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SpookyWriter
12-12-2005, 10:32 PM
Andy,

I copied the three messages below so that we can expound on this thread without interrupting the original.

I wanted to list the pros and cons for reading fees, recommendations to stream-line the review process, and solicit ideas that could possibly make this idea work or put it to bed.

Jon

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SpookyWriter (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=5077)
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What's funny is that if agents COULD charge reading fees without being hammered as scammers and unethical, I bet you'd see a massive increase in turnaround time.

I am not sure if it's funny or not, but one problem with this idea is implementation. Sure, I would be more than happy to pay an agent a reasonable fee to read my material and provide constructive feedback. But the opportunity for abuse outweighs the initial benefits because how do we monitor this activity? How do we know an agent wouldn't just hire a college student (or hack) that had little or no training or skills in assessing the validity of a writers work? How would anyone know that the agent isn't living off the reading fees and not promoting or selling any work?

I agree with Andy to a point, but it's just too easy for bad agents to take advantage of the income opportunities and not perform the role of writer advocate.

So we lose efficiency but maintain integrity. Which is more important?

Jon


Andrew Zack (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=316)
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I think that agents with integrity would prove themselves by having a client list of published authors and successful sales. The scammers would not have such a list and thus it would be obvious where their priorities lay.

As for the readers...well, if you consider that any reader's opinion is valid to a certain degree, and that many readers for agents now are college interns or recent graduates, I'm not sure there would be a big difference from the current situation. As for constructive feedback, I'm not suggesting that would necessarily be offered, though perhaps a copy of whatever reader's report is written might be provided. But a college doesn't send you constructive feedback on your application. They just let you know if you got in or not. Why would an application fee for an agent be any different?

I'm playing Devil's Advocate here, of course.

Best,
Andy


SpookyWriter (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=5077)
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Andy,

I hear what you're saying, and I am not against the idea. But as I said before, it is implementation along with oversight that would hurt the credibility of any agent who seeks a reading fee.

I remember the Woodside fiasco from years ago and stood by while my buddy Jack Mingo and a few others were castrated by an agency gone wild.

My background also includes a four year stint as an internal auditor for the Arizona Board of Regents. I can say for certain that there are regulatory laws that govern what a university can and cannot do concerning fees and tuition. I donít think your analogy is quite the same. The independent review of each university was conducted by internal auditors and the Attorney Generals office to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. What body of law or scrutiny would an agent fall under? Self-regulation? Doesnít work. Never has and I can site too many instances of fee based agencies abusing the trust of writers.

The pros for this idea is that writers who arenít serious enough to commit their own funds for an initial reading will reduce the amount of time I or others wait to hear back from an agent.

I am sure there are some upsides to the argument, as there are downsides, so what is the solution?

Jon

SpookyWriter
12-13-2005, 12:46 AM
I'll be the first to list the few cons:

Typically, a writer will submit to ten or more agents. If the average reading fee was just $75.00 then the cost to the writer is $750.00 with no guarantee that any of the ten agents will represent their work. Multiply these figures by another ten or twenty agents who charge reading fees and the whole process becomes a financial burden for the writer. The chances of recouping their initial investment is already pretty slim. Now there is the real possibility that they'll get stuck with nothing to show for their time, money, and effort.

Jon

Andrew Zack
12-13-2005, 10:28 PM
One might assume that if the typical reading fee was $75.00, authors would do more due diligence regarding the agents to whom they are submitting. Thus, they might only submit to two, rather than ten.

If you go to my site, you'll find a very specific list of areas in which I like to represent books. I can say with confidence that every day I get at least one query that demonstrates that authors do not always bother to visit that page. I get YA novels, romance novels, children's books, religious books, and the like. All of which I clearly rule out on my site.

Part of the problem is OTHER sites, that provide contact information, but nothing more. I have had to go around and find some of these sites and ask them to remove my contact information and leave only a link to my site. Which they generally do, but the damage is often done.

Another part of the problem is magazines that run "market reports" and include information about agencies. A lot of authors pay little attention to what the agent says he or she is seeking, and just copy down an address.

While I know nothing about how states regulate universities, the bottom line is that the universities charge an application fee and the majority of applicants get nothing for their money. Yet universities couldn't exist without students, so why shouldn't they allow everyone to apply for free? Right now, every agent I know is allowing every writer to apply for free. Who is making the error here? The universities or the agents?

Devilishly yours,
Andy

SpookyWriter
12-13-2005, 10:55 PM
Andy,

I will reply this way, yes, I did visit your site (blog) once and slapped you silly when I presumed you were taking reading fees in the guise of a charity event. My mistake and I apologized when I learned more about your intentions. I will admit that I had not read the previous posts and assumed incorrectly that you were willing to read a sample chapter in exchange for a donation. Okay, for the record, I said that I would not submit my work to your agency for the reasons I stated. Nothing has changed, so I can and do feel free to continue this discussion in earnest. I just want other readers to understand my objectivity and not question the intent of my discussions with you.

I am going to think about what you've said for a bit and respond later. I just wish other writers would kick in some debate here so this thread doesn't appear as a duologue.

Cheers,

Jon

DaveKuzminski
12-13-2005, 11:59 PM
Allowing reading fees is bad because information about which agencies are successful and which are not is simply not current enough and new writers often don't know where to obtain it. That's why so many start off with Writer's Digest only to then fall victim to the ads within its pages in the mistaken belief that those ads were vetted. Many writers expect rejections. That's why it takes some of them so long to recognize when they're being scammed.

My take is that if reading fees were legitimized by all agents, the number of scams taking place in the publishing industry would multiply until real agents found themselves in the minority and afraid to admit to being agents because their overall reputation took a serious integrity hit.

Jamesaritchie
12-14-2005, 12:38 AM
Reading fees are always bad, and no legitimate agent asks for them. No agent who's really any good has to ask for reading fees.

I do know a couple of good agents who ask for very high reading fees, but the only reason they do so is because they don't want writers submitting to them. Saying they weren't talking new clients didn't work, so they started charging reading fees no sane person would pay.

An agent should earn his money by selling your work. Period. No exceptions. An agent who isn't earning enough money by selling work to not worry at all about reading fees is a bad agent.

Money should always flow to the writer. Never, ever, under any circumstances should money flow away from the writer. When it does, you're dealing with someone you should avoid completely.

Andrew Zack
12-14-2005, 08:03 PM
Maybe the solution is to attack WRITER'S DIGEST and force them to do due diligence on the agents who are advertising their services there!

As for information about which agents are successful, that's for the individual agencies to make known, no? Either by publicizing their success on the web or through PW or Publishers Marketplace, it seems to me.

And there's an easy way for an author to protect himself from scams: Insist on discussing the submission list, then insist on seeing (1) the photocopying bill; (2) the shipping bill; (3) the rejection letters and emails from the publishers. At the very least, those three things will demonstrate to any author that their work is being sent out and read by publishers.

James, your post is really just a rant. I don't see any evidence here to back up any of these positions. Dave at least outlines why he thinks they are bad. For example, you say "no legitimate agent asks for them. No agent who's really any good has to ask for reading fees." Yet, for years the Scott Meredith Literary Agency had a reading program that required a fee. It was called the Discovery Program. But no one ever accused Scott of not being an legitimate agent, or Russ Galen, Ted Chichak or Jack Scovil, all of whom worked for Scott. Some of the most successful agents and editors in the business started out reading and writing responses for that program.

Other agents I've known over the years have also charged fees. Some called them "processing fees," and they ranged from $28 to $50 for a sample chapter submission. I won't name them here because I'm not aware if they continue to charge this fee, but believe me when I say they were out there.

Another agent--a rather well-known SF&F agent, in fact--once took over a client I'd parted ways with. This other agent spent weeks and possibly months negotiating a contract the author ultimately chose not to sign. The agent sent her a letter, which her next agent (her fourth or fifth overall) happened to get a copy of and share with me. In this letter, the agent on the dead deal stated "I do not work for free" and essentially demanded that the author pay him something for his time. Was that right or wrong? Should an author, having taken up hours and hours of an agent's time, be required to compensate him or her?

"An agent should earn his money by selling your work. Period. No exceptions. An agent who isn't earning enough money by selling work to not worry at all about reading fees is a bad agent." This presumes the agent offers no other services beyond literary representation, yes? So if an agent offers to build an author a website, then that money could flow the other way, right? What about if the agent doesn't really want to represent an author but the author is very much in need of help and is willing to pay the agent a flat fee to negotiate his small press contract. Well, there the money flows from the author to the agent. Is that a problem?

I think, James, that your position is simply too inflexible and your post too strident to have real merit. There are many different ways of doing business and they are not always going to be the way you, personally, think they should be done.

Now, returning to the subject at hand, the question posed was why can other businesses charge people an application fee but agents can't? So far, I've seen no argument that demonstrates a clear argument that agents shouldn't be able to do so. Yes, some are afraid of scammers, yet right now there are scammers aplenty, so other than denying genuine agents the means to perhaps charge an application fee and use that money to help hire staff that might help grow the business, thereby enabling the agent to take on more clients, how is stopping legitimate agents from having reading fees helping authors now?

Devilishly yours,
Andy

MockingBird
12-14-2005, 09:30 PM
Well, I think one thing to consider is this:

When filling out apps for universities, students or prospective students, most often have a finacial suport system that pays those fees for them. Mom, dad, Great Aunt Betty, and you can take out student loans.

I've yet to see a bank advertise Wanna be Author's Loans. That's right, get your reading fee loans right here! Most authors I know are very very poor--myself I had to resort to looking under the car floor mats to find enough change to pay for postage on my MS many times. If those agents had charged a fee then I'd of been out of luck as far as being able to submit to them.

MockingBird

Andrew Zack
12-14-2005, 10:24 PM
MockingBird:

I strongly suspect that the percentage of students out there who are poor is much higher than the percentage of authors who are. Remember, there are vastly more students.

But that's irrelevant. Your cell phone company doesn't care if you are poor. If you can't afford the "set-up fee" then you don't get a phone. Perhaps ending the "ban" on reading fees would create more competition in the marketplace. Younger agents might have no reading fee, in order to get more submissions. Other agents might charge a reading fee of only $49.99, when mega-agents might charge nothing or $500.00. Who really knows? But I don't think a general statement that "authors are poor" is a valid argument against reading fees when one considers how many other businesses charge equivalent "application" or "set-up" fees.

C'mon, folks. Aren't there any businesspeople on this site? Give me one valid argument that demonstrates that reading fees are "bad." Yes, we know there are scammers, but there are scammers now, when there's a "ban" on reading fees. There will always be scams.

The only argument I can see from an author's point of view is that by having an agent who ONLY makes money selling his clients' works, he has a greater incentive to work hard to sell those works.

But that argument is simply wrong IN PRACTICE! Do you know what happens in real life? Agents take on too many clients. They submit too many projects to editors at the same time. They throw manuscripts at the publishing house doors, hoping one will stick. When I started as an editor at the Berkley Publishing Group, the late Jay Garon (John Grisham's agent and therefore a man probably not hurting for cash), sent me a manuscript EVERY DAY by messenger FOR FIVE DAYS. It only stopped when I called his assistant and told her it was enough. I then ultimately read about ten to twenty-five pages of each before I rejected them.

I just closed to new submissions for the month of December (yet I have a giant pile of mail here, which goes to prove how few authors check my website before submitting) because I realized that far too much of my time lately has been spent dealing with mail, queries, etc. I've made a conscious decision to go "deeper" with my current clients, rather than broader, searching for new ones. Though perhaps if I could charge a reading fee, I could hire a bookkeeper to do the accounting and review those royalty statements that have been piling up, or an editor to work with my clients on polishing their manuscirpts. But since I'd be tarred and feathered for charging such a fee, I don't. Is that helping authors looking for an agent? Really?

Devlishly yours,
Andy

SpookyWriter
12-14-2005, 10:53 PM
Okay, I am going to become the lone dissenter here and say:

I don't think there is anything wrong with charging a nominal fee to process a sample chapter (or several).

I paid a professional editor to review my first novel. Why? Because I am a lousy editor. I make mistakes, I might have a scene where there are talking heads and no action, or I might have a scene with stilted dialogue. My editor was great at pointing out the technical flaws, providing solid line-by-line editing, and a ten-page review of my manuscript. My editor is a successful and talented writer in her own right, so her editing was from personal and professional experience.

But, I did my homework. I checked her out before sending my manuscript along with the money. I did "due diligence" and was satisfied with her credentials. I paid her a lot more money than $50.00 to read my manuscript.

My pet peeve is that I have my manuscript out to five agents who requested partials. Three months have gone by with no results. I haven't heard a peep out of them if they want to see the full or if my writing sucks and they'll pass.

Why are these agents taking so long? Maybe it is because they're swamped with so many unsolicited and requested manuscripts that they can't get to mine in a timely manner. Hey, maybe I can call them up and say "Mr./Mrs. Agent, if you will please take an hour of your day to review my work then I will pay you $50.00". If you like it, fine, we can go from there and decide if you'll represent me. If not, then I can at least close the books on you and go find another agent who likes my work.

I paid attention to what the agent represents, read the agency site and knew their client list, and sent my work after it was requested from a query. So, why am I still on the fluffy stack of unread partials? BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THE TIME OR MONEY TO FILTER THE JUNK THAT IS SENT UNREQUESTED.

Hire someone to sort out the good stuff from the other chaff. I don't have the time or inclination to sit around for another year or two until an agent has the time to finally read my work.

My vote - I support a reading fee with certain guidelines as Andy suggested. I think the money would be well spent.

Jon

SRHowen
12-14-2005, 11:15 PM
I like to think of myself as a smart person when it comes to money and how I spend what I have--it allows me to live outside my income limits, by most people's thoughts.

I saw the reasons for the move to the top of the pile fees, and didn't object to them. Though, I didn't use the option myself, I came before them.

On one hand we can say look an agents time is valuable, so shouldn't they be paid for it like any other person who provides a service? But, there are so many scams out there that how does a person really know if the said agent is legit or not?

Yeah, we can ask for client lists--oh, the agent says, I donít' share those. Some legit agents don't, scam agents don't or they lie, or they may have a few hits to share.

As a new writer starting out, we have no clue. Many years ago when I first started submitting, my first book--that will never see the light of day, I had no idea where to start. PC's were not a reality, no internet, so I went to my book shelf and picked up a book and looked up the address of the publisher and sent away.

One publisher praised said book and sent me a three page letter ending with we sugest you consult the Writer's Market--me, being new had no idea what the heck the writers market was--a book? A place? A business? Another suggested I divide the book into three parts and then perhpas find an agent.

Agents seemed a big mystery then, a scary big person who I had no idea how to contact, they were for celebs not little me.

Then I happened on an agent who took out an ad in a magazine--wow, now I knew how to find them. So off I sent my query.

I got a letter back saying how great my book was, but that it needed a little work and for a fee of . . .

What stopped me was that I was as broke as could be.

Sheesh, I got away form my point here--back to it . . .

Right now the biggest way to tell a scammer from a legit agent is the fees they charge.

let me repeat:

Right now the biggest way to tell a scammer from a legit agent is the fees they charge.

Sadly, even if reading fees could lighten an agent's load, or make good buisness sense, the above is a reality right now. Writers have one (sure way given today's thought process) to tell a scammer, THEY CHARGE A READING FEE.

Even those of us who would like to teach, say, how to write a killer query letter--writers expect us to teach it for free and if we want to charge well then something is wrong, something stinks, we are a scammer.

Until that somehow changes, anyone asking for reading fees or submission fees is going to be considered a scammer or a bad guy--good business sense or not.

IMHO

OH and I agree with the above post that a reading fee could thin the load a great deal.

Shawn

DaveKuzminski
12-15-2005, 12:02 AM
Well, lack of a reading fee isn't a complete protection any longer since the Literary Agency Group encompassing ST Literary Agency, the New York Literary Agency, the Poetry Agency, the Screenplay Agency, the Christian Literary Agency, and the Children's Literary Agency now claim not to charge a reading fee since they are presently getting their fees from critiques and editing services that they recommend which are not independent third party businesses as they claim, but are actually owned by the same man and thus provide the whole scam with its income. However, that's merely the present day exception to the rule. I feel certain that a few more scammers will eventually follow when they realize that writers have learned not to pay any up front fees. That or they'll finally leave the industry.

SpookyWriter
12-15-2005, 04:56 AM
Dave,

Errr...are they still in business? They've scammed for so long I am surprised that they are able to continue without some state (Attorney General) shutting them down for good.

Jon

Andrew Zack
12-15-2005, 05:15 AM
And yet, Shawn, I just pointed out that Scott Meredith had the Discovery Program, which was nothing more than a program where manuscripts were read and an evaluation sent for a fee, for years. Yet no one called Scott a scammer. I'm not aware, right this second, of any other larger agencies doing such a thing, though I do know that more and more agencies seem to have "editors" on staff. How those editors are compensated, I'm not sure.

I don't believe that the only way to differentiate a scammer from a legit agent is the existence or absence of a fee, though obviously the existence of a fee may cause someone to consider carefully whether or not they want to go with that agent. But, then again, the existence of an application fee may make me want to think twice about applying for an apartment in that really good-looking apartment building. But if it looks good enough, and I want in, I guess I'll just have to pay, right?

Now let me throw another wrench into this conversation: What does everyone think about an agent charging by the hour for representation, or by the month, rather than taking a commission? As you may be aware, there's a Washington lawyer who handles a number of rather large deals for politicians and only takes his hourly fee. And book publicists tend to work on a monthly retainer ($5,000 a month isn't unusual). Would either of these models work better for agents and authors?

Devilishly yours,
Andy

DaveKuzminski
12-15-2005, 06:49 AM
P&E hasn't called Scott a scammer, but his agency is not recommended by P&E or does that not count?

No, I don't believe that either of those other two models would work well for agents and writers. Agents would likely get the very short end while handling representation for writers whose work fetches six and seven digit figures. Writers would end up in that position in most other instances since it would then be to the agent's benefit not to sell the manuscript too soon in order to get it to pay enough to actually be worth their time. After all, why sell it with only one hour of work when it can pay ten times better by claiming ten hours? With a small advance, it would be possible for the agent to be due the whole advance. Also, it doesn't take into account what the book might earn past the advance. I'm assuming that the by the hour amount would be all that the agent is entitled to. If not, then it starts taking the form of double-dipping.

Sonarbabe
12-15-2005, 07:09 AM
I can understand both sides of this discussion. I see Zack's point in that charging a nominal fee could lighten an agent's load and compensate for a bit of extra time spent critiquing, especially when other businesses and intsititutions use them. Not to mention, it would certainly make me think doubly hard whether or not the said agent was a good fit for me.

However, as the writer who has literally looked under the car mats for postage money, a reading fee would severely cripple my chances of ever finding an agent. While $25-$50 may not seem like much to most here, as a writer who's day job is being a cashier, it's a lot of money to me. Yeah, I know, wahhh if I was serious about getting represented then I would find the money, but it's not necessarily that easy. Phone bill might have to wait, or car payment, etc just so I could find the money. Let's say, I did have a spare $100 or so to send out a couple queries. I cut the check, send it out, only to find out that the agents have already met their quota for contemporary romance ms. Hmm. Well, there goes $100 I could have used to get ahead on my credit card payment.

Now, to get back to Zack's side of this that would also passify my checkbook. Let's say, hypothetically, I queried an agent. (Free to query, minus the soon-to-be $.76 for stamps) The agent then requested a partial. Now, in their guidelines it states they charge $15 (or so) for partials. That I could come up with. Okay, I send out the check and partial. One of two things could happen. The agent could decide to pass on it. Okay, fine. I'm out $15. No Frappuccinos for me, big deal. OR, the agent could decide they liked what they saw and requested the full. To make it completely fair, the reading fee for a full would be guaged on ms. size. If I was submitting a 150,000+ word ms, I would expect to pay a bit more than if I was submitting 75,000 word ms or less. For the sake of argument it ranges something like $25 for 50,000-75,000 words. $40 for 76,000-100,000 words and $60 for 101,000-???. Okay, I could most likely get the $40 without breaking the bank. Granted, it would mean one agent at a time and I'm in a world of hurt should more than one ask for a full, but that's not the point. I could do it and not be totally bankrupt should the agent pass on the full. In this sense, the agent gets his fee, and I don't feel gypped if they ultimately passed. I would have a small peace of mind knowing that they gave me a fair shot before taking my check to the bank.

This is all just my thoughts on it and trying to point out that I do see both sides, while stating (sorry, Zack) that with my current financial situation, I'm REALLY glad agents don't normally charge a reading fee.

Andrew Zack
12-15-2005, 07:25 AM
Dave:

Why is SMLA not recommended?

A.

SRHowen
12-15-2005, 08:23 AM
Hey Andy,

I don't think it's the only way to tell a scammer from a non-scammer, but it is the one thing that does stand out, and that newcommers are told again and again--don't pay a reading fee. So if an agent asks for a reading fee it is a sign post that says this guy may be a scammer. (since fees are the main income source for scam agents--the only one in in most cases)

Any application fee to me seems a gravy train for the person collecting the fee--and rental app. fees here are crazy! If an agent charges a reading fee (and said agent is legit he has a good track record makes top sales etc.) then i can see the fee as a good thing, he can hire someone to read so he can spend time selling my work.

But the problem is those who charge a fee with no intention of ever selling my ms. The want to sell me editing, they want to charge me to read something they never read and send me a letter about my overuse of eclaimation points (hmm, only one in the entire 120,000 words--overuse?)

I understand the frustration, believe me.

I have taught several workshops on query letter and synopsis writing--in Europe. I got good money to teach them.

We moved back to the US and I started a writers group, in that group I taught my workshop, and I worked with a few others on the query/synop thing.

Let's take the ones I worked with in this last year--not many. I did not get paid, spent a great deal of time teaching my form of query and synop. abotu 90% now have good agents. A third now have sold novels, and even one has a multi-book deal with a top publisher sold on the query and synop I taught her to write.

So along with the magazine I work for we decied to sell my workshop as a an online class--guess what no one wanted to pay me for it they thought I should just teach it out of the goodness of my heart or something. I have proven results--yet . . .

Same with agents, people have the idea it should be for free and anything else is out of the question--heck most people still think everything on the Internet should be for free.

Don't mind me today--am in a bad modd, a very bad mood.

Shawn

aruna
12-15-2005, 12:09 PM
I also see both sides of the argument.
First: I am totally against reading fees. Finding a publisher is just not in the same category as applying for a mobile phone. The richest writers - those who could afford it - may not be the best writers; and conversely, some of the best wirters may be the poorest. So sorting authors according to their ability to pay is definitely not the way to sort the wheat fromn the chaff. Agents would be the losers as well as brilliant authors who just couldn't afford it.

On the other hand the fact that there's so much chaff to sort through to get at the wheat is indeed slowing down the process and making it unecessarily harder for us all.

What's the solution? Certainly, it seems that another filter before manuscripts get to the agent seems appropriate. One agent I queried - one of the most responsive, I have to say - had a reader read my partial ms and deliver a very detailed report - a copy of which he also sent to me, and asked for my comments - which, I assume left him free to only read the mss the reader thought were worthy of his time. But he'd have to pay the reader, or readers, of course. More expenses! What about paying the reader a commission, say 3%, on those good mss the reader finds, and the agent sells?

I don't think that agent ever got around to reading the ms (he kept sending me emails apologizing for the delay) - but at least, with this system, and having a reliable reader who knows what he likes, he doesn't have to waste his time reading stuff he doesn't need to.

I assume that the reader would not write such a detailed report in the case of mss that are clearly rubbish; that is, the reader could fairly easily discard those, and would be motivated to find the gems?

Just thinking out loud here; I have no idea how feasible this idea would be.
Clearly, though, the present system isn't working; at least, not well.

SRHowen
12-15-2005, 03:38 PM
When writing was harder work, when you had to retype every draft--(no computers) there were less "writers." Only those driven to write wrote and submitted, now it seems everyone with a computer is trying to write the next Harry Potter--it's seen as a quick way to get rich. If you are a published author you must be rich--the media says so.

This has created a flood of trash into editor's and agent's offices.

The solution? I think I like the idea of a finder's fee or commision for readers. Readers hired on a found work base. But where would the free readers come from and who is going to spend that much time as a first reader sorting trash--for a maybe small $ award?:idea:

Maybe current clients could agree to read so many ms per month--not a good idea, that would take away from their writing time. Students? Wanna be authors--many people work on commision, but I just don't think there are enough books published to suport a large network of readers on commison--though maybe there are.

Shawn

Sonarbabe
12-15-2005, 04:24 PM
I also see both sides of the argument.
First: I am totally against reading fees. inding a publisher is just not in the same category as appkying for a mobile phone. The richest writers - those who could afford it - may not be the best writers; and conversely, some of the best wirters may be the poorest. So sorting authors according to their ability to pay is definitely not the way to sort the wheat fromn the chaff. Agents would be the losers as well as brilliant authors who just couldn't afford it.


That's what I was trying to say! I just took the LONG way around it. Thanks, Aruna!

britwrit
12-15-2005, 05:30 PM
This probably raises some more issues but if you're overwhelmed with slush, get an intern. Call up the English department at your local university and say you're looking for someone to do reader's reports. Something along the lines of "Gosh, I really can't pay him or her but they'll gain VALUABLE EXPERIENCE IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY along the way." I know American education isn't what it used to be but I'm sure you'd be able to somehow get a good pair of eyes.

Besides, how long does it take to skim a chapter and realize it's unreadable and uncommercial? Or just not that good enough to bother with? Five minutes? Two? Just use the same criteria you'd use in a bookstore. Read the first sentence, the first paragraph, then put it down forever if you're not going to buy it.

aruna
12-15-2005, 05:44 PM
This probably raises some more issues but if you're overwhelmed with slush, get an intern. Call up the English department at your local university and say you're looking for someone to do reader's reports. Something along the lines of "Gosh, I really can't pay him or her but they'll gain VALUABLE EXPERIENCE IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY along the way." I know American education isn't what it used to be but I'm sure you'd be able to somehow get a good pair of eyes.

Besides, how long does it take to skim a chapter and realize it's unreadable and uncommercial? Or just not that good enough to bother with? Five minutes? Two? Just use the same criteria you'd use in a bookstore. Read the first sentence, the first paragraph, then put it down forever if you're not going to buy it.

Good suggestions, britwrit

Or, there could be "literary scouts", operating a bit like bounty hunters. They could lurk on sites ike thes, read the Share Your Work forums, and actively approach the writers who sound good, request more of their work, and if they're good recommend them to agents; literary scouts could build a reputation of finding good authors; and earn commissions accordingly.

DaveKuzminski
12-15-2005, 06:13 PM
Dave:

Why is SMLA not recommended?

A.

I believe it states by that listing that there's an upfront fee charged.

Andrew Zack
12-15-2005, 07:35 PM
Dave, you're behind the times. SMLA no longer has the Discovery Program. The link on your site actually goes to the page that says it no longer has the program.

DaveKuzminski
12-15-2005, 08:32 PM
I'll review my documentation tonight. I believe the original recommendation was based on a letter from them.

SpookyWriter
12-15-2005, 08:41 PM
The reading fee issue isn't unique and was similar to another form of fee
based proposal for writers to submit their work into a database for agents
and editors to pick:

Read (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/browse_thread/thread/c7db52715f8a9f31/1c9b28e6ac125210?lnk=st&q=kvjlc&rnum=74&hl=en#1c9b28e6ac125210) (for whole thread)


http://groups.google.com/img/watched_n.gif (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/watch_topic?nonmember=1&tid=c7db52715f8a9f31&oldstate=0) Fiction Writers Wanted for authors database


All 17 messages in topic - view as tree (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/browse_frm/thread/c7db52715f8a9f31/8bdf0872c1a9a766?tvc=1&q=kvjlc&hl=en#8bdf0872c1a9a766) http://groups.google.com/img/dot_clear.gifHowdyBMay 24 1994, 5:41 am show options (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/browse_thread/thread/c7db52715f8a9f31/1c9b28e6ac125210?lnk=st&q=kvjlc&rnum=74&hl=en#)Newsgroups: misc.writingFrom: how... (http://groups.google.com/groups/unlock?msg=8bdf0872c1a9a766&hl=en&_done=/group/misc.writing/browse_thread/thread/c7db52715f8a9f31/1c9b28e6ac125210%3Flnk%3Dst%26q%3Dkvjlc%26rnum%3D7 4%26hl%3Den)@aol.com (HowdyB) - Find messages by this author (http://groups.google.com/groups?enc_author=rDfFJg4AAACeiLD9phZQ6TFBWNf87uRq&scoring=d&hl=en) Date: 23 May 1994 16:02:02 -0400Local: Mon, May 23 1994 2:02 pm Subject: Fiction Writers Wanted for authors databaseReply to Author (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/post?hl=en&inreplyto=8bdf0872c1a9a766&reply_to=author&_done=%2Fgroup%2Fmisc.writing%2Fbrowse_thread%2Fth read%2Fc7db52715f8a9f31%2F1c9b28e6ac125210%3Flnk%3 Dst%26q%3Dkvjlc%26rnum%3D74%26hl%3Den%26&) | Forward (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/post?hl=en&inreplyto=8bdf0872c1a9a766&forward=1&_done=%2Fgroup%2Fmisc.writing%2Fbrowse_thread%2Fth read%2Fc7db52715f8a9f31%2F1c9b28e6ac125210%3Flnk%3 Dst%26q%3Dkvjlc%26rnum%3D74%26hl%3Den%26&) | Print (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/msg/8bdf0872c1a9a766?dmode=print&hl=en) | Individual Message (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/msg/8bdf0872c1a9a766?hl=en&) | Show original (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.writing/msg/8bdf0872c1a9a766?dmode=source&hl=en) | Report Abuse (http://groups.google.com/groups/abuse?hl=en&group=misc.writing&url=http%3A%2F%2Fgroups.google.com%2Fgroup%2Fmisc. writing%2Fmsg%2F8bdf0872c1a9a766)


I'm looking for published or unpublished authors of fiction to list
their works in my publication for distribution to over 1000 publishers and
agents. Next distribution is in February 1995. Works on any subject will be
accepted. There is a $30 charge for a single listing. The second
submission is free. Many publishers have found this database
interesting. It should free up the "slush pile" of unsolicited works,
allowing them to search the database for the subject, title
and synopsis of interest. They may contact authors for a sample
chapter or the whole manuscript. It will definately get an author's
work on the desk of more publishers at one time.

For information and a submission form write:

Authorworks Publishing
33290 W 14 Mile Rd Suite 459
W Bloomfield, MI 48322-4463

---
I haven't kept up on what's happening with this idea, but I would suspect it didn't fly very high.

Jon (I'm in there somewhere)

Andrew Zack
12-15-2005, 11:47 PM
I have to say, it's quite fascinating to see how often the "why doesn't someone just work for a commission" line of thought comes up. How many of those making this suggestion are, in fact, working 100% on commission? In my experience, very few people actually do. Most have some kind of base salary. But not agents. They do it all on commission. Perhaps editors should also work on commission? No more salaries. Come to work, work for free. Find a good book and you get a royalty on every copy sold. Would that work?


I can't afford a Mercedes, so I don't drive one. If you are a writer, but can't afford the expenses involved (paper, toner, manuscript boxes, and, perhaps, the reading fees required to get your work professionally considered), then don't be a writer. Or kill the cable TV and use that to pay for it.


Very, very few businesses that I know of do something for nothing. A real-estate broker may come look at my house and tell me what she thinks of it for no charge. But how many houses are coming up for sale in any given day? The volume just isn't there. If it were, I promise you, there would be a consultation fee.


And that's a huge part of the problem. There's too much volume. I have said that if authors were required to type their books on manual typewriters, there would be far fewer folks trying to write books. I've closed to new queries and submissions for December and January. Maybe I will for February, too. In fact, I will until I'm caught up. I have a box of fifty sample chapters and proposals waiting for me in San Diego, to read between Xmas and New Year's. I have at least that many, plus too many full manuscripts, here. Could I get an intern? Sure, but the problem with interns is that they aren't discriminating enough. They like too much! Besides, didn't someone above express the concern that interns would be reading their stuff if they paid a reading fee? So, it's okay if an intern reads it for nothing, but not if a fee was paid? Well, I guess you get what you pay for.


Well, not really, eh? In publishing, authors seem to expect feedback and get quite unhappy if they get "form rejects" from agents to whom they have paid nothing for an opinion.


What if an agency charging a reading fee guaranteed that you would at least be informed why your book was being passed on? Would that be worth it? To get that feedback? How much would that be worth? Book doctors I know charge $125/hour. I can read 75-100 manuscript pages per hour. So that 400 page manuscript would cost at least $500 for a read. Is that worth it?


This is an economic study, folks. I'm trying to figure out if there's any businesspeople out there who recognize that the amount of work agents perform FOR FREE and also recognize that maybe that needs to change. It's like the realization that taxes aren't high enough. Every once in a while, you look around at the homeless and the roads and the crime and you think, Maybe if taxes were a bit higher, we could fix some of these things.


Maybe, if there were reading fees allowed, the turnaround time on submissions wouldn't be months or years. Maybe there wouldn't be just form rejects.


Would some regulation help? If the AAR said, "Reading fees are okay, provided you meet the following criteria....," would authors accept that? If the State passed a law requiring literary agents to be regulated in some fashion, use a standard agreement of the sort Real Estate agents, must, would reading fees be acceptable?


Our business is broken, folks. How could it be fixed? And, please, don't expect anyone to do more than they do "on commission" or for free.


Devilishly yours,
Andy

Jaws
12-16-2005, 12:04 AM
I can't agree that an upfront fee is appropriate, for two reasons.

(1) An upfront fee without a reasonable probability of a payoff is, statistically, lost money. Those agents who do have a reasonably high probability of a "payoff" (getting representation) seldom can take the next step (turn that into a publishing contract). If good, honest, appropriate agents typically took on even 2% of the queries they got, and the reading fee was minimal ($10-$20), this particular aspect of the argument would be completely different.

(2) There are honest used car dealers out there. There are even honest used cars. However, Some of the dealers who are honest are only honest because it's cheaper than defending against lawsuits, Some of the dealers who are honest are only honest as a sales tool compared to the competition, and The median used-car buyer still can't spot the lemon on the lot without expert assistance.Bluntly, there are virtually no reputable, widely available, easy-to-find resources that cover the literary business; at best, it's "choose two of these three," and more often "choose one of these three". This is a consumer protection issue; if the publishing industry didn't work so hard (and successfully) to keep its mechanisms a mystery, I'd be a little less skepticalóbut only a little.

In short, my disdain for reading fees is not to "protect" readers from Andy Zack. It's to protect them from Dorothy Deering, and George Titsworth, and Martha Ivery. If that sounds too paternal, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

SRHowen
12-16-2005, 12:17 AM
Iíll more than agree that the system is broken. How to fix it--hmm, well, publishers have fixed it their own way, many do not take un-agented submissions. They stopped the flood that way, though I know they still get flooded with people who think the rule doesnít apply to them.

So agents are left with the sorting process. And what a mess if the submissions sent to a very small e-zine are any indication. Just read some of the " writing a skill/talent etc." threads, anyone who can bang out stuff on a keyboard thinks they are writers (doesnít matter if they can tell a good story or not) and they send their stuff to any publisher or agent that they can, fully expecting to be picked up and be a millionaire the next day. UGH!

Iíve said it before and been bashed for telling people that they are nuts to expect a personal response form an agent or an editor even if it was a requested submission--has nothing to do with being polite--in fact it seems rather rude of an author to think they have that right. An agent doesnít work for you, you make a partnership and work together to make money for both of you, and that agent certainly doesnít owe you something for nothing because you allowed them to read your work and glory.

You want to be a writer, try it the old way, no spell check, no grammar check--an old manual type writer ( I started on an old green Royal) that you have to put in and roll each sheet of paper--come on do it on a manual (no electric anything)--donít know how to spell a word, grab that huge unabridged dictionary and look that word up. Spend hours (days, and weeks) going over your hand written drafts to correct every error you can before you type it in because the spirits be darned if you screw up you have to at the least retype that page, at the worst retype the entire book from that point on. Pay to have it sent and then returned if rejected because you hope you can salvage it to send on to the next publisher or agent. Wait on the mail, no e-mail---

If you are willing to do that then you should submit, but donít expect something for nothing. Why should an agent absorb the cost of postage for you as well--I hear that one a lot, too.

But how do we fix a broken system--well, maybe writers need to realize that nothing in this world is free. And maybe the reading fees etc. need some sort of regulation to govern them--do I see this happening--not hardly.

Well, I am off to do my thing and get a few K words written today and check e-mail.

Shawn

SpookyWriter
12-16-2005, 12:20 AM
Would some regulation help? If the AAR said, "Reading fees are okay, provided you meet the following criteria....," would authors accept that? If the State passed a law requiring literary agents to be regulated in some fashion, use a standard agreement of the sort Real Estate agents, must, would reading fees be acceptable?
Okay Andy,

Let's say I send you (hypothetically) a query and say:

If you'll read and critique my manuscript I will pay you $400.00.

What do I get for my $400.00? A real estate agent doesn't make any money until they sell my house. I don't pay a dime and they might spend days or weeks listing the property, having those house parties, and showing perspective buyers around.

I go look at a car and the salesman takes me around the dealership, spotting this one or that one, and I do a couple test drives. He or she makes nothing unless I purchase the car. True?

Academic admission fees isn't the same as a reading fee because the university returns the money to the state before the funds are disbursed to the university. Weird, I know, but the state determines how fees are collected and under what circumstance. Sometimes a student, and faculity, can get a fee waiver for financial reasons. So will agents waive fees if a writer is improvished?

I had two agents reject my partials today. Why? Because my partials were poorly written (back story) and did not inspire them to pursue representation.

Let's think about this for a minute. Had I paid them each $70 or so to read those first fifty pages and get a "No thanks, but another agent might be thrilled with this drivel." then what did I get for my money? Nothing but a whisper of lousey writing. Now I can fix the chapters and resubmit, but does this mean the agent will waive the second reading fee?

P.S. Any spelling or grammar errors are the responsibility of CBS and the KKK who sponsor me.

Thanks,

Jon

Richard
12-16-2005, 12:35 AM
I have to say, it's quite fascinating to see how often the "why doesn't someone just work for a commission" line of thought comes up. How many of those making this suggestion are, in fact, working 100% on commission?

If I work for a business, I draw a salary, and the money that pays that salary comes from my business' sales. Assuming an agent as a business, which should be the case even if they're working out of their spare room, the same applies - with the additional problem that these are the ones who are in much less of a position to hire external help, and much likelier to benefit from the extra cash infusions. I don't actually know how it works at the dedicated agenting firms, but don't they get paid a salary instead of personally and individually relying on the luck of the draw each month?

(Not to mention that the authors themselves are also working 100% on commission, assuming accurate advances. Maybe this should just be flung on its head entirely - the publishers paying big agents to act as talent scouts, submitting the best material they receive and getting direct kickbacks for providing material the company wants, rather than having to chase editors and sell books*)

(* Yes, I know agents do more than that, but we're in the realms of debate here ;-))


What if an agency charging a reading fee guaranteed that you would at least be informed why your book was being passed on?

"Our client list is full. That'll be $100, please."

That's a pretty damn slippery slope to start walking down - the kind of environment that just breeds scammers. It's bad enough trying to spot them now, using the 'money flows towards the author' rule. I mean, Andy talks about the information on his site, but that's fairly atypical from what I've seen. If it's confusing now, imagine what it would be like when an agent has a vested interest in keeping things vague and confusing. Certainly in the UK, most of the agencies you find in the W&AY don't even have websites.

Moreover, how would you judge agencies on a P&E style basis? Wouldn't the smaller guys get beaten down simply for not being able to take as many clients, effectively giving the larger organisations complete control over the market and utterly suffocating the individuals and smaller companies that could best benefit from the cash?

SpookyWriter
12-16-2005, 12:35 AM
Better yet, what if I say to a reputiable agent who I really want representing my work:

I will pay you $500.00 to represent my work in addition to the standard agency percentages. But you must actively solicit my manuscript and show proof of work or return any monies paid by me.

Motivation? I know the first manuscript is saleable, but without an agent I can't get the second or third into Barnes and Nobel. So, as a businessman, I know my future work will be better and it is worth it to me. Spend a little to make a lot?

Also, I don't want to burst other writers bubbles. But getting my first novel into a book store is a novelity for me. Come'on, bring the friends around and show them your book sitting next to Stephen King or Clive Barker is like a fricken thrill, even if it is just an illusion.

P.S. My secretary promised to edit this before submitting. How'd she do?

Jon

DaveKuzminski
12-16-2005, 01:04 AM
Moreover, how would you judge agencies on a P&E style basis? Wouldn't the smaller guys get beaten down simply for not being able to take as many clients, effectively giving the larger organisations complete control over the market and utterly suffocating the individuals and smaller companies that could best benefit from the cash?

P&E does not rate or recommend against agencies for being small or having fewer clients than others. They're judged on results and how they treat their clients along with what policies and procedures they practice.

Andrew Zack
12-16-2005, 01:17 AM
if the publishing industry didn't work so hard (and successfully) to keep its mechanisms a mystery, I'd be a little less skepticalóbut only a little. What's the big secret? Honestly, I don't think the publishing industry tries to keep anything a secret. What do you want to know? After all, that's why I'm here, to answer your questions.

There are many good thoughts here, but some are not. For example, this business about real-estate agents doesn't quite compute. A real-estate agent spends only a few minutes in your home before deciding whether or not he or she can sell it. An agent might have to spend several hours reading your manuscript. The real-estate agent doesn't rebuild and paint your house before selling it. The agent may, in fact, edit or line-edit the proposal or manuscript before trying to sell it.

Car salesmen are working with potentially paying customers. Authors are not paying customers. Publishers are. I will spend my lunch hour with an editor, who will not only buy lunch but perhaps buy the rights to publish a book I represent. Believe me, if authors were paying agents for their time, agents would be more than willing to chat. But they aren't.

I know nothing about academic admissions fees, but do wonder if this is true of all universities or only state universities and colleges. Is Harvard turning over the admissions fees to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or just pocketing them? If they are just pocketing them, then my comparison is valid.

It sounds like the agents who read the partials gave you feedback. Congrats. You got something for nothing. In fact, I've heard many a story of agents who gave feedback on more than one draft of a novel, only to have the author use that feedback to revise and sign with another agent who sold the book. Who was the sucker there?


"Our client list is full. That'll be $100, please." That's just ridiculous. The agent would be completely open to action if that were the case. No reasonable businessperson would even think of trying that.

I raised the question of paying for representation on an hourly or monthly basis but don't recall a lot of responses. I have a client who paid $5,000 per month for three months for a book publicist to try and get him hits. There was no guarantee of any publicity, radio appearances, or print mentions. But for $5,000 per month, she was supposed to be working on getting him press. I don't see writers' groups up in arms over such publicists. Why not? And if that model is acceptable, why shouldn't it work for literary agents? Any agent can do the math: Work for $5,000/month for X number of clients, versus hoping for 15% commission if this book turns out to be the next DA VINCI CODE or HARRY POTTER. Even an insane gambler would likely recognize the money upfront is the better bet.


If I work for a business, I draw a salary, and the money that pays that salary comes from my business' sales. Assuming an agent as a business, which should be the case even if they're working out of their spare room, the same applies - with the additional problem that these are the ones who are in much less of a position to hire external help, and much likelier to benefit from the extra cash infusions. I don't actually know how it works at the dedicated agenting firms, but don't they get paid a salary instead of personally and individually relying on the luck of the draw each month?
Depends on the agency. When I started working at SCG, for example, I got a draw against 50% of commission. So, basically I got a check for $500 per week. If I sold a book for $10,000, the agency would keep 50% of the commission off the top. The other 50% was due me, but since I was getting a draw, that 50% went to earn down the already-received draw. The 50/50 split is not unusual. I believe that William Morris and ICM work on a salary plus bonus basis. Some agencies may work on a graduated scale, i.e., if you earn out your draw for the year in the first six months, your commission share for the rest of the year is higher. Unfortunately, one thing that is not a guarantee in publishing is that next year will be better than the last.

Best,
Andy

Richard
12-16-2005, 01:17 AM
P&E does not rate or recommend against agencies for being small or having fewer clients than others. They're judged on results and how they treat their clients along with what policies and procedures they practice.

I know you don't, hence P&E 'style'. What I mean is that if everyone's charging a fee, the ground's quickly going to get muddier when finding out who's legitimate - for instance, how to go about rating an agent who has two clients for form's sake, but in practice earns thousands and thousands a month simply by not telling people that they're not taking on anyone new and letting the cheques flood in. It's not that big a jump between the 'We're full, sorry' letter that Andy objected to above and 'Does not suit our needs at this time'.

It would make it one hell of a lot harder to find a legitimate agent amidst all the scammers, and given that people will only be able to afford so many shots at it, push them towards the larger organisations with more chance of having an open space in the agenting lottery than smaller ones who could quite well be better suited to their needs.

Richard
12-16-2005, 01:25 AM
That's just ridiculous. The agent would be completely open to action if that were the case. No reasonable businessperson would even think of trying that.

Really? Just as writing competitions return your cheque if they like your story enough that they've have used it, but have a full anthology on their hands? Going pay-to-play opens you up to a whole storm of potential problems anyway, from writers furious that their book report wasn't up to scratch for the amount they paid, to questions of what to do when you can't take the book on for reasons that have nothing to do with the reading fee - say, you already have a fantasy humourist you're devoting all your attention at places like Tor or wherever on. At least with no-fee-no-foul, the worst they can do is ***** that you sent a form rejection.

Ultimately, if it's not fair to take the cheque in the 'We're full' instance, there are going to be a huge number of other times where it's not fair to take the cheque either, and just as many with huge scope for abuse. Especially with the cash-strapped agents most in need of the money, and the fact that these are presumably going to be the books that you spend the majority of your valuable time on before determining that they're not for you.

Basically, I really can't see how agencies forced to read and write-up some 400 pages of some kid's illiterate Harry Potter clone that will never see ink because it'll net them a couple of hundred quid is much of an improvement, in either time or direction of effort for clients, over just being able to dump it back in the SAE with a form letter.


I raised the question of paying for representation on an hourly or monthly basis but don't recall a lot of responses. I have a client who paid $5,000 per month for three months for a book publicist to try and get him hits. There was no guarantee of any publicity, radio appearances, or print mentions. But for $5,000 per month, she was supposed to be working on getting him press. I don't see writers' groups up in arms over such publicists. Why not?

Because the industry hasn't effectively made such publicists mandatory?

Andrew Zack
12-16-2005, 01:40 AM
Really? Just as writing competitions return your cheque if they like your story enough that they've have used it, but have a full anthology on their hands?

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying there. Do they return the check? I don't involve myself with such competitions, so I can't comment. If they don't, then essentially they are charging a reading fee. What do you get for that fee? Just read? Hmm. Then when will I be seeing these "competitions" blackballed on P&E?



Because the industry hasn't effectively made such publicists mandatory? Really? I'd say they have. Several of my nonfiction clients and some of my fiction clients have hired them, because they believe that publishers will do nothing to promote their books. And they aren't far off the mark. I have a book called THE DEAD OF WINTER, by Bill Warnock, a nonfiction account of the recovery of several soldiers' remains from the Battle of the Bulge. Dramatic and interesting. Emotionally wrenching. As far as I can tell, the publisher, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, did not get one review in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, LIBRARY JOURNAL, BOOKLIST, KIRKUS or any other trade publication. There has also not been on radio hit, one tv hit, and the only hits that have happened came from leads the author developed.

Publicists not mandatory? Hmmm.

The truth is, I tend to discourage my clients from hiring them, because I haven't seen a lot of results. You have to sell a hell of a lot of $25.00 books to earn back $5,000 at 10% of retail royalties. I don't think any of my clients has been convinced it was worth it.

Andy

Richard
12-16-2005, 01:43 AM
Really? I'd say they have.


The truth is, I tend to discourage my clients from hiring them, because I haven't seen a lot of results. You have to sell a hell of a lot of $25.00 books to earn back $5,000 at 10% of retail royalties. I don't think any of my clients has been convinced it was worth it.

Er...that doesn't sound particularly mandatory to me. While I'm pretty sure you're not going to get your book read by most of the bigger publishers these days unless it came through an agent.

SpookyWriter
12-16-2005, 01:46 AM
While I'm pretty sure you're not going to get your book read by most of the bigger publishers these days unless it came through an agent.

Duh!

Christine N.
12-16-2005, 01:51 AM
I wanted to add something to this thread, but it's all already been said, I think.

I understand the agent's POV - their time is valuable. On the other hand (I have more fingers) if the agent finds that 'pot of gold' book that makes his or her year, then it's worth it, right? What if that author never submitted to the agent, because he couldn't afford to pay a reading fee? Rare, I know, I know - 99% of subs aren't publishable, some aren't even readable. But, does it really average out? Then you're just going to be deluged with subs that are bad, sent by people who either a) have the money or b) put themselves in debt to do it.

Don't think a reading fee with get rid of that bad slush - I think PA has proven that even people who write badly will do anything to chase a dream. (and I'm not trying to be mean here, you all know what I mean) BUT it may keep an author with actual good, marketable work off your desk.

Richard
12-16-2005, 01:52 AM
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying there. Do they return the check?

Nope. But they'd cash it, no matter how ridiculous other businessmen might find it.


I don't involve myself with such competitions, so I can't comment. If they don't, then essentially they are charging a reading fee. What do you get for that fee? Just read? Hmm. Then when will I be seeing these "competitions" blackballed on P&E?

Right now.


Additionally, it really doesn't make sense to enter a contest that charges a fee if there isn't any prize worth significantly more than the entry fee. We strongly advise writers to enter only those contests without a fee. P&E does not recommend any contests with entry fees.

And again at the end of the listing:


P&E does not recommend any contests with entry fees.

You'll also see plenty of 'Charges fee, not recommended' stickers, within that guideline.

SpookyWriter
12-16-2005, 02:21 AM
I'm curious why none of my concerns or comments were addressed? I hear sound bites of agency fees but nothing concrete with respect to how this problem is resolved. Andy, did I piss you off at some point? I have a legitimate concern and get the feeling I am invisible.

Thanks,

Jon

britwrit
12-16-2005, 03:09 AM
Actually, I agree with what you said. You pay an agency $70, $400, they're going to give you a more positive report no matter what - even if the manuscript is drivel. You see that all the time with screenplay services. You also see a lot of cut n' paste with those paid-for readers' reports. "A great character arc." "The second act needs more work though." Blah blah blah. You're better off spending that money on a writing class.

If the problem here is the size of an agent's slush pile, there's a lot of ways to reduce it without reading fees. Don't take unsolicited manuscripts or only take them at selected times of the year. Work by referral only. Shut down the website. Skim, skim, skim. And don't bother with the lengthy rejection letters. When most of us want feedback, we know where to get it.

On the other hand, if the concern is the need to keep independent, non-big-agency agents economically viable, well, what can I tell you? Move to Montreal? It's a beautiful city and I'm sure the Canadian government has a program just for you.

Susan Gable
12-16-2005, 04:29 AM
Car salesmen are working with potentially paying customers. Authors are not paying customers. Publishers are. I will spend my lunch hour with an editor, who will not only buy lunch but perhaps buy the rights to publish a book I represent. Believe me, if authors were paying agents for their time, agents would be more than willing to chat. But they aren't.

The author is your PRODUCT, Andrew. What do you sell to the publisher you're happily having lunch with? The author's work.

So, you have to get out there and get your product. I guess you're looking for us authors to pay a marketing fee to you to sell our book to the publisher. Oh, wait. Authors DO pay a marketing fee. They pay their salesman (their agent) a 15% commission for the marketing work they do in selling their work to the publishers.

Sometimes you have to do a little work on spec. Hey, that's what authors have to do a LOT of, too.

You're still making money if you chose to represent an author and you sell their ms. The product.

Here's one thing I also find interesting - I know of a very highly placed publishing executive who said to a roomful of authors who wrote for his house words to the effect that writers should no longer expect to actually make a living as an author. Writing is a hobby, a passion, something we should do because we love it.

Well, how come everyone ELSE in the publishing industry, from that publishing executive, to the editors, to agents, all expect to make a LIVING from the product which wouldn't even exist without the author?

I know that editors are not well paid. I understand that. But does the publishing house say to them, look, I know you LOVE books, and they're your passion. Great. Just don't expect to make a living as an editor. You're going to have to go out and get another job to support your habit, your passion, for editing.

Now Andrew, you present another way for the agents to make a living - by getting paid to read submissions while they're looking for their next great product. So, how do we fix the system so it makes it more likely that the person who creates this product, the author, can also make a living?

You wanted someone to look at reading fees from a businessman's POV? Ok.

Let's say I run a giftshop. And I'm looking through catalogs, looking for items to stock my giftshop, because after all, I need PRODUCT. Gotta have something to sell, or else the whole thing fails. Should the wholesalers who create the product pay me for the time it takes me to sift through the catalogs to find the right items that my customers will want to buy? Even if that takes me several hours?

I don't think so. That's part of doing business. I'm not in favor of agents making authors pay for office expenses, either. Hey, nobody pays for my office expenses but me. Again, it's part of doing business.

Susan G.

Perks
12-16-2005, 04:35 AM
Susan, great post. I've been reading this thread, swinging from hope to discouragement. I can see where it's frustrating for agents and publishers alike, but some of the posts here have seemed punative to the one group that always starts by working their a$$es off for free.

Andrew Zack
12-16-2005, 05:22 AM
Jon: I've tried to address all of the points along the way. If I missed one of yours, I'm not sure where that was.


Susan: Wow. Got up on the wrong side of the bed? Seriously, I playing Devil's Advocate and you're attacking me like I posted I'm suddenly charging $500 to submit to me. Which I'm not.

Your argument regarding the gift shop is one of the more compelling I've seen. But I'm not sure I find it 100% convincing. For starters, if catalogues full of junk show up, you throw them away, but the company that sent them to you doesn't get online to complain or call you and demand to know why you have read through their catalogue or placed an order yet. Authors do. But you're right, I could simply close to new submissions, which I have for at least the months of December and January. But how does that help authors in general? If many agents were to take the suggestions you offer, there would actually be fewer opportunities for authors to find an agent. However, if reading fees were not verboten, perhaps the money generated would go toward hiring help to get more read, not less.

As for office supplies, I pay for my own, but for those required to submit my clients' works, I do charge back, as do many agents and every book publicist I know. I'm in the representation business, not the office supply business. Without an agent, an author would have to pay for such expenses, after all.

Your Devil's Advocate,
Andy

Christine N.
12-16-2005, 05:48 AM
Actually, I think this whole thing is ***-backwards. The agent, while busting his butt reading, is really helping not only the authors, but on a grander scale, the publishers. After all, without them, all this slush would sit on the publisher's desk. No one would ever think of paying a publisher to look at their stuff, but it's up for debate with agents? Why is that? The only difference, really is the location of the slush pile.

Personally, I like it when agents ask for queries and synopsis. I know, not everyone likes writing them. But I can send them cheaper, they're shorter and easier to read. I got a turnaround time of one week, snail mail from the last agent I queried. (Fortunately, it was a request for chapters :) )

I know Barry Goldblatt now only takes queries. On paper, snail mail. Easy way to limit what you get in the mail. No fees required. No unsolicted pages.

Of course, that puts the burden on the author to know how to write one. Which they should anyway. That's not an outrageous thing to ask.

WriteStuff
12-16-2005, 05:53 AM
Playing devil's advocate here, because I'm not 'for or against' the fee thing in theory.

However, Andy, you state several times how a reading fee might cut out those who don't pay close attention to who they are submitting to. Do you REALLY believe that?

Heck, it might even make the problem worse, although you'd be richer for their stupidity. They may just figure that since they're paying you, who cares what you WANT.

Sonarbabe
12-16-2005, 05:53 AM
Andrew,

I didn't perceive Susan's post as attacking you. The way I read it, she was giving an example of a fee charge. However, I also believe she made a valid point about authors being the product. I truly do understand that a lot of agents are overwhelmed with submissions, most not very good, but let me propose this (at the risk of a snarky response): You mentioned that a writer who couldn't afford ink, toner and reading fees shouldn't write. (or cut the cable to pay for it) How about this? Take ten writers who have written novels they wish to submit. 8 of those 10 have written complete and utter drivel, but have the means to pay for reading fees. The other 2 have beautifully written prose, but due to overwhelming circumstances (sudden and expensive medical bills for a family member) can't afford the extra $50-$60 to submit, though they dream of being published. Would that same statement be given? Should they give up their dream of being an author because they can't afford the fees? What does this say about the future of the industry if only the drivel writers can afford to be reviewed?

Andrew Zack
12-16-2005, 06:25 AM
Sonar:

Actually, if you go back to the first several posts, you'll see that I suggested that the marketplace might react quite favorably to a reading fee by allowing newer agents to charge nothing, or other agents to charge less, while mega-agents might charge the most or nothing at all. After all, there's close to zero competition among agents when it comes to commission. (C'mon, J.K. Rowling! I'll rep you and only you for just .5% of everything you earn!) And since reading fees are verboten, there's no competition there, either.

It's my understanding that some Japanese agents get to double-dip. Publishers DO pay them a finder's fee and also they take a commission. This is generally not known or, if it is, ignored. US agents and publishers want the deal. Who are they to question the way things are done in Japan?

In Hollywood, agents can get a packaging fee, for bringing a studio with a script with a director and stars attached. Because the agent is essentially doing a lot of work for the studio, the studio pays them. In such circumstances, the agent doesn't commission the talent, just takes the packaging fee.

So let's try that in publishing. If I bring a book to a publisher that they want to publish, they pay me a fee and they pay the author an advance I don't commission. Who will come out ahead? My guess is publishers will want to pay very small fees, since they won't be recouped via royalties, which makes this model less interesting for agents.

Actually, when I was a Consulting Editor for Forge Books, this was close to the deal. I would get in submissions and read them. I received no salary for doing this. If I found something good, I would present it to Tom Doherty. If he approved, I would negotiate a deal to buy the book. I would then be the editor on the book. For this, I received $2,000. I believe the formula thereafter was for every 10,000 hardcovers sold, I'd get another $1,000 and for every 100,000 paperbacks sold, I'd get another $1,000. Is that a good deal? Should all publishers work that way? Tom paid me no salary, no benefits, so matching taxes, no overhead beyond reimbursing me for some basic expenses like shipping mss back to agents when I rejected them. If you think about it, to make $50,000 a year, I'd have to find, acquire and edit at least twenty-five books a year. That's a tough way to make a living, particuarly since I'd say each book took about a month of work and particularly since finding twenty-five books a year as a freelance editor is truly backbreaking. In the end, I think it's a great deal for Tom Doherty, but not so great for the editors.

Here's my take on all this, after two days of reading and writing posts. Authors don't want reading fees. Fine. Then they should not complain about turnaround times, should not follow-up, should not expect any feedback, should be happy with form rejects, and should not complain if an agent says their list is full (that last one is actually a GOOD thing for the authors on their list, since presumably it means the agent is dedicating more time to those authors).

You see, the problem I see over and over is that authors have these expectations and beliefs that agents and publishers should behave in a certain manner. But there are so many authors out there vying for the attention of agents and publishers that neither of those parties really needs to behave in the manner authors want them to. There's a supply and demand equation at work here and no matter how demanding authors are, the supply will always outweigh the demand.

Susan, if you own a gift shop and need stock, but so do the other ten gift shops in town, and I own the company that stocks gift shops and can only supply eight of the ten with the hot gift item, what's going to happen? I'm going to sell to the gift shop willing to pay the most. And what's that gift shop owner going to do? Charge as much for the gift as possible. Yes, agents need product, but there's plenty of product to be found. Why shouldn't an agent pay more attention to the product creator willing to give me the best deal? Maybe that's through a reading fee. Maybe that's by offering to pay me a higher commission. Who knows? But we live in a free-market economy. The problem is that there's nothing about the way the publishing business works that reflects that!

Best,
Andy

Susan Gable
12-16-2005, 06:55 AM
Susan: Wow. Got up on the wrong side of the bed?

Possibly. Probably. :) May be about time to go back to the wrong side of it. <G>


Your argument regarding the gift shop is one of the more compelling I've seen.

Go, me. :Clap:


But I'm not sure I find it 100% convincing. For starters, if catalogues full of junk show up, you throw them away, but the company that sent them to you doesn't get online to complain or call you and demand to know why you have read through their catalogue or placed an order yet. Authors do.

Okay, so those authors have deplorably bad manners. You don't want to rep them, for sure. <G>

And actually, I think I have known pushy salespeople who might just call and annoy the little giftshop owner, trying to get her to take their products, even if they are just cheap junk that no one would want.


But you're right, I could simply close to new submissions, which I have for at least the months of December and January. But how does that help authors in general? If many agents were to take the suggestions you offer, there would actually be fewer opportunities for authors to find an agent.

Ummmmm...what suggestions did I offer? I offered some ranting, and some metaphors about a business way to look at this situation. I'm on cold medication - maybe I made some positive suggestions, but I don't recall that. <G>


However, if reading fees were not verboten, perhaps the money generated would go toward hiring help to get more read, not less.

Hmmmm...okay, keeping in mind that I'm drugged, tired, and only skimmed this thread...do you often reject material without reading any of it?

As someone else in this thread mentioned, really, it doesn't take too much time to weed out the totally unacceptable. (That goes for authors who call and whine or confront you. They're OUT. <G>) The next portion takes a little more time.

So, those people would be paying you the same fee for your five minutes as the writer whose submission actually has some promise, and takes up more of your time, right? Or would you charge an up-front fee, with more fees built in that have to do with actual time spent on the submission? Like a lawyer, you could charge in 15 minute increments. Yeah! Billable hours for agents for reading. (Okay, sorry, my sarcasm snuck out there. <G>)


As for office supplies, I pay for my own, but for those required to submit my clients' works, I do charge back, as do many agents and every book publicist I know. I'm in the representation business, not the office supply business. Without an agent, an author would have to pay for such expenses, after all.

WIthout an agent, the author would have another 15% of their advance to pay for such supplies, too. (<G> I can be a devil's advocate, too.)

Look, Andy, I don't want to come across like I begrudge you the right to make a living. Because I most certainly don't. Not you, not any agent. But I still think your idea for reading fees just stinks. Part of it is a purely emotional reaction. (Great! Another way to stick it to the writers!) Which is why I did try to construct a rational, business-model arguement to it.

There are certain costs to doing business, you're right. Some of them are monetary. Some of them are time. We often will spend one to save the other. So, it takes longer for agents to respond to writers because they don't charge reading fees. Most writers have more time than money. (The ones that have more money than time usually already have an agent. <G>)

You have to invest some time for the hope of a future payment. Now you want to be compensated for that time because it doesn't always pay off. You want a sure thing, all the time. Wow. That would be cool if we all could get it. Sometimes I invest time writing proposals that my editor won't buy. How cool if I could get them to pay me even for the stuff they don't want. (Uh, huh, like that's going to happen. <G> There's a pipe dream if ever I heard one. <G>)

But if you really believe in this model, the fee-for-reading-as-the-more-productive-agency, why not give it a shot? If you think the more serious writers will be willing to pay you, then great. (They might be, I have no idea if they would or not.) It might make for an interesting experiment.

At the very least, being paid to read the slush might make it easier to tolerate. Then again, maybe not. :)

But please, don't forget that without authors, without their work as your product, the editors won't buy you lunch. :)

Susan G. - hoping her fuzzy brain is working enough that she made SOME sense in this post.

SpookyWriter
12-16-2005, 07:23 AM
Let's just see what another fabulous agent thinks about reading fees when I brought up the matter today.

Agent Fees (http://www.misssnark.blogspot.com/) (scroll down once at the link to find the topic)


Jon

Susan Gable
12-16-2005, 07:31 AM
Sonar:
Here's my take on all this, after two days of reading and writing posts. Authors don't want reading fees. Fine. Then they should not complain about turnaround times, should not follow-up, should not expect any feedback, should be happy with form rejects, and should not complain if an agent says their list is full (that last one is actually a GOOD thing for the authors on their list, since presumably it means the agent is dedicating more time to those authors).

I agree with that. Like I said, it's time vs. money, or money vs. time. When you have less of one (I don't have the money to pay you a reading fee), then you have to invest more of the other. (So, I have to be patient and wait my turn. You get what you pay for. If my work isn't going to make you any money through a sale of it, then I haven't paid you and I get what I pay for - nothing. Hey, maybe that's what part of your policy should be. If I like you, you'll hear from me. If not, you get nothing, not even a rejection. No news means bad news.)

This is why I said maybe you SHOULD try the experiment. See what happens.


You see, the problem I see over and over is that authors have these expectations and beliefs that agents and publishers should behave in a certain manner. But there are so many authors out there vying for the attention of agents and publishers that neither of those parties really needs to behave in the manner authors want them to. There's a supply and demand equation at work here and no matter how demanding authors are, the supply will always outweigh the demand.

Okay, so, really, it doesn't matter which author you rep. Because one is pretty much just as good as another. Interchangeable. ??? Plenty more where that one came from??

Let's try this scenario:

Junior agent slinks into the senior agent's office. "What did you do now, Junior?"

"Sorry, boss, but I just lost (Danielle Steele - John Grisham - Nora Roberts - Stephen King - fill in your favorite big name author who pulls in buckets of money) to another agency."

"Oh, hey, no problem. There's plenty more where he/she came from. Go pull something from the slush pile and let's see about getting us a new writer."

Are there gazillions of other writers who would like to step into those shoes? You betcha. Are they going to actually be interchangeable with them? Uhhhh, I'm thinking no.

I've been under the impression from listening to many agents/editors that although there may be a vastly large supply of mss out there, the ones that are actually worth-while are a small percentage of the supply. Or doesn't it matter? Publish a good, strong book, or publish a crummy, weak book, it's all the same?


Susan, if you own a gift shop and need stock, but so do the other ten gift shops in town, and I own the company that stocks gift shops and can only supply eight of the ten with the hot gift item, what's going to happen? I'm going to sell to the gift shop willing to pay the most.

Okay, going with my metaphor the stock is the MS. You (the agent) are the giftshop. So, if there are other agents in town who all want the ms, and it's a hot item, then yeah, the ms goes to the shop willing to pay the most. (I suppose in that case, it would actually be the agent who DOESN'T charge a reading fee, and who will take a 10% commision who might get the deal then. <G> Because hey, in these terms, that would be the giftshop offering the best deal for the product.)

But wait. Our metaphor breaks down here. Because many agents require exclusives, and require an author to only let ONE of the gift shops look at their product at a time. Agents don't generally hold "bidding wars" to get clients. They hope that publishing houses will have a bidding war, but once again we see that the author has very little control in this situation.

If I wanted to hire a salesperson to market my stuff, logic would dictate I interview several candidates for the position before I make a choice. But in the getting an agent, often times the author isn't given that option. (Obviously I'm talking about clients who might have a snowball's chance in Hawaii of selling their material.)

The author has no control here. It's like the author is supposed to slobber all over any agent willing to represent them, because hey, the agent is doing the writer this HUGE favor. ??? That's not the impression I'd had of how the author/agent relationship is supposed to work. Of course, I am an optimistic, half-full kind of gal, who writes books with happy endings. I think things should be NICE. <G>

Oy. This is why the idea of finding an agent gives me hives.



And what's that gift shop owner going to do? Charge as much for the gift as possible. Yes, agents need product, but there's plenty of product to be found.

So, again, I ask, it's all interchangable? One story is just as good as the next?


Why shouldn't an agent pay more attention to the product creator willing to give me the best deal? Maybe that's through a reading fee. Maybe that's by offering to pay me a higher commission. Who knows? But we live in a free-market economy. The problem is that there's nothing about the way the publishing business works that reflects that!

That's for darn sure.

Hey, Andy, you have to look out for number one. I get that. I can understand you SHOULD go with the client who's going to give you the best deal. If you think that's the clients that are going to pay you reading fees, then do it. Hell, we'd all want the job that pays better. That's human nature.

But still, reading fees, and higher commissions to agents, and the author goes hungry while everyone else makes a living. :Shrug:

Why do any of us want to do this again???

Susan G.

SpookyWriter
12-16-2005, 07:40 AM
Susan, and others,

In all fairness to Andy, I don't believe he is speaking for himself per se. I think he is probably representing the side of agents and not just his opinion. I could be mistaken, of course, but I hope you don't scold him too much for giving writers a chance to discuss this topic with an agent.

Just my thoughts,

Jon

Susan Gable
12-16-2005, 07:52 AM
Susan, and others,

In all fairness to Andy, I don't believe he is speaking for himself per se. I think he is probably representing the side of agents and not just his opinion. I could be mistaken, of course, but I hope you don't scold him too much for giving writers a chance to discuss this topic with an agent.

Just my thoughts,

Jon

Oh, I wasn't scolding him. :) I'm discussing. Oh, you wouldn't want to see me when I'm SCOLDING. I used to be an elementary teacher. I have an advance degree in scolding. LOL!

I think it's an interesting idea, and it's been an interesting discussion. I also think the idea stinks, but like I said, that's an emotional reaction from a writer who's had quite a day. <G>

Susan G. - who hopes Andy doesn't take anything I've said personally, because I don't mean it that way, any more than he means for a writer to take a rejection personally. :)

DaveKuzminski
12-16-2005, 07:54 AM
Part of the problem with the business model using reader fees is that it serves to take most, if not all, of the risk taking off the agent's shoulders and place it on the author.

Whether you agree with this picture or not, I see that the system developed in the way it did in order to give agents an incentive to sell while protecting the agent's client against being swindled. The agent says he can do several things. He can recognize good writing and he has contacts whose preferences he knows well enough that he can recognize what will appeal to them from that good writing and sell it to them. In exchange for his knowledge and contacts, he gets paid a handsome commission, generally 15 percent, but on occasion a bit higher. I have seen, I believe, a few 20 percents out there.

However, when the agent receives a reading fee, reimbursement for copying and postage, and a commission, the risk all falls on the author at that point. Furthermore, it opens the system of agenting to massive fraud on a scale far beyond what's present. At that point, every agent will have a disclaimer, which some do already in their contracts, stating that sales are dependent upon what publishers want and not what they have to sell. While some legitimate agents have that in their contracts, almost every scam operation does just so they can point it out to the victim once he gets wise. Then it benefits them because they can claim they tried but his book just wasn't as marketable as they thought. Unfortunately, that can be true even for legitimate agents, but they tend to be more selective and make fewer bad choices. Scams aren't nearly as exclusive and almost all their choices get rejected if they even try to make a sale.

While you might not see it in the same way as I do, shifting the risk and permitting reading fees could actually destroy agenting because it would encourage many more scams to establish themselves. At the very best, it could bring about some regulation at state levels or even possibly the federal level. At the very worst, it could bring about a reputation on all agents certain to fall below that of used car salesmen, siding salesmen, or even politicians.

Yeah, it stinks that you don't make as much as you'd like. However, is it the system or your ability to pick out bestsellers that's holding you back? It would certainly be ability on my part if I were in your shoes since I rarely read bestsellers. I could pick out marketable writing, but that's largely because my preferences don't run to the kinds of books that most often become bestsellers. I can't speak to your ability since I don't have a list of all your sales or what you made on all of those. Only you can answer that.

Sonarbabe
12-16-2005, 08:16 AM
Sonar:

Actually, if you go back to the first several posts, you'll see that I suggested that the marketplace might react quite favorably to a reading fee by allowing newer agents to charge nothing, or other agents to charge less, while mega-agents might charge the most or nothing at all. After all, there's close to zero competition among agents when it comes to commission. (C'mon, J.K. Rowling! I'll rep you and only you for just .5% of everything you earn!) And since reading fees are verboten, there's no competition there, either.

Okay, you're right on that one. Going back, I did see this suggestion. In this context, your argument is a bit more win-win for all involved. My argument was if all agents charged fees then the impoverished writers could be missing out--as well as the agent/publisher in the long run.


Like I said, it's time vs. money, or money vs. time. When you have less of one (I don't have the money to pay you a reading fee), then you have to invest more of the other. (So, I have to be patient and wait my turn. You get what you pay for. If my work isn't going to make you any money through a sale of it, then I haven't paid you and I get what I pay for - nothing.

I agree totally with this.


Then they should not complain about turnaround times, should not follow-up, should not expect any feedback, should be happy with form rejects, and should not complain if an agent says their list is full (that last one is actually a GOOD thing for the authors on their list, since presumably it means the agent is dedicating more time to those authors).

I have no heartburn whatsoever waiting the 2 weeks for queries, 4 weeks for partials or 6-8 weeks for full manuscripts. I know I'm not the only person a prospective agent is looking at and I also know that the agent has WAY too much to do than to sit down and give me an in depth reason why my story wasn't right for them. In fact, in different threads, I've mentioned that an agent once took the time to tell me why he was passing after reading my full. (Which, I, of course, thanked him and took to heart his three-line advice--and was happy to have it!) Yes, writers do tend to get persnickity over form rejection letters. Alot--not all of course--are new writers who have yet to learn that it's a part of life. I, myself, don't exactly throw a grand ball when I receive one, but I am aware and respect the need for them. It's time saving and your time does equivilate to money. The more time you spend on writing detailed rejections, the less you have for your actual clients.


Hoping that I didn't make myself sound like a total nitwit,

~Sonarbabe~

aruna
12-16-2005, 11:57 AM
Andy, why do you read manuscripts at all, ever? (that's a rhetorical question!) Why don't you just close down altogether to new submissions? Because you need new writers. Nobody is forcing you to read those submissions. But you know very well that among all the junk there's that rare thing: a jewel. You're looking for that jewel. That's why you do it anyway.

It's the same motivation that sends porknockers into the interior rivers in my country, to sift for months through dreck and mud, just to find one nugget of gold.


If reading fees had been in place at the time, the phenomenon of JK Rowling would never have happened. She was on state benefits - social security to you - whenshe was discovered. She certainly made one agent extremely rich. I don't know if Christopher Little was a big player before she came along but he certainly is now.

Isn't that example the real reson why you don't give up the job and do something more gratifying? You don't sift through all those mss for the love of us writers, or to do us a favour. You do it because you know that somewhere there is gold. You want that gold. That's why you do it anyway, even if the job sucks. By the same token that you say if we cant afford the tools of our trade then don't do it, I could say if you can't afford the junk sifting then give up agenting... it's as simple as that. Nobody is forcing you,just as nobody is forcing us to write.

My last agent earned over £10000 from me last year, for doing nothing at all. Two of my books were bestsellers in France, and that's what I paid the agent in commission. The contracts had been negotiated in the previous year, so last year, when the actual sales figures came in, there was nothing for her to do at all. I think that pays for an hour or two of sifting through junk manuscripts. OK, she didn't get rich on me but she has several such clients, and together we help fund the non-clients.

For agents to start charging reading fees would open a can of worms. No matter what, I'm dead against it.

aruna
12-16-2005, 12:12 PM
I understand the agent's POV - their time is valuable. On the other hand (I have more fingers) if the agent finds that 'pot of gold' book that makes his or her year, then it's worth it, right? What if that author never submitted to the agent, because he couldn't afford to pay a reading fee? Rare, I know, I know - 99% of subs aren't publishable, some aren't even readable. But, does it really average out? Then you're just going to be deluged with subs that are bad, sent by people who either a) have the money or b) put themselves in debt to do it.

.

I wrote my post above before reading yours - the same as I said, expressed differently.

I do understand Andy's problem - but a reading fee is not the way to deal with it, for that very reason.

aruna
12-16-2005, 02:27 PM
Let's just see what another fabulous agent thinks about reading fees when I brought up the matter today.

Agent Fees (http://www.misssnark.blogspot.com/) (scroll down once at the link to find the topic)


Jon

May I quickly qute a few lines from that post, by Miss Snark?


Let's all take a moment to think about this logically.
Paying for a critique or early consideration does NOT mean good writing filters to the top.
It means people who PAY get filtered to the top.
You honestly don't think those two are the same thing do you?

aruna
12-16-2005, 02:42 PM
Iíve said it before and been bashed for telling people that they are nuts to expect a personal response form an agent or an editor even if it was a requested submission--has nothing to do with being polite--in fact it seems rather rude of an author to think they have that right. An agent doesnít work for you, you make a partnership and work together to make money for both of you, and that agent certainly doesnít owe you something for nothing because you allowed them to read your work and glory.


Shawn

Are you referring to me? I don't remember bashing you....:box:
I believe that simple courtesy is the oil that makes business relationships better.

No, I don't demand courtesy, but when it is lacking it sticks out like a sore thumb. An agent doesn't owe me anything; but if he goes that extra inch to be polite and personal, I'll notice.

I have two friends who are big name authors; one is a best-selling author, one has won a major British literary prize. Sure, we swap stories about editors and agents. We pass on recommendations, and warnings. What if one of those wanted to change agent, and asked me for my experiences with agent A,B or C? Authors are people. They like the human touch. If I say "agent C brushed me off like a speck of dirt" it says something about the agent, and they are likely not to want to work with such an agent. It's that agent;'s loss, not the author's.

Luckily, as I said before, the English know about politeness,. It's one of their charms; one of the reasons I moved here. I remember a Geran friend askingme, ttally surprised: "Why do all the passengers thank the bus drivers when they leave the bus? After all, they paid their money!"

SRHowen
12-16-2005, 04:20 PM
No, I wasn't referring to you--others have bashed me for my views, on everything from underlining italics to what to expect from an agent. Youíre taking this far to personally.

First off, this is only a discussion on the charging of fees, not on Andrew Zack charging fees.

Others here have dealt with European agencies, I worked for one in fact. In Germany I worked as a reader of English mss that came into the equivalent of a US agency. The agency gathered authors and their stories in various genres then sold them to magazines--I donít even think there is an agency set up like that here in the states.

Expecting a personal response is silly. If Iíd listened to what others said I wouldnít have an agent now--Andy Zack. Agents read to find that gem, yes, but they read for free--so why do they owe you anything? Thatís the point I donít understand. The bus driver drove the bus, and you paid him to drive you (you didnít pay the agent)--so a thank you is in order if you want. You have done nothing for that agent, so why do they owe you anything?

I also know several best selling authors, Iíve interviewed Orson Scott Card, have gotten to know one of his personal assistants quite well, have exchanged several e-mails over the years with Owl Goingback, have Tracy Hickman and James McDonald on my IM list--and have exchanged e-mails with one best seller who lied about her agent and about mine . . .(sheís English by the way)

In the writerís group I run there are several authors reped by big names (one just landed a 3 book deal), do we talk about our agents? Yeah, on a limited basis--but things like advances and our agentís politeness donít come up. (We use the Publisherís Marketplace set up--nice deal, very nice deal etc.) I might say, hey, did you ever hear back from Ethan about your rewrites? But do I say hey, is Ethan a jerk? No. We mostly discuss editorial letters, where what book is on submission, and we very often run rewrites past the others to proof for errors we donít see.

One thing I have learned is that discussing oneís agent with others (even other "best sellers") is a taboo subject. Say, why did you leave so and so--the response is very likely to be--it was time for us to part ways. Someone might say, oh gawd, I heard heís a real jerk, but how much weight does that carry--really? My boss at work thinks Iím a nut case (but she wouldn't have me transfer, but does she pass that on? And if she does, who cares, my District Manager only cares that I get my job done, manage the people under me well, and do my job effectively--he could care less about gossip.

The discussion is about should an agent charge fees or not--I can see both sides. I will say I am glad they didnít, the process would have taken longer for me--and just for the record for those of you who think Andy must take forever to answer any submission, from contact to contract only took about four months. If reading fees where standard--would I have paid for them?

Yes, but it may have had me sending to publishers on my own as well, those who took unagented subs anyway. And Iím not one of the "rich" authors who can pay for such a thing easily (the cabel TV would have left and ramen would have been standard)--but I see the value in my own time as well as that agent who took the time to read my ms on the off chance that it was his or her next pot of gold--and I try not to be a big a pain in the butt.

An agent works on your behalf not for you--and they owe you nothing if all youíve done is send them a ms for consderation.

Shawn

aruna
12-16-2005, 04:34 PM
t it was his or her next pot of gold--and I try not to be a big a pain in the butt.

An agent works on your behalf not for you--and they owe you nothing if all youíve done is send them a ms for consderation.

Shawn

Quite true.

But things do go better with Coke... um, I mean courtesy.

I didn'ttakle it personal;ly - but as I haven't seen any other instances of you discussing this and being bashed, I assumed wrongly.

Christine N.
12-16-2005, 04:44 PM
Yeah, I certainly don't mind waiting a bit to hear from agents. Especially when they have pages. They're taking their time to read my work. And I, at least for this book (I learned from last time) am selective about who I send queries to. But that still amounts to at least 6-7 agents. I'd never be able to afford reading fees for all that.

In a post about 3 pages back, you said agents are the only ones working for commission. I disagree. Authors are too - they call it royalty, but it's really the same thing.

Looking at this whole process, it always seems to me that the authors are the low men on the totem pole. Bottom of the barrel. And that's just stupid. We are the producers of the product. Granted, the majority of product you see is substandard. But, you should still treat us with a bit of respect. We do work hard, for months and months (at least I do) sometimes even years, before you see our work. Then you read it, maybe spend a few hours with it, and either blow us off or ask for more.

It's a hard life on this end too. And, like you, we make no money unless our work is sold. All that work may come to nothing in the end.

aruna
12-16-2005, 05:05 PM
I've never once griped about waiting times, or about non-responders. The only complaint I ever made was about that agent who asked me to cut short another agent in excahnge for a very quick read, and went back on her side of the bargain. But that was only one example.
However, if agents do take long I think it's fair for them to accept multiple submissions; ie, exclusives only when they can do so within a certain time limit.

HConn
12-16-2005, 09:53 PM
There are a lot of things I wanted to say in this discussion, but I don't have time. Instead, let me make one point that I think is salient:

Writers gripe and call and behave badly because they don't see themselves as vendors. People are so used to being the customer they expect to be treated like customers even when they are not.

However, if you start charging reading fees or per hour fees, writers will actually *be* the customers. If you (generic) are going to charge for crits, those people had better feel they're getting their money's worth. You think you had annoying, hostile calls before? Wait until you're cashing their checks. You had better be clear why you think the setting is cliche or the protagonist unsympathetic or you're going to end up explaining and debating the merits of a crazy book from a crazy person you want nothing to do with.

And yes, other vendors in other businesses pester with followup calls; I have personal experience with this. They're just slicker about it than newbie writers would be.

Finally, I find it dubious that the reading fees would go to an editor and extra staff to grow the business. Sure, some would, but plenty more would go to that Mercedes Andy was talking about before, and tickets to Bermuda and so on.

Sonarbabe
12-17-2005, 12:05 AM
And yes, other vendors in other businesses pester with followup calls; I have personal experience with this. They're just slicker about it than newbie writers would be.

Don't I know it! I work for a retail store and our vendors can be HUGE pains in the rear when they want to be.

victoriastrauss
12-18-2005, 07:30 AM
Andy, you asked for concrete reasons why reading fees are "bad" from a writer's perspective, and then offered one: an agent who makes money only when he sells clients' works has greater incentive to work hard to sell those works.

Here's another. Reading fees are easy to abuse--not in a scam way, necessarily, but just as a matter of routine. How tempting is it going to be for an agent who charges a reading fee, once she sees the kind of income it can bring in, to request submissions in which she has only lukewarm interest--or even no interest--in order to obtain the fee? Obviously not every agent would do this. But I'm pretty sure that at least some would. Result, from the writer's perspective: it would be impossible to be certain that a request for a submission indicated real interest in one's work. And thus that the fee was a good "investment."

This is one of the main reasons, I think, why the AAR decided to ban reading fees--not because of the scammers (many people in the legitimate publishing world were and are barely aware of the scam industry), but because of established agents who were using reading fees as a profit-making enterprise--Scott Meredith being a prime example.

Another thing: everyone seems to be equating fee-charging with scamming. In fact, many, if not most, agents who charge fees are not deliberate scammers. They're just inept or ignorant.

- Victoria

Andrew Zack
12-18-2005, 10:32 PM
I'd like to first thank those that made the important distinction that this was not a discussion about me charging reading fees, as it was a discussion in general about the pros and cons of reading fees. I raised the point, originally, because I've seen an awful lot of complaining and griping on this site about slow response times from agents and editors and thought it worthwhile to highlight the fact that authors do not pay for an agent's time or opinion if there's no reading fee. And so why should they expect any agent to behave in a manner or respond within a time period outlined by the author?

One author in this discussion stated very specific time periods that he found "acceptable" from an agent. And that made me laugh, not least of which because I have partials that have been here for at least six months and some manuscripts that have been here longer. One of those is from an actual client. His I'm sitting on because I have three or four thrillers out there right now. If I send another to an editor who already has one or two from me, I'm sure they will start looking to reject what they have much more quickly. So I'm waiting before I submit this one.

Many of you have suggested that agents do what they do because they want the big book, the J.K. Rowling (who would never have been published if there were reading fees because she was on the dole at the time; well, not to upset her fans, but I don't think the world would be any worse without her) or the Dan Brown (ditto on the world not being any worse). Discussions of authors like this remind me of that Star Trek movie in which Kirk refers to the great literary successes of the 20th Century, and the names were all best-selling authors of no actual literary merit (IMHO). The disconnect between National Book Award winners and Pulitzer winners and the best-seller list is obvious. Would I rather rep a Dan Brown or the last NBA winner? Tough question. No, not really. I'll take the money. Though if I were already wealthy, I might take the guy who can really write.

When I know, statistically (it was figured out elsewhere on this site, using my actual submission statistics), that I reject 99.75% of the projects I'm sent, it becomes difficult to worry that I'm letting the "next big thing" go. So when we discuss supply and demand, it's not valid to say "well, since all authors are the same...." or something like that. Of course, they are not. But odds are against that next one in the pile being the next J.K. Rowling.

When you get down to it, agents are gamblers. We are looking for winners. We may invest some time into training that one-year old in hopes of it becoming the three-year-old that wins the Kentucky Derby. Or we may prefer to chase proven winners (there are agents who spend a lot of time writing fan letters to best-selling authors telling them how much they would love to rep them). If authors want more from agents than they are getting, then a reading fee might be the way to get that. It's very true, what one author said here, once authors pay a reading fee, they become customers, and it seems to me that they want to be. Hence, why not allow the mechanism to exist?

I hear all the reasons why reading fees are bad. I can't argue that some of them (maybe all of them) have a certain validity. But I can also point to every business in the world, from used car salesmen to doctors to energy companies, and find scams, fraud, and less-than-kosher behavior. And the law and the market tend to find those folks and deal with them one way or another. I'm sure the same would be true of those who might abuse a reading fee system.

Since I feel I've said about all I can say on this subject, I'll sign off here. I'll be gone for the holidays.

Have a wonder Hanukkah, Xmas, Kwanza and New Year's.

Best,
Andy

victoriastrauss
12-18-2005, 11:44 PM
But I can also point to every business in the world, from used car salesmen to doctors to energy companies, and find scams, fraud, and less-than-kosher behavior. And the law and the market tend to find those folks and deal with them one way or another. I'm sure the same would be true of those who might abuse a reading fee system.If that were the case, it'd also be true of those who abuse marketing fees, editing fees, publishing fees, etc. But it isn't. The law isn't very interested in this kind of thing, because the individual amounts of money involved are small, and the abuse doesn't threaten the general public. The few investigations and convictions that have occurred (as with Martha Ivery) are flukes.

As for the market, it did deal with reading-fee abusers--when the AAR prohibited reading fees for its members.

- Victoria

SpookyWriter
12-18-2005, 11:46 PM
Andy,

I will say one thing for sure, if I could find an agent with your gusto and drive for this art form, I would gladly pay a reading fee. Shoot, I'd even pay to have him/her edit and offer suggestions. I hear the business aspects of what you're saying and it rings true to a certain degree. But, yep another interruption here, I can't find an agent who is willing to act as a conduit between my needs to fill the Barns and Nobel bookshelf and their desire (or need) to produce an income.

Does Catch 22 ring a bell? I really have issues with people who want to have the best of both worlds. I firmly believe that any writer who wants to succeed in "todayís" market must cough up the dough.

Andy so missed the boat with this argument. Patents! Come on folks, this is the most misguided (but related) topic on the forum. How many of you people have ever dealt with patents? Me, oh several times, and the scams from clever patent agents will make this topic myopic.

Here's one of my patents (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=/netahtml/search-adv.htm&r=3&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=ptxt&S1=(((campbell+AND+jonathan)+AND+encino)+AND+energ y)&OS=campbell+and+jonathan+and+encino+and+energy&RS=(((campbell+AND+jonathan)+AND+encino)+AND+energ y))

Hello, how much do you think I paid for this patent? Take a guess, 10K is a rough guess.

How many here have any background in high energy lasers? Doink! But I have a fair idea how to create a plasma stream and several types of energy sources. The patent costs me money to file, not including the reading fees, and I only make money from selling the idea.

Fee based services aren't new. They aren't even innovative. Fees are geared to help with the overhead of running a business. Almost every patent agent or attorney I know has a base fee they charge regardless if they take the project or not. Sound familiar?

My advice is for writers to grow up and learn some business acumens. Due diligent means, the writer is responsible to investigate and learn which agent best represents their interest (using history, references, and authorities comments).

Jon

Richard
12-18-2005, 11:57 PM
My advice is for writers to grow up and learn some business acumens.

I'm curious, where's the business acumen in actively chasing and accepting a worse deal than the market's self-established status quo, on behalf of someone else's bottom line, and with no apparent personal benefit?

Cathy C
12-19-2005, 12:27 AM
This is a really interesting thread, because it really puts out there the misconceptions and realities of the publishing world. Let me offer a few more realities (as I know them.)


So far, posters have likened an agent reading fee to a car lot, a realtor or a gift store. But it really isn't any of these. A reading fee could be most closely likened to a lender/lendee relationship. A customer (the author) goes to a mortgage company, not a bank, but a mortgage broker (the agent) for a loan. The mortgage company charges an "application fee". This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE. This fee pays for the time that the mortgage company will spend to review the customer's credit history, collect data, and then shop the customer to a variety of banks and lending institutions, seeking the best deal for the customer. In return, the mortgage company gets paid a SECOND processing fee (closer to an agent commission.)

There's no guarantee that the mortgage company can find a willing lender to close the loan. The application fee is STILL non-refundable.

Now, people fuss and fume about mortgage application fees, and processing fees, and points and the like, but they pay them -- because they know that THEY are the ones who sought out the relationship. They wanted the best deal, but didn't know how to find it. So they hired a company to do it for them.

I'm not a fan of reading fees, because it DOES lead to abuse. But before we start down a road of "the poor writer", let's look at the realities of the situation through a scenario.

An agent receives a query. They read it (15 min.) They like the concept and request a partial (5 min.). They read the partial (30 min.) They request a full by email or snail. (10 min). They read the full (2-6 hours). They offer representation and discuss terms (1-2 hours). They suggest a few minor edits that might help sell it. (1-4 hours). They read the book a second time (2-6 hours). They contact five editors who might be interested by phone and send a copy of the manuscript (1-2 hours, provided they have no staff). They talk to each of the five editors twice, in follow-up (although, frankly, it will possibly be more than this.) (1-2 hours) They call the author to discuss the offers (30 minutes). They call the winning editor back and discuss terms (30 min.-1 hr.) They call the author back and discuss specifics and usually suggest playing hardball to up the deal. (30 min.) They play hardball for the author and request the moon from the editor (another 30 min.) The deal is made and let's say the brand new author is offered a nice fat $15K for the book (which is pretty good for a new author in single title paperback). The agent then receives the proposed contract and proceeds to line edit it to ensure that it says what the deal was (1-2 hours). After the changes are made at the publisher, the agent forwards the contract to the author, possibly discussing the specifics by phone (30 min. - 1 hr.) The contract is signed, sent back to the publisher and a month or two later -- OH JOY! -- the check for the FIRST THIRD of the advance arrives at the publisher.

So, let's add this all up: Let's use the low end time periods. The agent has now spent THIRTEEN hours on the author's behalf over the course of several weeks or months. For this time, the agent receives -- AFTER THE FACT -- the whopping sum of $750. In total, they will earn $2,250 over the course of 2-3 years, and there will be more time spent for the author during that period. Yes, that's nearly $60 per hour, but that expertise is the equivalent of an attorney or accountant, who can earn twice to three times that amount for a similar time.

Sometimes, the agent gets lucky. That's the hope always. But there are far, FAR more authors who earn much less than $15K per book. Sometimes, the best deal is a $4,000 advance ($600 commission). If the agent was wrong, and the editor was wrong, and the book bombs -- there won't be any money beyond the initial advance (and the initial commission.)

Yes, the agent has more than one client, so they can probably pay their rent each month. But just as writing is a hobby to many authors due to the low pay, it's sometimes a hobby to the AGENTS, too, because they can't live on the pay. Add to that the fact that I KNOW my agent spends about 40% of ALL of her free time reading manuscripts to find the next client, and you have to wonder. How many of us would take home work every day without expecting to get paid cash money? Agents only have the HOPE of getting paid cash money for the time they spend.

I guess I'm on the fence. But agents definitely EARN their money, and I suppose I wouldn't begrudge a quality, selling agent a little up front cash, any more than I can begrudge a mortgage company finding me a good home equity loan.

(Like Susan, I enjoy playing Devil's advocate! :D )

Pencilone
12-19-2005, 12:39 AM
I wonder if anyone knows when the 'literary agent' job first appeared.


:)

Richard
12-19-2005, 12:56 AM
Late 19th century, I believe.

Richard
12-19-2005, 01:03 AM
So far, posters have likened an agent reading fee to a car lot, a realtor or a gift store. But it really isn't any of these. A reading fee could be most closely likened to a lender/lendee relationship. A customer (the author) goes to a mortgage company, not a bank, but a mortgage broker (the agent) for a loan. The mortgage company charges an "application fee". This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE. This fee pays for the time that the mortgage company will spend to review the customer's credit history, collect data, and then shop the customer to a variety of banks and lending institutions, seeking the best deal for the customer. In return, the mortgage company gets paid a SECOND processing fee (closer to an agent commission.)

There's a fairly obvious difference, right there.

victoriastrauss
12-19-2005, 01:54 AM
So far, posters have likened an agent reading fee to a car lot, a realtor or a gift store. But it really isn't any of these. A reading fee could be most closely likened to a lender/lendee relationship.That analogy doesn't hold up for me, because when you pay a fee to a mortgage broker, he has already agreed to work for you. When you pay a reading fee to a literary agent, you're paying him for considering whether to work for you. Big difference, IMO.

- Victoria

Cathy C
12-19-2005, 02:59 AM
That analogy doesn't hold up for me, because when you pay a fee to a mortgage broker, he has already agreed to work for you. When you pay a reading fee to a literary agent, you're paying him for considering whether to work for you. Big difference, IMO.

- Victoria

Nope. A mortgage broker has agreed to REVIEW your history. They do not promise to find you a deal. If nobody that they work with (such as "A" category or "B" category lenders) is willing to loan you money, they give back your file and wish you luck. Too bad, so sad. But no refunds. You then have to try to find a "C" lender, which are often the 15-45% "usary breaker" deals.

Christine N.
12-19-2005, 03:08 AM
Yes, but the mortgage broker is taking your file and looking it over, then looking at what companies he works with. He talks to lending institutions on your behalf. Which is what an agent does, AFTER he signs with a client. No agent promises you a deal either, but if they rep you, they show your work to other people.

If nobody buys your book, then the agent and the author may part ways. So I can kind of understand a retainer-type system, where the agent has already agreed to shop the ms, but NOT an upfront reading fee just for reading a query or a partial. Or even a full, since the request for those are usually minimal. I don't know too many agents that request more then a dozen fulls a month, unless the work they get is exceptional.

No one pays a real estate agent upfront to sell their house, do they? I honestly don't know, we bought out house private sale (which I will NEVER do again). The Real Estate agent doesn't make money until the house is sold, am I correct? I think this is a pretty good analogy then.

Cathy C
12-19-2005, 03:23 AM
He talks to lending institutions on your behalf.

Not always. I did mortgage stuff for a long time. The customer's history will determine whether the file is shopped. Nobody will take the time to shop a deal that's unsalable. If a credit score is 450 (when the average is 680), the file is closed and a letter is sent to the customer with "sorry."


So I can kind of understand a retainer-type system, where the agent has already agreed to shop the ms, but NOT an upfront reading fee just for reading a query or a partial.

Well, note that I said:




I'm not a fan of reading fees, because it DOES lead to abuse.


And


I suppose I wouldn't begrudge a quality, selling agent a little up front cash,

I STILL don't like the idea of a reading fee, but there should be some sort of middle ground. I don't know what it is, or I'd run the world... ;)


No one pays a real estate agent upfront to sell their house, do they?

Depends entirely on the state. There are any number of Realtors who expect exactly that. Whether they call it a processing fee, or advance on commission, etc., if the law allows it, they'll do it. Especially in the high-dollar neighborhoods, like Aspen, where the agent will be spending out of pocket cash for flyers, color advertisements and scheduling open houses.

But, hey -- let's wander back away from the analogies, since we're getting pretty far afield. I just don't know if there's a solution to this problem. But I really do think it IS a problem. I think what's going to happen is that one of the big names is going to make the leap -- some HUGE agency, and start to charge fees, and the rest will follow suit. Sort of like how publisher advances have started to be split into thirds or fifths. When nobody screamed bloody murder, it became "standard practice" and is now non-negotiable in contracts from several big publishers.

As always, JMHO. :)

DaveKuzminski
12-19-2005, 03:48 AM
While some of the analogies might be close, there's one thing that significantly separates them from agenting. Those others are regulated by law. Literary agenting is generally not regulated by law. Therefore, you don't have to worry so much about running into a fee scam in mortgaging and some other institutions. Many of those others are also licensed. Some are even tested before they can received a license. Neither of those occur within literary agenting yet which means it's too open and available for those with no knowledge or aptitude to hang up a shingle. Furthermore, there's virtually no real regulation of any scams within the agenting industry. The only convictions thus far have been mostly flukes as Victoria pointed out.

Christine N.
12-19-2005, 04:29 PM
I can understand the royalty splitting thing - it protects the publisher. I imagine they've gotten burned by authors more than once. Then they have to go after that author for the whole advance all at once, rather than just witholding that part until the terms of the contract are met. I don't understand a reading fee - this is the agent looking for clients; it's like someone asking me for a fee to search the want ads.

I'm not asking for a critique - I can understand paying a fee for that, but I know scammers use that a lot. I'm just asking you to see whether or not you can sell it.

Jaws
12-19-2005, 06:30 PM
Nope. A mortgage broker has agreed to REVIEW your history. They do not promise to find you a deal. If nobody that they work with (such as "A" category or "B" category lenders) is willing to loan you money, they give back your file and wish you luck. Too bad, so sad. But no refunds. You then have to try to find a "C" lender, which are often the 15-45% "usary breaker" deals.
Actually, under RESPA it's not legal for a mortgage broker to charge a fee for anything other than third-party expenses—such as the fee charged by credit-reporting agencies for a credit report—unless the broker actually obtains an offer of credit for the customer. (If the customer rejects the credit offer, there's a loophole in RESPA that might allow charging the customer a fee.) That doesn't stop some of the smaller brokers from doing so, though.

Cathy C
12-19-2005, 07:12 PM
Literary agenting is generally not regulated by law.


Y'know, this is something I really don't understand either. I mean, the lady who paints nails in the mall has to pass a test and be licensed, for heaven's sake! I would hate to see everything regulated, because you might lose a lot of good potential agents in the process. But there's a big whomping middle ground in there. Maybe one of the writer's organizations should consider a voluntary internal certification, like the paralegal associations have. It's not a requirement to take the certs for paralegals, but a lot of us take them anyway. It might be a way to show an employer (the author) that the potential employee (the agent) has the basic skills to handle the job. Just a random thought with no thoughts of how to implement it... :Shrug:

SpookyWriter
12-19-2005, 11:35 PM
"...like the paralegal associations have....It's not a requirement to take the certs for paralegals,"


Gee Andy, I guess the B.A. in English Lit or M.A. in Journalism doesn't count for much now days. Don't worry, I have the same problem. My undergraduate work doesn't count for much in Information Technology because everyone wants you to have a certification of some sort. Like four years in a CIS program isn't good enough. No, we have to have some third party booboo tell us we're qualified. Skip the six years I spent in college, and the two or so years of continuing education at one of America's finest universities. For $149.00 I can be certified as a database programmer.

Bah humbug!

Jon (BSCIS)

Cathy C
12-19-2005, 11:55 PM
"...like the paralegal associations have....It's not a requirement to take the certs for paralegals,"

Gee Andy, I guess the B.A. in English Lit or M.A. in Journalism doesn't count for much now days. Don't worry, I have the same problem. My undergraduate work doesn't count for much in Information Technology because everyone wants you to have a certification of some sort. Like four years in a CIS program isn't good enough. No, we have to have some third party booboo tell us we're qualified. Skip the six years I spent in college, and the two or so years of continuing education at one of America's finest universities. For $149.00 I can be certified as a database programmer.

Bah humbug!

Jon (BSCIS)

You misunderstand, Spooky. I mean it would be nice for an AUTHOR to have some way to ascertain that an AGENT has some qualifications. B.A.s and M.A.s don't mean much when it comes to whether the person is capable of selling someone else's book -- whether they have the contract background, and contacts in the publishing industry and knowledge OF the industry, etc. I doubt it's possible, and I don't even know if I'd want it to happen, but it would be nice for authors to have some ability to judge, short of hit and miss scrambling to see if the agent has sold something lately (and is even THAT any guarantee? Someone who has spent five years trying to sell ONE book that becomes the next Harry Potter is no less qualified than one who sells fifteen five figure deals.)

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 12:50 AM
Cathy,

Maybe I did mistake this concept for a papermill certification that anyone can get off the internet. I am starting to see some logic here and maybe there is the real possibility. But, who would administer such a program and what does it take to become certified as "Legit Agent"? Sales histories are readily available in a couple different locations and that information isn't too difficult to obtain.

What qualifications does it take to become a lawyer or a doctor, besides the academic portion? Yes, even real estate and insurance agents require a license to sell their products or work in their industries. No such beast exists with the publishing industry because ???? -- maybe because so few abuses occur that the states or federal government has no cause to require licenses?

Good idea, but again it is implementation that will not permit this concept from becoming reality.

Thanks,

Jon

DaveKuzminski
12-20-2005, 12:57 AM
On top of determining qualifications, there's the added problems of accountability and enforcement when anyone proves to not be entitled to certification.

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 01:15 AM
Business model:

I think what Andy asked was for people with some business savvy to come up with an optimum solution that both the agents and writers would feel comfortable.

So far, no one has proposed a solution that would satisfy both the agents and writers requirements. Why? Maybe because the agent has a set of criteria they use to judge and value a manuscript, based on their personal opinions, and the merits of the work. The writer is more biased and proposes their work is saleable, but rely on the agent to determine if this is a valid assumption.

The point of conflict occurs when the agent is overwhelmed by solicited and unsolicited work and has to use their criteria to determine which is saleable and which is not. This process takes time and effort, along with a certain expense the agent assumes.

The agent reading process is marred by incomplete and inconsistent proposals from the writer.

The agent selection process is further inhibited by market demands and diminished products.

The agent acceptance process is contingent on their knowledge of the industry and personalities involved.

Upon acceptance, the agent must solicit market sources, which they believe, would inquire and secure the purchase of the product (manuscript, etc.).

The expenditure of time, effort, and financial resources are the agents risk until they secure a purchase and have a signed contract.

The writer is neither obligated nor inclined to accept the terms of any agreement in which the agent and publisher negotiated.

The writer has not born the risk of financial loss or incurred any expenses during the agent/publisher process and is free to void any such agent agreement upon written consent.

There is no business model that will ensure the agents expertise, expense, and troubles are rewarded should either the publisher or writer decide not to continue the pursuit of publishing the work.

The possible clearinghouse business model (which is used in many institutions) offers a better opportunity for agents and writers to coordinate the solicitation of works that will be proposed to publishers under a warrant of rights.

No such process exists today, and it is this plausible business model, which I believe, will benefit both writers and agents.

Jon

SRHowen
12-20-2005, 03:11 AM
I don't understand a reading fee - this is the agent looking for clients; it's like someone asking me for a fee to search the want ads.

Ahh, USA Today sells for 75 cents, The Austin American Statesman sells for $1.60 on Sunday when it has the big employment section in it--so in short you have paid a fee to read the want ads.

And the person putting the ad in paid as well.

Shawn

victoriastrauss
12-20-2005, 03:37 AM
Jon, you're writing as if agents had only one client at a time. But they have multiple clients, in all stages of selling and being paid, which means that even if a given client isn't making money at a given moment, another one will be.

Requesting and evaluating manuscripts and shopping them around is part of an agent's job. There's a word for the expense of doing one's job: overhead. Every business has it. Ideally, the agency will be generating a steady stream of income that will cover overhead and generate a profit. The agent may not be directly compensated by the particular writer whose manuscript he's currently reading, but he is compensated.

There's also no absolute correlation between product and value. If you're selling widgets, you make the same basic profit on every widget you sell, and if you want more profit, you have to sell more widgets. But with manuscripts, it's all about perceived value. One manuscript might get a $1,000 advance, and another might get a $500,000 advance. That kind of windfall makes up for a lot of free reading hours. Of course, that very unpredictability is what makes agenting a tough, risky job.

- Victoria

Andrew Zack
12-20-2005, 05:29 AM
I thought I'd take the holidays off from this, but there are several very thoughtful posts here. What I notice, though, is that there's a lot of conversation about what is right or wrong about a reading fee when it comes to agents, but nothing so far about what it might do for authors. Would it alleviate the long waits that writers complain about constantly? Would it get them the feedback they crave? One wonders.


Requesting and evaluating manuscripts and shopping them around is part of an agent's job. There's a word for the expense of doing one's job: overhead. Every business has it. Ideally, the agency will be generating a steady stream of income that will cover overhead and generate a profit. The agent may not be directly compensated by the particular writer whose manuscript he's currently reading, but he is compensated.
For me, overhead is the lights and my internet connection. It's photocopying and mailing statements to clients. My attorney gets paid by the hour and charges me to receive a fax. My accountant gets paid by the hour and charges me when his secretary mails me the very return he's getting paid by the hour to mail me. While I may very well have successful authors from whom I earn a good living, why should those authors be "paying" me to find other authors? Shouldn't my time be spent trying to sell the film rights or the movie rights or the foreign rights to their books? And, indeed, therein is why turnaround times are often so long. Because I spend most of my time on my current clients, their projects and their needs. Until there's a mechanism that allows agents to--yes, I'll say the dirty word--profit from reading all of the unsolicited material that comes our way, those turnaround times will remain long, the feedback will remain little to none, and authors will continue to feel like spinsters in Atlantic City, going from slot machine to slot machine, hoping that this one will be "the one."

When I just went and read that quote above again, I suddenly started to think of drug companies. After all, they have extensive R&D efforts to find new drugs. But how do they pay for that? With higher drug prices on the new drug. But agents can't control the price of the works they sell. Publishers do that. Imagine if I said to the publisher, "I need a $10,000 commission on this, because I only found one salable book this month, after sorting through several dozen." Would that fly?

So, the only way that an agent can fund the R&D effort is to take profit from existing works and put it into new ones. But if 90% of books do not earn out, where is that profit? There's a post above that makes the excellent point that most agents do not see additional commissions after the initial advance is fully paid out. So, yes, you can easily be earning just a few hundred dollars for dozens of hours of work.

Maybe the solution is for publishers to charge a reading fee or application fee to authors, then only publish the good books, and use the application fees to pay for the editors? Or perhaps agents should auction books not based on advances and royalties, but based on which publisher will pay the agent the largest finder's fee? Or maybe agents should just get paid by the hour by all authors? Certainly there are many books I've sold where my hourly wage is less than minimum when one factors in the time spent versus the advance and royalties. If authors are so confident that their book will sell for a lot of money, perhaps they should offer to pay by the hour or, say, by the month. Agents would still have the right to say no to a work, but if they said yes, they'd know what they were making and authors would know what they were paying. How about that?

Like I said, lots of thoughtful posts here, but so far, no solutions that I see (or have!).

Best,
Andy

Christine N.
12-20-2005, 06:03 AM
Ahh, USA Today sells for 75 cents, The Austin American Statesman sells for $1.60 on Sunday when it has the big employment section in it--so in short you have paid a fee to read the want ads.

And the person putting the ad in paid as well.

Shawn

No, I would equate this to paying for a copy of Writer's market. I guess it wasn't a great analogy. The want ads just tell me where the jobs are, they don't get me interviews. More like Writer's Market than an agency.

Plus, when I buy the paper, I can read other things.

Again, I can't afford to pay reading fees. I'm sorry. If agents started this practice across the board, well, I guess I just wouldn't be try to get an agent anymore. I'd just keep to publishers that accepted unagented stuff. And agents will just have to put up reading crap that people can afford to send. Maybe you'll get a client or two out of it, and maybe they'll miss a client or two because of it. But really, is that any different than it is now?

If I want to read CWIM, I go to the library and borrow theirs. I can also go to the library and use their newspaper.

victoriastrauss
12-20-2005, 06:30 AM
Again, I can't afford to pay reading fees. I'm sorry. If agents started this practice across the board, well, I guess I just wouldn't be try to get an agent anymore. I'd just keep to publishers that accepted unagented stuff.This made me think of something. For most of the time during which reading fees were accepted, or at least not totally condemned--i.e., into the 1980's--you really did not need an agent to get a publisher's attention. So it would have been perfectly reasonable for a writer to make Christine's choice, and submit to publishers directly. Nowadays, you absolutely do need an agent to get a publisher's attention--or else you have to resign yourself to two-year waits or approach only smaller publishers. So if agents started charging reading fees now, it'd be far, far more punitive for authors than it was years ago, when agents were more of an option than a requirement for new writers.

- Victoria

DaveKuzminski
12-20-2005, 08:04 AM
One common fallacy in all the suggestions for how agents and publishers should charge for subs is the fact that those suggestions all appear to place all the risk on author shoulders who are generally in the worst position for bearing any further burden of risk beyond mailing costs. I haven't seen any suggestions that suggest that if agents are allowed to charge fees that they'll agree to accept email subs as well as paper even if either is poorly formatted. I haven't seen any suggestions that authors will receive a higher royalty rate if they accept a fee for subbing and get accepted.

There's got to be some balance in the risks and costs. So far, I haven't seen anything that does so as effectively as the current system. I didn't say the current system was fair to everyone, but it is fairer than what I've seen suggested. Likewise, I haven't seen any suggestions for how a fee-based submission system would be policed in order to prevent fraud, whether accidental or deliberate.

Pencilone
12-20-2005, 03:58 PM
Just because we speak of 'what if'...

What if in a few years (or decades:) ) agents will be employed (on a freelance or permanent basis) by Publishers to perform the same role of selecting/placing new writers, but instead of a 15% of the writer's deal, they'll get a steady salary like any employee. Would that be more appealing to an agent?

I'm also surprised no one made any comparison between employment agents and literary agents. I believe an employment agent gets a nice pay from the employer/company where he makes a successful placement.

IMHO a writer should not pay any fees (reading or any other ones) untill his book finds a home with a publisher.

DaveKuzminski
12-20-2005, 06:50 PM
I'm also surprised no one made any comparison between employment agents and literary agents. I believe an employment agent gets a nice pay from the employer/company where he makes a successful placement.


Employment agents I've encountered have two ways of getting paid.

Some are paid by the individual seeking employment. That's almost always a ripoff because most of them can't guarantee success and have little incentive to achieve it in order to extend the weekly fees from the job seekers.

Others are paid by employers to find appropriate candidates for jobs. Those appear to have more success, especially since the fee is sometimes structured so that they get paid only when they fill the job. There might be a small deposit at the front from the employer for some contracts, but only enough to sustain the search.

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 06:56 PM
Jon, you're writing as if agents had only one client at a time. But they have multiple clients, in all stages of selling and being paid, which means that even if a given client isn't making money at a given moment, another one will be.
Just some thoughts:

I posted some basic facts about the agent, author process for reviewing manuscripts. Obviously, there is much more to it than what I had included and Andy added some additional information. I don't dispute the fact that agents have more than one client making money. I don't see that there is an issue with existing clients, except when, as Andy pointed out, the agent spends their time, effort and money to secure new writers.

Background:

The whole process of securing new writers and selling their work does take time and costs the agent money. There is no guaranteed that the agent will find any saleable work on a given batch of manuscripts.

Letís just say for example that there are 1,000 legitimate agents out there in writersland seeking and representing writers. Break down the agents into genre and which ones are accepting new clients. Further, break this down into how many of these agents have beta readers or assistants to read new materials. We are left with fewer agents who spend their time and effort to read solicited and unsolicited manuscripts.

Statement of Problem:

The common denominator is still resources to read the material coming into an agency. Whether it is the agent themselves or an assistant who pre-screens the work it doesnít matter. The material must go through a vetting process to determine which manuscript is good enough to go the next step. The ones that donít make the cut are notified, but that could take months because the resource to make that determination doesnít have the luxury of spending enough time on each one to personalize the rejection or offer suggestions. So the writer will most likely receive a form rejection. Had the agency enough time and resources then they could possibly offer a quicker turn-around time and a more personalized explanation of why the work was not represented.

Resource Constraints:

The keyword in all this is resources to read the incoming material and filter out what might be saleable or not.

Inefficiencies:

Go back to the list of agencies that have the resources to prescreen incoming materials and youíll find they have a fairly quick turn-around time. So instead of waiting months, the writer may get a response in a couple weeks to a month.

Possible solutions:

I think that a clearinghouse could be one plausible idea. The writer submits their work to the clearinghouse, which does have the resources to prescreen the work and determine which agency most likely be a good fit for the material. Mortgage brokers have a similar business model when they prescreen buyers and determine which financial institution would best serve the buyer, based on predefined criteria. The clearinghouse should be independent of agents and writers.

Iíll just leave it at this for the moment and let others come to plausible solutions.

victoriastrauss
12-20-2005, 07:32 PM
Jon, your analysis seems to assume that all manuscripts are read in their entirety. In fact, most are rejected at the query letter stage. Others are rejected on the basis of partials. I don't know if Andy has mentioned this at any point, but I'd bet that the number of partials he requests is a fairly small percentage of the queries he receives, and the number of fulls is a fraction of that. So it's not as if the poor overworked agent has to read every single manuscript that crosses his desk (this, by the way, is one of the fallacies of the reading fee scam, where it is a scam--that the agent gives equal consideration to all submissions). And before you say that agents should read everything they receive, the fact is that most of what's on submission isn't publishable, and as often as not, that's apparent from the query letter.

As for personalized rejections...I suspect that most literary agents would rather not say "because you can't write a coherent sentence." That's why they say "not for me" or "we're not taking new clients at this time" or "doesn't fit our list."

As for why a clearinghouse approach wouldn't work...the decision to represent a manuscript is based on objective factors like an agent's genre preference, but it's also a personal and subjective decision that only the agent can make. Also, this system would be extremely easy to abuse--I know of one questionable agency that's doing so right now. Submissions go through a clearinghouse that also happens to be an editing service, and anyone who isn't passed on to the agent gets a recommendation to edit.

- Victoria

SRHowen
12-20-2005, 07:53 PM
As for personalized rejections...I suspect that most literary agents would rather not say "because you can't write a coherent sentence." That's why they say "not for me" or "we're not taking new clients at this time" or "doesn't fit our list."- Victoria

And personal reasons invite stuff like this:

Send a form rejection and you get a note that says Why did you reject this I am the next bestseller, can't you see that?

So you decide, in a moment of crazed something or another to send them a reason--

Your writing sucks, an avid reader stuck on island with only your ms to read would slit their wrists before they read it. (or take up one handed knitting, you'd be more useful)

Next you get your inbox, your mail box and your voice mail filled with stuff about how they are going to hunt you down and kill all your children or how they are so hurt and you must be blind ect.

OK extreme, but that's what happens with form rejections (when you accept e-subs) (it's easy to fire off mad e-mails) They want to know why.

OK so you decide to send personal reasons, you candy coat because you are trying to be nice, and say the above without being a jerk--

A week later you get a second "rewritten" submission based on the reason you gave.

LOOK LOOK you said I had too much passive voice so I got rid of all the words was in the entire book.

UMMMMM----scream and block their e-mail.

In Germany there are some "clearing house" type agents for magazine articles. They work quite well, and while I donít think they would work for literary agents as to making a choice on who reps what they could work to filter things.

Ahhh, Zack doesn't take romance, so no romance novels would be sent to Zack. He hates passive voice, and this one is almost all passive voice and so on.

It could maybe work to lighten the load of an agent by that agent only getting subs that fit their guidelines. And if you had the right readers stuff that sounds as if it were written by drunken half wit would even get passed to an agent--you'd get a letter written by the clearing house, a form rejection by them.

shrug

And as Victoria said a lot of subs aren't read past page one--it's just that there are so many subs.

Shawn ( to anyone interested I did a guest blog for Andy on blog site--nothign to do with this thread, though.)





(

Andrew Zack
12-20-2005, 07:53 PM
I post a "scorecard" related to how many queries I receive, partials, etc., and what happens to them, on my blog every month. The headline has the word "scorecard" in it. I also have a number of them on the Submissions page of my site. Later today, I will, in fact, be doing the final one of the year, as I leave tomorrow for the holidays.

Best,
Andy

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 08:07 PM
Jon, your analysis seems to assume that all manuscripts are read in their entirety.

Victoria, no actually my thoughts (analysis would imply I've performed a comprehensive study of the industry process) which are just some ideas of the problems writers have getting their work reviewed in a timely manner.

I do understand that an agent can, and often does, look at a few pages of solicited material to decide if it's right for them. I do the same whenever I critique another writers work. I can read the first paragraph and know what problems to expect.


In fact, most are rejected at the query letter stage. Others are rejected on the basis of partials. I don't know if Andy has mentioned this at any point, but I'd bet that the number of partials he requests is a fairly small percentage of the queries he receives, and the number of fulls is a fraction of that. So it's not as if the poor overworked agent has to read every single manuscript that crosses his desk (this, by the way, is one of the fallacies of the reading fee scam, where it is a scam--that the agent gives equal consideration to all submissions).

I will concede this fact, as I understand the basis of submissions from my own experience.


And before you say that agents should read everything they receive, the fact is that most of what's on submission isn't publishable, and as often as not, that's apparent from the query letter.

These partials clog up the system and the agent does (if they choose) read them before making a decision. It is a numbers game and the more an agent receives the less time they have available for other tasks, like selling existing client material.


As for personalized rejections...I suspect that most literary agents would rather not say "because you can't write a coherent sentence." That's why they say "not for me" or "we're not taking new clients at this time" or "doesn't fit our list."

But there are some agents who do offer a little more personalized rejection letter which is somewhat helpful for the writer to know why the work was not acceptable. Forms don't speak of writing style and content. Forms are impersonal and are the least subjective means of communicating poorly written prose.


As for why a clearinghouse approach wouldn't work...the decision to represent a manuscript is based on objective factors like an agent's genre preference, but it's also a personal and subjective decision that only the agent can make.

I said that the clearinghouse should be independent of the agent and writer. The mechanics of prescreening work before sending it along to an agent is not implausible because the reader can know which agent (agency) is best suited for the submitted material.

The agency setup for the clearinghouse can include such things as; which genre they represent, a list of criteria they use to determine what new materials would interest them, etc.

However, the resource (reader) decides which material goes to which agent or agency. The material can be sent to several agents who represent the writers work. The rejection process can still come from the agent. There are buckets for each type of material submitted to the clearinghouse. A bucket for material which isnít sent to any agent because of some flaw; poorly written query, undefined genre, grammatical errors, ect. These can be filtered out before going to an agent which will free up their time because they only get better quality queries and manuscripts from the clearinghouse.


Also, this system would be extremely easy to abuse--I know of one questionable agency that's doing so right now. Submissions go through a clearinghouse that also happens to be an editing service, and anyone who isn't passed on to the agent gets a recommendation to edit.- Victoria

This isnít an agency prescreening the work, but a non-profit clearinghouse that is (letís say) affiliated with AAR or another organization that provides oversight.

I'm just throwing out ideas, nothing but ideas.

Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in agency reading fees or any association with Andy Zack. I have not submitted any work to his agency, nor have any desire.


Jon

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 08:26 PM
One last thought or two for now on the clearinghouse idea.

The Board of Directors should consist writers, agents, and writer advocates (watchdogs) who decide on all aspects of the business.

There would be a charter, business model, and guidelines for submission.

This site does not exist today, so it would be built from scratch. I'm sure there are sufficient people in the various writing forums who could come up with a site which is geared toward streamlining the submission process, which also includes the initial reading, and agent selection.

Just more thoughts,

Jon

Andrew Zack
12-20-2005, 08:37 PM
Well, I'm not sure a "disclaimer" was needed, Jon.

I don't think the clearinghouse would work. Who would fund it? Authors? Aren't they too poor to pay a fee to a clearinghouse? Agents? Hmm. I bet most would say they could simply open their doors and material would flow in. Why pay a clearinghouse? No, I'm sorry to say I don't see this idea working any better than, say, a clearing house for colleges and college students.

Maybe someday there will be software with the ability to differentiate the good from the bad. Submissions will be made electronically and only those that make the cut will ever get spit out onto the agent's desk. Hollywood nearly has this, with software that will help you write your screenplay (reading it is still a human process). But if you buy this software, you can pretty much guarantee that your formatting will be correct.

As for the idea of publishers paying agents, that job exists, except they are called book scouts or foreign scouts. Foreign publishers pay US scouts to find and send them the best books coming out in the States as early as possible. At least one film company also pays a scout for such services. There are stories about scouts bribing in-house or outside photocopy shop employees to run an extra copy of anything big coming through. I get emails and calls from scouts wanting to know what's happening to the film rights for certain books. So that model exists, but why would US publishers adopt it? They would be cutting their own potential pool down.

What I've always thought would be interesting is if publishers paid EDITORS on commission and put them in charge of their own acquisition budgets and, in short, made editors publishers/producers. That way, editors would be able to buy those books they really believe in. If the books bomb, bye-bye. If they succeed, then the editor is duly rewarded. After all, shouldn't Jason Kaufman be rewarded for getting THE DA VINCI CODE for Doubleday? If David Gernert had had a piece of THE FIRM, would he have left to become Grisham's agent, or would he have stayed at Doubleday, finding them more and more bestsellers?

By the way, the argument that writers are poor and therefore should be the last ones to pay doesn't quite fly for me. If I want to paint, but can't afford paint, should I not have to pay? If I want to be a carpenter, but can't afford a hammer, should the builder pay for my tools? Would some good books go unpublished? Perhaps. But I believe the market would adjust and create a path for those folks, e.g., younger agents who don't charge a fee. Mega-agents who provide "scholarships" or run contests for which there is no entry fee, all to find that author who couldn't afford to pay the reading fee. That sort of thing.

In closing (and this really is the closing, because I'm closed for the holidays after today), I want to remind everyone that my firm does not charge a reading fee, and I'm currently closed to new queries and submissions of any kind, while I work through the pile here. I started this conversation because of the number of complaints I've seen about long response times and lack of feedback. I wondered, what could be done to improve response times and increase feedback? And the only solution I've seen so far is paying someone for their time. And, near as I can tell, while many folks seem able to poke holes in that solution, no one has a better one.

Happy Holidays.

Best,
Andy

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 08:43 PM
Andy,

I did the disclaimer because I didn't want anyone to make the assumption that I was a mouth piece for you or agency reading fees in general. I've learned long ago that people have a tendency to read more into what is written without taking the time to read.

P.S. I didn't mean to say, I wouldn't have submitted to your agency. I meant to say because you don't represent my genre and I read your guidelines. Sorry if the disclaimer sounded harse.

Have a nice holliday. I've exhausted my ideas for the year.

Cheers,

Jon

Richard
12-20-2005, 09:00 PM
By the way, the argument that writers are poor and therefore should be the last ones to pay doesn't quite fly for me. If I want to paint, but can't afford paint, should I not have to pay? If I want to be a carpenter, but can't afford a hammer, should the builder pay for my tools?

Trouble is, that one works both ways. "If I want to be an agent, why should I expect authors to keep me afloat?"


I wondered, what could be done to improve response times and increase feedback? And the only solution I've seen so far is paying someone for their time. And, near as I can tell, while many folks seem able to poke holes in that solution, no one has a better one.

Conversely, I've seen no evidence that doing so would do anything to solve the problems, on either side.

Monet
12-20-2005, 09:09 PM
I for one would not like my manuscript to go through a clearinghouse. How many times have you seen a novel turned down by major agents or even publishing houses that go on to be a best seller.


On one hand we can say look an agents time is valuable, so shouldn't they be paid for it like any other person who provides a service? But, there are so many scams out there that how does a person really know if the said agent is legit or not?






Until there is a certification for being an agent, either through needing a license or a degree of some sort that is required by law, then there will be numerous scammers. (and no doubt even some after this requirement is met)




However, until such a time, reading fees should not be implemented because of the scamming. You want an agent who can sell your work, not an agent who will live off of the reading fees he rakes in.




I can tell you, that when novels or the like are sent into an agent, (I was a reader) sometimes only the first page is read, other times, the first two or three. Only if the novel is drawing the reader will more be read. And that can be one more page or up to the entire novel.




Until there is a way to weed out the majority of the scammers and unqualified agents, then a reading fee should be non-existent.



For myself, if agents start implementing reading fees, I would advise writers to skip the agent all together and go straight to the publisher. Once most of the writers do so, then the larger publishers will start accepting unsolicited manuscripts, because it would be the only way they would get to see them.

SpookyWriter
12-20-2005, 09:46 PM
Maybe someday there will be software with the ability to differentiate the good from the bad. Submissions will be made electronically and only those that make the cut will ever get spit out onto the agent's desk. Hollywood nearly has this, with software that will help you write your screenplay (reading it is still a human process). But if you buy this software, you can pretty much guarantee that your formatting will be correct.

Well if this software ever does come into existence then we wouldn't really need agents to prescreen our work for a publisher. What is one of the biggest reasons a publisher requires an agent submit the writers work? Quality of the work submitted. The publisher knows that the agent reads the material and using their expertise will submit to a specific editor within the publishing house who they've had prior experience with placing like material.

Maybe publishing houses like Random are already working towards agent free submissions? Maybe some hotshot programmer is doing the same out there in web-world? Maybe agents will become secondary to the publishing industry and used as boilerplates for contract negotiations?

Who knows what the future will bring us. Simplified software solutions for a better publishing business model.



Jon

DaveKuzminski
12-21-2005, 02:58 AM
Actually, agents already are the clearinghouses for publishers. The agent weeds it down to the best and the publisher selects from that. Adding another layer won't solve anything. Then you'll have two layers wanting to be paid each time something is sold that went through them.

Christine N.
12-21-2005, 05:13 AM
That's what I was thinking, Dave. The slush would just get farther away from the publisher.

I don't think there IS a better way to do this, not at the moment. Yes, authors complain about wait times. They're nervous - you, the agent, hold their work, what amounts to month, sometimes years, of pouring your heart into something. It's not like you're reading a cold, sterile book report - the author has some emotional stake in it. So it's like waiting to hear if you got a job you really want. I get nervous, I hate waiting, but I don't mind it because I know it's part of the process. I work on other things while I wait. I know you have other people's work to look at, plus conferences, plus current clients to attend to.

So the real answer is that authors need to learn what really goes on in an agent's office and learn patience.

SRHowen
12-21-2005, 06:43 AM
Too often an author thinks or feels that they are the only one that the agent is sitting there at the mail box just waiting for their ms to come in the door. It's like the name thing, Oh hi, great to see you again and then they start talking about something that sounds familiar, yet you have no idea who they are. Then you figure out that they were in a workshop you taught--one of 300 who took it.

To the author you are one name, but as the teacher (agent) you are one of many. Authors need to remember that and not to expect personal responses and to learn that the publishing industry is a waiting game--a big long waiting game.

Shawn

SpookyWriter
12-21-2005, 06:57 AM
Authors need to remember that and not to expect personal responses and to learn that the publishing industry is a waiting game--a big long waiting game.

Bingo! The number one answer for today. Learn to wait or do something productive while the agent is busily reading manuscript.

I personally think this thread has run its course and nothing more productive can come out of it. Writers here and on another forum all agree that reading fees are no good and only serve to encourage abuse.

So the game continues again in January.

Happy Holidays!

Jon

CampCreek
12-21-2005, 10:39 AM
Just because we speak of 'what if'...

What if in a few years (or decades:) ) agents will be employed (on a freelance or permanent basis) by Publishers to perform the same role of selecting/placing new writers, but instead of a 15% of the writer's deal, they'll get a steady salary like any employee. Would that be more appealing to an agent? Isn't that what editors are?

One more point ~ how can an agent get ME the best contract deal when he's being paid by the publisher, my "opponent" in contract negotiations? Nah, I don't think that "what if" would fly.



Nowadays, you absolutely do need an agent to get a publisher's attention--or else you have to resign yourself to two-year waits or approach only smaller publishers. So if agents started charging reading fees now, it'd be far, far more punitive for authors than it was years ago, when agents were more of an option than a requirement for new writers.I'd say it would be far, far more punitive for agents in this scenario than it would be for authors. Agents charge reading fees, authors can't pay them, authors don't submit to them, authors submit to publishers that don't require agented submissions, publishers who don't require agented submissions get the vast marjority of ALL mss, which means they'll get the vast majority of all the good ones, smaller publishers start making more money than big publishers who only accept agented submissions, big publishers notice and start taking unagented submissions. Voila! Agents have just charged themeselves right out of a job. So they get a day job or go back to not charging reading fees.



Possible solutions:

I think that a clearinghouse could be one plausible idea. The writer submits their work to the clearinghouse, which does have the resources to prescreen the work and determine which agency most likely be a good fit for the material. Mortgage brokers have a similar business model when they prescreen buyers and determine which financial institution would best serve the buyer, based on predefined criteria. The clearinghouse should be independent of agents and writers.

Iíll just leave it at this for the moment and let others come to plausible solutions. Wouldn't this be just another shifting of the slush pile? And do we really want another middleman?


By the way, the argument that writers are poor and therefore should be the last ones to pay doesn't quite fly for me. If I want to paint, but can't afford paint, should I not have to pay? Bad analogy. If a writer can't afford paper, then yes, he doesn't write. Furthermore, assuming you weren't talking about house painting, most painters don't get shown in galleries unless they're really good. How do they find their way into galleries? I doubt it's by paying someone to look at their work just to see if they're good enough to shop around to galleries, hoping for an opening.


If I want to be a carpenter, but can't afford a hammer, should the builder pay for my tools? The builder DOES pay for a carpenter's tools. It's factored into the bid. All part of doing business.


I started this conversation because of the number of complaints I've seen about long response times and lack of feedback. I wondered, what could be done to improve response times and increase feedback? And the only solution I've seen so far is paying someone for their time. And, near as I can tell, while many folks seem able to poke holes in that solution, no one has a better one.

Here's my solution ~ leave it alone.

For the past month or two, I've been learning about the publishing business. I've read webpage after webpage after webpage on the subject. After sifting through all that, here's what I've come away with...

For the writers' side ~

Here's the reality ~ I sends off mah stories and I takes mah chances, hoping for plenty but not expecting anything. I take that back ~ I expect to be brought up short if I act like a jerk. I know I shouldn't call and complain when an agent doesn't work on "my" time schedule. He's not a cable guy or Maytag repairman. Quite frankly, even those guys can decide not to come if you're rude about them taking a little while to get there. Do you really want to be stuck with no cable TV while facing a trip to the laundromat?! ICK! So drop the diva act.

If I'm wondering why it's taking an agent so long, I can send a short, polite email or letter asking about it, AFTER I've checked the agent's website for anything on their turnaround time, then wait. Writers who don't understand that will just go unagented, now won't they?

LEARN. LEARN. LEARN. I know I need to learn how to write so it's readable and doesn't put my reader to sleep. Next up, I'll learn how to compose a snappy query letter. I might have already come up with a way to come up with a knock-'em-dead one page synopsis. If I'm not willing to do that, then why should anyone else be willing to make me the next best selling author?

LEARN about the business side of agenting and publishing. That's what I'm doing now so I can help make things run as smoothly as possible. Heck, I've only been at this a grand total of two months and I've already learned enough to know that unless I find out what agents like what genres and read/follow the guidelines ahead of time, I'm peeing up the proverbial rope. This really isn't rocket surgery or brain science. ;)


For the agents' side ~

Call me naive, but as I read through this thread, I kept thinking "Why don't agents just put strict submission guidelines on their websites and stick to them? And why are agents so worried about the feelings of rude writers who don't follow the guidelines?" Sure some writers just get addresses out of a magazine and send in their ms. Is that really someone you want to represent? Someone who won't make the effort to walk twenty steps to the computer and spend five minutes to check out the guidelines online? They don't have a computer? Well, tough ~ they can find a buddy's or go to the library. IMHO it's the writer's responsibility to find the guidelines and abide by them. Period. If we don't, we don't get considered ~ simple as that.

Here are some ways I was thinking it'd be easier on agents, things that might cut down on the slush or atleast time spent sorting through the slush...

First of all, get a nice stamp made that says "Please read the submission guidelines."

Specifically state "NO unsolicited manuscripts". Then, when they get their mail every day, every single ms that's sent in unsolicited gets stamped and a big, fat, red "return to sender" marked on the front ~ don't even think of opening it ~ and back in the mail it goes. Won't cost the agent more than a few minutes since the USPS will send it back free so long as it's not opened. If this changes, then simply change your guidelines to read "unsolicited manuscripts will get filed in File 13", then buy a BIG trashcan.

Have one of your guidelines that the author writes the genre on the outside of the back flap. Put it in bold up at the top of the list. That'll tell you if they've even read your guidelines and if you'd even be interested. Again, no genre on the back, no opening ~ just custom stamped with your fancy little custom stamper and "return to sender" on the front.

Another guideline ~ query with one page synopsis first and ONLY. Cuts down on writer's costs and agent's time. If an agent can't tell how well a writer writes after reading one page, then they need to find another business to be in. And, as I said before, if a writer can't show how well he can write in one page, he needs to find another business to be in as well.

If some of the writers that submit to agents call and raise hell about why it's taking so long, then just be thankful for the pre-screening they're giving you. If they're jerks now, they'll be jerks later, so why would you want to represent them?


Ultimately, though it's admirable, everyone should quit tying themselves in knots to please everyone for no reason. Being nice is one thing, but trying to bend over backwards to save someone's feelings is just going a bit too far. So the agent didn't send you a personal rejection ~ deal with it. So the writer got a little snippy on the phone ~ deal with it. That's life. And life ain't easy. But if you learn to be patient and nice while letting all the rudeness of others roll off your back, it can be a lot of fun!

CampCreek
12-21-2005, 10:49 AM
Well, that'll teach me to reply to a thread before I'm done reading it. Looks like y'all figured this stuff out already.http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/redface.gifhttp://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/tongue.gif Oh, well ~ saved me from editing my post to add a couple more tidbits. ;)

Overall this was a GREAT thread!http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/emoteThumbs.gif Thanks, everybody, for all the info!

DaveKuzminski
12-21-2005, 08:48 PM
Well, some of your points need a bit of fine tuning.

If a writer submits to an agent listed in a magazine ad, that writer has already made a big mistake. I don't know of any legitimate agents who advertize in magazines.

If the writer doesn't put a return address on the manuscript, then it should be returned since there's no way short of requiring a submission number in the mail-to address to know whether it was requested or not without opening the package.

As to getting phone calls from jerks, well, don't give out the number.

Christine N.
12-21-2005, 09:30 PM
Well, Dave, all authors should know to write "Requested Material" on the outside of the envelope if the agent requests it. Of course, I can see how this might be abused, and when the agent realizes he didn't actually request it, throw it in the can.

I know agents keep a list of what they requested from who and when.

CampCreek
12-22-2005, 01:11 AM
Well, some of your points need a bit of fine tuning. Of course they do. I'm still learning after all. Still, not bad for a newbie, huh?http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/redface.gifhttp://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif


If a writer submits to an agent listed in a magazine ad, that writer has already made a big mistake. I don't know of any legitimate agents who advertize in magazines. And that writer will learn soon enough to do more research before querying agents. Tough for them. They should have put more effort into it.

But that does show my ignorance ~ I was under the impression that Writer's Market, Publisher's Weekly, etc., were in magazine format and listed reputable agents in areas other than advertisements? No? I've never seen a copy of either one, so I honestly don't know.


If the writer doesn't put a return address on the manuscript, then it should be returned since there's no way short of requiring a submission number in the mail-to address to know whether it was requested or not without opening the package. I agree with Christine on this one. To make sure the author knows to do that, the agent can tell them when they request it.

Also, in today's 'terrorist times', most post offices that I know require a sender to put a return address on any piece of mail, most especially on something larger than a letter. That certainly won't catch all of them, but should cut the number way down.


As to getting phone calls from jerks, well, don't give out the number. I agree. Very good idea.

Christine N.
12-22-2005, 02:20 AM
Writer's Market is a book, put out annually, and usually contains everything you want to know about the agent (but check their website to make sure their guidelines haven't changed) and Publisher's Weekly is pretty much cost prohibitive for most writers - I think the current subscription rate is in the two hundreds?

Don't submit to anyone who advertises on Google or in Writer's Digest. Ever. Legit agents don't usually advertise - they have more subs than they can handle.

CampCreek
12-22-2005, 03:03 AM
Aha! Thanks for the info, Christine. I really had no idea what either of them even looked like.

I do know what you mean about Publisher's Weekly being expensive. I looked into subscribing http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/emoticonsscared.gif and quickly made up my mind to see if it's in my library should I need it. And thank you for the tips on not submitting to any agent that advertises like that. After reading what I have been this past couple months, I'd kinda' been thinking that would be a bad idea.

Once I have my query and synopsis written and am ready to start submitting, I thought I'd compile a list from both of those publications (from their listings, not their ads), then get online to check them out. I'd visit here first and search for info on them, then google for more, to cut out the less reputable ones. Finally, I'd look at their websites to make sure they would be still accepting queries at that time, are still interested in my genre, etc. Does this sound like the correct way to handle this?

ETA ~ I apologize for the lack of clarity in some of my statements. I'm getting sick, and the cold medicine is not only muddying up my mind, but also making it hard for my brain to send the right words to my fingers. ;) *sigh*

Christine N.
12-22-2005, 03:31 AM
If I need to check the WM, I usually go with some change in my pocket (or a notebook) to the libraray and borrow their copy. Write down agents/pubs that look like a good fit and check out their sites.

Usually the year before's WM is able to be checked out, and contains a lot of the same information.

CampCreek
12-22-2005, 03:54 AM
Great! That backs up what I've been reading.

Thank you again for the help, Christine!

DaveKuzminski
12-22-2005, 05:09 AM
Josephine, go to URL http://anotherealm.com/prededitors and view the Agents pages there. You'll find over 2000 agents listed, some with extensive information. More importantly, you'll find recommendations on who to avoid and who is legit. Then check the links, if present, to find out what they represent for those with bare bones descriptions.

Agents are often listed as being at a particular agency and the addresses, when known, are posted with the agency. Means changing a lot fewer entries when an agency moves. The $ means they've sold manuscripts to legitimate publishers. Agents are also listed by first name because they're mixed in with businesses which don't have last names.

When you find an agent or agency you like, double check it with one of the other sites. We don't always agree, but you'll then know whether we all agree on whether an agent should be avoided or not.

victoriastrauss
12-22-2005, 05:33 AM
And don't assume that because you found an agent's name in a book like Writers Market, that the agent is reputable. Most market guides list a few questionable agents. You should do some extra research on anyone you pick from one of these books.

- Victoria

CampCreek
12-22-2005, 07:07 AM
Oh, yeah, Dave ~ I've got your site bookmarked for sure! I saw it for the first time on the FMWriters group forums I think. I have it bookmarked and written down in my offline list of important sites (computer crashed a long time ago and I'm nervous about losing everything like that now). Thank you for the extra information about it and how to "get around" in there. I'm not even close to being ready for submission, so I haven't delved deep into your list yet. You can bet I will, though. I'm grateful to you for taking the time and effort to keep a site like that for us all.


Thank you, too, Victoria! :) I definitely know to check them out more than just trusting one source (I think that goes for most everything really.). Like I said before, my plan is to just use WM and the like as starting points, then go on to check each name here and online elsewhere, including via Google searches. It's amazing how much information you can find on a business by doing that and reading all the different posts on message boards.

Andrew Zack
12-22-2005, 08:15 PM
Greetings from San Diego, where I'm trying to overcome the time difference as quickly as possible so that I don't keep passing out at 9 pm. ;)

In reading these posts, I can't help but notice the number of times authors say "it only takes a few minutes to...". I wish I could add up all those "few minutes." They'd probably represent several weeks of the year.

As for the suggestions that are recommended, using myself as an example:

I have strict submission guidelines posted on my website.
I search the internet two to three times a year and contact those sites listing my name and address and ask them to remove the mailing address and just list a link to my site and submission guidelines.
I have taken my phone number off my site.
In every place that I can, such as in the LITERARY MARKETPLACE and Jeff Herman's book, I say "Please visit my website for complete submission guidelines."
I insist on a query only; no sample chapters unless requested.
And yet, I still get plenty of unsolicited sample chapters or manuscripts. Do I have a system for checking what I've requested and have not? Yes. But how much time do I waste checking, then printing out the letter that says "This material was not requested. Please visit my website for our query guidelines"? And I do still get phone calls following up. And even though I post on my site that authors should not follow up, they still do, sometimes with quite an attitude.

Now, I don't want to sound like a Scrooge, but the reality is that many authors don't read, don't listen, or don't care. And they are making it harder for those that do to get their material read, I think.

Additionally, I was surprised to see a comment above regarding reading fees being imposed to "keep agents afloat." This discussion was about whether or not such fees would improve turnaround times, reduce author grumbling about the long waits, and generally result in an improved process. Maybe the AAR should allow reading fees, provided that the income from such reading fees is used solely to speed the process of reading and responding to agents and that no SASE is required if an agent requires a reading fee and provided that agents agree to provide project-specific responses to each submission. Perhaps that would alleviate some of the concerns regarding agencies becoming paper mills that simply take in submissions with fees and churn out rejections.

The post talking about smaller publishers who don't charge fees getting all the good books and then larger publishers getting rid of fees seemed a bit bass-akwards to me. I think what's more likely to happen is that smaller publishers might not charge a fee, find some good books, become bigger pubishers, find themselves overwhelmed by submissions, then start charging a fee.

As for certification, this might be a more interesting thread and perhaps someone should start it. Should agents be certified? What would such a certification involve? What are the qualifications for being an agent?

As for the "fee" line of discussion, I agree with the writer who says this might be played out.

Best,
Andy

popmuze
12-22-2005, 08:21 PM
Andy,

Happy vacation. But since you're on line for the moment, I wonder if you'd be able to check out my recent post in the Bewares section called Is This How It's Done These Days. It's about an agent recommending that I use the services of an editor and then just happening to have the name of a good one on hand.

Christine N.
12-22-2005, 08:24 PM
See, Andy, you are much more generous than I would be. Unsolicted paper would go back, unread, without a letter, or just into the round can, unopened. "It only takes a few minutes" to read the freakin' guidelines!

Nothing irritates me more than authors who think the rules don't apply to them. They only don't apply when the agent/editor says they don't. We send out seven or eight queries or packages at at time - easy to track with a spreadsheet, or even simple pad and paper. Agents recieve hundreds.

I guess I'm in the minority. Writers need to accept responsiblity, and accept that this is a slow business, from one end to the other. Impatience is one of the reasons PA keeps sucking people in.

LloydBrown
12-22-2005, 08:40 PM
In reading these posts, I can't help but notice the number of times authors say "it only takes a few minutes to...". I wish I could add up all those "few minutes." They'd probably represent several weeks of the year.

I know exactly what you mean. When I was a retailer, every manufacturer wanted me to "just do this" for them or their products, applying the same reasoning. If I had done all they asked, I'd still be doing it, and I sold the store a year ago.

Richard
12-22-2005, 08:51 PM
Additionally, I was surprised to see a comment above regarding reading fees being imposed to "keep agents afloat." This discussion was about whether or not such fees would improve turnaround times, reduce author grumbling about the long waits, and generally result in an improved process.

Yes, but that was a response to:


By the way, the argument that writers are poor and therefore should be the last ones to pay doesn't quite fly for me. If I want to paint, but can't afford paint, should I not have to pay? If I want to be a carpenter, but can't afford a hammer, should the builder pay for my tools?

...which is firmly about money.

CampCreek
12-22-2005, 11:22 PM
Greetings from San Diego, where I'm trying to overcome the time difference as quickly as possible so that I don't keep passing out at 9 pm. ;) Good luck! Sincerely! I know what it is to have to deal with a screwed up sleep schedule. It's not fun.


In reading these posts, I can't help but notice the number of times authors say "it only takes a few minutes to...". I wish I could add up all those "few minutes." They'd probably represent several weeks of the year. I think that's from not knowing how it is for you. It's just like you not knowing how it is for writers. When you say, "It just takes a few bucks for a reading fee..." Same thing, different side.


As for the suggestions that are recommended, using myself as an example: ... And yet, I still get plenty of unsolicited sample chapters or manuscripts. Do I have a system for checking what I've requested and have not? Yes. But how much time do I waste checking, then printing out the letter that says "This material was not requested. Please visit my website for our query guidelines"? Again, require all writers to write "Requested Material" on the outside of their package. Remind them when you request it. Print up a bunch of letters ahead of time that say that so all you have to do is put it in the SASE and drop it in the mail. Don't worry about someone getting mad about that. They can get glad in the same britches they got mad in, now can't they?


And I do still get phone calls following up. And even though I post on my site that authors should not follow up, they still do, sometimes with quite an attitude. Then cross them off your list. Or rather, add them to a list of writers never to work with. Again, they just helped you avoid a sticky working situation by showing their true colors well ahead of time. Saved you the trouble of working with a prima donna, huh? Better now than in the middle of contract negotiations with a publisher imho.


It's admirable that you want to try to work with people like this and atleast be polite back, but really, Andy, life's too short. Cut out most of your politeness but leave in all of the civility, and go on from there. Out of all those submissions you get, there's bound to be plenty who can write and are polite and patient. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. Pick the good ones and throw the rest back. Taking a few knocks like that just might make the rude ones wise up and start being more polite to their next agent prospect. If not, then again, they can just go unagented. Period.



Now, I don't want to sound like a Scrooge, but the reality is that many authors don't read, don't listen, or don't care. And they are making it harder for those that do to get their material read, I think. I think so, too. I think you hit the nail right on the head there.


Please don't make it still harder on those of us who do read, do listen and do care. Please. Why should those of us who can do those things be punished for the ones that can't? Punish the ones that can't read, don't listen and don't care by spending less time and effort on responding to them. Spend that time and effort on those of us who are polite and patient. Please.


This discussion was about whether or not such fees would improve turnaround times, reduce author grumbling about the long waits, and generally result in an improved process. ... Perhaps that would alleviate some of the concerns regarding agencies becoming paper mills that simply take in submissions with fees and churn out rejections. I don't agree with this. The main reason I don't is because you are an agent, not an editor or critiquer (sp?) or reviewer. It's not your job to give every writer feedback. If you quit trying to do this and/or quit being worried about it, then maybe the turnaround time "problem" would be solved. If it's not, then writers just need to be more patient. Period.

Don't worry about the ones that are rude and impatient. If they're serious about writing, they'll eventually figure it out either on their own or when they find their way to an online writer's group like this one, where the seasoned vets will tell them to lose the 'tude.

Again, it's admirable that you are concerned about this, but you surely don't need to be, atleast not to this magnitude. People will complain. That's life. Even if you miraculously found some way to give instant response with a line by line critique, people will still complain. That's a fact. You'll never be able to change that, so if I were you I'd simply change my way of thinking about it, resolving to do the best I can and not worry about it so much. Again, it's awful nice to hear that agents are concerned about writers' feelings, but many of us don't really need that much coddling.



The post talking about smaller publishers who don't charge fees getting all the good books and then larger publishers getting rid of fees seemed a bit bass-akwards to me. I think what's more likely to happen is that smaller publishers might not charge a fee, find some good books, become bigger pubishers, find themselves overwhelmed by submissions, then start charging a fee. No, publishers don't charge a fee in that scenario. Agents do. Also, I didn't say smaller publishers who don't charge fees would get all the good books. I said that smaller publishers who don't require agented submissions will get the lion's share of the good books. Then larger publishers would probably take note and start accepting unagented submissioins.

Furthermore, I don't think that smaller publishers who found themselves in "the big time" would change anything and start requiring agented submissions. I'd like to think most of them atleast would be smarter than that and realize that would be shooting themselves in the foot. Just because some writers have the ability to pay doesn't mean they're any better at writing.


As for certification, this might be a more interesting thread and perhaps someone should start it. Should agents be certified? What would such a certification involve? What are the qualifications for being an agent? I don't think certifying agents would be any better than the system we have now. All that would do is make things more expensive for all involved and probably screw everything up as usually happens when you get the government involved.


Like Christine, I think it'd just be better for writers to educate themselves, be more patient and learn a little politeness. Period. I definitely agree with absolutely everyting she said. "It only takes a few minutes to read the freakin' guidelines" and "Writers need to accept responsiblity, and accept that this is a slow business, from one end to the other." PERFECT! :Clap:

SRHowen
12-23-2005, 04:34 AM
I've also never understood the writers who send the sample chapters without the agent requesting them.

I know the idea, oh oh if they read my sample chapters they will want to read the rest---writers need to understand that an agent really doesn't want to work with someone who can't follow the rules to start with.

Cost wise--much cheaper to send only the query--

Shawn (who when searching for an agent listed them by not needing sample chapters first--well, after the other or with the other list of wants or don't wants I had)

waylander
12-23-2005, 02:04 PM
There are sites out there that suggest that it is a good idea to enclose the first 5 pages with a query. Agentqery.com say this and, I believe, Miss Snark endorses this

CampCreek
12-23-2005, 02:22 PM
Really, Waylander? I was under the impression that in the absence of any specific guideline instructions it was better to simply put in a query letter and a one page synopsis. Is this not correct? Anybody want to chime in?

waylander
12-23-2005, 03:19 PM
I have done this recently and it resulted in a full manuscript request.

I may be mistaken about it being Agentquery's advice. I just looked at the advice on the site and couldn't find it. It may have been in a previous version.

I would rather put in a sample of the writing than a one page synopsis (and not just because my synopsis is 3 pages) as very few people produce a good synopsis, but you can often tell a lot about the quality of their writing from just a few pages.

Christine N.
12-23-2005, 04:23 PM
Some agencies don't have specific guidelines. Most say "query ONLY" or "we prefer query and synopsis ONLY" (which means only send those!)

Don't care who endorses what, do what the damn guidlines say!

Yes, and putting in pages may give a sample of the writing style, but synopsis tells whether or not your story falls apart in the middle or at the end. Also important.

Andrew Zack
12-23-2005, 09:38 PM
I'd like to chime in on the "what do agents want" question and offer this: Ignore the LITERARY MARKETPLACE. For some reason, many librarians seem to send authors to the LMP as a resource. However, the LMP allows little room for the listing and edits it. Further, the LMP is a trade resource, not a resource for authors, unless of course the author wants to self-publish and needs to find a printer. Seriously. I'm not even sure why agents are in there, other than because it beefs up the number of pages. I last ordered the LMP in 2003 and just chucked it when I realized I haven't looked at in two years.

I also do not recommend any of the Writer's Digest resources. I found myself listed in one of their books and didn't understand how that happened. I knew I hadn't listed myself. I found they had gone to my website and copied information. However, they copied it, then edited it down. Thus it was incomplete. I wrote them a letter and insisted they remove me from future editions, which they did.

I have found many a site that reproduces the membership lists of the AAR. Why, I'm not sure. The AAR website is quite available. It is also somewhat plastic, with new agents joining and some agents quitting each year, so the AAR's site is its own best resource, not one that reproduces it.

Then there are those sites the reproduce the information they received when they contacted agencies, often for the purpose of embarrassing (IMHO) the agent. I suppose there's a benefit for a potential author to seeing how a busy agent might be tripped up, but I prefer not to reward such behavior and do not frequent such sites.

You should check the individual sites of the agents involved. If you cannot find such a site, then check out Jeff Herman's book. Of all of the resources I've seen, that seems the best to me because the agents themselves write the entries and I'm not aware of any editing that goes on. Of course, this means the entries are tremendously subjective, but they do have the advantage of allowing the agent to be very, very specific about what they want.

On the comment above regarding sending a query and synopsis, I want to say that the query should include the synopsis. If you haven't read my article/chapter on the perfect pitch on my website, you should. The link is http://www.zackcompany.com/submissions/perfectpitch.pdf, and since this is a PDF, you will need Adobe Reader to view it. You can download version 7 of Adobe Reader for free from here: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html. This article also appeared as a chapter in a book called MAKING THE PERFECT PITCH, by Katherine Sands, wherein you can read many an agent's thoughts on writing the perfect query.

Best wishes,
Andy

SpookyWriter
12-24-2005, 12:29 AM
Andy,

I have a question for you. Aren't you supposed to be on vacation? Uhm, me thinks you like this agenting stuff so much that even a vacation can't keep you from checking in once in a while.

I (personally) think that showing up (here) while on vacation is an admirable quality and any writer would be lucky to find an agent who is so passionate about their trade.

Now go outside and play!

Happy Holidays,

Jon

CampCreek
12-24-2005, 02:04 AM
I have done this recently and it resulted in a full manuscript request. That's all well and good, Waylander, but from what I've read, that course of action misses way more than it hits. Isn't that kind of like PublishAmerica saying that one of their authors got a movie deal ~ one out of what, sixteen thousand? Sure, it's possible, but is it really probable?


I would rather put in a sample of the writing than a one page synopsis (and not just because my synopsis is 3 pages) as very few people produce a good synopsis, but you can often tell a lot about the quality of their writing from just a few pages. Sorry again, but I just can't agree with this. If your synopsis is three pages and they want one, then cut it down to one. I may be a newbie, but common sense tells me that if you think you can't, think again ~ it just takes learning, something I'm working on now, well before I need that skill. Again, common sense tells me I'm right, but I'm not perfect and surely will apologize if I'm wrong.

No offense, Waylander. Honestly and sincerely I mean no offense, but I think you might be the kind of writer that gives agents like Andy fits, which in turn makes it hard on all the rest of us. It sounds like you are saying that a publication or single agent knows better what an agent wants than the agent himself. That doesn't compute.

Like Christine said, "Don't care who endorses what, do what the damn guidlines say!" Couldn't have said it any better myself. That's the agent himself telling you exactly what they want. I don't think they care what others want, and I'd bet the ranch they don't much care what others think the agent wants. They just want it done their way. Period. Full stop. Is that so bad? I don't think so. Even though it might seem silly to you or me, that's irrelevant. There's probably a good reason for it, so just do it. IMHO, the only time there should be any wiggle room on that is when the guidelines don't specify. In that case, it'd be kind of silly to send a query to ask how they want you to send a query. But if guidelines are there, they're there for a reason.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yeah, Andy! What Spookywriter said! :D Is your jetlag any better yet?

Thanks for the link, Andy. I did get some good tips from it. :D But I do have a question (that can wait 'til after Christmas atleast! :tongue ). Above, you said...
...I want to say that the query should include the synopsis. Do you mean that the synopsis and query letter should be one document? IE write the synopsis into the query letter itself? That's the way I read that anyway. That confuses me because at your link, you talk about query letters and say...
It gives me a short and concise description of the book that doesn't give the entire story away, but intrigues me. But a synopsis does give the story away. It ensures the agent/publisher that the story has a beginning, middle and end and, like Christine said, that the story doesn't fall apart along the way.

It does sound like what I've learned so far that a query letter should be is exactly what you're saying at your link. But what you say a query letter should be doesn't include a synopsis.

waylander
12-24-2005, 03:53 PM
No offense, Waylander. Honestly and sincerely I mean no offense, but I think you might be the kind of writer that gives agents like Andy fits, which in turn makes it hard on all the rest of us. It sounds like you are saying that a publication or single agent knows better what an agent wants than the agent himself. That doesn't compute.




Perhaps it would be appropriate for me to go into a little more detail about my decision process on agent queries, then you may decide whether or not I'm one of those writers that give agents fits.
I start by consulting online market guides such as Agent query.com to see if the agent handles my genre, and also searching sites such as this to see what else is known about them.
If the agency has a website then I automatically consult that to see if the online guide has it correct, and what their submission criteria are.
Some agents, Mr Zack being a fine example, have well put-together and informative websites that lay out precisely what he wants to receive. In such cases I send them exactly what they specify.
Other agencies' sites are less informative. Some have merely a statement of 'send a query to the following address' . Some agencies do not have websites and there may be contradictory statements about what to send them. These are the occasions when I will send a query letter (which contains a one paragraph synopsis of the story) with the first 5 pages.
How does this sound Ms Colter?
Still think I'm making it hard for other writers?

Christine N.
12-24-2005, 04:07 PM
Well, yes, that's what I said, Waylander. Some are specific, some are not. But, that's not what YOU said originally. You said that some place or other endorsed sending pages with query. Which is crap. If they don't ask for pages, don't send them. If they say, 'send a query to this address', you send a query - only. I don't think you can ever go wrong with just sending a query, even if you find contradictory information.

Of course, I understand that part of a query is telling what your story is about - or else why bother? Exactly what Andy said - enough to give the agent a taste (and let them know that it's actually something they rep). A full synopsis should give the whole story. Pages are pages.

You just didn't make it clear with your other post. You made it sound like you bucked the agent's guidelines because Agentquery said to. Which is what I was responding to.

Sonarbabe
12-24-2005, 07:05 PM
Personally, for me, I always just send a query letter. I've seen a couple agent sites that state to send the first three chapters along with the query, but I have this nagging fear about that not being a good idea. Normally, the first 3 chapters in any of my manuscripts equates to about 35-40 pages. That's dangerously close to a partial submission, if you ask me. So, I send them out a query letter and hope for the best. Sometimes it ends with requests for partials (and in one lucky instance, a request for a full) and sometimes it ends with a big fat "sorry Charlie." Either way, I like to err on the side of caution.

My $.02 for anyone who might care to listen. ;)

CampCreek
12-24-2005, 08:42 PM
Yet again, I agree with Christine. I even went back and reread your comments and that's sure what it sounded like ~ that you were advocating sending pages no matter what the guidelines said.


You just didn't make it clear with your other post. You made it sound like you bucked the agent's guidelines because Agentquery said to. Which is what I was responding to. That's what I was responding to as well.

Andrew Zack
12-26-2005, 02:36 AM
Merry Xmas, all. And Happy Hanukkah to all those folks stuck on the East Coast.

In answer to the question, the query should include a brief synopsis as a part of the query letter. The query is supposed to "hook" an agent. But when they ask for a chapter and synopsis, that synopsis should be the full story.

Best,
Andy

Christine N.
12-26-2005, 07:40 PM
And what you do, 'Babe, is not going to cause you any problems either. I think agents only really get mad when people send stuff not asked for, not when they send less.

Like I said, I don't think you can go wrong with sending just a query. But then, I'm not an agent, so maybe Andy can weigh in on this.

HConn
12-26-2005, 08:12 PM
First of all, happy holidays to everyone reading this, and to all your friends and families.

So.


Additionally, I was surprised to see a comment above regarding reading fees being imposed to "keep agents afloat." This discussion was about whether or not such fees would improve turnaround times, reduce author grumbling about the long waits, and generally result in an improved process.

It's the undercurrent to this entire discussion. Should agents pay their bills with money they earn from people they don't represent? It seems to me that reading fees would be a cash cow, especially for an agent that is only moderately successful.


Maybe the AAR should allow reading fees, provided that the income from such reading fees is used solely to speed the process of reading and responding to agents and that no SASE is required if an agent requires a reading fee and provided that agents agree to provide project-specific responses to each submission. Perhaps that would alleviate some of the concerns regarding agencies becoming paper mills that simply take in submissions with fees and churn out rejections.

How is the AAR going to check this? Are agents supposed to keep a separate set of books? If the AAR does allow this change, how do we know you won't be back in a year playing devil's advocate for the position that those reading fee rules are too burdensome and ought to be thrown away?

Frankly, I don't see any reason to believe you're arguing in favor of these to create a "generally improved process." For instance: (http://zackcompany.blogspot.com/2005/12/it-may-be-time-for-serious-reality.html)


(best read out loud in a very self-righteous tone) ďWe, the authors of the world, believe that agents and publishers should do business the way we say they should, dammit, and if you donít, we will label you a bad agent, or worse a scammer, or a bad publisher, and we will rise up and scream (or more likely post or blog) in our many voices until you do business the way we want you to do business.Ē

ZZZZzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, I dozed off while the authors were ranting.

This, folks, reminds me of my female friends who like to rant and rave about what jerks men are and why donít men treat women the way women want to be treated. Well, some men will, but thatís mostly to get la--, I mean lucky, but at the end of the day, it seems most women still feel like theyíve just been screwed.

Of course, then thereís the men, complaining that women are such pains in the *** and that their expectations are so high and how the hell did their expectations get so high and, what, do they think all men are made out of money?

So, why should we ignore the question of using reading fees to keep an agent afloat? Maybe everything you've been saying here is just what you need to say to get laid.

Here, you act as though you're having a reasoned, academic discussion about some policy change that the AAR might want to consider someday. On your own space, you doze off while the authors are ranting. Here, you say that others have raised interesting points. There, you say authors are screaming to force you to do business that way they want you to do business.

Pardon me if I find your tone here disingenuous, considering.

And to address your comment upthread, here at casa del HConn all our income is on commission. As lifestyles go, it's not for everyone.

Dhewco
12-27-2005, 01:15 AM
Miss Snark, who has been tauted in the other boards, says to send 2-5 pages with the query and/or synop...whether or not they ask for it. So yes, there are sites that do advise the practice.


David

Christine N.
12-27-2005, 02:52 AM
And while I usually do follow Miss Snark's advice, I take the word of other agents and published authors when it comes to this. People write their guidelines for a reason. If you don't follow them, the first thing that agent is going to know about you is that you can't or won't follow directions.

Unless, of course, there are no guidelines, or they are ambiguous. But they should be listed somewhere.

Liam Jackson
12-27-2005, 12:11 PM
Vacation. Right. I've heard of those.

Seasons Greetings to you and yours, Andy.

A quick follow-on to the "read the guidelines" discussion. My agent employs others. Each of them have their own list of clients, and each client has a list of concurrent projects, many of which are are already making money for both parties.

The last thing one of those agents need is another "Guidelines-immune fopdoodle demanding to be discovered." It's kind of funny when you talk to a group of aspiring writers and they tell all these stories of how they managed to circumvent the dread submission process. It's also interesting to note that among all these folk whom I've encountered, none have actually landed a contract. Not to say it hasn't happened, or won't at some future time. It IS to say such tactics actually narrow the windows of opportunity , rather than expand them.

How many times have we read comments from editors, publishers, and agents that begin, "You won't believe how difficult it is to find a writer who will take the time to adhere to the sub guidelines." Something tells me if the process wasn't that important, so many in the biz wouldn't be bemoaning the issue.

Why start out with a strike against you when by simply following the guidelines, you've enhanced your chances?

Now, on to the discussion of reading fees.
In a society built and maintained around the $, I suppose it's a natural inclination of some agents to require a reading fee or at least consider doing so. They have that right.

I, on the other hand, also have the right to avoid them like the plague. I don't mind paying for a "service." (We may loosely define service as "an act of some monetary value to me, the consumer.) Reading my manuscript is not a service. It's an invitation to do fair and equitable business.

A reading fee is akin to my plumber charging me for considering to re-pipe my kitchen. He will have some time invested in looking at the job, estimating time and materials, but that act of analysis is of no direct benefit to me, thus, I'm not paying him a dime. I will, however, pay him once he accepts me as a client, and completes his obligation.

SRHowen
12-27-2005, 08:05 PM
A reading fee is akin to my plumber charging me for considering to re-pipe my kitchen. He will have some time invested in looking at the job, estimating time and materials, but that act of analysis is of no direct benefit to me, thus, I'm not paying him a dime. I will, however, pay him once he accepts me as a client, and completes his obligation.

Ahhh, but there are many places that do charge to look at a job. Many car body shops charge a fee just look at your car and tell you how much it will cost to repair that fender bender. I checked with several electricians around here to see if I could find one to come out and tell me how much a yard light and an additional outdoor breaker box would cost to put in--all of them wanted a fee to just drive out and look at the job.

I can see both sides of the debate (And just a reminder, Andy is not arguing for himself but simply playing devil's advocate on the fee side) and I can see abuse on both sides of it.

The solutions I think are to do your research, that will cut down on the number of "wrong" subs and agent recieves. Get over the idea that you are so great a writer that you don't need to follow the rules---

Shawn

Liam Jackson
12-27-2005, 08:31 PM
Again, there is no value to the customer for merely providing me with an "estimate." Nor am I trying to establish a working partnership with the body shop, or my plumber. If the time used to conduct the estimate (read) is truly that significant, I'd expect the agent to factor that into the commission rate. In fact, I suspect most already do.

(I'd find another auto body shop. :))

DaveKuzminski
12-27-2005, 08:31 PM
The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether I would be receptive to the idea of a fee if it was capped at a very small amount such as five or ten dollars. Then it would take a hell of a lot of subs for a scammer to make a living off the fees alone. The question is whether that would be sufficient for real agents?

Liam Jackson
12-27-2005, 08:37 PM
Color me cynical, but paying a person to "consider" working with (and for) me just doesn't seem logical. Especially when there are many, many capable potential partners out there charging nothing.

Cathy C
12-27-2005, 08:54 PM
I'm cynical too, but from the other side, I suppose. Why should an agent be expected to constantly work for free on the slim chance that they will find one or two (out of the many thousands) that they CAN work for? A plumber or body shop could spend all their time doing free estimates, all of which take time away from EARNING money. This is what's happening with agents, and the reason for the long wait times. Few people expect a consultation with an attorney for free. There are some who do so, but less than half, I'd wager.

Perhaps, as Dave says, a $5 or $10 fee that could somehow benefit the author, might be better. Another thread was started elsewhere about "how can I get an agent to tell me I suck?" If an agent could tell the author what they actually think (in non-snarky terms) about the book for the fee:

"The plot really drags in the middle."
"I didn't find the characters believable. A scuba instructor in the desert just didn't ring true."
"Blending first person POV with third just didn't work."
"You need to concentrate harder on your grammar and composition."

Yes, it's just opinion on the part of the agent, and maybe the next agent would love it, but even little scraps of assistance is better than nothing. If the author got the same scrap over and over, maybe errors that could be fixed would sink in.

Just a random thought... :Shrug:

Liam Jackson
12-27-2005, 09:05 PM
Again, why should I pay anything for a 50% chance of a one liner rejection when there are plenty of competent professionals out there that charge no fee? If the reading time is really that significant, they can build the charge into the commission once we have formed a partnership.

Simply looking at my work in order to decide if a working relationship is possible doesn't merit a "fee."

We'll have to agree to disagree on this issue. :)

(And I think you'd lose that bet regarding the lawyers. I know dozens of defense attorneys and most, if not all, take no payment until after they know the specifics of the case and agree to take it.)

HConn
12-27-2005, 11:18 PM
... capped at a very small amount such as five or ten dollars. Then it would take a hell of a lot of subs for a scammer to make a living off the fees alone.

You're kidding, right?


I'm cynical too, but from the other side, I suppose. Why should an agent be expected to constantly work for free on the slim chance that they will find one or two (out of the many thousands) that they CAN work for?

Everyone who owns their own company or works on commission does things that don't immediately pay off in order to bring in more business. If an agent's list is full, they won't have time for more clients or to consider submissions. If an agent's list is not full, they should obviously (and quite sensibly) spend all the time necessary on their current clients and use their leftover time to look for more opportunities to make money. If the agent simply can't make enough money with their business as it is, they need to be in a new business.

Yeah, some people suck. They behave badly. That's life. It's pretty much the Endless September (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September) in publishing. Charging a fee isn't going to change that.

DaveKuzminski
12-28-2005, 12:06 AM
You're kidding, right?


You need to consider the entire comment I made in context.

Christine N.
12-28-2005, 03:16 AM
Every business owner has some sort of initial outlay before their business gets on a paying basis - it may be tools, or space, or supplies, or all of the above. In the agent's case, it's mostly time.. time to find clients. (and space and all that)

Time and money are converse... you either have one or the other. (Think about it) To think you can have both is foolish. There are exceptions, of course, but most of us aren't the exception.

HConn
12-28-2005, 09:59 AM
Every business owner has some sort of initial outlay before their business gets on a paying basis - it may be tools, or space, or supplies, or all of the above. In the agent's case, it's mostly time.. time to find clients. (and space and all that)

Time and money are converse... you either have one or the other. (Think about it) To think you can have both is foolish. There are exceptions, of course, but most of us aren't the exception.

So, you're agreeing with me then?

Just to continue muddying the water, some businesses take a *very* long time to set up. Some businesses need to be constantly on the hunt for new clients. An excellent reputation can make the search for new clients amazingly easy, but it's not just an "initial" outlay.

Liam Jackson
12-28-2005, 11:29 AM
To charge a fee for nothing in return and still expect a cash flow is foolish. A couple of people have likened this reading-fee thing to a crafter charging to provide an "estimate." There are major differences. First of all, a class-act crafter or mechanic has no need to charge a fee before a service is provided. However, I understand there are exceptions to every rule. So let's examine an "estimate."

An estimate includes an assessment of the problem, an educated guess regarding time and materials, an agreement to perform a specific job, and usually, a qualified guarantee of the result. A reading fee does none of the above for the consumer. Some might argue that a fee guarantees your work is read and not simply rubber-stamped and returned. Sounds like a deal. Except that new writers are read everyday by legitimate agents....without benefit of a reading fee. And sadly, said fees won't/can't guarantee the agent will actually read anything except the routing numbers on your check. Again, this is an inequitable situation for the writer. In fact, it primes the pump for Scams-R-Us.

Now, let's say an agent agrees to provide certain services (other than a read)for this fee. Even a half page letter stating what is both right and wrong with the piece can be deemed a service of value and may merit a modest fee. If the agent actually bothered to read the piece, then an additonal 20 minutes to frame a general critique letter shouldn't be too much of an additional burden.

Folks, if it seems I'm beating a dead horse, I suppose it's because there are too many "something for nothing" enterprises in this world already. Most agents aren't overloaded with clients. They need writers and writers need agents. If the read consumes materials, then its fair the agent be reimbursed. If, however, the agent is charging for "time", there's a problem. I'm contracting for a service. The time in which that service is provided is the problem of the service provider. My obligation on the front end is to supply the agent with decent material to work with, and additional support after a sale. What any writer doesn't need is an upfront cash outlay for the promise of a read.

As for start-up expenses, any business plan worth its weight in household dust will include provisions for 6-12 months sustainment capital. Anyone attempting to start a new business in which he must rely on initial monies from the very people he's supposed to represent on a commission basis is already in trouble.

Christine N.
12-28-2005, 09:13 PM
No Hconn, in the case of agents (and lawyers, who usually need new clients once they move cases off their desks, and real estate agents, who need new houses to sell once they've sold the ones they have), it's mostly time they devote to keeping their business moving.

If you were running critique service (on the up an up, mind you) then ok. But then the agent would be taking time away from finding clients. Finding clients. That's part of his job.

It still comes down to... if people who write badly want to submit, they will find a way to do so. Money will not be a deterrent to most of these people. But it may be to a person who actually can write, but can't afford a reading fee.

I stick with my orignal solution. Writers, grow up. Yes, we moan about wait times, but it's only because we're emotionally invested on some level (even if we say we're not), and we're only concerned about OUR submission - we forget all the others you have to look at. Some of us ignore the guidelines, making more work for the agent.

Read the freaking guidelines, then go write another book instead of filling the agent's inbox with status requests or hovering over the mailbox like a vulture. Or, what I do sometimes, is start researching other agents, so as soon as that rejection comes in, I have another place to send it out the same day. Makes the rejection sting less, I promise.

It should all rest with the writers. It's hard, but you can do it.