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Book Chic
01-09-2015, 10:47 AM
Greetings Fellow Writers,

I could really use some sage advice. So here goes:

I'm a published YA author looking to write under a different pen name and slightly different genre. My first book was published six years ago, and only sold 12,000 copies to date. My second book is not doing so well either. My agent - sigh - has passed on several of my new ideas. (Still love him though and always will!) He has given me permission to seek representation elsewhere for my new projects only, but I'm hoping he will always be my #1 agent when things get better sales-wise.

Anywho, the first question is, in the querying stage, ethically speaking, do I have to mention my other two books?

And secondly, is there anyway to find out what is considered really dismal sales? Just need a bit of a confidence booster to show me where I stand - and where agents will perceive me to stand in the line up of published authors.

All advice and comments are appreciated! :)

Debeucci
01-09-2015, 05:19 PM
Hello Book Chic.

You should always be up front when querying agents imo. I don't see why you wouldn't mention the other two books, even if they didn't sell like gangbusters. It's still a huge step ahead of people in the slush pile.

Dismal sales is also pretty subjective, and will depend on many variables. Who was the publisher? What is the genre? What format is it in? Obviously, if your books came out in hardback, sales numbers are expected to be much lower. If in Mass Market, not so much. How large was your advance? It's better to have a small advance and modest sales than a huge advance and better than modest sales. I've read somewhere that the average debut sells around 5k (I've read one 1k as well), which isn't great, especially if that's a big 6 house or even a mid-size house. But again, variables.

In any case, I think you're focusing on the wrong things. Be honest and upfront, and find a new agent who is willing to grow your career. To be honest, it seems to me your old agent seems no longer vested in it. The new project thing seems weird. Your contracts will always reside with the agent who negotiated them in the first place.

Good luck.

shaldna
01-09-2015, 05:35 PM
It's not 'traditional' it's 'trade' and yes, you should mention your previous books.

KTC
01-09-2015, 06:23 PM
Be upfront. Be honest.

Book Chic
01-09-2015, 10:49 PM
thanks for the feedback!

Jamesaritchie
01-09-2015, 11:22 PM
I don't understand even talking to an agent about ideas? I don't give an agent that option, and never have. For me, it's an editor's job to pass on ideas, not an a agent's job. If I can't write the book I want to write, when I want to write it, I'll find a different way of earning a living. Agents may know the market well, but no agent alive knows crap about what it is that makes me unique, or about what I can do with an idea.

They don't know what any otehr writer can do with an idea, either. There is no such thing as a good or a bad idea, there's only what an individual writer can do with any idea.

Either you write what you most want to write, writing the book that thrills you, or you'll never succeed as well as you should. A good agent knows this. A bad agent tries to tell you what to write, or what not to write, because of idiotic market forces.

I think you do need a new agent, and you need to forget about market, sales numbers, and all else. Write the book the thrills you, the book that only you can write, and don't take no for an answer.

CAMueller
01-09-2015, 11:31 PM
Like the others have said, honesty is important as you enter a relationship with a new agent.

However, I think this part of your comment is something you need to consider:


He has given me permission to seek representation elsewhere for my new projects only, but I'm hoping he will always be my #1 agent when things get better sales-wise.


Other agents aren't likely to be excited about being the "just until I sell better" agent. If they hustle to get you good deals and you sell well, why would you want to switch back to the other agent that didn't click with your new projects and didn't want to try to sell them?

I suppose I could see this being okay if you had one agent who repped your nonfiction and one who repped your fiction novels, but if the genre isn't drastically different, you'd want all your new projects going to the new agent.

The agenting relationship is like any other, no one wants to feel like they were second choice.

The big question here is: Are you getting what you need out of your current agent/author relationship?

Cathy C
01-10-2015, 12:05 AM
That's not exactly realistic, James, if the OP is planning to move to a new genre. It might be that the agent doesn't feel like they can adequately market the book because they don't know the buying editors for that genre. I had that happen with my agent, who was genre specific. She let me market my works outside the genre myself and offered to help with the contract if I got an offer. I ultimately got too busy to go forward with the other genre, but it's a viable way to work with the agent.

Toothpaste
01-10-2015, 01:00 AM
James's relationship with his agent is a particular one that works for him, but it isn't universal, and many authors now use their agent as also editorial support (many agents even began in the industry as editors). What I have consistently disliked about how James posts about his personal preferences is he makes it seem like if you do anything different from how he does, you are wrong.

Well, OP, you are not wrong. Your current agent does not feel he can sell some of your ideas, and is happy for you to work with someone else on them. To me that is a lot better than forcing your agent to sell something he doesn't understand and doesn't believe in. It makes it much harder to sell a book if the agent doesn't know the right editors to send it to etc. And of course be upfront with any new agents.

As for a pep talk, 12K is great! Is it a bestseller? No. And being in YA we are so surrounded by the big blockbusters we can get really down on ourselves for not doing as well. Doesn't help that the big YA publishers only want said blockbusters and now drop any author who isn't the next Suzanne Collins or Veronica Roth. So we authors who aren't those authors get scared that we are, for want of a better word, sucking. But 12K is a great solid number. Those are decent sales, and once upon a time would have kept you nicely in the midlist with a publisher who would be happy to put out more of your work. And if this helps, the population of Canada is so small that 5K is a bestseller, so hey! You're a bestseller at least to Canadians :) . You're doing well. You've been published well, and you've sold well. Yes, despite all that you might have to use a pseudonym for future YA stuff with the Big 5 again for the reasons I said above. But that doesn't mean you haven't done well. It means that the Big 5 now how these crazy high expectations that are unfair to authors, and unfair to their employees as well (I've read a lot of interviews with editors who have had to turn down work they loved because marketing just didn't think it would be a blockbuster). It's a tough slog. It's hard. It's unfair. But you should still be proud of yourself regardless.

Debeucci
01-10-2015, 01:42 AM
I completely agree with Adrienne and Cat. An agent and an author's relationship should be collaborative. They are not there just to funnel your work to an editor. IMO, a good agent should be guiding an author's career. I've pitched many ideas to my agent to get his opinion. Once, I pitched my communist manifesto to my agent as a YA, he told me to not even think about it and that I shouldn't write YA. Probably saved six months of my life.

I also believe sales numbers, market, and all that are important. If you're a professional author, this is your trade. You should be aware of these things. Writing something *just* for you is fantastic, but only if this is a hobby.

Mr Flibble
01-10-2015, 01:52 AM
I completely agree with Adrienne and Cat. An agent and an author's relationship should be collaborative.

Indeed

I just sent off an email to mine, saying Huzzah have finished latest project. I have these ideas -- which one do you think you could sell? Or sell best/easiest?

He doesn't tell me what to write, tell me not to write anything though (in fact he is unstintingly enthusiastic about all my ideas) but we do go over what, out of several ideas, might be the most saleable. If I was writing full time I'd write them all....but I'm not and my time is finite. I am excited about all the ideas anyway soo....

There is nothing wrong with discussing ideas with your agent, or picking one of your exciting ideas over another because it might be easier to sell.

Oh, rambling person rambles. Anyway. I would say that you either need to work things out with your current agent, or get a new agent for all your future stuff (your old agent would ofc get any monies due on projects he has sold). And yes, mention the sales.

A publisher will certainly look at those sales, whether you mention them or not, and if you were a bestseller they'd look at you more enthusiastically, but low sales doesn't mean they won't take you on if they think your new book will sell gangbusters. And you have to be honest with yoru agent (even if he spins it to the publisher) If you have lied/omitted relevant info, that's not your best way to start a relationship with a new agent, is it?

Aggy B.
01-10-2015, 02:54 AM
I don't understand even talking to an agent about ideas?

I dunno. I figure my agent will have a better idea of what he can sell, what he's excited to try and sell, and what he's not as keen on or just doesn't have the contacts for. I also suspect he will be more in tune with scuttlebutt over forming trends, etc, which I wouldn't know about until eight YA novels about telekinetic dinosaurs hit the shelves.

I pitched him two ideas yesterday as a kind of "Here's what I'm thinking of working on this year." He's much more excited about one (a kind of Southern Gothic thing) than the other (space opera). So I'll work on that one first. It doesn't mean I won't write the other one later, but I want to play to his strengths, not just mine.

Book Chic
01-12-2015, 10:46 AM
Thank you so much for all of your insight and advice. I especially love the idea that I'm a Canadian best seller! :D

I would love to share specifics, but I'm especially cautious because you truly never know who is lurking on these forums. But I am now convinced that I need to be honest and upfront in my submission stage.

I guess I'm confused because I thought my agent is my agent "for life" with the first two books he sold - period. So if he says I can go elsewhere, I'm thinking he'll still be in charge of all details for the first two. I'm still doing YA, but my protagonist will be a boy this time. A little more edge...

Aggy B.
01-15-2015, 05:50 PM
I guess I'm confused because I thought my agent is my agent "for life" with the first two books he sold - period. So if he says I can go elsewhere, I'm thinking he'll still be in charge of all details for the first two. I'm still doing YA, but my protagonist will be a boy this time. A little more edge...

Contractually, this is usually the case. If an agent sells a book, they continue to handle the royalties or further rights negotiations on that book even if you wind up elsewhere.

As far as having multiple agents at the same time, it can be done, but it's not the norm. Especially if you are still working in the same genre/category as they would be competing with each other.

But it sounds to me more like you're looking for a new agent who will represent ALL new material going forward. (Previous agent handles and is paid for the works he sold. New agent handles everything you produce from this point on.)

Bryan Methods
01-18-2015, 11:25 PM
Hmm, my author's agreement specifically precludes me from having another agent, even under another name. But I suppose a new one could be drawn up.

Book Chic
01-20-2015, 09:05 AM
New agent handles everything you produce from this point on.)

Nailed it. This is what I'm hoping to achieve. I'm proud of the prestigious literary agency I belong to, but realize that my current agent is just not that into me.