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wavy3
06-18-2011, 02:01 AM
I mean, I know authors have to start somewhere, but I've heard talk (and have observed from my own experience) that agents won't consider you if you don't have at least something already published to reference, such as a short story in a magazing etc...

I'm starting to consider writing a short story just for the purpose of having it published to have something to reference in my query, which frankly seems a little silly, because I have no interest whatsoever in short stories.

ChaosTitan
06-18-2011, 02:05 AM
That particular quirk may be true for some agents, but a vast majority of agents will still consider new authors with zero credits to their name.

I had no publishing credits when I signed with my agent, and I bet another dozen or so similar examples are signed into AW at this very moment.

suki
06-18-2011, 02:10 AM
That particular quirk may be true for some agents, but a vast majority of agents will still consider new authors with zero credits to their name.

I had no publishing credits when I signed with my agent, and I bet another dozen or so similar examples are signed into AW at this very moment.

This.

There may be some agents with such a preference (mostly those closed to queries or referral-only), but most agents who accept queries are also open to writers with no prior pub credits.

I didn't have any when I signed with my agent. And I know many other authors who also had no prior pub credits when they were signed, as well, in a variety of genres.

~suki

Cyia
06-18-2011, 02:15 AM
I mean, I know authors have to start somewhere, but I've heard talk (and have observed from my own experience) that agents won't consider you if you don't have at least something already published to reference, such as a short story in a magazing etc...



Where and who are you querying? Unless the agent specifically says "not open to new submissions" or "no queries unless previously published", agents consider good writing, not publication history.

Not only did I (like numerous unpublished members here) query and net requests from some of the top agents at the biggest agencies you can name, but those agents are excited for the chance to sign a "debut" author.

The "stigma" of being unpublished is something that gets tossed around a lot, but doesn't bear out in real time.

Besides, you can be previously published and have 27 sales to your credit - that's not going to help you. ;)

Kathleen42
06-18-2011, 02:22 AM
That particular quirk may be true for some agents, but a vast majority of agents will still consider new authors with zero credits to their name.

I had no publishing credits when I signed with my agent, and I bet another dozen or so similar examples are signed into AW at this very moment.

This. I had no credits when I queried.

scope
06-18-2011, 02:25 AM
Every published author was at one time unpublished.

agentpaper
06-18-2011, 02:30 AM
In fact, I've heard most prefer debut authors, because it's easier to sell someone with no sale record as opposed to someone with a not so hot sale record.

stormie
06-18-2011, 02:32 AM
Don't worry about it. Agents want to see a good query and a great manuscript.

Giant Baby
06-18-2011, 02:32 AM
I had nil when I signed with my agent. No short stories, nothing. Three offered, none seemed to care about that at all.

Actually, I don't recall any of them even asking me about publications during the offer conversations. They knew they were dealing with a potential debut author, of course, but short stories or other forms of publication? I don't think it ever even came up.

ETA: Wow, I'm slow! Like, five responses came in while I dawdled. Forgive the redundancies. What they said.

James D. Macdonald
06-18-2011, 02:36 AM
I mean, I know authors have to start somewhere, but I've heard talk (and have observed from my own experience) that agents won't consider you if you don't have at least something already published to reference, such as a short story in a magazing etc...

In a word, no.

brainstorm77
06-18-2011, 02:37 AM
No.

wavy3
06-18-2011, 02:44 AM
Thanks for all the responses. I'm aware, obviously, that not all agents will have this requirement! I merely thought agents might take me more seriously if I had any previous publications, so they'd feel more confident in my ability. All the example queries I've seen on various blogs have listed a number of magazine publications etc., and I thought perhaps I was doing something wrong, because I have zero writing credentials. None at all. Agents always mention writing credentials.

Giant Baby
06-18-2011, 02:50 AM
Thanks for all the responses. I'm aware, obviously, that not all agents will have this requirement! I merely thought agents might take me more seriously if I had any previous publications, so they'd feel more confident in my ability. All the example queries I've seen on various blogs have listed a number of magazine publications etc., and I thought perhaps I was doing something wrong, because I have zero writing credentials. None at all. Agents always mention writing credentials.

Because they want to know if you've got them. That doesn't mean you're dead if you haven't. Good luck!

suki
06-18-2011, 02:51 AM
Thanks for all the responses. I'm aware, obviously, that not all agents will have this requirement! I merely thought agents might take me more seriously if I had any previous publications, so they'd feel more confident in my ability. All the example queries I've seen on various blogs have listed a number of magazine publications etc., and I thought perhaps I was doing something wrong, because I have zero writing credentials. None at all. Agents always mention writing credentials.

Like we've said, for many, many agents, other writing credentials are irrelevant. If you are interested in writing short stories or magazine articles, etc., probably won't hurt. But if you were doing it solely for the credits, the time could be better spent on the book(s) you really want to publish.

~suki

wavy3
06-18-2011, 02:54 AM
@ Giant Baby, okay thanks. I'll keep that it mind.

@ Suki, thanks! You have alleviated my fears.

Gillhoughly
06-18-2011, 02:59 AM
The short story in print market is so small that its easier to sell a novel these days.

Smart agents are actively looking for something they can sell. They want to make money. They judge the sample chapters they have in front of them and probably don't look at the cover letter with your publishing credits ( or lack of the same) until after a read.

Write something that can be sold and keep writing. Get feedback here on AW. I didn't know why my 1st book wasn't selling until I got feedback.

Read this from The Knight Agency Newsletter by agent Melissa Jeglinski:

First chapters...I know them well. After twenty years in the publishing business, I’ve done my fair share of critiquing them for contests, evaluating them to see if I want to ask for more from a new writer, editing them for a client before we shop a project, and enjoying them from my favorite authors.



Show, Don’t Tell: Many writers make the mistake of treating the opening like a synopsis. They want to tell the reader everything right from the start. And so their opening consists of multiple paragraphs, even pages, of details about where we are, what we’re seeing and why we should care. Instead, show the reader where they are by setting the scene through a character’s eyes. Let the reader know what’s at stake by having something happen to your character right at that moment. Tell us why we should care by giving us the character’s thoughts on the current situation. The first chapter needs to open the reader up to the world by enticing them into your world.


Know When to Start: I can’t tell you how many first chapters I’ve read that start with a character going somewhere. They are driving to a destination, walking up to a front door, about to board a plane. Instead of wasting time writing about how that characters is getting to that destination, start with them having already arrived and quite possibly already in the middle of the situation. It’s not difficult to add in the details about how they got there later on with just a few sentences of background information. If a reader comes in during the middle of the action they are immediately engaged by the situation and the why’s and how’s can come later.


Don’t Forget the Dialogue: Some of the best opening lines I’ve ever read have been lines of dialogue. A sentence from the main protagonist or a minor secondary character can immediately set the stage for the type of journey one is about to take. Dialogue creates interaction between characters. The words used by these characters can illicit feelings of nervousness, exultation or fear. And the reader is immediately engaged. Think about it like coming into the room during the middle of a conversation...don’t you love trying to figure out what’s going on and how the people talking have gotten to that point?


Avoid Dumping: Please don’t be afraid to leave unanswered questions in your first chapter. You don’t need to use it as a dumping ground for every fact about your main character and their conflict. You want to keep your story evenly paced so giving away everything in chapter one will not do you any favors. I’ve often found that first chapters can be tossed away and that the second, even third or fourth chapters, make for a better opening because they start at the right place and leave enough questions for me to want to read on.



Leave them Wanting More: The first chapter is an enticement into the book but of course you want the reader to continue on to chapter two. So that first chapter needs to end with a great hook. Avoid having the protagonist go to sleep at the end of chapter one—the reader will too. Rather, end with a moment of suspense or a great realization that leads to more questions. Think about how your favorite television show cuts to a commercial...they leave you wanting to fast forward and get back to the story ASAP. So go out on a high note or a dismal note or a fearful note...but a note that will bring them back for more.



Remember, your first chapter sets the stage for all that is to come. Present it with the right tone, give away just enough information and start with a compelling scene. And you will let the reader know they are in for a memorable read.




Anything there that relates to your opening? I suggest subscribing to the newsletter as it's free, you don't have to be a client, and they have lots of good stuff in it!


http://www.knightagency.net/newsletter/


I also suggest raiding a bookstore aisle for the genre you write in and methodically open to the first page of every book, starting from the A's and work your way down. Don't look at the cover copy, go in cold knowing nothing about the book or the name of the writer.



Read at least the first page of each. Which ones grab you and make you want to buy the book to see what happens next? You can learn from those writers!

jeffo20
06-18-2011, 03:07 AM
I'm starting to consider writing a short story just for the purpose of having it published Don't assume that it's all that easy to get a short story published. Plenty of magazines are going to tell you that they do not accept simultaneous submissions, and you may well have to wait one, two, three months or more just to find out if the place you've submitted to is going to publish your story.

profen4
06-18-2011, 03:21 AM
From the perspective of someone who used to read slush, when a query came across the desk with previous credits listed, they tended to get more attention (at least from us lackey readers at the bottom). I'd think, Whoopie, someone who must know how to write (that is a rarity among the slush pile). It wouldn't guarantee that I'd send it along the chain of consideration but it would almost always guarantee that I'd read further (the type of credit mattered, I would Google it if it wasn't well known to me.).

What I'm saying is that having a credit *Might* make your query less likely to fall through the cracks - except when you're submitting somewhere that reads all queries carefully, in which case good writing ensures the same thing. (My eyes would glaze from time to time )

I've seen some agents that employ the policy of "I'm only open to submissions for people with previous publishing credits." I believe that this is not necessarily because such things make it easier to sell to publishers, but rather because it might ensure a higher caliber of submission.

James D. Macdonald
06-18-2011, 03:39 AM
Publishing credits mean "Someone else thinks I'm writing at a professional level."

If you don't have those credits, you just leave that paragraph out. (You don't make something up.)

Previous publishing credits can hurt you if:

a) They're a long series of 4theluv and 1/4-cent-a-word markets. If you keep selling to bottom-feeders, folks will think that's the best you can do.

b) There are a couple of good sales, then nothing for ten years. Makes it look like you had two good stories in you and you're tapped out.

c) You paid to get published. Any vanity press at all, or self-publication that isn't accompanied with sales measured in the thousands, shouldn't be mentioned.

MercyMe
06-18-2011, 03:55 AM
In fact, I've heard most prefer debut authors, because it's easier to sell someone with no sale record as opposed to someone with a not so hot sale record.

THIS. I had a publishing credit when I signed but it didn't help. (see above) Getting published in other areas like journalism, short story, etc. is good for stretching your professional skills and keep the fires burning though.

rugcat
06-18-2011, 04:10 AM
Previous publishing credits can hurt you if:

b) There are a couple of good sales, then nothing for ten years. Makes it look like you had two good stories in you and you're tapped out.I ran into this.

I wrote and published two novels, then quit writing completely for some 15 years, for reasons that had nothing to do with writing.

Several agents asked me about this directly when I was querying; it was a huge red flag for them.

rwam
06-18-2011, 05:23 AM
Hook the agent with an awesome query letter and you'll be fine.

charmingbillie
06-18-2011, 05:39 AM
I'm going to echo what Gillhoughly said above. To sell to really top-flight magazines is harder than selling a novel. There are considerably fewer slots for one thing.

The other thing is that while some of the skills are the same--putting good words on paper, creating believable worlds and characters. Some of them are very very different--pacing (this is HUGE), plot, emotional arc, structure and story.

I'm glad that I've learned to write both, but they are definitely different, though overlapping skill sets.

Miss Moo
06-18-2011, 06:21 AM
wavy3, thank you for asking this question, it is something I've been wondering about myself. It's good to know that not all agents would ignore me as a new writer.

shaldna
06-18-2011, 12:33 PM
Any debut writer has no publishing credits. Everyone has to start somewhere.

stray
06-18-2011, 01:22 PM
The Golden Goose for any agent is the unpublished author with a best-selling spellbinding manuscript. The thrill of discovering talent. Anticipation of exploitation. First publishing rights...

Traditional publishers can be very cautious towards taking a risk with a new author in the current climate. New technology is breaking through. Publishers are often playing safe. But with an agent calling the shots your new book should be placed.

That said, the above situation is rare. I honestly think any new author would do well to secure a deal with a small ebook publisher or independent print publisher before approaching agents.

To answer the question. Agents do want to sign unpublished authors but unpublished authors are sometimes unpublished for a reason. There is a learning curve that can be learned by authors inexpensively by publishing with the small presses.

Cyia
06-18-2011, 07:58 PM
The Golden Goose for any agent is the unpublished author with a best-selling spellbinding manuscript. The thrill of discovering talent. Anticipation of exploitation. First publishing rights...

Exploitation? Seriously?

:rolleyes


Traditional publishers can be very cautious towards taking a risk with a new author in the current climate.

Commercial publishers have always been selective in picking up books. Any new book is a risk.


New technology is breaking through. Publishers are often playing safe. But with an agent calling the shots your new book should be placed.

Not really. Landing an agent doesn't mean the book will actually sell.


That said, the above situation is rare.

It's only rare if your book sucks or you write something in an overly bloated genre.


I honestly think any new author would do well to secure a deal with a small ebook publisher or independent print publisher before approaching agents.

ALWAYS start at the top, then work your way down. Small presses are awesome if your work is geared toward a smaller market, but if you're writing mainstream commercial fiction, then you're likely going to want someone bigger. The Big 6 sign new writers on a regular basis.


To answer the question. Agents do want to sign unpublished authors but unpublished authors are sometimes unpublished for a reason. There is a learning curve that can be learned by authors inexpensively by publishing with the small presses.

You don't "learn" by publishing with a small press. Taking that attitude is an insult to the press.

You publish with a small press if you have a book that fits their market. Small presses are often more selective than the bigger ones because they don't have the same big name authors to cushion their risks as the bigger ones.

wavy3
06-19-2011, 12:07 AM
Don't assume that it's all that easy to get a short story published. Plenty of magazines are going to tell you that they do not accept simultaneous submissions, and you may well have to wait one, two, three months or more just to find out if the place you've submitted to is going to publish your story.

I know. I've looked into it.

wavy3
06-19-2011, 12:15 AM
The Golden Goose for any agent is the unpublished author with a best-selling spellbinding manuscript. The thrill of discovering talent. Anticipation of exploitation. First publishing rights...

Traditional publishers can be very cautious towards taking a risk with a new author in the current climate. New technology is breaking through. Publishers are often playing safe. But with an agent calling the shots your new book should be placed.

That said, the above situation is rare. I honestly think any new author would do well to secure a deal with a small ebook publisher or independent print publisher before approaching agents.

To answer the question. Agents do want to sign unpublished authors but unpublished authors are sometimes unpublished for a reason. There is a learning curve that can be learned by authors inexpensively by publishing with the small presses.

Hm, I can't say I agree. Obviously some books are unpublished for a reason. That goes without saying, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to get an agent. I'm not going to assume my book is bad just because of a few rejections.

There's always room for improvement, of course, but that's not what this thread is about. I just got nervous because so many of the example queries I've seen have had publishing credits.

My question has been answered about ten posts ago, though, so I'm all set. :D

Lucy
06-19-2011, 12:28 AM
The only thing that matters, literally the *ONLY* thing, is the story in front of them. That is all. No credential can overcome bad writing and good writing doesn't need any other credential.

suki
06-19-2011, 01:20 AM
Traditional publishers can be very cautious towards taking a risk with a new author in the current climate. New technology is breaking through. Publishers are often playing safe. But with an agent calling the shots your new book should be placed.

That said, the above situation is rare. I honestly think any new author would do well to secure a deal with a small ebook publisher or independent print publisher before approaching agents.

To answer the question. Agents do want to sign unpublished authors but unpublished authors are sometimes unpublished for a reason. There is a learning curve that can be learned by authors inexpensively by publishing with the small presses.

I strongly disagree with the bolded bit above.

There is no reason not to try for an agent and a large press deal if the book is appropriate for the large trade press market, and I think it irresponsible and bad advice to suggest to newbies that they should not try for that until they've published will a small e-press or small independent press.

There are several of us here who signed with agents and sold out first novels to established, respected trade publishers. And if we had followed your advice, we would have made far less lucrative and good deals for our first sales.

There are, of course, some books that would be better published by a small press. And I'm not dismissing small, independent presses. But I think it is a sweeping over-generalization and bad advice to suggest every author first try small presses before attempting to find an agent or sell to a large trade publisher.

~suki

Medievalist
06-19-2011, 01:23 AM
Agents and editors want good books that they think other people will pay to read.

They don't much care about anything else--including if you're published, in prison, or a raging social moron.

Just write the best book you can, revise, write some more, revise. Get some beta readers. Revise.

Medievalist
06-19-2011, 01:24 AM
The Golden Goose for any agent is the unpublished author with a best-selling spellbinding manuscript. The thrill of discovering talent. Anticipation of exploitation. First publishing rights.

Legitimate agents do not exploit.

Ever.

Medievalist
06-19-2011, 01:24 AM
wavy3, thank you for asking this question, it is something I've been wondering about myself. It's good to know that not all agents would ignore me as a new writer.

They're not going to care.

All they care about is how good your ms. is.

blacbird
06-19-2011, 01:46 AM
you can be previously published and have 27 sales to your credit - that's not going to help you. ;)

They always ask for prior publication history, though, don't they?

COchick
06-19-2011, 01:47 AM
In my limited experience...no.

Edited to add: Response was to the OP. Just wanted to clarify.

Cyia
06-19-2011, 01:51 AM
They always ask for prior publication history, though, don't they?

Yes, but my point was that the assumption of "prior publication = better shot at agent" is always a sure thing is flawed. If your prior publication was an embarrassment to you and your publisher, then it's not going to be an enticement.

wavy3
06-19-2011, 02:11 AM
Agents and editors want good books that they think other people will pay to read.

They don't much care about anything else--including if you're published, in prison, or a raging social moron.

Just write the best book you can, revise, write some more, revise. Get some beta readers. Revise.

Lol. That makes sense. Hopefully I can find a good beta reader on here. :)

wavy3
06-19-2011, 02:13 AM
Yes, but my point was that the assumption of "prior publication = better shot at agent" is always a sure thing is flawed. If your prior publication was an embarrassment to you and your publisher, then it's not going to be an enticement.

I'm embarrassed to admit I never even considered that fact, but now it makes complete sense. Not that you were talking to me, but you've been a help. :)

kaitie
06-19-2011, 03:51 AM
For what it's worth, I didn't include any information about myself at all.

James D. Macdonald
06-19-2011, 06:18 AM
Prior pubs answer the question, "Does this guy have a fan base?"

Jennifer_Laughran
06-19-2011, 07:21 AM
Prior pubs answer the question, "Does this guy have a fan base?"

I'd say more like, prior pubs BRING UP the question. The answer can still be yes or no.

And frankly... it's usually no.

wavy3
06-19-2011, 08:36 AM
I'd say more like, prior pubs BRING UP the question. The answer can still be yes or no.

And frankly... it's usually no.

Lol, this thread is becoming slightly discouraging.

Basically, some agents toss you without prior reputable pubs, some don't.

It is up to you to write a compelling query and a solid and intriguing story. Gotcha.

blacbird
06-19-2011, 10:21 AM
Yes, but my point was that the assumption of "prior publication = better shot at agent" is always a sure thing is flawed.

And my point was that the idea it doesn't matter at all is bullshit. It may not be the ultimate deciding factor, but it effing does matter, or they wouldn't ask.

Anne Lyle
06-19-2011, 12:10 PM
Lol, this thread is becoming slightly discouraging.

It shouldn't be. Read it again.



Basically, some agents toss you without prior reputable pubs, some don't.

No. In your case (no red flags, just no credits at all), a few agents might give your query less weight, but the majority won't care. The days are long gone when writers cut their teeth on short stories and only then progressed to the giddy heights of novels.



It is up to you to write a compelling query and a solid and intriguing story. Gotcha.

Absolutely.

Also, never forget that fiction is highly subjective. My publishers recently held an open submissions month, and they rejected a book that they admit was excellent but just not right for their imprint and "brand". Agents are the same - they have to love your book, not just acknowledge it as publishable, in order to represent you effectively.

ZapAdRem
06-19-2011, 03:04 PM
If you needed credits to get a novel published, I think a good chunk of the writing world would be screwed.

Including me.

James D. Macdonald
06-19-2011, 03:36 PM
Rejection letters you won't read:

"Your book is outstanding. I stayed up all night reading it. I cared about the characters; I laughed with them, I cried with them. It surprised and delighted on every page. Unfortunately, since you don't have any previous publishing credits, I can't represent it."

Kasey Mackenzie
06-19-2011, 05:26 PM
Rejection letters you won't read:

"Your book is outstanding. I stayed up all night reading it. I cared about the characters; I laughed with them, I cried with them. It surprised and delighted on every page. Unfortunately, since you don't have any previous publishing credits, I can't represent it."

This. Times ten.

Zodiark
06-19-2011, 08:57 PM
I hear stories about authors who had no publishing credits whatsoever (a few of them were in high school or college). A stand-out query is what can make the difference (sometimes a connection helps too, lol, but I'm not sure how often or not authors have those).

wavy3
06-19-2011, 10:49 PM
@ Anne most of it isn't discouraging, but it's turned into somewhat of a fighting thread. The question has long since been answered.


And I know for a FACT that some agents do toss queries from previously unpubbed authors--BUT said agents always make this known on their site/blog.

Anne Lyle
06-20-2011, 12:01 AM
You should know by now that AWers love nothing better than

:deadhorse

:D

Catadmin
06-20-2011, 05:27 AM
Rejection letters you won't read:

"Your book is outstanding. I stayed up all night reading it. I cared about the characters; I laughed with them, I cried with them. It surprised and delighted on every page. Unfortunately, since you don't have any previous publishing credits, I can't represent it."

Oh, I love that letter! It's brilliant. @=)

Thanks for the laugh, Uncle Jim. You just made my weekend.

Medievalist
06-20-2011, 05:31 AM
Basically, some agents toss you without prior reputable pubs, some don't.


Then I'd, metaphorically, toss those agents. They're not terribly bright.

I wouldn't belabor "I'm brand new and never been published" in a query. I talk about your book and characters, and your story with a goal to getting the reader to ask for more.

Or moar . . . . damned LOL cats have completely turfed what spelling I had.

Toothpaste
06-20-2011, 07:06 AM
Myself and almost every author I know (in person - as I now know a lot online and that's just too many to keep track of in terms of their particular path to success) who has an agent got their agent with no prior credits and no connections.

It can be done. It is done. And is still being done.

Credits (good quality credits) of course will never be a negative, but if you are only writing short stories etc to build credits and not because you want to, then I think it's a waste of time. Focus on becoming the best writer at your chosen form of writing. That's the important thing.

kkwrites
06-22-2011, 11:20 PM
I've read this as well, and it is scary to thing about. But the more I research the more faith I gain in agents.

quicklime
06-22-2011, 11:32 PM
Thanks for all the responses. I'm aware, obviously, that not all agents will have this requirement! I merely thought agents might take me more seriously if I had any previous publications, so they'd feel more confident in my ability. All the example queries I've seen on various blogs have listed a number of magazine publications etc., and I thought perhaps I was doing something wrong, because I have zero writing credentials. None at all. Agents always mention writing credentials.

Obviously, they would--you'd have a track record. But that's just one more shiny feather in your cap, not a prerequesite for acceptance.

As for if you're better off working on shorts until you have a handful to reference, or working on the novels, you'll have to decide which is better.

Anne Lyle
06-22-2011, 11:42 PM
And I know for a FACT that some agents do toss queries from previously unpubbed authors--BUT said agents always make this known on their site/blog.

There may be a few who are so fabulously successful with their current client base that they can cherry-pick previously published writers who are looking for a new agent - but they are in the minority, by a long, long way. The vast majority of agents are open to new writers, even the ones with great client lists.

The agency I'm with handles the UK and Commonwealth rights for big, big names in SFF like Charlaine Harris and Brandon Sanderson. And yet they take on complete newbies like me and David Tallerman. It's very possible to get a top-drawer agent as a debut author.

ironmikezero
06-22-2011, 11:45 PM
This has been a most encouraging thread overall; and has put this concern to rest in my mind. I wrote a great deal in my past career with a certain government agency, most of which is still classified. I couldn't cite anything if I wanted to... No matter - the worst was that none of us were allowed to accept any remuneration (other than our salaries) for anything we wrote; and the agency/department had full editorial rights to all of it.

Retirement is so sweet...

and hope springs eternal.