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52greg
06-14-2013, 11:29 PM
If you're a writer with no track record who is fortunate enough to get an agent with a top reputation to represent a novel, how long should you give that agent to make the sale before concluding another agent might be better?

Gravity
06-14-2013, 11:36 PM
That's like asking, "how long is a piece of rope?" The answer varies with each agent, and having open communication lines between agent and author is vital.

Gravity
06-14-2013, 11:40 PM
ETA: my own agent has made very quick sales, and some that have taken considerably longer. But I know his reputation and track record, so I'm confident of his prowess, regardless of the time involved.

Little Ming
06-14-2013, 11:44 PM
That's like asking, "how long is a piece of rope?" The answer varies with each agent, and having open communication lines between agent and author is vital.

In addition, you generally only have one shot at each publisher. If your first agent has already submitted to all or most of the publishers that are suitable for your book, there might not be much more a second agent will be able to do for you.

Gravity
06-15-2013, 12:13 AM
Yep.

AmberS
06-15-2013, 12:25 AM
A very long time.

I suppose it has happened that a book has gone out on submission with one agent and then sold through a different one, although I've never heard a specific story like that. As they've said, you can really only submit to a publishing house once. If there's a problem with your agent and it's been a long time (6 months? A year?) then find out exactly which publishers he/she's submitted to and ask her to stop further submissions until you guys have touched base.

52greg
06-15-2013, 12:27 AM
Thanks. I've had, and hopefully beaten, bladder cancer since my agent has had my novel. Maybe that's made me a bit more impatient about waiting years.

triceretops
06-15-2013, 12:38 AM
Oh, gawd, that's a hard one to answer. So many dependables. I will say, in my case, for two agents over the past five years that each of my books went about a year before all submissions were exhausted and ended up with ultimate rejections (all cases involved 2nd rounds). There are such things as 2nd and 3rd agent sub rounds, and even those are subject to personal submission habits. You could have one agent who sends out 20 subs/queries/partials/fulls and quits after all have been answered (in the negative). You might have an agent who goes for 2 rounds at 10 each, or 3 rounds at 12 each. It depends.

Some publishers are notorious for very slow responses, even from agents. So where they send it has some bearing on the response time. Take into account R&R requests that could take up a chunk of writer's time and if the revision is rejected, well, you have more time tacked on to the sub time table.

tri

Drachen Jager
06-15-2013, 12:50 AM
If it's really a top agent and it seems like they're working hard for you I'm not sure that you should look for new representation.

I'd give them a few years at least. Sometimes the first book doesn't sell at all through no fault of theirs. If the second one is a bust too, then maybe you should look elsewhere, but only if you're genuinely unhappy with how you've been treated there. Good agents are hard to find and if it's a good agent you don't want to dump them lightly.

roseangel
06-15-2013, 01:37 AM
Are you hanging all your hopes and dreams on this one novel? Because there is a chance it might never sell.

triceretops
06-15-2013, 03:26 AM
Most agents are signing the author and not so much much the book, or first single book. Ideally, you should be working on your next novel while your first is out on the agent sub trail. So if you time it right, by the time your first book exhausts all hope for being picked up, you have a second (polished) book to take it's place then it starts all over again. You have to feed the agent with a continuous string of projects for them to keep you actively in the market place. Preferably at all times.

mellymel
06-15-2013, 03:27 AM
Have you gone on sub yet? How long have you been on sub? Did your agent give you a list of the houses and eds they were subbing to? Have you been getting updates re: any answers/feedback? Being a writer with "no track record" ha nothing to do necessarily with how long a sale might take. If you have a good book with a genre in high demand, then it may not take long at all. I've had friends who went through a very fast subbing process and other friends whose subbing process went on for months. In the meantime, you should be delving in to your next WIP. It's a really great distraction from painstaking process of being on sub.

GL

Terie
06-15-2013, 11:11 AM
Are you working on your next book? Just as most first novels never get published, many 'first books the agent took on from a given' author don't sell. As Tri said upstream, agents represent authors, not books.

The general idea is that by the time the first book has exhausted the rounds (in this situation, where it never sells), you'll already have another one written and starting to make the rounds.

Of course, life-stuff can interfere with writing, and if you've been going through cancer treatment, that could certainly stop you from writing for however long. Everyone deals with that sort of thing differently.

But putting all your eggs in one basket might lead to disappointment. Just because you got an agent with Book A doesn't guarantee Book A will sell. You need to write Book B, and then Book C, and so on.

Assuming there are no personality issues, I personally wouldn't dump a top agent until they'd not sold at least two if not three books.

Oh, and congratulations on beating cancer! That's brilliant!

Old Hack
06-15-2013, 11:58 AM
You need to do two things: work on your next book; and talk to your agent. He or she is best-placed to answer your questions, and work out a strategy for your future.

It's also worth checking that this agent really is top-notch, because while many describe themselves in that way, few of them really are. You might have found yourself an agent who isn't as good as he thinks he is, for example, or who made good sales a decade ago but hasn't performed very well in more recent years. I hope that's not the case, but it is worth considering.

triceretops
06-15-2013, 09:32 PM
New agents fall into that category too. They're well meaning and very enthusiastic--have big submission plans--but lack the contacts and really hit-or-miss with a torrent of subs, many out to sub-standard houses.

Old Hack
06-15-2013, 10:22 PM
That's not always the case, Tri: some new agents have great contacts, knowledge and experience. For example, if they've worked as editors and have moved to the other side; or if they've worked as an agent's assistant, and have been promoted. They'll be keen to build their list, and will be very approachable and have great promise.

I know of someone who was promoted from assistant to agent in the last couple of weeks, who is actively building a list, and works at one of the best agencies there is. He's been there some time, and has been very well trained. He's going to go far, and anyone who gets him as their agent is going to be very well looked after.

triceretops
06-15-2013, 11:00 PM
That's not always the case, Tri: some new agents have great contacts, knowledge and experience. For example, if they've worked as editors and have moved to the other side; or if they've worked as an agent's assistant, and have been promoted. They'll be keen to build their list, and will be very approachable and have great promise.

I know of someone who was promoted from assistant to agent in the last couple of weeks, who is actively building a list, and works at one of the best agencies there is. He's been there some time, and has been very well trained. He's going to go far, and anyone who gets him as their agent is going to be very well looked after.

Yeah, that's true. Regrets about the sweeping statement. I do see a lot of promotions and shuffling in PM, and those agents definitely have experience. Many have editorial backgrounds and some have served internships. My problems with agents in the past have stemmed from the brand new ones who suddenly appeared out of nowhere--gleaming mission statements and all but no real experience and no sales to date. I had four agent offers on the last book and three of them fit that bill. I took the A-lister who had years and years in the business and had a very impressive list of sales via numerous NYT best sellers.

I wouldn't mind sub-agents who've spent time at a larger agency and who branched out to create their own agency. There are lots of those out there. Reading PM helps you discover breaking news with who is with who as well as recent deals.

52greg
06-15-2013, 11:38 PM
Wow! Thanks for all the responses. There's a lot to respond to.

First, my agent has never told me she's top-notch, but other people have, and she reps a huge name in the genre she works, so I take those as good signs. Having said that, the owner of the agency accepted my novel and gave it to her, and I've never felt she was as enthusiastic about it as he was. Over the three years, she has submitted my novel to the top U.S. publishers in the genre, and that has eaten up time. She also told me Hurricane Sandy last year delayed things. When I email her with a question, she replies, but she rarely contacts me first.

I have six completed novels ready for submission, including two in her genre. I've tried to send her the second one to read, but she insists we must focus on selling the current one first. She's also told me, by the way, that it's fine if I seek other representation for the novels outside her genre, which I'm doing.

rugcat
06-15-2013, 11:54 PM
Remember, agents don't sell books. The books sell themselves. (Or don't)

What a good agent does is get the ms to the right place at the right time. A good agent knows which particular editors might like a particular ms. A good agent also will have a good rep -- editors will read what she sends, because they know from experience and reputation that anything the agent sends to them will be worth looking at.

But the book still has to stand on its own. An editor may pass because books with similar styles and/or themes have not been selling well lately.

It simply may not grab the editor, who may think it's quite good, but just not for her.

In most cases, blaming an agent for a book not being picked up, esp right away, is assigning blame where there is none.

Now, if none of the editors submitted to haven't even bothered to respond, that may be a different thing, and reflect on the agent's ability to present the book.

My own agent forwards every response that she receives, good bad or indifferent, whether it's weeks, months, or even longer, and gets responses from all the editors she's dealt with and 90% of the others.

The last response from an editor was basically, "I love this book, but unfortunately I just don't think it will sell."

A new agent isn't going to change that opinion.

Old Hack
06-16-2013, 12:21 AM
I do see a lot of promotions and shuffling in PM, and those agents definitely have experience. Many have editorial backgrounds and some have served internships.

I wouldn't even consider an agent whose only work experience in publishing came from being an intern. That's nowhere near enough to make a good intern. Working several years as an agent's personal assistant, however, would be good.


My problems with agents in the past have stemmed from the brand new ones who suddenly appeared out of nowhere--gleaming mission statements and all but no real experience and no sales to date.

Hell, yes. They're to be avoided.


I had four agent offers on the last book and three of them fit that bill.

With all due respect to you, Tri, what were you doing submitting to those three inexperienced agents? I hope you know better now.

First, my agent has never told me she's top-notch, but other people have, and she reps a huge name in the genre she works, so I take those as good signs. Having said that, the owner of the agency accepted my novel and gave it to her, and I've never felt she was as enthusiastic about it as he was. Over the three years, she has submitted my novel to the top U.S. publishers in the genre, and that has eaten up time. She also told me Hurricane Sandy last year delayed things. When I email her with a question, she replies, but she rarely contacts me first.

I have six completed novels ready for submission, including two in her genre. I've tried to send her the second one to read, but she insists we must focus on selling the current one first. She's also told me, by the way, that it's fine if I seek other representation for the novels outside her genre, which I'm doing.

An agent who has spent years trying to sell a single book and who isn't prepared to read his subsequent works seems neither able enough nor interested enough to bother with.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but if I were you I'd start looking for another agent.

52greg
06-16-2013, 12:44 AM
Remember, agents don't sell books. The books sell themselves. (Or don't)

What a good agent does is get the ms to the right place at the right time. A good agent knows which particular editors might like a particular ms. A good agent also will have a good rep -- editors will read what she sends, because they know from experience and reputation that anything the agent sends to them will be worth looking at.

But the book still has to stand on its own. An editor may pass because books with similar styles and/or themes have not been selling well lately.

It simply may not grab the editor, who may think it's quite good, but just not for her.

In most cases, blaming an agent for a book not being picked up, esp right away, is assigning blame where there is none.

Now, if none of the editors submitted to haven't even bothered to respond, that may be a different thing, and reflect on the agent's ability to present the book.

My own agent forwards every response that she receives, good bad or indifferent, whether it's weeks, months, or even longer, and gets responses from all the editors she's dealt with and 90% of the others.

The last response from an editor was basically, "I love this book, but unfortunately I just don't think it will sell."

A new agent isn't going to change that opinion.

I'm not blaming my agent. I haven't given her name, the agency, or even her genre. I'm just wondering about possible options.

52greg
06-16-2013, 01:00 AM
An agent who has spent years trying to sell a single book and who isn't prepared to read his subsequent works seems neither able enough nor interested enough to bother with.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but if I were you I'd start looking for another agent.[/QUOTE]

Well, that thought process is sort of what prompted me to start this thread. Who's to say the second one wouldn't sell quickly, allowing the sale of the one she has now?

Old Hack
06-16-2013, 01:40 AM
Exactly. If she was interested in your work, surely she'd want to read your newer works?

Writers need agents who are passionate about their works. She doesn't sound passionate about yours, I'm afraid. Find an agent who loves the books you write, and who is full of ideas about how to sell them and who to.

triceretops
06-16-2013, 02:07 AM
I was moving across country during that time and faced the possibility of no Internet when I arrived at the new location. So, desperation played in a lot of it--had to list and sub to every agent I could during my access and let the chips fall where they may. There was not a whole lot of info on two of them. And I think threads were started here on them during the time I did my blitzkrieg, or shortly after.

52greg
06-19-2013, 09:46 PM
I heard from my agent yesterday. She wants me to consider rewriting my hard SF novel to make it YA. It's the first idea from her in a long time.

MandyHubbard
06-20-2013, 03:13 AM
So. Many. Red. Flags.

firstly-- she's been shopping the first book for THREE YEARS, blames delays on hurricane sandy (yeah, slow for a few weeks. publishing has moved on), and she doesn't want to read your other books.

That last bolded bit is a serious problem in my opinion. In theory you grow as a writer with each book, and she should've hit all the high notes on submissions the first year. I can hit the majority of editors/publishers within six months. Yes, I do shop things for a whole year becuase the stragglers always are slow, but the vast majority of editors I shop to have read and replied in 2-3 months. So I can do a few rounds in one year.

A fresh sub is your absolute best bet, at this point, to getting a new sale. She should be evaluating everything you write to find the strongest projects, and then she should be shopping them.

That she doesn't even want to look at them? That's ridiculous.

Second red flag-- she's suggesting you rewrite this thing as YA after three years of shopping it? Does she rep YA and know the genre inside and out?

DO YOU read YA and know how to write an authentic teen voice and character?

Sci-Fi in YA, by the way, can present its own challenges. Just becuase it's YA doesn't mean its a hot market.

amschilling
06-20-2013, 06:34 AM
Hmm, have to agree that glibbly telling you to write YA makes me nervous. YA is its own creature, with different expectations and language and tone. It's about exploring boundaries and finding your place in the world and what have you. Have you ever written it? If so I'd be less nervous about the request. But even if you have, it's not a simple matter to take a book for adults and convert it to YA.

YA sci-fi being a tough sell or not (there's debate on that--I see a lot of agents asking for it and others saying no) aside, I'm more concerned that she doesn't seem to want your other works unless you go into a whole different age group. Is YA what you really want to write? If not, and she's insistent that's what she wants you to produce, it may be time to shop for new representation.

Axordil
06-20-2013, 08:30 AM
That's as strange and off-putting a request as I can imagine.

52greg
06-20-2013, 08:50 PM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

Aggy B.
06-20-2013, 08:54 PM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

Yeah. I'd be pretty upset if my (hypothetical) agent suggested I rewrite a book in a genre/category I don't currently read, write or have an interest in.

Taking an adult SF and turning into a YA book is about as ridiculous as saying "Maybe if you rewrote this space-opera as a cozy mystery."

suki
06-20-2013, 09:46 PM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

Rewriting your story as YA would not require you to "dumb down the story" -- and the fact that you think it would pretty much shows you shouldn't try to write YA. ;)

But on topic, yes, red flags. If your initial contact was with the head of the agency, have you considered speaking with him or her about your concerns with your agent?

And if you are considering changing representation, you will need to read your contract with your ageny carefully and follow the termination provisions before contacting potential new agents. You will also want to get a complete list of all of the editors to whom your current agent subbed your work, and their responses.

good luck.

~suki

Little Ming
06-20-2013, 11:44 PM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

Ahem. YA is not a "dumb down" version of adult.

Old Hack
06-21-2013, 12:39 AM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

My bold.

Excuse me, greg?

That's a very dismissive attitude to take towards both readers and writers of YA. It's rude, and it displays a lamentable lack of knowledge and respect of that genre.

CAWriter
06-21-2013, 10:20 AM
My bold.

Excuse me, greg?

That's a very dismissive attitude to take towards both readers and writers of YA. It's rude, and it displays a lamentable lack of knowledge and respect of that genre.

All the more reason he shouldn't try to tackle the request.

She may be getting YA requests from publishers and sees the subject matter/characters of this book as something that could be re-worked into a YA manuscript. But, it's probably not a good idea to undertake such a transformation. If it's not your own vision for the book, chances are the attempt would fail.

I think you need to have a long, sincere conversation with her, get her to listen to (read?) your other ideas or move on. It doesn't sound like a good partnership if she really doesn't believe in the book she's been subbing.

Terie
06-21-2013, 05:15 PM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

Wow. Just....wow.

Anyone who thinks that teens require 'dumb' writing shouldn't even consider writing for teens.

Also, nice job insulting my work and the work of my fellow YA writers. Or did you think we'd be too dumb to notice? At least we know who not to bother replying to in future.

penguin girl
06-23-2013, 07:56 PM
I agree with others. That your agent would tell you to rewrite to another genre doesn't sound very encouraging.

I haven't read YA for a while, but I don't think it is "dumber" than adult fiction. I don't write it either, I'm adult fiction all the way. Having written that, I'll point out YA is different, the challenges are significant - so is the upside.

If you aren't comfortable with a genre, don't go there. Write where you're happy.

Looking at your experiences from out here in the ether, it sounds as if you should be looking for another agent. Good luck!

Phaeal
06-23-2013, 11:24 PM
No, I don't read YA, and I'm not particularly interested in writing it. I responded to her email by saying I'd consider it, but I didn't want to dumb down the story. She hasn't responded yet.

Not going to blast you for an unfortunate turn of phrase, as your butt's already caught enough shot for that. However, yeah, if that's how you think of YA, trying to write it is probably not a good idea.

If someone asked me to change an "adult" novel to YA, I'd be assuming they meant to change the main character to someone between 16-18 years old, with all necessary changes in focus. That's about it.

triceretops
06-23-2013, 11:44 PM
I think changing to YA would require a major restructuring that would not appeal to me simply because of the workload involved.

52greg
06-24-2013, 01:39 AM
Sorry about my choice of words. I'll not defend it, just apologize for it.

I haven't gotten a response from my agent yet, by the way.

BethS
06-24-2013, 05:37 PM
Wow! Thanks for all the responses. There's a lot to respond to.

First, my agent has never told me she's top-notch, but other people have, and she reps a huge name in the genre she works, so I take those as good signs. Having said that, the owner of the agency accepted my novel and gave it to her, and I've never felt she was as enthusiastic about it as he was. Over the three years, she has submitted my novel to the top U.S. publishers in the genre, and that has eaten up time. She also told me Hurricane Sandy last year delayed things. When I email her with a question, she replies, but she rarely contacts me first.

I have six completed novels ready for submission, including two in her genre. I've tried to send her the second one to read, but she insists we must focus on selling the current one first. She's also told me, by the way, that it's fine if I seek other representation for the novels outside her genre, which I'm doing.

The bolded items in your post strike me as clues that this agent may not be the right one for your work. I find the second item particularly odd, because usually if an agent can't sell a work within a couple of years, they're willing to try with something else. It's not unusual for an author's second work to sell when the first one didn't. It is unusual that the agent doesn't want to give it a try.


I heard from my agent yesterday. She wants me to consider rewriting my hard SF novel to make it YA. It's the first idea from her in a long time.


Yet another warning sign. This does not sound like a sensible request.

kaitie
06-24-2013, 09:18 PM
My agent focuses on one thing at a time. I don't think there's anything wrong with that in and of itself. The problem here is that such a long period of time has passed that there isn't a good reason why the agent shouldn't have moved on to the next.

52greg
06-25-2013, 12:58 AM
Thanks for all your thoughts.

Quickbread
06-25-2013, 01:48 AM
And I just want to add: Good Luck!

Steven Hutson
07-01-2013, 02:43 AM
They could take a year to pitch your book to three publishers, or take a week to pitch 100. Rather than a fixed deadline, I'd be more interested in regular communication. Expect a report about monthly, or ask about once a month. Ultimately, the single most import ingredient to your success is YOU, and the story. The best agent in the world won't be able to sell a bad story, or a story with an uncooperative author.