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WriteStuff
11-22-2005, 08:14 PM
I just spent some time on an interesting blog. One recommended by the knowsy-knows on the board here. (that was not meant in any sort of derogatory way)

In the blog there was a posted response from a well-established editor at a well-recognised company in regards to good/bad agents, and whether they're necessary at all.

Without naming any names, or posting direct quotes, because I don't want to point fingers, and in general I really liked the article, and the editor's own blog that was also listed, she basically said: (paraphrased)

If you are previously unpubbed, any agent that would bother with you, isn't worth having. She did make a small concession to an obscure possibility that you might be Hemmingway and then it's all good.

So... I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me for a member... right?

Personally, I have some miniscule publishing credits that most, if not all, legitimate agents/editors wouldn't consider worthy of mention... and that might even be the nice way they'd put it. Therefore, I am basically unpublished. Am I crazy for bothering to attempt to find an agent?

Her main theory was, get an offer... then you'll get an agent worthy of being your (or anyone's) rep.

So what's the choice here:
True? Not true? Some seeds of truth? Give it up, if you're looking for seeds go dig in a garden?

Andrew Zack
11-22-2005, 09:34 PM
Not having read the actual blog, it's hard to comment, but I think what was written above is downright ridiculous.

Agents are looking for clients. They are the source of our income. But no one becomes an agent for kicks. Everyone who comes into the publishing world loves books and there's a distinct thrill to finding a book you think you can help get published.

You want an agent before you get an offer, otherwise you are wading into the sea, hoping to catch salmon. Well, actually, hoping to catch a salmon named Bob. But, guess what? Agents know where Bob lives and what kind of bait he likes.

An author getting an offer first and then looking for a publisher is like a woman inheriting a million dollars and then going to the local bar and announcing she's looking for a husband. Sure, she'll find one, but what are the motives in that marriage?

Find an agent who loves your book and will work passionately to find you a publisher.

Best,
Andy

Richard
11-22-2005, 09:37 PM
Can I make a guess at the source? Theresa Niesen Hayden's email on Neil Gaiman's website? (http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2005/01/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about.asp) If so, its high enough profile to be mentioned by name, I think, especially as a lot of people do use sites like Making Light for advice.

While I'm in no position to call it wrong, that particular snippet of always seemed rather strange to me - it seemed bizarre to hand an agent an effectively done deal when one of the main reasons to initally approach one is for their contacts and resources in finding publishers and getting past the no unagented submissions barrier.

brinkett
11-22-2005, 09:51 PM
While I'm in no position to call it wrong, that particular snippet of always seemed rather strange to me - it seemed bizarre to hand an agent an effectively done deal
It's not an effectively done deal, though. I assume an agent would negotiate better than the author would. That might be one reason to find an agent once an offer is on the table.

Richard
11-22-2005, 09:58 PM
Negotiate better with that publisher, perhaps, but it still seems to put you at a major risk in terms of time, 'Oh, your client agreed to this already' type situations, examining the kind of offer you get and thus how much leeway there is to discuss it, which publishers and editors to approach - all leaning towards a savage push for 'approve this deal' rather than 'get me the best deal'.

Andrew Zack
11-22-2005, 09:59 PM
No editor with a brain would leave an offer on the table long enough for you to find an agent, have the agent read the book, get back to the editor, etc.

Editors are not your friends. They are business people. If they can get your book and you have no agent, then they should. They will get more rights for their company and endure fewer headaches from an agent who will have higher expectations.

Find an agent, then let the agent find you a publisher, period.

brinkett
11-22-2005, 10:11 PM
Right. I'm not advocating finding an agent AFTER getting an offer. I agree you should look for one beforehand. I was responding to Richard's "It's a done deal" statement.

WriteStuff
11-22-2005, 11:06 PM
Thank you very much, all of you, for answering. Andy, and the rest, I can now go to my mundane little job that funds my insane need to write with a relieved smile on my face, and hope in my heart. I kind of thought that's what the answer would be. However, since the source was 'reputable' (yes, Richard, of course you are correct), I was having some very queasy moments thinking about my own little fishy sitting on the shark's desk at the moment.

Thanks to all,
Tami

MadScientistMatt
11-23-2005, 01:10 AM
That warning was a reflection of the publishing world not too long ago. It was certainly true when Neil Gaimen first began his writing career. For a long time, you could mail a manuscript to Random House on your own and get it read. However, with many large publishers requiring an agent and some other changes, it's much more common for reputable agents to take on new clients.

aruna
11-23-2005, 05:51 PM
Editors are not your friends. They are business people. If they can get your book and you have no agent, then they should. They will get more rights for their company and endure fewer headaches from an agent who will have higher expectations.

.

Agents are not your friends, either, they are also business people. The moment my agent noticed that I wished to develop as an author in ways that she considered "not commercial", and not play the fake publishing game she suggested, I noticed she was much cooler towards me, even though we had had a very warm relationship up till then. And when I refused a contract with my publisher because I did not agree to the changes they wanted me to make, she was quite frosty. When I wrote my "goodbye" letter to her, she didn't even have the "civility" to wish me luck with placing my manuscript.
My editor, on the other hand, knew what I was doing and where I wanted to go; she gave me some sincere advice (which was that I would be better with another publishing house) and her last words to me were "I look foreward to reading you when your book is published." She believed in me, even though her aquisitions team didn't.
Today I got a letter back from an agency; I had sent a full manusctript to one of their agents who had solicited it. I sent the ms about ten days ago. The letter was unsgned and said "we read it with interest". What a lie! it had not even been seen by the agent who requested it, is my bet, much less read. Not in ten days.
Last week I had a long chat with my French editor; he says French authors don't have agents at all. I have sent him my manuscript. If he likes it I am going to sell the French rights without an agent, and take it from there.

I am on the lookout for other editors to submit to directly. Up to now I;ve found editors far more receptive than agents.

badducky
11-23-2005, 08:16 PM
Funny, with my offer, I've had plenty of time to query agents, get them to read it, and get a chance to find someone passionate.


I think my situation is a bit different... like all situations.
Of course, if you spend all your energy worrying about how to break into the business, you're not breaking into the business, are you?

Since you know you want to make it as a writer, you should be in hot pursuit of any avenue that can move you forward towards your goal.

Querying reputable agents is not a waste of time. Querying publishing houses that view unsolicited submissions is not a waste of time.

The only waste of time is not trying because of one blog on one website, I think.

Gaiman started in a different market, built a huge freelance portfolio of graphic novels first, and basically skipped the normal way for the "Hemingway".

If you don't think an agent is good, don't submit to them. If you think you can get a good agent to represent you, why not try?

If Hemingway was starting out right now, today, do you think he's try to get an agent? I think he would.

WriteStuff
11-23-2005, 08:40 PM
Well, gee, Badducky, slap me silly for asking.

As a matter of fact, I am quite prolific. I can, and do in spite of a busy schedule write an average of 40-60,000 words a month. (No not because of some annual grogfest like Nano, but consistantly.)

I do like to read, and study in an effort to learn the ins and outs of the business side of thie art. I do it often between chapters, or even scenes... or, hell, just because I want to. That's why most of us are here on this board, isn't it? You could just crack that whip and say get off this board, it's of no real use. Get back to whats important--writing. That wouldn't be fair, or accurate though.

While it may have seemed a stupid question to you, I have always, and will continue to ascribe to the idea that there are no stupid questions. So thanks, but hang on to that wet noddle for someone else's whipping, okay? I think even Hemmingway would find himself a tad bewildered at times when faced with the current market.

Andrew Zack
11-23-2005, 08:59 PM
There is no doubt that an agent and author can disagree on direction and then it may be time to part ways. But agents also feel very invested in their clients' works and it hurts when a client decides to leave. I recall one client for whom I had sold eight books but had never really made any money on any of them. All but one of the advances were in the four figures. But the reviews were good and I really liked the guy personally. When he terminated representation, I felt personally affronted. I felt I had been carrying the guy on my back for years. Working with him took up far, far more time than the money earned was worth (I probably earned less than minimum wage if you broke it down). Perhaps it made me a bad businessperson to keep with him, but I had hopes that someday....

Anyhow, Aruna, perhaps that will help you understand why your agent got chilly. Your agent probably felt a little like a husband or wife who suddenly finds his or her spouse has gotten distant and is thinking of leaving. You can make yourself crazy, or you can put up a wall and start preparing for the worst. Sounds like the latter happened here.

Andy

aruna
11-23-2005, 09:36 PM
Anyhow, Aruna, perhaps that will help you understand why your agent got chilly. Your agent probably felt a little like a husband or wife who suddenly finds his or her spouse has gotten distant and is thinking of leaving. You can make yourself crazy, or you can put up a wall and start preparing for the worst. Sounds like the latter happened here.

Andy

Thanks for showing it to me from the agent's point of view, Andy. I guess we were both hurt; I wanted her to trust me more and felt abandoned by both her and the publishing house; I htink if they had all shown faith in me for a couple more books I would have done well in the end. There was a time when I could not even enter a bookshop, because the tears would come to my eyes. That was before I started the fourth book.
Yes, it was a bit like a broken marriage. She's a nice person. Sometimes I even wish we could make it up....