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bluejester12
09-07-2014, 09:55 PM
I'm working on a writing guide for our public library. Does this description succinctly describe what and agent does and why a writer needs one?


Literary agents help market your work and represent you to publishers. They are the people with connections.

Ken
09-08-2014, 12:59 AM
May be wrong about this, but to me this comes off as slightly insulting. Agents have rapports; not connections. They don't get books sold because they know this or that publisher. All that does is allow them to get the books they're representing considered quicker and with more attention due to their reputation as agents. That's really it. Connections implies more. It implies favoritism. My two cents. No expert on the matter.

The first sentence is okay with some streamlining:

Literary agents market your manuscript to publishers.

Perks
09-08-2014, 01:11 AM
I don't have a problem with the word 'connections' in this context, but agents don't market books. They may or may not advise you editorially to ready the manuscript for submission (some do more of this than others), then an agent will submit the work to various editors in hopes of selling any number of rights to that work. Then they oversee the contract negotiations and follow through with untangling the red tape on these sold rights for the life of that contract.

An agent may or may not have a professional connection to the editors he or she submits to, but professional relationships tend to develop in these transactions. The best and most experienced agents will have a good gauge on which editors like what sorts of books - and that's very, very valuable knowledge.

alexaherself
09-08-2014, 02:14 AM
I don't have a problem with the word 'connections' in this context, but agents don't market books.

The OP doesn't say that they do. Publishers market books, of course, but agents certainly market manuscripts to publishers. As the OP says: "Agents help market your work and represent you to publishers".

That seems entirely correct, to me.

blacbird
09-08-2014, 10:05 AM
I've met Donald Maass, one of the premier heavy-hitters in the NY agent world. A description:

Donald Maass is short, well-groomed, conservatively-attired, energetic, direct, approachable, and kinda cute.

That do?

caw

Jamesaritchie
09-08-2014, 10:23 PM
May be wrong about this, but to me this comes off as slightly insulting. Agents have rapports; not connections. They don't get books sold because they know this or that publisher. All that does is allow them to get the books they're representing considered quicker and with more attention due to their reputation as agents. That's really it. Connections implies more. It implies favoritism. My two cents. No expert on the matter.

The first sentence is okay with some streamlining:

Literary agents market your manuscript to publishers.

What's insulting about having connections? Connections are very good things, and, yes, good agents most certainly have connections.

Nor is there anything at all wrong with favoritism, for that matter. Playing favorites is just part of life, and we all do it, if given the chance.

Ken
09-09-2014, 12:05 AM
What's insulting about having connections? Connections are very good things, and, yes, good agents most certainly have connections.

Nor is there anything at all wrong with favoritism, for that matter. Playing favorites is just part of life, and we all do it, if given the chance.

Say you're trying for a job and don't get it even though you are just as qualified if not more so than another applicant. Why? Because they have a friend who knows the boss or something. Sorry, but that has always riled me. Not cool at all. So when connections are mentioned in the context of agenting my reaction is the same. The best books should get published. Publication shouldn't be based on who knows who. And I would hope that is more or less how things play out. Favoritism to me is synonymous with cheating.

And if favoritism is a given then I almost feel like not trying for an agent and pitching publishers directly. At least then if I happen to get a deal I will know it was based on the book's merits rather than handshakes, smiles, and g*d knows what else !

Kayley
09-09-2014, 02:49 AM
Say you're trying for a job and don't get it even though you are just as qualified if not more so than another applicant. Why? Because they have a friend who knows the boss or something. Sorry, but that has always riled me. Not cool at all. So when connections are mentioned in the context of agenting my reaction is the same. The best books should get published. Publication shouldn't be based on who knows who. And I would hope that is more or less how things play out. Favoritism to me is synonymous with cheating.

And if favoritism is a given then I almost feel like not trying for an agent and pitching publishers directly. At least then if I happen to get a deal I will know it was based on the book's merits rather than handshakes, smiles, and g*d knows what else !

I don't think the two situations are comparable. In the job market, you typically get a job by applying directly for a position. Having connections can help, but the standard process is to submit your application to your prospective employer.

This process is completely different in the market for trade publishing. You don't send your books to editors/publishers; agents do. The reason they can succeed in getting a book in front of an editor is because they know editors and the editors know them. Because the agents know the editors, the editors trust them to present books they'll enjoy and be able to help publish. It's their job to know the people in the industry.

Editors/publishers aren't going to trust the random Joe Schmoe who says "Hey! I have the best book in the world!" Why? Because there are too many people to trust. Agents act as the middleman that helps filter out the crud from the marketable stuff.

There's nothing shady about it. No "g*d knows what else", unless "g*d knows what else" means being up-to-date on the market and being able to acquire clients with high-quality manuscripts. I understand your frustrations with connections in a job search setting, but in the publishing world, agents wouldn't have a job if they didn't know anyone else in the business. One of the reasons they are so valuable is they're the ones who can get your book in front of an editor; you can't do that on your own because you don't have the right connections. And that's fine. Ideally, it will help the editors see the manuscripts with the most merit because the agent will filter out the cruddy books. Good agents know what editors want thanks to their connections.

It has less to do with favoritism and more to do with trust.

Ken
09-09-2014, 03:04 AM
Kayley. Exactly what I said in my first post, though not as clearly stated. I am fine with that sort of a relationship between agents and editors/publishers. And that's what I presumed they consisted of. I'm not fine with favoritism or nepotism, as laid out in my second in response to a prior post. So actually we're in total agreement. Just that I've suddenly come to have doubts. That's all.

Kayley
09-09-2014, 03:48 AM
Kayley. Exactly what I said in my first post, though not as clearly stated. I am fine with that sort of a relationship between agents and editors/publishers. And that's what I presumed they consisted of. I'm not fine with favoritism or nepotism, as laid out in my second in response to a prior post. So actually we're in total agreement. Just that I've suddenly come to have doubts. That's all.

It seems like it's a difference in how we interpret "connections" then. To me, a relationship is a connection. Thus, saying agents have connections with editors is no different than saying agents have relationships with editors. Even if favoritism is involved, it's no different whether you use "connections" or "relationships"; you tend to favor people with whom you have relationships over those with whom you do not. That's because it's easier to trust people you know than people you don't know. The fact that an editor will read the same book given to him by an agent that he would've rejected if given to him by an author is not necessarily a bad thing, yet it could be interpreted as favoring the agent over the author.

I agree, however, that the OP's description can be shortened. I think the fact that agents have connections with publishers is inherent in the statement that they market your work to publishers; marketing the work automatically establishes a connection. It's thus unnecessary to explicitly state the existence of connections in the second sentence.

Ken
09-09-2014, 03:53 AM
Seems like a good way to go. That way no chance of misinterpretation. Be specific, but succinct. Easier said than done. Glad I'm not the one writing the description :-P

Debbie V
09-09-2014, 08:05 AM
Agents manage your career. They do so much more than send the manuscript out to their connections and hope for takers. Some are editorial. Some, likely most, provide advice on everything from which project to work on next to how to market the current book once it appears.

They are also getting rejected with you, negotiating for you, and smoothing out any rough spots between you and your editor. They don't just sell the manuscript either, they sell the film rights for the manuscript and many other rights.

That was not succinct. "Agents market your work to publishers and help manage all aspects of your career. They have connections within publishing and other related industries and the knowledge base needed to use those effectively on your behalf." That's closer but not quite there yet.

Old Hack
09-12-2014, 12:35 AM
I agree that agents do much, much more than market your work.

Perhaps suggest that people who want to learn more should read Carole Blake's book "From Pitch to Publication". It explains so much.

Amy_D
09-12-2014, 11:15 PM
I agree that agents do much, much more than market your work.

Perhaps suggest that people who want to learn more should read Carole Blake's book "From Pitch to Publication". It explains so much.

I think it's better to try and get an agent prior to submitting manuscripts to publishers.

Quickbread
09-13-2014, 12:15 AM
I think it's better to try and get an agent prior to submitting manuscripts to publishers.

That's not what Old Hack is recommending. Working with an agent is part of what the book is about. It explains the whole process. Take a look (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1025705.From_Pitch_to_Publication?from_search=true ).

bluejester12
09-13-2014, 08:40 PM
How about:

Literary agents can really help you get your name out there. Part of what they do includes representing your work and negotiating with publishers.

Perks
09-13-2014, 08:58 PM
I think you'd have to add something like
Literary agents can really help you get your name out there within the industry.

Once your work is with a publisher, your agent does very little by way of advertising and promoting your book. That's a function of the publisher's marketing and publicity people.

Sure, your agent will likely tout release days and major milestones on social media, but an agent's reach will be largely within the publishing community, not the reading one.

My agent is worth her weight in gold and I feel so lucky to have her. She's an invaluable bridge from the creative side of the work to the business side. But her influence is not in getting readers to my work. It's entirely within the industry.

kenpochick
09-15-2014, 07:55 PM
Why not the dictionary definition?: "a professional agent who acts on behalf of an author in dealing with publishers and others involved in promoting the author's work."