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vigeo
06-13-2013, 07:34 PM
When agents say they are looking for new
authors does that mean they will consider anyone dedicated to writing who has written a good story or are they only looking for college grads with English or lit majors?

Bufty
06-13-2013, 07:39 PM
If the story is a good one and it's well written or shows promise I don't think educational qualifications or background enter into it insofar as making any accept/reject decision is concerned.

You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell.

quicklime
06-13-2013, 07:49 PM
When agents say they are looking for new
authors does that mean they will consider anyone dedicated to writing who has written a good story or are they only looking for college grads with English or lit majors?


I'd guess less than half of commercially published writers have either degree. I have a PhD in biology and one single english class in all of college. I believe SP never entered college at all, and she's no longer here (sad) but she is doing just fine.

Old Hack
06-13-2013, 08:13 PM
You really don't need any creative writing education to be able to write well. Agents want to see strong writing, wherever it comes from.

CAWriter
06-13-2013, 08:21 PM
I agree that the majority of published books are not written by English or lit majors. I know a number of well-published authors who don't have any college degrees at all.

I took the minimum required English/Lit classes in college. As much as I've always loved reading, I hated the process of dissecting pieces and re-interpreting them as though we could read the author's mind. I seldom saw the work the same way the professor did and the whole approach kind of ruined it for me.

I don't know that any of my former teachers or professors have published books, but I do. Agents look for projects they can sell. An author's degree status and area of study is incidental to the story and their ability to tell it.

zegota
06-13-2013, 08:36 PM
I'll echo the rest of the comments and say that in no way is any formal education required to write an enjoyable and salable book.

However, I'll also put in that, in my personal experience, I got a lot out of my university creative writing minor (almost double major ... one more damn class. Argh). It taught me a lot about storytelling, story construction and forced to actually, y'know, finish things. My professors were great, and all of them were published (one of them was actually pretty notable). And I went to a state school, so we're not talking Ivy League here.

Just my two cents. You shouldn't ever feel like you have to get a creative writing degree, but that education certainly isn't useless.

Jamesaritchie
06-13-2013, 10:50 PM
For most agents, it means they're looking for a novel they can place with a good publisher, regardless of who wrote it. I have known a couple fo agents who only represent literary fiction, and an MFA, or the equivalent, was a big selling point for both, but most often, no college degree required. A good, marketable novel, however, is required.

I do think it's a good bit easier to write such a novel if you have a college degree, but it certainly isn't a requirement, and a pretty fair number of writers get along without a degree.

Though I'd be willing to bet nearly all of them have read and studied as much as anyone who does have a degree.

vigeo
06-14-2013, 08:24 PM
"You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If that was my opinion I would be showing no confidence in myself. I enjoy writing and like my stories, whether they get published or not. I am trying to understand agents and find out if they have a bias against people like me, who did not go to college. If they do I don't want to waste my time sending queries and lie to myself that I might get an agent.

Terie
06-14-2013, 08:29 PM
Most agents couldn't care less what academic qualifications a writer has. It isn't even usual to put academic qualifications in a query letter, so it would pretty much impossible for them to use that as a filter.

Agents are looking for one thing and one thing only: stories that they can sell.

mellymel
06-14-2013, 08:58 PM
"You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If that was my opinion I would be showing no confidence in myself. I enjoy writing and like my stories, whether they get published or not. I am trying to understand agents and find out if they have a bias against people like me, who did not go to college. If they do I don't want to waste my time sending queries and lie to myself that I might get an agent.

I don't think Bufty was wrong in assuming that was your "Opinion". You clearly asked a question that implied an assumption/misunderstanding that agents may not be interested in your work simply because you weren't an English or Lit major in college. And saying that you enjoy writing and like your stories whether they get published or not is sort of a contradiction to your concern about wasting your time sending queries for fear you may not get an agent if you are lying to yourself about what agents are looking for. Either you want to get published or not. Why would you care about getting an agent if you are not writing with the whole-hearted intention of wanting to be published?

But to answer the question about whether or not you need an English or Lit degree to get an agent...the answer is no.

juliesondra
06-15-2013, 01:01 AM
Someone I know who runs a magazine has said that nearly all of the submissions they get from people who MENTION their writing-related degree turn out to be horrid. Some of the stories they buy do turn out to be written by people who have such a degree, but oddly enough they did not mention it in the initial contact. Perhaps because they knew publishing industry professionals don't look at your bio and say yea or nay based on whether you've had formal writing education (or, in fact, formal education at all).

Axordil
06-15-2013, 09:05 PM
Unless I had an MFA from one of the top two or three programs in the country, and it was a literary project, I wouldn't even think of mentioning my education (which happens to include two English degrees) in a query. Or a submission packet. Or conversation with an agent or editor. The story works or it doesn't, regardless of degrees.

Perks
06-16-2013, 12:18 AM
When agents say they are looking for new
authors does that mean they will consider anyone dedicated to writing who has written a good story or are they only looking for college grads with English or lit majors?I don't know how they'd quantify how dedicated a writer may or may not be, but I can tell you that a degree or lack of of one won't keep you from getting an agent or a contract.

vigeo
06-16-2013, 08:22 PM
Mellymel:
I read Bufty's comment several times over and I am sure I have it right. "You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If the reply was "You are wrongly assuming LITERARY AGENTS THINK that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell," I would have gladly accepted it. Wanting to do something will not get it done if the doors are not open. Many agents ask for a bio and I was wondering if my lack of one eliminates my story before they get to the first chapter submission.

quicklime
06-16-2013, 08:39 PM
"You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If that was my opinion I would be showing no confidence in myself. I enjoy writing and like my stories, whether they get published or not. I am trying to understand agents and find out if they have a bias against people like me, who did not go to college. If they do I don't want to waste my time sending queries and lie to myself that I might get an agent.


ok, the short answer is "no."

OK? not trying to be a dick, but you can move on from that and stop worrying. Many writers, including "literary," have no degree. STORY sells, WRITING sells. An MFA, or BA, or whatever else, does not. Hopefully it gives you a few additional tools, but that's it. And maybe you never needed those tools.

Write. Learn to do it well, which can be done outside a university.

LJD
06-16-2013, 08:55 PM
I read Bufty's comment several times over and I am sure I have it right. "You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If the reply was "You are wrongly assuming LITERARY AGENTS THINK that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell," I would have gladly accepted it. Wanting to do something will not get it done if the doors are not open. Many agents ask for a bio and I was wondering if my lack of one eliminates my story before they get to the first chapter submission.

If this distinction were meaningful, then literary agents wouldn't be very good at their jobs, would they?

Literary agents make money selling their clients' books to publishers. If there are lots of people without English or creative writing degrees who write books that can sell, then literary agents would want to represent these writers, wouldn't they?

So if they won't consider queries from writers without said degrees in their bios, they'd be cutting themselves off from lots of potential sales, right?

And those sales are how they make money.

It doesn't make sense to assume that literary agents would be that out of touch. This is their JOB.

Cathy C
06-16-2013, 09:06 PM
"You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If that was my opinion I would be showing no confidence in myself. I enjoy writing and like my stories, whether they get published or not. I am trying to understand agents and find out if they have a bias against people like me, who did not go to college. If they do I don't want to waste my time sending queries and lie to myself that I might get an agent.

I didn't go to college. I never felt the need, even though I had scholarships. I have one of the top agents in the world and she doesn't care one whit about my schooling. She only cares that I write good books. :)

Yes, you can get an agent with just a good story.

tesla
06-16-2013, 10:17 PM
I didn't go to college. I never felt the need, even though I had scholarships. I have one of the top agents in the world and she doesn't care one whit about my schooling. She only cares that I write good books. :)

Yes, you can get an agent with just a good story.

I second Cat's comment. I wasn't able to graduate college (and didn't put bios in my queries because of this). My agent and my publisher (Hyperion) could care less that I'm a hick girl from the boonies.

kkbe
06-16-2013, 10:44 PM
I have degrees: a BFA and MA and guess what? They didn't teach me diddly about writing. And I'm pretty certain agents looking for new authors care diddly about degrees. They only want to know if you can write.

mellymel
06-17-2013, 04:51 AM
Mellymel:
I read Bufty's comment several times over and I am sure I have it right. "You are wrongly assuming that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell." If the reply was "You are wrongly assuming LITERARY AGENTS THINK that only college grads or lit majors can write stories that sell," I would have gladly accepted it. Wanting to do something will not get it done if the doors are not open. Many agents ask for a bio and I was wondering if my lack of one eliminates my story before they get to the first chapter submission.

:)

Um...okay. Best of luck to you.

Filigree
06-17-2013, 10:08 AM
(Scratches head.) The short answer, as many posters have pointed out is 'No, agents don't care.' Your lack of a literary bio is no stumbling block, and no reputable agent would toss out your query on that basis alone. You should only put things in your bio if they have direct merit to the mms you are querying about. Agents will use those items as secondary marketing points, but the story has to come first. Write a really good story. The rest comes later.

At certain points in a writer's existence, he or she may have a tendency to invent barriers that are not actually there, for whatever reasons that make sense at the time. The real difficulties are hard enough.

Cathy C
06-17-2013, 02:49 PM
You should only put things in your bio if they have direct merit to the mms you are querying about

^^^This. Even though agents frequently ask for a bio, what they're often looking for isn't so much writing credentials but platform.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you're writing a novel about a detective who owns a bed and breakfast, and you also own a B&B, that's a form of platform. It means the level of day-to-day details of the detective's life will ring true to readers. Likewise, if you're writing a thriller with a Special Forces hero, and you were in Special Forces too (ala Bob Mayer), that's a stronger sell. If you lived in a geographic region where the book is set, that's another thing worth mentioning.

But if you have nothing in common with the book, not setting or plot or such, that's okay too. Just say something like, "This is the first novel in what I hope will be a long career of writing." I think all I put for a bio on my first query was the town where I lived when I was writing the book (because it's where I got the idea.)

Bios aren't like college entrance essays where who or what you know or what your GPA was will open the door.The BOOK is your essay. It's all you need to get admitted. :)

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 03:05 AM
I don't understand that question, Vigeo. English major?

cornflake
07-01-2013, 03:10 AM
I don't understand that question, Vigeo. English major?

Majoring in English; attending a college or university and concentrating on or obtaining a degree in English.

"What's your major?" "English."

An English major.

Stacia Kane
07-01-2013, 03:24 AM
I have a GED and not a day of college. That hasn't mattered one bit to my agent or any of my editors or any of my readers. They wouldn't care if I'd left school after third grade, as long as my books are good enough to sell.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 03:37 AM
Yes, Cornflake, I know what a major is.

What I don't understand is, where do you think that fits into the equation of getting published?

Medievalist
07-01-2013, 03:41 AM
Many agents ask for a bio and I was wondering if my lack of one eliminates my story before they get to the first chapter submission.

Unless you're writing a non-fiction book, no one cares about whether you went to college or even if you graduated from high school.

They care about your book. Is it good? Will people want to read it? Will they want to buy it? Will it sell enough copies to make it worth the effort to edit and publish and market it?

It's about the book.

cornflake
07-01-2013, 03:43 AM
Yes, Cornflake, I know what a major is.

What I don't understand is, where do you think that fits into the equation of getting published?

Well the OP asked this -


When agents say they are looking for new authors does that mean they will consider anyone dedicated to writing who has written a good story or are they only looking for college grads with English or lit majors?

Which seems a fairly straightforward question. Then you responded with -


I don't understand that question, Vigeo. English major?

So you can see where I thought you didn't understand what an English major was.

Where do I think it fits into getting published? It doesn't. That doesn't really have to do with understanding the question though.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 03:44 AM
Sometimes an agent or publisher just wants to know a little about YOU, not just your career or education. It's a part of the overall equation that makes you an interesting person, and might contribute to your platform, even if you don't realize it.

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 03:47 AM
Cornflake, since Vigeo asked the question, I'm interested to know his reason for asking the question the way he did.

cornflake
07-01-2013, 03:49 AM
Cornflake, since Vigeo asked the question, I'm interested to know his reason for asking the question the way he did.

Try reading the thread.

Old Hack
07-01-2013, 10:05 AM
Cornflake, since Vigeo asked the question, I'm interested to know his reason for asking the question the way he did.


Try reading the thread.

I was just going to say that, cornflake.

Steven, if you want to know what's going on in a conversation, try reading the thread. Don't just jump in and expect others to explain it to you.