we are no longer working together. But not every agent works that way, and no one is obligated to continue to working with an agent that DOES work that way.





And yes, people want agents to do different things for them, so they should know what they expect their agent to do or not do (just like you should know before you hire a CPA or a lawyer what you want them to do or not do) and make that clear to the agent. An employee giving advice is one thing and any writer should listen to advice and then decide whether or not that advice works for them and their career.

But would you tell your CPA how you think your taxes should be filed? Would you tell the lawyer that he/she should handle your case in a certain way? Only to a certain extent, of course. Then you have to trust in them doing the job that you hired them to do. It's the same with an agent. There should be back and forth and agreement as to how things are handled.


It only takes one editor in love with your book to push it through. Which is why, for me personally, I submit directly to editors. Because when I get that one person who loves my book, I'll get a contract and a check, not a possibly empty promise that my book might sell.This is totally true that it only takes one editor to love your book, and that you might hit the right editor in the slush pile. But an agent is helpful for when you can only send to one editor at a house, and she knows which ones hate child-centric plots, and which one is tired of heroines in leather pants, and which one just acquired a book about angels and won't be acquiring another, and which one is actively looking for small town romances, and which house hasn't paid their authors in over a year, and which one gives a ton of in-house support and which house will continually push your book out to try and get bigger support. They know which houses have good distribution, which ones have editors that are impossible to work with, which ones that are actively building new lists, and which ones only want to see 'mega blockbusters' from celebrities.

Whenever my agent sends my book out, she sends me a list of who she is sending it to and WHY. I have called her up in the past and said "Why didn't you submit to X?" And she has told me, "X hates revenge plots, and your book is a revenge plot. We can submit them something else if you really want to work with them."

That is where an agent really helps out in submissions.

It's her job to know who is the perfect fit for my book, or who is already a fan. Who hates banana peel humor and who is looking for it. Granted, I can spend all day googling that myself, but submissions is just one slice of the pie of what a good agent will do for you.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with not going with an agent. I'm just trying to paint a picture as to why some of us love having an agent and don't want to do it ourselves.

I *will* say that the quality of the agent makes all the freaking difference in the world, though. If you have a poor agent, you are MUCH better off submitting on your own. But an excellent agent is worth every penny. Sometimes, though, it is hard to know if the agent you are querying is a good agent or a bad agent, though, so I totally understand not wanting to go through an agent at all.

Christine N.
12-27-2010, 04:57 AM
See, the thing of it is, the agent is your employee. They're not your partner. They're not your editor. They're not your publisher. They work for you. You pay them a percentage of your money to do a specific job. If they cannot do that job for one reason or twenty then it's time to look for an employee who can do the job.



Um, no. Absolutely not for me. First of all, I cannot just go out and hire an agent. I need to be accepted by them as a client, meaning they think they can SELL my work. I pay them for working on my behalf, but they are NOT my employee. They do it because a) they like my work and b) have a stake in selling it.

Agents aren't one size fits all. YA agents generally do NOT take clients who write adult work. They don't have the contacts and want to concentrate on their specific branch of the market. Same with mystery, suspense, romance. Though if you're talking about Literary Fiction, then I suppose it's a much broader market.

Even agents within the same agency will run the gambit. One may deal exclusively with picture book authors, another with YA. The picture book contract is VASTLY different than the YA book contract will be by virtue of the illustration and type of book. I would not expect an agent who sells PB's to understand the first thing about negotiating a Horror novel contract. They might, but I don't EXPECT it.

And the other thing about submitting to editors is that YOU as the author get shuttled to the bottom of the pile. Really, you do, and it's nearly guaranteed. Take Tor for example. You are more than welcome to submit directly, but expect to be read in about a year, I think was the last known wait time. With an agent, you get moved closer to the front of the line. The only exception, I think, is if you've discussed your work with that editor and she is expecting your manuscript.

It's completely possible to sell to an editor, but more doors seem to open and quicker for agents.

Ineti
12-27-2010, 06:13 AM
I think most people in this thread would agree that having an agent doesn't mean you have it made, but that's only one of many, many things that DWS claims.

I may be misreading your post, but one of the myths DWS discusses is the 'I have an agent and now I have it made' myth. He doesn't believe it. I agree with you that many in this thread believe that it's a myth too. But Dean doesn't believe that myth any more than I or others here do.

I assume that's what you meant, anyway.

Liosse de Velishaf
12-27-2010, 07:00 AM
I may be misreading your post, but one of the myths DWS discusses is the 'I have an agent and now I have it made' myth. He doesn't believe it. I agree with you that many in this thread believe that it's a myth too. But Dean doesn't believe that myth any more than I or others here do.

I assume that's what you meant, anyway.

Read izanobu's comment. Then read mine. That's what I meant. :)

Christine N.
12-27-2010, 07:09 AM
And you still have a CHOICE. If your agent says "I don't think I can sell that", you can still write it, but you'll have to find a new avenue to sell it.

They can't stop you from writing it, only advise you regarding their ability to sell it and based on what they've seen the market doing. Like stock brokers.

izanobu
12-27-2010, 08:48 AM
Yeah, sorry, CPA and lawyer were a bad analogy. They have to go through years of school, pass exams, and do their jobs according to legal and ethical constraints for which they are overseen by boards with legal power to prevent them from continuing practice. An agent just has to print a business card (or not even do that) and call themselves an agent. So there really is no comparison. Sorry.

Yep, you always have a choice. Sell through an agent or sell directly to editors yourself. Sell some things through an agent and some directly. Doesn't matter as long as you're doing what works for you and your career :)

blacbird
12-27-2010, 10:31 AM
They can't stop you from writing it, only advise you regarding their ability to sell it and based on what they've seen the market doing. Like stock brokers.

No, but they can fly to your house on a dark night and sneak in somehow and come bite your throat.

Like stock brokers.

Christine N.
12-27-2010, 04:08 PM
Caw. :)

Axler
12-27-2010, 11:01 PM
And you still have a CHOICE. If your agent says "I don't think I can sell that", you can still write it, but you'll have to find a new avenue to sell it.

They can't stop you from writing it, only advise you regarding their ability to sell it and based on what they've seen the market doing. Like stock brokers.

Actually, it's closer to what one of their editorial or sales contacts tell them. Like racetrack touts.

Christine N.
12-28-2010, 04:33 AM
and that's true, of course - that based on their contacts and talking with editors, knowing what they are looking for, they can predict whether or not its a concept that is being bought right now. Even if it's a 'new' concept, most agents I know will know who is looking for innovative or what editor likes edgy vs. conservative and who is willing to take a chance vs. not.

Because all those editors exist.

blacbird
12-28-2010, 09:07 AM
It may not be germane to the article linked in the OP, but the single biggest myth of writing is:

Anything that is good enough will get published.

That statement, posted many many times in one phrasing or another at this very site, is complete bullshit:

1. THE ONLY WAY ANYONE EVER KNOWS THAT A PIECE OF WRITING IS "GOOD ENOUGH" TO BE PUBLISHED IS THAT IS DOES, IN FACT, GET PUBLISHED.

A more circular bit of logic can hardly be imagined.

bearilou
12-28-2010, 05:07 PM
Hokay. I read the article in question. I've read the comments here.

One thing stands out very clear to me.

Education.

As a writer, educate yourself. DWS mentioned it in his article that many writers don't know the business, which is why those myths are still so prevalent. He beat on that horse particularly hard in the agent myth and not so much in the rest of the article which did lead me to believe he didn't like agents and had an agenda against them specifically, but it's still a valid point generally.

The need for education was further repeated in the comments.

Educate yourself and keep educating yourself. This applies not just to the craft of writing but to how the business of publishing works. What was true in the publishing world five years ago isn't true now. It changes fast so it behooves us as writers to stay on top of it as well.

So we can sit here and debate the pros and cons of agent vs publishing house submissions and we all have our experiences and preferences as to preferring one over the other. It's a good discussion because the key is education. Knowing what works for us and what doesn't. What has worked for someone and not for someone else? What is the climate like out there now? Reminding us to keep a weather eye out as we get on with the act of our writing.

Communication. We're all writers, we should be able to do that, right? Know what you're getting into before you get into it. Know the expectations of any course of action you take and who you deal with.

That's what I take away from his article. He's knowledgeable and experienced and I tip my hat to him. He's one in a sea of good advice that, as with all things, should be taken as it is. Advice, and not the golden word from on high.

As for myself, I just added a couple of blogs to my 'follow' list. As well as a few books I want to take a look at! Color me a little more educated.

Noah Body
01-05-2011, 05:54 AM
The First Sale Myth, The Rejection Myth, My Agent Will Take Care of Me Myth, etc.

Truer words and all that:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=2525

So Gill, as an editor, do you agree with what Smith says about agents? And his encouragement for writers to submit directly to editors?

Axler
01-16-2011, 06:28 PM
Another heretic, another traitor to her class.

Burn her...burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn her!

http://kriswrites.com/2010/10/21/the-business-rusch-changing-times-overview/

Ineti
01-16-2011, 06:41 PM
Another heretic, another traitor to her class.

Burn her...burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn her!

http://kriswrites.com/2010/10/21/the-business-rusch-changing-times-overview/

Just want to add that the link above is to the first article in that series. The followups are just as eye-opening and informative. Links to the whole series can be found here:

http://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-table-of-contents/

DWS also has a great post today commenting on this article (http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/the-agents-role-in-todays-digital-book-world/) by literary agent Mary Kole, and her thoughts on what agents may need to do moving forward as publishing continues to evolve in the digital world. DWS has a comment following the article with a link to his commentary, so I won't add the link here. Lots of food for thought. Like bearilou said above, keep reading, keep learning, and keep getting informed about this massive business.

Axler
01-16-2011, 07:32 PM
This quote from Mary Kole jumped out at me:

"The one thing we can’t do is pretend that things aren’t changing"

It's a shame more people who claim to be publishing professionals can't bend their perceptions enough to make the same admission instead of directing that energy toward denial.

As it is, thanks for the link...a very insightful article