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Emermouse
04-07-2015, 05:23 AM
I'm sure there are tons of threads about this topic and I searched before starting a new one. But the newest thread dates back to 2012, so I thought I should start a new one rather than revive an old one.

Again, after many years of writing and rewriting, I've decided I'm ready to start considering the publishing part of the game. I have never been published before, so yeah, I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a big pool, not sure where to begin.

I had always assumed I'd go the Agent route, because I am terrible at math and never really had much of a head for business, so I thought the best route would be to get an agent and let him/her handle the business aspect while I get to be the creative person.

I'm not completely opposed to self-publishing and may pursue it at some point, but my impression of the self-publishing is while you bypass endless rejections and you have complete creative control, you pretty much have to do everything--formatting, marketing, etc.--yourself and I'm not sure I can handle doing everything. To put it nicely, I am by nature an introvert, not an extrovert, so not sure what I'd do about getting my name out there and such. To put it bluntly, if I had the skills and money, I'd quite happily be a hermit in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

But now I have a quandary. Someone in my writing group was holding a "Meet the Publishers" meeting and I went, in hopes of getting some good, sound advice. I know one of the guests was self-published, while the rest were heads of small publishing groups.

At the meeting, someone asked whether you need an agent. The guests said no, but as you can guess by my presence here, I'm not sure. So I'm asking in hopes of getting some good, sound advice: Should I go the agent route or not?

C.bronco
04-07-2015, 05:26 AM
It depends on what you are writing. For most, th answer is yes unless you are in a specific niche, like geneology.

Osulagh
04-07-2015, 05:43 AM
Fiction or non-fiction?

This is one of those questions that's like "If you're asking, yes you do" for wider-range fiction. If you want to get in with the Big 5 publishers, you need an agent. If you want to get in with smaller but still large publishers your best bet is an agent unless you can sneak in with open submissions. With small presses, e-publishers, and niche publishers (like that on that meeting group) you don't need an agent and typically agents wouldn't submit to them because there's little to no money coming their way.

On a side note: You don't have to choose either self-publishing or trade publishing; you can choose both, and with e-publishing venues through KDP and so-on self-publishing isn't that hard.

popgun62
04-07-2015, 06:58 AM
If you're set on going the agent route, let me just give you a little free advice: make sure you're in it for the long haul. In other words, you should be prepared for lots, and lots, and lots of rejection. My story in a nutshell: I queried my first novel and got rejected by about 100 agents. It finally ended up with a small press. Same story with my second novel. And my third novel. It wasn't until my fourth novel that I finally landed an agent, but only after I had a publishing contract in hand. I sent two queries for that novel and accepted an offer from my dream agency.

Take each rejection as a learning experience and use it to make your query better, and in cases where you get manuscript requests and rejections, use their notes to make your manuscript better. Just don't get discouraged, give up and throw in the towel after a few rejections like many do, because that's usually about the time when the breakthrough comes. If you're going to do it, stick to it. When the payoff finally comes, it will be worth it.

Aggy B.
04-07-2015, 04:05 PM
There's a fair amount of work that goes into subbing straight to publishers (even the smaller ones or those that have slush/open submissions calls). It is not impossible to learn the skills necessary to do that work (mostly in writing queries and synopses of different lengths, keeping track of what has gone where and how long it's been and if it's time to nudge), but I've found submissions to be a time consuming game. (Based on experience with short stories and a novella.)

For me, getting an agent was partly about giving myself time to write. While he handles the submissions aspect (and with much more accuracy and finesse than I could because he actually knows who to send what to), I get to work on my next project.

As Popgun said, finding an agent isn't always a quick and easy process either. It took me about 14 months and 179 queries before I got the offer from mine. And much of that time I was not writing (for all the same reasons that subbing to a publisher means not as much time writing), but I feel it was still a good investment of time and effort. If I had not eventually received an offer, I would have pursued publishers next, but that was not my best option. (Which is not to say it's a bad option, and for some it is the best option, but for me an agent was best.)

If you want to get in with the bigger houses an agent is likely the best way to get your foot in the door. While there are a handful of folks who have done the self-pub -> success -> contract offer from trade publisher route, it's a risky move if what you're really after is a trade publisher contract because so much time and effort and money goes into making a self-pubbed book successful enough to attract a big house.

Best of luck with whatever you decide. :)

Toothpaste
04-07-2015, 06:37 PM
Okay let's ask some questions:

1. What is your fantasy as a published author? As in how do you see your career going ideally?

2. What genre and market do you write for?


Like others have said, the answer is of course "it depends". Though I will say I don't tend to trust people who answer in absolutes, so this person who just said "No" like that? That automatically is a sign to me that person isn't trust worthy.

A lot of people these days say with self publishing you don't need agents anymore, but my opinion is (depending on the stuff you write and your personal professional goals) that they can be even more necessary now. Agents aren't some dusty old group of old fashioned people propping up an aging industry. Agents are on the front lines of change, even more so than publishers. Many agencies even have self publishing services for their clients these days (to be used only after all submissions to trade publishers have been exhausted). Agents also know of the smaller presses out there, know which epubs are reputable, are able to basically navigate all the complicated avenues that is publishing these days. A good agent that is. A bad agent of course will insist the only way for an author is the Big 5. That ain't true, of course.

Me personally I love my agent. She's the reason I just landed a three book deal with Random House last week. She pushed me so hard to finish a particular book even though I had all these other projects on the go. She already had interest in it even before I finished it. She also submitted one of my books that had been rejected by so many publishers to a small reputable epub/POD that has been a joy for me to work with. She takes each book as an individual one. And determines what each one needs. And we make a plan together.

Further she does all international rights and film/tv/audio etc. And she always negotiates hard for me, consistently getting me better deals than were initially offered. So yeah. I like agents.

Do you need one? Not necessarily. And are they hard work to find? Sometimes. You have to decide what you personally want, no one else can do that for you :) .

Ellaroni
04-07-2015, 10:16 PM
I don't have an agent, but I would dearly like to have one. I'm with a very dedicated and professionally operated small press which published my first novel, so I subbed my second novel directly to them because that book was right up their alley, and I didn't want to do the full query game with it.
I have a few projects that are non-LGBT (so not for my publisher) and I hope to finish those and go agent hunting. I think that in the long run, an agent shopping your novel for you will pay off considerably.

Jamesaritchie
04-08-2015, 07:53 PM
Do you need an agent? No, you don't. But having one will make everything go a lot smoother, and your manuscript will stand a chance of selling to a much larger publisher than you can get without an agent.

You definitely need to know as much about the business as an agent knows, or you won't have a clue whether you have a good agent, a bad agent, or whether you're getting the best deal.

The business side of writing takes a lot of time and effort, and an agent gives you time to write. An agent also gets your manuscript if front of editors you can't even query without an agent.

Getting an agent can be a long, drawn out process, or it can happen the first week you start querying. Like everything else, it's all about how well you can write. Writing talent matters, even in a query letter.

If you have this talent, why not use it to land an agent? You can certainly approach small to mid-size publishers without an agent, but very rarely any of the big five. And even at mid-size publishers, an agented submission gets more attention.

The real question, I think, is what do you expect from this novel? How good is it? If you think it's good enough for a top publisher, then you should also think it's good enough to land an agent.

Emermouse
04-09-2015, 04:31 AM
Well, I think my novel is pretty damn good. Been working on it for a long time. If you want to know the genre, it's YA Post-Apocalyptic. As for what expectations I have regarding my writing career, well ideally it'd be nice to be JK Rowling-level rich, but before everyone writes in telling me how unlikely that is to happen, I know. JK Rowling-level success is extraordinarily rare. I mostly typed that in order to be funny and because I don't think anyone would be opposed to that kind of success if it did happen. :P

It would be nice, though, to make a nice chunk of change and someday get enough to support myself via writing. I know, though, that takes a while as well.

Based on the responses to this thread, I'm starting to lean towards the Agent route. Like I said, I like the idea of me being the creative person while someone else handles the business aspect. I've got some links to use in order to search for agents like Query tracker and I know enough to know that if anyone asks you for money, chances are they are a scam artist, and that I should run their name through Google or whatever to make sure they're established. If anyone has any other advice, I'd welcome it.

As I recall, I need a query letter, a finished manuscript, and a synopsis to send to agents. Obviously got the finished manuscript, but I'll need to get to work on the query and synopsis. Is there anything I need that I've left out of the list?

DoNoKharms
04-09-2015, 04:53 AM
Well, I think my novel is pretty damn good. Been working on it for a long time. If you want to know the genre, it's YA Post-Apocalyptic.

Well, you asked for advice, so I'll be the bearer of bad news (and I wish someone had told me this circa 2013, when I was querying my YA post-apocalyptic book): YA Post-Apocalypse/dystopia is currently very oversaturated and a very hard market to break into. It sucks, but in the Hunger Games craze, many publishers have bought enough YA dystopias to last them til 2025, and many agents simply aren't even looking at them anymore. I know quite a few agents explicitly say "No YA post-apoc/dystopias".

That's not to say it's impossible. It's just that you should know going in that, for factors well outside of your control, the odds of you getting rep right now for this book are going to be much harder than if you had, say, a YA contemporary. It still could happen, absolutely, but it's just going to be a harder, tougher battle; the book really has to be totally phenomenal.

My advice:

1) Query the book, but when you do, do not present it as YA post-apocalyptic. Do whatever it is in your power to present it as, say, YA scifi. If at all possible, rewrite it to downplay those elements.

2) Start work on your next book

popgun62
04-09-2015, 05:03 AM
My advice:

1) Query the book, but when you do, do not present it as YA post-apocalyptic. Do whatever it is in your power to present it as, say, YA scifi. If at all possible, rewrite it to downplay those elements.

The only problem with that is an agent is going to read the book and think that A) You misrepresented the genre, or B) you don't know your genres. And if you rewrite the book to downplay those elements, well, then it's not going to be the same book and you won't like it as much and neither will anyone else.

Bottom line: If it's good, people will like it, whether the market is saturated or not. Good books sell. I say leave it as is and go for it.

DoNoKharms
04-09-2015, 05:27 AM
The only problem with that is an agent is going to read the book and think that A) You misrepresented the genre, or B) you don't know your genres. And if you rewrite the book to downplay those elements, well, then it's not going to be the same book and you won't like it as much and neither will anyone else.

Bottom line: If it's good, people will like it, whether the market is saturated or not. Good books sell. I say leave it as is and go for it.

I think this is generally sound, but I do think it's not quite as clear-cut. Post-apocalyptic isn't so much a genre as a setting; you can have a post-apocalpytic horror, romance, thriller, etc. A post-apocalyptic book could be nine US marines in a bunker in a wasteland arguing over who stole the last can of rations, or it could be a love story about two scavengers in an outpost in a desolate ruined landscape. The latter could probably be repurposed as simply scifi without losing too much; the former, probably not. It all depends on the specifics of the book. For what it's worth, my YA Post-apoc would not have been salvageable, which is why it's trunked.

As for the rest, call me cynical, but I disagree. It's comforting to think 'good books sell', but I think reality isn't that simple. Publishing is a business, first and foremost, and a business is driven not by what's good but by what sells. There are plenty of great books which never get bought because their audience is just too small or the market too full, and there are plenty of mediocre books that sell well because they happened to hit a market need at just the right time. Of course, there's a relationship between quality and selling, but you can't deny that there are other factors at play.

Toothpaste
04-09-2015, 05:33 AM
I dunno. I think you really need to be aware of market saturation. My book OUTCAST was summarily rejected by the big publishers because they already had their "angel book". Even though my book was quite different from the other angel books out there (which I have since had confirmed after it came out with a small press by reviewers and readers).

I think if it can be framed as SF it would maybe open a couple more doors. And seeing as dystopian is SF it's not like it doesn't reflect the reality of the genre she's writing.

You have to be pragmatic. Just because something is good doesn't mean it will sell. It's also about the market and what people are looking for. And it really does make a difference. Yes, exceptions happen, but we are so rarely the exception.

Emermouse
04-09-2015, 06:52 AM
Re: Oversaturated Market:

The explanation I was always given was that in the time it takes to get the sucker written and published, the market would have shifted to something else, so there's little if any reason to obsess over trends.

I am considering a title change. I did have a title for it and a prologue to explain said title, but during the myriads of revisions, I dropped the prologue and I'm not sure if the title suits my novel anymore. I will query with the title I have if I can't think of a better one by the time I get everything together (having an untitled manuscript is like having an unnamed child; it conveys a lack of care) but still.

Toothpaste
04-09-2015, 06:54 AM
Yes but we are referring to what publishers are acquiring now. Currently publishers are looking for contemporary edgy YA, not dystopian futures. This doesn't mean your book has no chance, it's just something to keep in mind that's all. Obviously you don't want to chase trends, but they also matter. I gave you an example with my own work how it matters what publishers are seeing too much of.

At any rate, just trying to be helpful, not trying to discourage you. Just trying to offer suggestions of what to keep in mind so you can position your work in the best possible light when you start to query.

Osulagh
04-09-2015, 07:09 AM
The explanation I was always given was that in the time it takes to get the sucker written and published, the market would have shifted to something else, so there's little if any reason to obsess over trends.

The problem with trends is that they overload the market--market isn't some imaginary book economy, but readers. Readers are not buying these books because there's already too many of them and those who would buy them are too tired of the same trend. Publishers see this, especially in their accounting books, and thus they search for new markets and cut off the old ones.

I will agree that a good book regardless can achieve anything, but that's also like telling a child that they can be an astronaut. Good chance it won't happen. It's very, very hard to publish a book from a dead trend. Though, I wouldn't know as I haven't read you or your work to know if you're not the next great English writer who can turn genres on their heads. In the chance that you might not be, you might want to think about what you can do to alter the story and see if you can squeeze it in somewhere. Personally, I would shelf it and leave it for scraps to be used later on in later stories.

blacbird
04-09-2015, 07:24 AM
Ask not Do I need an agent? but Does an agent need you?

caw

cornflake
04-09-2015, 08:08 AM
The only problem with that is an agent is going to read the book and think that A) You misrepresented the genre, or B) you don't know your genres. And if you rewrite the book to downplay those elements, well, then it's not going to be the same book and you won't like it as much and neither will anyone else.

Bottom line: If it's good, people will like it, whether the market is saturated or not. Good books sell. I say leave it as is and go for it.

I believe the hedgie was merely suggesting playing up other elements, not misrepresenting the genre.

If the OP rewrites the book to emphasize certain things, who's to say it won't be a better book, or one the OP likes better?

The 'if it's good, people will buy it,' is a nice idea, but it's not really helpful if editors and agents flat won't look at stuff in certain genres at the moment, or if publishing calendars are full of books in those genres.


Re: Oversaturated Market:

The explanation I was always given was that in the time it takes to get the sucker written and published, the market would have shifted to something else, so there's little if any reason to obsess over trends.

I am considering a title change. I did have a title for it and a prologue to explain said title, but during the myriads of revisions, I dropped the prologue and I'm not sure if the title suits my novel anymore. I will query with the title I have if I can't think of a better one by the time I get everything together (having an untitled manuscript is like having an unnamed child; it conveys a lack of care) but still.

The problem with the bolded is that first, that's generally said about trying to catch a trend. Second, you've already written it.

It's said when people think, 'oh, the Hunger Games is big, I'll write a YA dystopian!' By the time someone has written it, pitched it, gotten an agent, sold it, etc., the market may well have moved on.

If the market HAS moved on, and for a good while has been oversaturated with YA dystopia/post-apocalyptic stuff, pitching something you've got can be a very hard road to traverse. It's not completely impossible, but the odds are stacked high against you.

I agree with the prancy hedgehog - if you can find another angle for it, use it.

Putputt
04-09-2015, 08:29 AM
My experience echoes Toothpaste's post. Well, except my old agents couldn't even find a small publisher to pub it. It was a YA fantasy with dystopian elements and publishers said they have a back list of YA dystopia and none of the retailers are buying. I'm not sure how saturated YA post apocalyptic is, but from what I've heard it's almost on par with YA dystopia.

That said, I wouldn't trunk your book. It's written, what do you have to lose? But yeah, I agree with the Hedgehog that if there's a way you can pitch it as something different, do it (without misrepresenting the book, of course).

popgun62
04-09-2015, 07:38 PM
My first three novels got rejected dozens of times. I still found a publisher for each because I believed they were good and I didn't give up. Also, be willing to compromise. If an agent says he/she likes your manuscript, BUT...then don't be afraid to make those changes. Like others have said, they know the market and what sells.

Jamesaritchie
04-09-2015, 08:12 PM
My first three novels got rejected dozens of times. I still found a publisher for each because I believed they were good and I didn't give up. Also, be willing to compromise. If an agent says he/she likes your manuscript, BUT...then don't be afraid to make those changes. Like others have said, they know the market and what sells.

True, but don't be afraid not to make the changes, either. Agents may know the market, but darned few know anything about writing.

Whether it's an agent or an editor, listen, consider, but make any changes based on how you want your book to read, not on how an agent or editor wants it.

Too many new writers are afraid to say no.

popgun62
04-10-2015, 12:24 AM
Too many writers are afraid to make changes because our egos get in the way. My agent never "demands" that I change things, and sometimes I don't. But more often than not, I do. She was an editor for a Big 5 publisher and worked with some amazing talent. I trust her judgment. If you decide to sign with an agent, Emermouse, make sure it's someone whose judgment you trust.

Toothpaste
04-10-2015, 02:01 AM
Thought it was appropriate to quote this PW article about the Bologna Book fair and trends:


“A desire for ‘big’ books – preferably with a movie tie-in – and a dread of tired genres such as dystopia and paranormal romance.” Margaret Raymo, senior executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, said she was still having conversations about post-apocalyptic fiction, even if people were avoiding the D-word: “ ‘It’s set in the future.’ ‘Is it dystopia?’ ‘Well...’ ”

So what it looks like to me is there is definite exhaustion but people are still looking at it. Which is great news! But I do think this means you'd be wise to position your work in how it differs from the stuff already out there and what makes it fresh and exciting.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/66170-bologna-2015-the-hunt-for-something-special.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=db5578ae58-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-db5578ae58-304865125

oceansoul
04-10-2015, 04:29 PM
I absolutely echo what others have said above. For fiction, having an agent will definitely help you -- you can't sub to the big publishers without one.

I am hoping to find an agent with my next manuscript. I signed my first novel with an advance paying small publisher, and so far I couldn't be happier with them. BUT - doing submissions on your own to publishers is just as nerve wracking and time consuming as submitting to agents. I'd really like to find a career supporting agent, both because querying my own stuff makes my OCD go haywire. I struggle to write while submitting, because my brain gets so wrapped up in the process and the anxiety and because I think they could help my work reach a wider audience.

That being said -- if you do decide to do it alone, or don't land an agent querying and decide to approach pubs on your own, still use the links I posted above.

Debbie V
04-14-2015, 05:47 PM
One thing to consider is that if it doesn't sell now, it may well sell in seven to ten years when dystopia feels fresh again.

Other resoures to look at include Agent Query, the Bewares and Background checks area of AW, and Casey McCormick's (I may be spelling that wrong) blog.

Please consider reading all of the stickies in Query Letter Hell and posting there before sending your query out.