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View Full Version : An Agent/Writer Relationship question



travish97
11-05-2006, 10:41 AM
Hello everyone!

I have a question that's been turning in my mind for a while, and I thought this would be a good place to ask other writers.

I've had an agent trying to sell my novel for about two years. He's one of the most successful agents I've seen in the fantasy/scifi genre when I was researching agents to approach, and I felt I was extremely lucky to get him.

He's great to work with, friendly, responsive, professional, etc. and I have no problems with him, except one. He says that he's exhausted all his markets.

When he was marketing my book, he took it to all the big dogs, and I got several near misses from Tor and others. I also got real (non-form-letter) responses from editors, and their feedback helped me make it a better book. (I also found that some editors are ridiculously arrogant know-it-alls who don't know half as much about history and Asian cultures as they think they do, but that's another story.) But now, I have made it a better book, and he says there's no one left to submit it to. He says he's keeping it in reserve until editors change around.

So I'm just wondering if anyone else has had this kind of experience.
I feel my options are:

1. Leave the book with him, and let him continue.
2. Shop around for another agent, who has maybe different contacts and fresh enthusiasm.
3. Try to market the book myself to the major publishing houses and maybe it will hit the desk of a more receptive editor.
4. Self-publish.
5. Try some of the smaller houses that he might have avoided as being too small-time.


Anyone have advice to offer?

MMo
11-05-2006, 11:15 AM
Write another book. Give him something else to sell. Then write another book,and give him _something else_ to sell. Later, maybe a long time later, he can then work this book back around. I had one book that sold thirteen years after the first round, and another that sold about twelve years after the first round, but there were books in between.

Good luck.

Mo

aruna
11-05-2006, 11:20 AM
Yes. Write another book. Forget this one. Letr it be your Apprentice Novel.

TWO YEARS???? You should have had a new one finished long, long ago.

If the next book sells and is a success you can still sell the first one. But for now, let it go.

triceretops
11-05-2006, 11:25 AM
Option #5 is the one I plan to explore, and have done a little bit in that direction. I have been allowed to search for some "jewels" in the small press stacks. I let my agent know what I'm doing, and certainly let those publishers know that I'm represented. We haven't exhausted all of the large or medium pubs yet. But I knew that I would need a backup plan, since I've been agented before and know what to expect. (I'm eight months into major submissions via my agent btw).

Sounds like your current agent might well be my previous. Richard Curtis, by chance?

Tri

Tracy
11-05-2006, 04:50 PM
I agree with the other posters. If he's a good agent (and it sounds like he is) then if he says he's exhausted the market, then he has. I think that he sounds terrific to have kept the faith with you for 2 years without a sale, because he's doing all this at his own cost, and there has been no return-on-investment for him on this yet. So - based on the information you're giving us - I absolutely wouldn't give up on him.

(In fact I'd be so grateful to have an agent when many writers can't get one, and have a good agent when many are stuck with bad ones, I'd never even CONSIDER dumping him!)

I also agree that you should write another book for him to sell, taking what you've learned from all the feedback for this book. That's hard, I know it is, but that's the reality.

Good luck with it.

travish97
11-05-2006, 07:15 PM
Yes, Triceratops, you are correct!

And I have an idea for a new book, but I've been so busy the last couple of months with short fiction that I haven't had a chance to start working on it.

triceretops
11-07-2006, 03:08 AM
I just had that sixth sense. The king of SF, with out doubt is and always has been Richard Curtis. I got lost in his shuffle for two years, but they certainly took my books to Hollywood and I have no idea that they knew the directors and producers on a first name basis. You are so lucky to have him. Don't ever leave. Write more, many more books for him.

Btw, Rob Cohen was my sub-agent at Curtis. Is she still there?

Tri

angeebee
11-07-2006, 04:39 AM
The agent sounds terrific.

I agree with all the other posters. Writing is a business, so when you write, you're creating a product. Yes, I know, it sounds crass. :-)

The degree of success you have depends on what you can produce.

Get writing, so that by the time you sell this book, you've got others -- and publishers ALWAYS ask for your other books. With luck, you'll snag a multi-book contract. Not only that, the books will be written already.

You can break out the champagne and enjoy a brilliant payday.

Forget what's selling and what isn't. Write. You can only sell what you've written.

Cheers

Angela

victoriastrauss
11-07-2006, 08:21 PM
So I'm just wondering if anyone else has had this kind of experience.
I feel my options are:

1. Leave the book with him, and let him continue.
2. Shop around for another agent, who has maybe different contacts and fresh enthusiasm.
3. Try to market the book myself to the major publishing houses and maybe it will hit the desk of a more receptive editor.
4. Self-publish.
5. Try some of the smaller houses that he might have avoided as being too small-time.

Anyone have advice to offer?Travish, the SF/fantasy market is extremely small. Depending on the book, there are just eight to twelve imprints that are options for an agent--i.e., that pay real advances. Again depending on the book (for instance, length is a big factor with smaller publishers, which generally can't afford to publish the kind of fat fantasies that you see from bestselling authors), there are some very viable options in the small press market--Prime Books, Meisha Merlin, Night Shade Books, a few others. However, most of these publishers pay small or no advances, so there's usually no incentive for an agent to work with them.

Assuming your agent did a conscientious job of submitting (and if he's one of the really successful SF/fantasy agents, I think it's safe to assume he did), it's probably true that he's exhausted the advance-paying market. There may be other chances down the road--new imprints do occasionally come into being, and editors come and go--but they will probably be few and far between. What this means for you is that if you leave this agent, you won't be able to find reputable representation at all for this novel, because there will be no place for a new agent to send it. You also won't be able to submit it yourself--to the major houses, that is--because it has already been rejected, and publishers don't generally want to see books they've already refused. Plus, even with those houses that do claim to look at unagented submissions, it's nearly impossible to get through the slush pile.

You can try submitting your book to some of the smaller publishers yourself. Being published by, say, Prime Books (this year's World Fantasy award winner in the Professional category) is a very solid professional credit. If you want to do this, though, do discuss it with your agent first, to make sure he's OK with the idea. Also--be discriminating. The small publishers that are considered professional within the genre are few and far between. They're the ones that are reviewed in Locus, and that you see in the dealers' rooms at cons. You need to do some careful research to get a sense of who they are--and also who they aren't. An ex-ebook publisher like Zumaya, for instance, wouldn't count (no offense to any Zumaya authors present). Your agent may be able to make some suggestions here.

Do NOT self-publish. Not if you're interested in a commercial writing career, or unless you really want to just throw this novel away. At best, self-publishing won't hurt you. At worst, it will make you look amateurish. I'm sorry--I know that some people will consider that elitist. Nevertheless, it's the truth.

I agree with everyone else that your priority right now should be writing another book. You have a good agent--presumably he'll want to represent your next novel too, and that one may have a better chance of selling. Many authors don't manage to sell their first, or even their second or third, novels. In fact, rather than bang your head against walls trying to find a slot for your current novel, you might want to devote all your energy to producing a second novel as quickly as possible.

- Victoria

johnzakour
11-08-2006, 10:01 PM
Yep, I totally agree with the others. Write another book and hope for better luck.

If your agent is as good as you say the big 8-10 publishers have seen it, therefore getting another agent won't help.

I assume you have a list from your agent of the publishers who have rejected the manuscript, this should confirm to you that all the bases have been covered.