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Viridian
11-10-2013, 08:56 AM
I've heard some conflicting advice about when to seek an agent and when to go to the publisher directly.

What I've read: agents earn a percentage of the writer's profit. This means that with works that earn little profit, such as short stories (which earn a flat amount) or books that cater to a niche market (such as m/m), agents aren't interested.

But I've also been told that, no matter how small my market is, I should seek an agent. I'm getting close to finishing an m/m (gay male romance) novel, and I'm wondering:

-- Is m/m indeed considered a niche market? It seems to be growing. I have found a few agents that list both romance and LGBT as genres they're willing to represent, though none who list m/m specifically.

-- Does that mean I should begin querying publishers directly, or should I try finding an agent first?

Old Hack
11-10-2013, 01:23 PM
I've heard some conflicting advice about when to seek an agent and when to go to the publisher directly.

What I've read: agents earn a percentage of the writer's profit. This means that with works that earn little profit, such as short stories (which earn a flat amount) or books that cater to a niche market (such as m/m), agents aren't interested.

Agents are paid a percentage of their author-clients' earnings (not profits): but in a few studies I've read, and in my own experience of commissioning books from writers and selling books of my own, writers with agents tend to get paid bigger advances, have better contracts, and earn more than authors without agents--even after you've removed the agents' commissions from their earnings.

Agents rarely get involved in the sale of short stories and are unlikely to take on an author whose work has only niche appeal, because it wouldn't be cost-effective for them to work with those authors.


But I've also been told that, no matter how small my market is, I should seek an agent.

It's worth trying to get an agent as they might well help you break into a larger market (by positioning your work in a different way, not by making you work in a different genre).


I'm getting close to finishing an m/m (gay male romance) novel, and I'm wondering:

-- Is m/m indeed considered a niche market? It seems to be growing. I have found a few agents that list both romance and LGBT as genres they're willing to represent, though none who list m/m specifically.

If they list LGBT then I'd assume that includes m/m. Query away!


-- Does that mean I should begin querying publishers directly, or should I try finding an agent first?

If there's any chance you want to work with an agent, do not approach any publishers before you start querying agents. Every rejection you get from a publisher potentially reduces the number of publishers your agent could approach on your behalf, and that limitation makes it less likely that an agent will be able to represent you.

Once you've worked your way through all the good agents you like the look of, and are sure none of them are interested, you can start submitting directly to publishers.

Tromboli
11-10-2013, 06:20 PM
Yeah I would suggest giving agents a shot. Even if you just send out 10-15 queries and see what kind of response you get (but of course, send to the right agents!) If you get some requests, send out more. If not, consider the publisher route.

firedrake
11-10-2013, 06:31 PM
If you're intending to submit to an e-publisher, then you wouldn't need an agent, in spite of there being some agents out there who sub to e-pubs. But, yes, if you're wanting to be traditionally published then go for it.

Captcha
11-10-2013, 07:07 PM
It wouldn't hurt to query, but I'd be pretty careful about your expectations before you sign with anyone.

I know there are those who disagree, but I wouldn't bother with an agent if you're going with e-first publishers. You don't need one to get a foot in the door, and I've not heard anything compelling to suggest that they add 15% extra to the value of the contracts.

If you want to seek out publication elsewhere, you'd probably need an agent, but I'm not sure if there's a market better than the e-pubs for m/m, at least at this time. I started a thread about this a couple years ago (Wow, was it that long?!) http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=231782 and I don't think things have really changed much.

For what it's worth, I started in m/m and it's still where I do most of my writing. I have an agent for my YA and my het romance, but she and I discussed the m/m and we agreed that it didn't make sense for her to handle it.

Agents who state an interest in LGBT fiction may or may not consider m/m to fall under that umbrella. I'd at least make sure you start with agents who represent both LGBT AND Romance, for the best chance of finding someone interested.

And please report back! I'd love to hear about new markets.

Filigree
11-10-2013, 11:00 PM
I enlisted an agent when I got an offer on a m/m novel a couple of years ago. The reasons were complex, but boiled down to this:

1. Her involvement saved me from sacrificing a large block of story arc that would not fit with the e-pub's mandate, but did link loosely into the book I subbed to them.

2. She can pitch my mainstream SF&F work to bigger houses, and my unrelated m/m books to other publishers - often with better terms than I could get myself.

Working with her is an investment in future projects, but I'm happy to say she more than earned her commission on the contract work she did on the first novel.

M/M is a growing market, and a lot of formerly-unsure agents are beginning to look at it, especially as it crosses into other genres. Everybody's mileage varies, of course.

Captcha
11-10-2013, 11:17 PM
Are you open to sharing your agent's name, Filigree? (Just curious!). And can you expand on the better terms you're getting? Is that with e-publishers, or has she been able to sell your m/m stuff to larger houses?

amergina
11-10-2013, 11:39 PM
So I'm gonna drop my getting an agent timeline post here:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=8150220&postcount=682

And note that the e-rom was m/m and the fantasy, while not a romance, has m/m themes. :)

Viridian
11-10-2013, 11:44 PM
Thanks for your responses for far! You've really helped me gain perspective on this. After some thought, I realized there may be no point in my querying agents for this particular m/m novel, given that it contains elements (erotica, and a touch of m/m/m) that make it too niche-y.

Though I do wonder how it will fare with e-book publishers like Samhain and Carina, who mainly publish het...

In the future, seeking an agent certainly sounds like a route I might like to try for a different novel.

Captcha
11-10-2013, 11:59 PM
Thanks for your responses for far! You've really helped me gain perspective on this. After some thought, I realized there may be no point in my querying agents for this particular m/m novel, given that it contains elements (erotica, and a touch of m/m/m) that make it too niche-y.

Though I do wonder how it will fare with e-book publishers like Samhain and Carina, who mainly publish het...

In the future, seeking an agent certainly sounds like a route I might like to try for a different novel.

I've sold quite a bit of m/m to Samhain, and they seem very open to it. I've only sold het to Carina, but I'd recommend Samhain over Carina anyway.

Dreamspinner hasn't got quite the reputation Samhain does, but you might want to consider them as well. Exclusively m/m (or mmmmore!) and they're doing interesting things with translations, audio-books, etc.

Captcha
11-11-2013, 12:01 AM
So I'm gonna drop my getting an agent timeline post here:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=8150220&postcount=682

And note that the e-rom was m/m and the fantasy, while not a romance, has m/m themes. :)

Is she shopping the fantasy to e-pubs or to larger houses? Have you guys talked about future m/m work? Is she interested in representing it?

(Sorry if this feels like an interrogation - I'm just really interested and I have lots of questions!)

amergina
11-11-2013, 12:11 AM
Is she shopping the fantasy to e-pubs or to larger houses? Have you guys talked about future m/m work? Is she interested in representing it?

(Sorry if this feels like an interrogation - I'm just really interested and I have lots of questions!)

I'm in the process of revising the fantasy, but yes, the intent is to shop to larger places. It's too epic-y/fantasy of manners-y for the e-pubs currently out there.

I'm about to send an m/m novella back to her after making some revisions (she's an editorial agent), so she's interested in representing my m/m work as well. :)

Captcha
11-11-2013, 12:22 AM
I'm in the process of revising the fantasy, but yes, the intent is to shop to larger places. It's too epic-y/fantasy of manners-y for the e-pubs currently out there.

I'm about to send an m/m novella back to her after making some revisions (she's an editorial agent), so she's interested in representing my m/m work as well. :)

Interesting! I'd love to hear how selling that novella goes!

Viridian
11-11-2013, 12:32 AM
I'm in the process of revising the fantasy, but yes, the intent is to shop to larger places. It's too epic-y/fantasy of manners-y for the e-pubs currently out there.

I'm about to send an m/m novella back to her after making some revisions (she's an editorial agent), so she's interested in representing my m/m work as well. :)

Hmmmmm. That certainly is interesting. I always thought that if I wanted to write m/m I'd have to confine myself to erotic romance so that I could have a market at all, but maybe doing the opposite would give me a larger market. Writing the occasional het novel probably wouldn't hurt, either.

Thanks for your perspective; I'm glad to hear from an author who has experience selling these kinds of things.

Filigree
11-11-2013, 04:41 AM
Captcha, my current agent is Cherry Weiner. She's not generally open to unsolicited queries, I lucked out with a rec. I'm not at liberty to say which terms she negotiated for me. My epic fantasy is in revision, but she'll take another look at it when it's done. She has some ideas where to send it. When I sub new M/M work, I will have a direct connection to some major editors and houses.

She's an older agent with a lot of experience, but is open to new markets. The explosion in the M/M market has surprised many agents, though I notice that newer agents don't seem to have the aversion to M/M or e-rom in general. (My first agent still won't even look at either of them.) Several high-profile authors have either released or will be releasing highly-promoted M/M books in 2013 to 2014, so the reader interest goes well beyond the niche.

Captcha
11-11-2013, 04:45 AM
Captcha, my current agent is Cherry Weiner. She's not generally open to unsolicited queries, I lucked out with a rec. I'm not at liberty to say which terms she negotiated for me. My epic fantasy is in revision, but she'll take another look at it when it's done. She has some ideas where to send it. When I sub new M/M work, I will have a direct connection to some major editors and houses.

She's an older agent with a lot of experience, but is open to new markets. The explosion in the M/M market has surprised many agents, though I notice that newer agents don't seem to have the aversion to M/M or e-rom in general. (My first agent still won't even look at either of them.) Several high-profile authors have either released or will be releasing highly-promoted M/M books in 2013 to 2014, so the reader interest goes well beyond the niche.

Very interesting! I hope you keep us updated. I'm stuck on a Samhain-Dreamspinner-Samhain-Dreamspiner loop, and I'd love to mix it up a little.

MandyHarbin
11-11-2013, 05:39 AM
I have an agent for my YA and my het romance, but she and I discussed the m/m and we agreed that it didn't make sense for her to handle it.

Is it because you already have a working relationship with Samhain? I've only pubbed one m/m novella (but with series potential). I'm not happy with my sales (release month was 90% less than my last release month, but het, with that pub...serious wtfery.), so if I pursue it, it'll be later as I'm way too busy with projects that actually do make me $$. My agent is shopping het stuff right now, but I do like writing and reading m/m, so I'm not opposed to doing something different (my pub has first right of refusal on sequels to the one I released through them).

My feeling on the whole agent submitting thing...I need my agent to do for me what I can't do for myself. So back to the main question...if there's an epub you'd like to work with, then there's no reason why you can't go ahead and sub it to them. If you want to get into a larger publisher, then you can send to an agent first (though some have digital-first lines that don't require an agent). Research those and see if it's actually neccessary for you get an agent.

Though...and I could be wrong...but from what I've seen the only m/m getting through the big 5 doors are more literary fiction or biography type stories. Not the m/m erotic romance stories.

Captcha
11-11-2013, 05:52 AM
Is it because you already have a working relationship with Samhain?

Kind of, I guess. I mean, from my perspective it was because I was already working with Samhain (and Ellora's Cave and Loose Id and Carina and Dreamspinner and others), so I knew I could sell books to e-markets without an agent's help. So I certainly didn't push for her to represent me there. I didn't want to give away 15% for her to do something I've been doing on my own for several years.

From her perspective I think the market is just too small. She's at a well-respected agency and she's shopping my YA around to the big houses, and I think she just doesn't have the publisher contacts and expertise or the interest to start messing around with places that offer $1K advances, if that. I mean, I expect to make $5-$10K from each of my e-pub efforts, and that's over several years of publication - 15% of that is NOT a lot of money to keep a NY agent interested. They'd probably spend more money on bookkeeping than they'd make on their share of royalties.

But maybe she's wrong about the size of the market. That's why I'm so interested in threads like this, because if there's somebody else who's doing things differently and finding success, I'd love to suggest that author's method to her (or do it on my own without her!).

MandyHarbin
11-11-2013, 06:48 AM
I didn't want to give away 15% for her to do something I've been doing on my own for several years.

This is exactly how I see it, too. I think agents serve a great purpose...for me, it's getting in places I can't get into myself. Some genres might not have as many e-publishing options as romance, but for our genre (even sub-genres) there are a lot of options. I like options. :)

veinglory
11-11-2013, 06:48 AM
I would not go for an agent to work with Samhain. That is more likely to be more beneficial with larger presses, like Kensington and up.

Old Hack
11-11-2013, 11:39 AM
Though...and I could be wrong...but from what I've seen the only m/m getting through the big 5 doors are more literary fiction or biography type stories. Not the m/m erotic romance stories.

It's a small market, so the bigger houses aren't going to take it on: but until they take it on, it's not going to become a bigger market.

The good news is that several of the publishers I've spoken to lately are either considering or actively planning new imprints along these lines. These are at big houses, too, with the push to bring these books to a very big audience.

The bigger and better agents are picking up on this, too, and are considering representing writers who specialise in these genres. If all goes as it seems it might, a lucky few writers are going to become trailblazers in the newer imprints--with their agents' and publishers' help. I think this could become a huge market, and an exciting one too.

hikarinotsubasa
11-11-2013, 04:59 PM
I have sent out a few queries for a novel that I would consider M/M (although it is not erotic), and have received two partial requests (one of which was rejected, but one is still out) and one full. Obviously this isn't a success story yet, but it's not a miserable failure either. I'm going to PM you some more details, but my general advice would be that if you would like to have an agent, if you would like to sell to one of the bigger advance-paying publishers, it absolutely can't hurt to try. I'd love to see M/M become more mainstream, and the worst that can happen is they say no... and you've still got the epubs and self-publishing as options if that does happen.

MandyHarbin
11-11-2013, 08:29 PM
The good news is that several of the publishers I've spoken to lately are either considering or actively planning new imprints along these lines. These are at big houses, too, with the push to bring these books to a very big audience.

This is awesome news! Hopefully it won't take a long time for them to see this as a good business decision and others to follow.

Old Hack
11-11-2013, 10:04 PM
I hope so too.

I think this has the potential to be a big market, a lucrative one, and a really fun one too. If a few bigger publishers get involved, they could help realise that potential. Let's hope.

Filigree
11-12-2013, 03:30 AM
That's what I'm hearing from behind the scenes. J.R. Ward was one of the first to have a splashy advertising campaign over a M/M book, but that was really driven by fan requests. Some of the new rumors talk about original debut or relatively unknown authors getting signed to fairly big M/M contracts. Cannot elaborate, since this was private loop stuff not even from my agent.

Whether that will play out is another matter, but I hope the bigger publishers take a chance with limited imprints.

Carina was one of the first to talk the talk, as far as integrating M/M romance and credible science fiction and fantasy. For various other reasons, I'm holding off subbing to them - but I like that part of their business model.

Now if one of the Big Five or midlevel pubs moves in the other direction, from mainstream SF&F toward M/M erotica, I'd be thrilled. So would my agent.