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andyzack
12-12-2004, 10:25 AM
After reading numerous posts on this site, I've come to realize that there's a shocking amount of misinformation out there, not to mention confusion and misunderstanding. A decade or so ago, I had an account on GEnie, a bulletin board system, where I was the resident agent for the Ask the Agent topic. I'd like to volunteer to do a stint here in the same role. If you have a general question about the publishing business, I will do my best to answer it.

A few ground rules:

1. No pitches or queries.
2. I will not engage in any arguments. If you want to argue about something, I'm sure there are other topics here for that.
3. No matter what I say, your mileage may vary. I do not purport to be the complete know-it-all of publishing. :)

Now, who am I? My name is Andrew Zack and I am the president of the The Zack Company, Inc., a full-service literary agency located in New York. I have been in this business since September '88 (more like 1982 or so if you count that I first started working in a bookstore while in high school). I started in the foreign rights department at Simon & Schuster, moved to editorial at Warner Books (where I edited and acquired my own titles as an assistant), moved to a small hardcover publisher called Donald I. Fine to do both rights and editorial, and then became an Editor at the Berkley Publishing Group (now part of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.). After my job was eliminated at Berkley, I became a free-lance editor, working on titles for Berkley, Donald I. Fine, Dell and Avon. I became a Consulting Editor for Forge Books (the sister imprint of Tor Books) and acquired and/or edited roughly a dozen titles for them, including several by R.J. Pineiro, the first three COLUMBO mysteries, and Victoria Gotti's first novel there.

I became an agent in 1993, working at the Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency. In 1996, I left to start my own firm. You can read more about my firm, my clients, their titles, who publishes them, and the submission guidelines for my firm, at www.zackcompany.com, www.literaryagent.biz, or www.literaryagent.info.

I look forward to your questions and will do the best I can to answer them.

Best wishes,
Andrew Zack

rtilryarms
12-12-2004, 10:35 AM
Zak,

i don't know you. But anyone willing to spend thier time answering questions and volunteering to help others are welcome in my book.

Don't get discouraged by the doomsayers, they will surely be here.

good luck,

Mike

aka eraser
12-12-2004, 11:10 AM
Glad to have you aboard Andrew.

maestrowork
12-12-2004, 11:20 AM
It's good to have an agent like you around to ask questions! Welcome. There are some good people around.

SRHowen
12-12-2004, 01:00 PM
Welcome to AW.

Shawn ;)

Acewaverly
12-12-2004, 02:25 PM
I'm a first-time novelist who landed a highly respected agent. His idea was that my book should be shopped to the big houses, like Bantan, St. Martins, one at a time. I have no problem with this. I've just been astounded at how long it takes publishing houses to make a decision - several months.

Is that the norm? The novice in me believed that somebody'd read the book over the weekend and push it quickly up the chain of command, or summarily decline the book.

Is there a norm for the time it takes big publishing houses to respond? Do they run books through, not just story editors and the like, but the marketing staff as well?

thanks, Ace

kevacho
12-12-2004, 09:16 PM
Hey Andy Zack,

Great to see you hear. :D

I'm impressed that you would come in and offer your knowledge and wisdom up for public scrutiny. That says a lot about who you are and what kind of agency you run. As you can tell this is a pretty vibrant place. Ideas are challenged, as well as nurtured here. Passions run high, along with a relatively strong level of professionalism. Even here, on the outskirts of the business everyone longs to be in, or rather, strives to remain in, things get pretty emotional.

My first question to you is how do you deal with that... the passions of your artists? Does anyone ever get too emotional, to where you feel you cannot deal, and or, work with them?

Again, thanks for opening yourself up to us for questions. I for one appreciate the opportunity.

Kevin
www.kevacho.com

"Somebody… pass the joe."

Ed Williams 3
12-12-2004, 09:36 PM
...my name is Ed Williams, and I write wild rural Southern country boy stories, sort of PG to R rated ones. My first book was published in both hardback and paperback by tiny traditional publishers, the second, "Rough As A Cob," was published by River City Publishing, a southern regional press out of Montgomery, AL. They're small, but have had a couple of books optioned off to New York houses, and do count Robert McCammon, Carolyn Haines, and George Singleton among their authors. My question - I'm just about finished with a Christmas novel set in Juliette, Georgia (tiny town where I grew up). It's pretty realistic, it's not one of those syrupy sweet Christmas stories by any stretch. Do you think something like this would be worth trying to pitch to a national press, or should I keep it with a Southern regional house? Thanks in advance for any advice/counsel that you may have.

Jaxler
12-12-2004, 10:07 PM
Hi, Andrew...

Perhaps you can address the folktale I've seen posted on another writer's discussion board about how a client and agent sever their relationship.

In this instance, the tale revolves around a client being UNABLE to sever a relationship with an agent who has stopped submitting the client's manuscript due a dispute over a matter of unpaid office expenses (under 200 bucks)...even though the initial term of the agreement expired six months ago.

According to the fable I've seen posted, the agent has the power to keep the client and her intellectual property in thrall until this debt is repaid. The agent a clause slipped into the boilerplate language stating the client couldn't leave his representation until any expenses incurred by the agent were repaid...

...Even though another clause provides for the resolution of a financial dispute through arbitration in the state from which the agent is allegedly licensed to do business.

However, now tales of terrifying repercussions are spreading--that if this debt is not repaid, whispers among the fearful have it that this wronged agent will then spread the word throughout the publishing kingdom that the impoverished client, who wishes only to be freed of this serfdom, will forevermore be branded a "deadbeat" or even worse-- "a difficult writer" (pause here for a crash of thunder,a streak of lightning and the rearing of frightened horses).

Her career will be destroyed, once word of this unpaid 180 bucks reaches the executive editorial office suite of Random House.

Inasmuch as the agent in question is of the fee-charging type, owns a major interest in a POD, is not a member of the AAR and has no sales record to speak of, I find the concept that anyone in the publishing industry would heed his complaints utterly ridiculous.

Furthermore, I find the concept that anyone would think that any agent ( after the agreement term has elapsed and notice given of the severance of said agreement) would actually have the legal wherewithal to encumber a client's intellectual property over a matter of 180 bucks just as astonishing.

What's your take on this--superstition, scare tactic or something...else?:eek

DaveKuzminski
12-12-2004, 10:29 PM
Jaxler, I'd like to know which agent is doing this. Contact me by email if you wish.

Jaxler
12-12-2004, 10:46 PM
I don't mind posting the info, Dave. The guy isn't trying such a pathetic power ploy on me.

Good damn thing, too.

For him. :lol

Here's his site address:

www.bigscoreproductions.c...s.htm#dave (http://www.bigscoreproductions.com/aboutus.htm#dave)

His name is David Robie. The client whom he is apparently running this game on is named Norma Beishir.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 03:47 AM
Hi Ace:

It's absolutely normal for publishers to take months to reply to some submissions. What's unusual is your agent's desire to show it to only one house at a time. Generally speaking, if an agent is showing it to only one editor at a time, that agent has called the editor, made a pitch, and offered a period of exclusivity...and received a promise of a 10- or 30-day turnaround in return for that exclusivity. Otherwise, all this strategy says to me is that the agent is trying to avoid expenses in photocopying and delivery.

Hope that helps.

Best wishes,
Andy

andyzack
12-13-2004, 03:57 AM
One thing you'll find out about me is that I'm fairly honest, sometimes to a fault (which may explain why someone posting in another topic here called me a jerk!).

Sure, I have had clients who got emotional and to those I say, sometimes the publishing business is like dating: You think he loved you, but he was just playing you. She told you she would be yours forever, then dumped you a few months later. You're excited about this new relationship, only to find out that it's not what you thought it was. And, of course, both dating and publishing have plenty of rejection.

How do I deal with the emotional clients? Pretty much the same way I deal with my emotional friends who are dating someone new: I try to keep them on level ground, to keep a realistic perspective, and not to get their hopes too high too early.

In the end, publishing is a business and the relationship between author and publisher is a business relationship. It may be friendly, but it's not actually a friendship. Many authors lose sight of that fact...and some editors also. But in the end, remember who signs your editor's paycheck and you'll be able to keep your expectations level.

Best wishes,
Andy

andyzack
12-13-2004, 04:00 AM
It's really difficult to answer a question like this without having read more about the plot, but my guess is that Xmas is a pretty universal holiday and, as such, a story that's about Xmas should have appeal beyond the small presses. In fact, just the other day, I had lunch with an editor who told me she wasn't interested in any fiction, unless it had the kind of general appeal that THE CHRISTMAS BOX or BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY had. Seems like a good argument in favor of spreading your wings, no?

Best wishes,
Andy

andyzack
12-13-2004, 04:18 AM
Jaxler:

I'm not an attorney, so this isn't actually legal advice, but here is what I understand to be the case in matters such as this:

An agent cannot hold an author "hostage" as you describe. An author can terminate an agent's services at any time. However—and this is a big "however"—the author may owe the agent commission on projects regardless of whether or not the representation services are ended. For example, if you sign with an agent for one year, but terminate after six months, then sell your book two months later, you may, in fact, owe that agent a commission on the sale.

As for the rest of it, well it seems to me to be extremely unlikely. For starters, an agent bad-mouthing an author in the manner you describe would raise significant eyebrows at a publisher. Unless the editor and agent were awfully good friends, I think most editors would assume some kind of bad blood and not worry about it. If they like the author's book, they'll buy it. And if the agent makes a stink to the publisher, the publisher would likely just say that they are sorry that a contractual dispute exists between the author and agent, but that the publisher can't be involved.

Further, I'm fairly certain the author might have a legal action against the publisher for taking such a step.

The other thing I'd say on this is that it definitely could endanger an active submission if the editor suddenly gets a call about a dispute between the author and agent. I think most editors would say "life is too short" and just pass on the book.

If the book is already under contract, however, the terms of the contract will remain in force, generally speaking, until something is executed by both the agent and the author changing those terms, e.g., splitting the commission and the author's share at the source.

Lastly, please remember that there are two sides to every story, be it a divorce or an agent and author splitting. You may be hearing something from a friend about an agent, but that agent may, in fact, be doing nothing wrong, or may simply be enforcing his or her rights under a written representation agreement, just as your friend's husband may not be the jackass she makes him out to be (remember what a nice guy he was at the Xmas party?). It's just that when there are emotions involved and people get frustrated and insecure, it's easier to make someone a "bad guy." Oh, and let's not forget that time your friend went off on you about nothing. Maybe she's done that a few times to her husband, and that's the reason for the divorce.

See what I mean? Two sides to every story. That said, I'm not sure that online bulletin boards are the best places to seek help on a matter such as this. I'd suggest your friend contact an attorney, or perhaps the Authors Guild, for some real advice based on a reading of her representation agreement.

Best wishes,
Andy Zack

spywriter
12-13-2004, 04:24 AM
Thanks for allowing us to ask questions....we really appreciate it.

1. A very well known, highly respected, lucrative agent's reader asked for my first 50. I sent them to her and within a week, she wrote, "while I read so many excellent manuscripts from incredibly talented writers, I am afraid that I could not relate to yours, and I did not meet it with the rare enthusiasm I need to pass it on to agent X. Thank you for sharing your talent with us." PLEASE TRANSLATE. (It was a military thriller, so I'd be shocked if she could have related.)

2. Another agency, which deals primarily with Non-fiction (mine is fiction) said after first 50, "After careful consideration, we have decided that it does not fit our list." PLEASE TRANSLATE.

3. Another agency said that the publishers that they work with would not be interested, as it is not their kind of material.

So Mr. Zack, please tell me if they are speaking the truth or telling me something else. Keep in mind that my book has been heavily edited and reviewed by 15 people whose opinion I trust (English lit majors, voracious readers, teachers, etc). They all say that the beginning--the first 15 pages especially--blew them out of the water.

THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

andyzack
12-13-2004, 04:55 AM
Spywriter:

Unfortunately, those are all form rejects and just boil down to—to paraphrase a best-selling book title—they just aren't that into you...or your book.

If the agent in the first instance does military thrillers, his reader should know that and be able to recognize if it's his thing. If he doesn't, why are you querying him?

Similarly, why are you querying an agency that primarily does non-fiction about a work that is fiction?

You should consult Jeff Herman's guidebook to agents and see who does military thrillers and what their submission guidelines are. You can find it and other recommended books at http://www.zackcompany.com/recbooks.htm.

Best,
Andy

Jaxler
12-13-2004, 04:57 AM
Hi, Andy-

I read the contract in question and it's standard issue agent-client boilerplate except for the clause about her not being allowed to leave the agent's representation until all debts are paid...regardless of the fact the initial term expired about six months ago.

Out of the three agent-client agreements I've signed in my career, that was a new clause on me and I had serious doubts as to its legal enforcebility.

According to her, the agent hasn't sent the manuscript anywhere in well over six months because of the office expenses she owes, so it's not under consideration anywhere much less under contract.

I advised her to mail the guy a registered letter giving him a thirty day notice that their business relationship was formally at an end as well as to query the Author's Guild.

But since the whole sticking point was her worry the agent could hold her intellectual property "hostage" as you put it, over a matter of office expenses, you've just confirmed what I told her...that it couldn't be done.

He can take her to small claims or arbitration as the contract allows to recover the monies he claims he is owed, but other than that, he can't encumber her intellectual property.

Thanks for your input!

andyzack
12-13-2004, 05:05 AM
Jaxler:

Perhaps a stupid question, but does your friend honestly owe the guy money? Were the expenses in question valid? If so, then why isn't your friend paying him?

Best wishes,
Andy

Jaxler
12-13-2004, 06:12 AM
Andy--

From what I understand, she underwent some very hard financial times over the last year or so...and has never denied owing him the office expenses.

But evidently, when she tried to work out some sort of payback plan with him, his attitude was essentially "when I gets mah money,you gets yer freedom and yer book back".

When she countered that if he sent the manuscript out again instead of sitting on it, he would increase the chances of placing it and therefore his chances of earning a commission and repayment of the expenses, his reaction was that he would not incur any further costs on her account.

And the relationship has been at a stalemate ever since, with the clock running out their agreement until the term finally expired.

Over the last few months, he apparently gave her the impression that the clause in an expired contract prevents her from sending out her manuscript another publisher herself or seeking new representation.

Of course, assuming such a clause was even vaguely enforceable, some sort of civil judgement would have to be levied first, which would mean a court date and all sorts of other legal haggles and hassles.

On a strictly personal level--

I don't believe in fee-charging agents. I've never had one and never intend to. I don't charge postage or printer paper or office furniture back to my publisher and so I don't believe an agent should charge the normal cost of being in their business of choice back to a client.

If I call my agent and ask her to overnight my manuscript to the Ukraine, then I will of course be responsible for that charge as I would any fees or costs over and above the normal day-to-day business expenses she might incur on my behalf.

If expenses are incurred by an agent on a client's behalf that are beyond the usual postage, normal photocopying and long distance phone calls, then the definition of those charges should be spelled out in the body of the agreement.

In this case, they were not. They were referred to under the general "catch-all" of office expenses and from what I've ascertained, they were not unusual in nature.

And even if they were unusual, for this guy to work a clause into the contract that the client couldn't leave his representation until all debts were paid has rather Mephistopholean whiff to it, don't you think?

Another question begs to be asked--since he was the one who put the clause into the contract regarding arbitration, why he hasn't undertaken that option after all this time?

At the very least, he would be awarded the judgement against his former client and everybody could move on.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 07:20 AM
Jaxler:

If I understand the case, your friend signed a representation agreement stating that she would reimburse the agent for certain incurred expenses. She then ran into financial difficulty and couldn't repay him. Her contract stated that she was not allowed to shop her manuscript to another party until she did so. The agent refused to incur further expenses on behalf of the client and the situation stalemated there.

From my perspective, it seems a shame the agent didn't simply try and work out a payment plan for the expenses, as that might have kept things very amicable. On the flip side, it doesn't seem that the author has made any effort to pay these expenses she owes (I'm sure the agent would have taken her partial payment and deposited it). So, it seems neither side has really made much of an effort to resolve this.

There are clauses in a contract that survive termination. This may be one of them. Again, your friend needs to consult an attorney, though the expense of doing so may be greater than the expense of paying off the expenses which, would, after all, resolve her problem.

Similarly, the expense of taking her to arbitration would exceed the amount due, so the agent hasn't done so.

With regard to your personal beliefs, well, you're entitled to them, of course, but what seems under discussion here is not "fee charging," but the charging back of out-of-pocket expenses. Your friend signed a contract agreeing to that. You may choose not do so. But you may have a tough time finding an agent who believes as you do, as most agents I know do charge back such expenses. Commissions cover time, knowledge, experience, contacts, etc., but not photocopying, shipping, office supplies, etc. Those are expenses you would incur with or without an agent. An attorney would charge you both to send and receive a fax. So might your accountant. Or your publicist. Why not your agent? I know agents that require the author to have 15 copies of the manuscript delivered to them. Is that preferable to having the agent do it, ensure they meet with his approval in terms of quality, and then charge the reasonable cost back?

You don't charge your publisher back for paper and photocopying, etc., because your publishing agreement says you will provide your publisher with a copy, and it specifies the format of that copy. You agreed to it in your contract the same way your friend agreed to it.

As for the clause itself, well, I don't think it's fully enforceable, but then again it does remind me of many a publishing agreement that states that rights to an author's work will not be reverted to the author as long as there are any sums due to the publisher from the author, e.g., for books purchased, for the indexing fee, for typesetter's corrections (but not an unearned advance). And, put in comparison to that, I have to say that the clause doesn't appear so heinous. I don't think it's enforceable because there's been no exchange of money for the rights, unless the representation agreement granted the author a percentage of ownership in the property. That would be very unusual, though. What he might have, actually, is a lien of some kind, but I'm not familiar enough the law to say for sure.

In the end, literary representation is a business. Your friend entered into a what I assume was a binding contract and I assume she did it of her own free will. Can the agent enforce that clause? Likely not without incurring legal expenses, which he may not want to do. Hence, I suspect that, in the end, you friend may do what she wants with the rights and the agent will be forced to eat the costs that your friend contractually committed to paying. While not an attorney, to me it looks like your friend is in breach of contract and, ultimately, in the wrong. Could the agent have handled the situation with greater compassion and with greater creativity toward resolving the matter? Probably. But perhaps it just wasn't worth his time. After all, he has a client who breached a contract. Why waste more time with her when he has clients in good standing who require his attention? There is such a thing as throwing good money after bad and it appears this agent chose not to do so.

I know you may disagree with this, but I call them as I see them.

Best,

spywriter
12-13-2004, 07:43 AM
Andy...

Thanks for the response. I guess a better question is this...

Let's say you have 10 incredible MS in front of you, but you just cannot take on all of them. And clearly, while they are all outstanding, one or two really shine. What do you write to the 8 others you are NOT taking on? Do you give them that standard form letter, or do you say "HEY...you were right up there, but I had to say no?" I am just really curious.

ALSO...let's say you request a MS and when you read it, you are shocked by the typos and the writer's inability to write. If its HORRIBLE do you tell them to work on it some more, or do they get the standard NO THANKS letter. Again,,,just curious.

BTW, I sent a query to a mostly non-fiction agent because they said that they were seeking my kind of book to break into the fiction world. I know, I know...but you gotta try to find your break somewhere!

THANK YOU AGAIN...this is great. We all value your time and knowledge!

andyzack
12-13-2004, 07:56 AM
Spywriter:

The first situation will just never happen. Never! I promise you. Finding ONE is struggle.

When I find a manuscript that is close, but not quite there, I write the author a letter explaining why.

Keep in mind that I do not request many full manuscripts. I read queries and in maybe 5% of the cases request a sample chapter. Then, maybe, just maybe 2% of those I request a full manuscript (I'm ball-parking here because I don't do the math, but you can see a lot about how much we read by viewing the Submissions page at my website). In almost every case where I request a manuscript, I write a letter explaining why I'm passing.

99.9% of the queries we reject with a form postcard. Probably 98% of the sample chapters we reject with a form postcard.

I realize these stats aren't promising, but I think they are fairly standard given the number of queries and submissions agents get.

Best,

Jaxler
12-13-2004, 08:07 AM
I agree with some of what you posted, and disagree with other parts.

Norma may have been in breach of contract by not paying the office expenses upon demand, but I would imagine when the agent stopped submitting the manuscript that decision falls within the parameters of breaching the agreement himself, certainly voiding it since neither one of them were abiding by the terms.

None of the agents I've ever retained have ever charged back reasonable office expenses to me, ever. Not for one postage stamp or a single paper clip.

And if it ever happens, I expect to receive an itemized list, not an umbrella charge of "office expenses".

If I'm asked for 15 photocopies, I'll arrange to have them done myself and ship them to my agent myself...and write it off as a business expense on my taxes.

As for a lien on an intellectual property...if Norma had signed over a specific and seperate agreement granting him a percentage of ownership in copyright of the property, then maybe.

But she didn't and the copyright law is clear that a seperate instrument has to be created that provides for even a partial transfer of copyright.

As for her being in the wrong, she's never denied owing the debt. She's tried to work it out.

As for the agent being in the wrong--you don't try to terrorize somebody into putting their careers on hold because you hold fast to an arbitrary and weird and essentially unenforceable indentured servitude clause.

Chamran
12-13-2004, 08:07 AM
Do you think it ethical for an agent to charge a fee to read a ms ahead of others lying in the slush pile? This question was recently brought up and even though the fee was small, is this agent doing the right thing?
Wannabe
chamran

SRHowen
12-13-2004, 08:49 AM
I'm going to ask a question that many writers ask me and I have heard asked.

And since I do query letter work with writers, one that they think there is a golden key for.

What is it about a query letter that makes an agent ask for more--that bing bang boom that says Ok, I want to see this one?

I have my own thoughts and experiance to put into it--but I think coming from an agent it may mean more.

Thanks Andy,

Shawn

andyzack
12-13-2004, 08:51 AM
Well, Chamran, I think I'm the agent to whom you are referring. I have posted elsewhere with a detailed response regarding this service and so I won't take up anyone's time here. If you search for "Zack" on this site and read the thread for "a couple of questions," you'll find it.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 08:54 AM
Actually, Shawn, I wrote an article for this in THE WRITER magazine. You can read it on my site at http://www.zackcompany.com/perfectpitch.pdf.

Best,
Andy

andyzack
12-13-2004, 08:59 AM
I agree that a clear statement of expenses should be provided and that all parties should use best efforts to act professionally.

In the end, it seems to me that this is a contractual dispute that we certainly won't resolve here. I wish your friend well and hope she resolves her problems soon.

Best,

Ed Williams 3
12-13-2004, 09:36 AM
...thank you for your advice, much appreciated.

maestrowork
12-13-2004, 09:56 AM
Spywriter wrote:

... while I read so many excellent manuscripts from incredibly talented writers, I am afraid that I could not relate to yours, and I did not meet it with the rare enthusiasm I need to pass it on to agent X.

OMG. Spy, I got almost exactly the same reply from Vines Literary after the reader requested and read the full ms. The weird thing was, she requested it the day before Thanksgiving, and replied the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I seriously doubted that she actually read the whole thing during her holiday weekend. I could be wrong. But that was almost exactly the wording she used: "can't relate" and "lack of enthusiasm."

maestrowork
12-13-2004, 10:05 AM
Mr. Zack, I am curious about your answer to Shawn's question though. Do you screen the queries based on what you're currently looking for (be it thriller, romance, whatever)? Do you think other agents do the same, given the volume of queries they received? I'm just curious -- beside a well-written letter with all the right ingredients, what other criteria does an agent use to determine when to send a request?

Given the query is written with good grammar, style, and clear, effective presentation, do agents only care about the premise of the book from a short 1-2 paragraph synopsis, or are they interested at all in the writer's ability to write?


Edited: actually I made a mistake. I didn't query the Zack's company. I queried Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. My error.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 11:13 AM
I play racquetball. When I hit a shot, can I tell you why I hit it that way? Maybe, if I think about it, after the fact I can. But at the time of the shot, it's a reflex. There's a calculation taking place in my head, very quickly, and then I hit the ball.

Could I point to something in every query letter that made me pass? Probably. But after years of reading query letters and other submissions, it becomes reflexive. I just know, reading the letter, whether or not it works for me.

I'd guess it's the same for most agents and editors.

Best,

Acewaverly
12-13-2004, 02:06 PM
Appreciate the feedback on why the agent might be going to only one publisher. The cost of copying etc. angle doesn't seem to fly simply because the agent could/would simply pass those costs onto me, right?

thanks, Ace

Hapsburg
12-13-2004, 03:45 PM
I would first like to thank you for agreeing to answer questions. As a writer, Agents are perhaps the most unknown and difficult to understand aspect of the business for me. I'm always wondering what makes them tick...

My question:

A novel I'm submitting for representation gets its share of the form responses but...I submitted it to a contest and though I didn't win grand prize, (which was publication) I was rated one of the top 25 manuscripts. They host my synopsis on their webpage and the work (even though unpublished) has been requested and read by a couple established authors in the genre, who were kind enough to follow up and write book reviews (of their own volition without prompting) that they allowed me to quote on my site. So far in my queries, I just mention the small award.

Is this a bad idea? Should I not mention such a thing and stick to the basics or should I continue mentioning it and maybe give them a link to the reviews?

Before I started querying agents I had been submitting to small and independent publishers. Some agencies ask if we've submitted elsewhere and where, should I tell them?

On brighter notes (I think), one of the publishers, though rejecting the work, wrote coments in the margins of my manuscript (kindly in pencil) and sent a 2 page long review of what they thought worked and what didn't, with very kind comments regarding my writing ability and asking me to please send them a synopsis to any other works I have in progress. So baby steps...


www.authorsden.com/justinjosephnekkloer (http://www.authorsden.com/justinjosephnekkloer)

mborinstein
12-13-2004, 06:44 PM
Gosh, it's nice to see that there really are some legit agents around who truelly wish to help!

:\ I was told by my agent that it is now the norm to wait about 18 months to hear back from publishers after a manuscript has been sent. This includes a regular form rejection letter. She has/had 2 childrens books under contract and in 2 1/2 years had almost no updates from anyone, and whenever I request a list of publishers she has sent the books to at the various points, replies that she has already sent them to me. (I have never received any of these emails other than the first one almost 2 years ago)

Does this sound legit to you?

Thanks so much for your opinion. I really am hoping that you will reply and tell me all seems above board...:\ :\

kevacho
12-13-2004, 10:15 PM
Again, thank you Andy Zack. I for one find the opportunity to speak and ask questions of a "real life" agent invaluable. So, with that said, let me ask you a couple more questions.

I have seven completed novels. At the moment, I am only querying one. Is it a good, or, a bad idea to mention the fact that I've written more than one novel in my initial query? I have heard and read that agents want to know that you're more than a "one-novel-guy", but I've also heard and read that they don't want to hear about reams of unpublished work. Maybe you could clarify as it concerns your own opinions.

Also, and on a more personal not, what do you look for in a novel? (Granted, I realize this question is rather general, but I've always thought it takes two things to get published: good idea, or good writing. I've read novels that weren't very original but the writing was superb, and I've also read books whose ideas were phenomenal, but the writing lacked an aesthetic appeal for me.)

Thanks for your time and effort.

Kevin
www.kevacho.com

"Mmmmm… coffee…"

vstrauss
12-13-2004, 10:15 PM
>>I was told by my agent that it is now the norm to wait about 18 months to hear back from publishers after a manuscript has been sent. This includes a regular form rejection letter.<<

I'm not Andrew but here's my response: A good agent gets replies from editors much more quickly, often in a matter of weeks. This kind of wait is about what you might expect if you were submitting on your own, as an unagented author.

There's a category of slush known as "agented slush"--submissions from agents who aren't known to be questionable (in which case they go direct to the reject pile) but whose names are unfamiliar, who offer material that's inappropriate or substandard, or who submit in an unprofessional way (for instance, with a "Dear Editor" letter, or by bundling several queries in a single envelope). Agented slush may get more priority than regular slush, but not much more. Hence the very long response times.

A good agent should never get a form rejection letter.

>>whenever I request a list of publishers she has sent the books to at the various points, replies that she has already sent them to me. (I have never received any of these emails other than the first one almost 2 years ago)<<

This sounds like the response of someone who either has too little regard for her clients to bother keeping them informed, or didn't send out anything at all.

- Victoria

andyzack
12-13-2004, 10:20 PM
That depends on the agent, Ace. Some don't pass along expenses unless the book sells. Your agent may not be confident enough that it will sell and so is taking a more cautious approach to sending it out.

Of course, the person who can really answer this question is your agent. Have you asked?

andyzack
12-13-2004, 10:27 PM
Dear Hapsburg:

I have to admit that I don't give much credit to winning contests, unless it's one of the majors run by a NY house or a well-known writing association. The ones run by writers' conferences aren't, in my opinion, really consistent (after all, anyone who pays is considered). This is based on being asked to judge some of those contests in the past or on receiving submissions from authors who say their manuscript just won this award at some writers' conference. I've read those manuscripts and generally not been impressed. I have only one client who won such an award, but what got me to read the manuscript was the recommendation of a former author of mine (from when I was an editor).

Linking to reviews isn't a terrible idea, but including a sample in your query letter might be a better one.

If you submit to publishers and are rejected, you may muddy the waters for any potential agent. Direct-from-the-author slush is usually read by assistants who have far less experience. Say I read your book and love it. Then I send it to an editor I believe will like it, but some editorial assistant who isn't even there any more and had a chip on her shoulder when she was had already rejected it. The editor's assistant goes to log it in, but sees it was already rejected there. Guess what happens next?

I'd focus on finding an agent, then let the agent find a publisher.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 10:47 PM
Victoria:

I respectfully disagree with you about reply time. Every agent I know has complaints about editors taking too long. One has a story about an editor taking 8 months and then making a two-book offer. Another has a story about getting a call with an offer on a book that she'd sold a months earlier. Genre editors (SF&F and mystery) are particularly slow, probably because they are so swamped. I personally recall one instance where a science fiction editor in charge of a name-brand franchise took two years to buy an option book. Of course, there was nowhere else to go with it, since it was in the franchise, so this editor took his own sweet time. He even did this in one case with a New York Times best-selling author of his.

No. Reply times aren't an issue of knowing the author or agent or whatever, in my opinion. They are an issue of workload and priorities. A new baby at home wreaks havoc with editors getting any reading done. A death in the family is the same.

As for form rejection letters, every agent gets those also. It's called "clearing the shelf." When I was an assistant, my boss had three form rejection letters that he used, and he used them with everyone from William Morris to ICM to Jay Garon.

In the days of email, I find that most editors do tend to shoot off a quick note telling you why they are passing, but they do also often just say, "Sorry. It wasn't for me." I don't find those helpful, personally, as they don't tell me enough to let me focus my submissions to that editor more tightly in the future. That's when I pick up the phone and go looking for more info on what they want, or make a lunch date to get to know them.

As for the agent not providing a submission list, I agree with you.

spywriter
12-13-2004, 10:49 PM
It's me again MR. Zack....THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

1. What roll do interns play at agencies? Are they gophers, or are they allowed to sort through queries? When I send my query, I am truly hoping that someone more experienced than an intern is looking at my work.

2. How many people have to read and like a query before you ask for the first 50 (or first chapter)? Are there levels within the query system to pass through?

3. If the story and writing are great, but a few typos are found in the first 50, does that really make a difference to you?

A million times.......THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

maestrowork
12-13-2004, 10:59 PM
BTW, should this thread be in Beware and Background check?

andyzack
12-13-2004, 11:06 PM
Personally, I cringe when I hear an author has so many novels. Pick the one you think has the most potential in the marketplace and query agents about that one. If you find an agent, don't tell him or her you have seven manuscripts and certainly don't expect them to be read. Once your first novel sells, then show your agent your next one, keep in mind that your publisher may have an option on your next book-length work, so that's a factor.

I look for "page-turnability" and a good plot that doesn't feel familiar.

spywriter
12-13-2004, 11:07 PM
Being that I could divide my number of posts into yours Maestro many many times, I say yes. Even though the questions are varying, we are talking about agents, what agents look for, signs of bad agents and so on. I believe that we are still on topic.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 11:13 PM
I'm a one-man firm, so interns here do play a substantive role. They are usually at least college juniors and often grad students. From day one, I treat them as I would any assistant that I'm starting out at my firm. They are NOT gophers. (In fact, I'm still looking for two Spring interns, so if you know any students in the NYC area who might be interested, have them get in touch.)

They do read queries and manuscripts and then they give me comments. We discuss their reader's reports in great detail.

I'd say 99% of queries are read by me personally before they are rejected or more material is requested. I did have an assistant for a year and by the end I would let him request what interested him. I currently have an intern who is very good and I do request material on his recommendation. But no one becomes a client without my reading their material.

Typoes and bad formattting are just slopppy. :) Seriously, though, in this day of spell-checking and grammar-checking software and global formatting changes, etc., there's no excuse for it. A lack of them impresses me. A few doesn't concern me. What will make me pass on a book faster than a speeding bullet is a lot of passive voice.

andyzack
12-13-2004, 11:15 PM
I started it here because so many of the questions here seem to focus on what an agent should or should not be doing. What's right, what's wrong, etc. If someone wants to move it up a notch in the ladder, I have no objection.

vstrauss
12-14-2004, 02:07 AM
>>Every agent I know has complaints about editors taking too long.<<

Agreed, absolutely, but I still think that 18 months is way too long, and that a competent agent would either have gotten a reply by now or withdrawn the submission. At the very least, the agent should be able to update her client on the status of the submission.

Also, the poster said "I was told by my agent that it is now the norm to wait about 18 months to hear back from publishers after a manuscript has been sent." Does this reflect your experience--that such long waits are the norm? I doubt it. I'd suspect, as a successful agent, you rarely have to wait even 8 months. In all honesty, what would be your opinion of the competence of an agent who expects to wait 18 months to hear back from an editor?

Ditto for the form letter. A successful agent may receive one (though I'd guess it's rare), but she shouldn't expect one.

Putting all the clues together, including the non-provision of a submission list, I have serious doubts about this agent's competence.

- Victoria

andyzack
12-14-2004, 02:34 AM
Well, I do admit that 18 months seems like a long time, but I can think of a couple of publishers who have sat on projects at least that long from me. As for withdrawing them, what would I do then? Resubmit to another editor? Well, tough to do that if the book was logged as seen there and rejected. You see, there's no option in anyone's log system for "withdrawn" submissions. And, the publishers I'm thinking about have one to three editors only. Yet they are large enough that I'm 110% sure you would know them both.

I think it depends on the publishers involved, the editors, etc. I wouldn't tell an author 18 months is the norm—ever—but I'm not shocked if certain publishers sit on things that long.

triceretops
12-14-2004, 03:52 AM
Hi Andy,

Well, 20 hours ago I sent out nine non-fic book queries to nine different agents via email, since they had websites and
accepted such queries. I now have four agents who would like the chap outline and samples. They all seem to be legit,
non-fee agents, and abide by or belong to the Authors Rep.
Two of the requests contained glowing remarks, one was a
standard "yes", and the fourth called me!
Now they've talked about exclusivity, and by that, I think
they mean the outline and sample chapters. It wasn't clear
to me. I feel like a heel for this shotgun approach, but I truly didn't think anything like this would happen.
I asked another published author to read my query and the responses, wondering if this was some kind of fluke inherent with website/email agents. He told me my query was the best damn pitch he'd ever seen, and the topic was just as intriguing. So I DO hope it's me, and this barrage was earned.
What in the heck do I do now? Don't have the package even ready yet.

Triceratops

andyzack
12-14-2004, 03:58 AM
Well, on my website it says not to query us unless your book is done or proposal finished. The reason for this being exactly the situation you are describing. You have several agents' attention, but you may now lose it because you queried them prematurely.

As for the exclusivity, my suggestion is to forward your material and tell them they do NOT have it exclusively, because of the terrific response your query received and that several agents are looking at the material. Some may be turned off by that, so give it some thought.

You might also pick the agent you would most like to represent you and simply give that agent the exclusive, say until the end of the week. No news by then, send your material out to the others to read over the weekend.

These are just suggestions, of course.... There's really no "right" answer.

Risseybug
12-14-2004, 04:37 AM
How do you feel about the "first refusal rights" clause in some publishing contracts? Do you think it's fair, or not? How often, would you say, do those publishers who have these clauses in their contracts actually do reject an author's next work?

I ask, b/c the current publisher I am with has one in my contract, for the next two works of mine that are of the same genre. I personally don't mind, b/c I have a great relationship with the editor, and I think we work well together.

Just wondering what your opinion is?

triceretops
12-14-2004, 04:44 AM
Thanks Andy.

I chose these agents because they actually requested the short query before anything else was sent. I also have a lot of published credits, including non-fiction books, and was also repped by Richard Curtis in the past. I have a feeling that helped me. I've sold on spec before.
However, your system seems a viable safeguard against
writers who want to sign but can't finish the script. All these agents said, "just send it when it's ready."

Thanks, again................Triceratops

HapiSofi
12-14-2004, 04:57 AM
Andy, what I said was that you have random moments of acting like a jerk, which is not at all the same thing. But I'll give you this: you'll do it to anybody.

You're dead right about there being a shocking amount of misinformation floating around, likewise confusion and misunderstanding. For a long time now, I've thought that one of the things the situation needs is a real agent answering questions. You get pro authors participating in these discussions, and sometimes you'll see booksellers, trade editors, even people who work in production. They know what they know, but they don't know what agents know.

So, good on you. Glad you're here.

andyzack
12-14-2004, 05:05 AM
Option clauses are, fundamentally, a business point. They are not legally enforceable—or so I've been told; I'm not a lawyer—but they do create a presumption that the relationship will be profitable and that both sides will want to continue it. I don't think that's a bad way to start off a relationship. That said, I'm not sure the existence of an option clause helps any if the author's books aren't selling!

However, having the option be on the next two books is highly unusual. It is usually on the next work only.

HapiSofi
12-14-2004, 05:21 AM
Victoria said:
There's a category of slush known as "agented slush"--submissions from agents who aren't known to be questionable (in which case they go direct to the reject pile) but whose names are unfamiliar, who offer material that's inappropriate or substandard, or who submit in an unprofessional way (for instance, with a "Dear Editor" letter, or by bundling several queries in a single envelope). Agented slush may get more priority than regular slush, but not much more. Hence the very long response times.A quibble: Not all houses will automatically reject submissions from agents whom they know to be crooks. A good author might wind up in the hands of a very bad agent. Also, in my experience, the only difference in the treatment of slush and agented slush is that they get different form rejection letters. Who the manuscript is addressed to matters less than who your agent is. If it's Gem or Lee Shore, you're slush.

Don't take that as gospel, though. Practices vary from house to house.

(Now I'll shut up and go back to being in the audience.)

DaveKuzminski
12-14-2004, 10:49 AM
I have to concur with HapiSofi. I also know of some well known legitimate publishing houses that will accept subs from any and all agents. I won't identify them because I know from speaking with their editors that they don't want to be targeted by some of those agents.

drmelvinblair
12-14-2004, 03:16 PM
Wow! An Agent!
I just wanted to say Thank You. It's a real spirit-lifting moment to see someone of your caliber paying forward for your business, and our craft. I am truly impressed.

Although my question will surely seem fundamental to most of the writers here, they are genuine, and your insight would be most useful to me.

I am not a new author. I am a new fiction writer, working on my first novel. There is a series of at least five planned in the Mystery/Adventure genre.

I am 90% complete with the first draft. So far, critiques have been extremely positive, for which I am humbled and very grateful. Good criticisms, suggestions, and input from some pretty (I found out later) heavy hitters in this field.

I am having intense personal relationship these days with a red pen. I feel very positive about the work.

At what point in this journey should I be actively seeking, and engaging an Agent? I feel as though I have a basic understanding of my requirements, and am interested in finding out theirs. When is "too early"?

No, I am not published in articles or Journals. It's one of those "straight-out-the-door" avenues for me. My current philosophy is a matrix that includes the expectation of 100 rejections per 1 acceptance, but that acceptance is going to be worth the 100 rejections. So, I'm not going to be concerned until the 101st rejection arrives.

Any comments or suggestions would be most appreciated.

And, again, thank you so very much for being here.

Bud Fields
kybudman@hotmail.com

Risseybug
12-14-2004, 06:22 PM
Hey, Bud!
When did you get here??

:lol
See ya round LBF.

Christine

andyzack
12-14-2004, 09:35 PM
I'm a bit confused. If an agent is sending out the manuscript to well-known publishing houses, it sounds like he or she is doing his job. What about them makes them crooks? They they charged the client for the shipping? That they charged a reading fee up-front? I'm truly unclear on what the definition of a crook is supposed to be here.

When I was an agent, I got submissions from Lee Shore. I can't recall much else, but I don't remember thinking we wouldn't buy from the firm if the book was good. They just never were. And sending in bad books is the fastest way to get your submissions automatically moved to the bottom of the pile.

andyzack
12-14-2004, 09:55 PM
It's never too early to do research, but you shouldn't send out queries until you have a manuscript you are ready to show. It's a long shot, but you might find an agent who responds to your query immediately with a request for the manuscript. If you then write back and say, Oops, I never expected you to respond so fast and I have three months of work still to do, it's not going to make a good impression.

Best,

underthecity
12-14-2004, 10:17 PM
I hope that everyone reading these posts, including me, do their homework and submit their work to agents and publishers correctly: that is, good queries, correct ms formatting, spelling, etc.

I'm curious to know about the "bad" submissions you receive. Do you see any frequently-made errors in manuscript submissions? What mistakes do you most often see in query letters? How often (like a percentage) do you get submisssions you reject right off the bat due to formatting mistakes, bad grammar, or just overall bad writing?

In other words, what are the things we should definitely NOT do when submitting our work to agents and publishers? Things that you see on a daily/weekly basis? Things that just drive you crazy because the author should have known better?:)

Armed with this information, hopefully I won't make mistakes when submitting my work--mistakes I didn't know were mistakes, in spite of doing my homework.

Thanks!

underthecity

spywriter
12-14-2004, 11:01 PM
1. I have heard that August is a major bad time to try and get an agent, as NYC ic cleared out for the summer and that's also when the publishing companies have their conventions. IS this true? Are there other BAD TIMES to try and get an agent or be published. Like, what about now? I just sent off a number of queries. Was I wrong with Christmas right around the corner?

2. Let's say you found a new writer that you just love and you want to represent him. When you go to give him the contract, he tells you that he had been previously represented by a semi-scammer agent 2 months before. (He did not know it at the time, but now knows his mistake.) Does that make you NOT want to sign him? Do you anyway? How does having had a bad/not too reputable agent hurt one's career?

Again and again...you are an awesome Christmas gift to us all!
THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

andyzack
12-14-2004, 11:40 PM
Since finding an agent is never a quick process, I don't really think it's that calendar sensitive. Yes, August is when a lot of people go on vacation and several major publishers close for the week between Xmas and New Year's. So maybe wait until after Labor Day and until mid-January to avoid getting added to the catch-up pile.

Having a bad prior agent isn't a deal-breaker. It just depends on whether or not they made submissions. You have to keep in mind that publishers—but not all agents—do log in submissions. Hence, if they see that the same book was seen and rejected by another editor in the past, they will likely just return it. My advice to you if you are going to change agents is to get a complete submission list of where your work has been and give it to your new agent. Also, you might want to consider a title change.

king pixel
12-15-2004, 06:25 AM
A very helpful thread Andrew - thanks!

I have a question regarding the type of book that I wish to pursue. For lack of a better description, it would fall into the very broad "coffee table" book category, but not a traditional one. I'm an engineer interested in doing an illustrated bridges book, that offers the reader a glimpse into this very interesting world. The book would also include some text but the focus would be sketches, illustrations, photos, etc.

So the book is a bit of a cross-breed (coffee table & text book) designed to engage anyone with some basic math & science background (say Junior High students and up).

My question is: Do I need an agent to represent this type of work? I ask because it seems that there are not any agents who list this type of work as something that they are interested in representing.

Also, I have queried two agencies via email, but not received any word back. Is it normal not to reply to email queries from potential authors, even just to say "PFO"? It seems to me that ignoring the very submissions that were openly invited is a bit rude (although one did have a "if you don't hear from us in two weeks, then take the hint" blurb at the bottom of their form).

emeraldcite
12-15-2004, 10:49 PM
Thanks for the great thread!

if you don't mind revealing the dirty details, could you give us a run down of your average day (and maybe even a few not-so-average days)?

what is it like to be an agent full time? many writers would probably have a better time negotiating their impatience if they knew the average difficulties you face on a daily basis.

thanks for taking the time to give us all a glimpse!

triceretops
12-15-2004, 11:40 PM
Emerald,

That's a very good suggestion. Other than finding every
negative aspect of agenting, why not find out what a typical
agent endures (or suffers) as a result of voluminous public contact, which can't be all that rosy of a vocation when dealing with personalities and artistic sensibilities.

Triceratops

andyzack
12-16-2004, 01:07 AM
Well, it's 1 pm. What have I done today?

I started at 9 am, when my intern showed up. He has a big interview for a real job today at a major publisher. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a sport coat, so we spent a few minutes seeing if mine would fit him and could he wear it to the interview (he can).

I read and answered several emails from clients and editors.

I reviewed materials in advance of a meeting and then went to a meeting with an investment advisor to discuss my firm's pension plan.

I returned to read a long email from a client about the cover of his book (brilliant observations!) and wrote an email to him and the publisher that I hope will keep things on a cooperative level rather than the publisher just picking the cover and doing what they want (the work is religious nonfiction and the author pointed out in a very clear manner that none of the images they want to use are applicable).

I read and logged a rejection on a project and forwarded it to the author to review.

I opened a giant tin of chocolate-covered, peanut-butter pretzels one of my clients sent me for Xmas. Apparently any hopes of keeping trim this month are doomed.

This afternoon, I need to finish reviewing a contract from a major house. Now here's a way to waste an agent's time: send them the contract as a Word document, but protect it so that it is read-only. I cannot mark it up or make any of the changes I need to make. Several publishers have policies of refusing to send contracts by email or, if they do, they will send them only as PDF or read-only documents. This, of course, is grossly inefficient and has no real function. While I can use the comments and edits feature of Adobe to mark up a PDF, it is not nearly as efficient as Word. And a read-only file is really no better than a fax.

My other favorite is a fairly major publisher that routinely sends five copies of the first draft of the contract. It's over a dozen pages long, I think, and I have never used that first draft. Thus, they spend the money to print all these copies and then to messenger it to me, and I shred four copies and use the fifth as a working copy. It's a tremendous waste of time, money, and trees.

andyzack
12-16-2004, 01:10 AM
Pixel:

I don't actually take email queries, so I can't comment on what's normal or not normal about them. Though, if I did, I'd have an autoresponder on it that said, "Thanks for your query. It has been safely received. If we are interested, we will contact you." Then I would not respond unless I was interested. Just my take, though. Not sure about the ones you ran into.

As for the book...illustrated books are a very difficult sell. They tend to be expensive to produce and the cover prices are high, which keeps sales low. I have recently heard that one major publisher of them is 9 months or so behind in paying advances and royalties.

Honestly, you may have better luck writing an illustrated childrens' book about bridges. You'd certainly sell more, I think.

HConn
12-16-2004, 01:59 AM
I opened a giant tin of chocolate-covered, peanut-butter pretzels one of my clients sent me for Xmas.

This makes me want to be an agent.

spywriter
12-16-2004, 04:05 AM
Thank you for the information on your day. However, I never heard you talk about reading queries. This is what I have come up with in my own mind. While you are doing all the stuff you described, your interns are busy opening, reading and then sorting the queries. Those that are obviously poorly written are sent to the NO THANK YOU PILE. You never even see them...right? Then at the end of the day, your interns have a handful/select few/a couple of great queries. Do you review these daily? Weekly?

Do you ever get concerned that MAYBE your interns are throwing away a GREAT book?

Once more...YOU ARE APPRECIATED!!! I'll send you a box of whatever you want to keep you answering our questions!

SRHowen
12-16-2004, 04:06 AM
I know many writers who are afraid of even asking their agent a question or even moderately disagreeing with them for fear the agent will dump them. (LOL something I've never suffered from)

I think a lot of writers would rest easy knowing that a question or not understanding something or even saying: Look, I like this scene or character and then discussing the scene is not going to get them tossed out with the trash.

So what are the main reasons an author would leave an agent, or an agent would want to (or indeed do so) get rid of a client?

Thanks,

Shawn

andyzack
12-16-2004, 04:24 AM
I rarely read queries during the day. But, also, my interns do not generally reject queries. Yes, there are some they are allowed to chuck (40,000 word romance novels, anything written in crayon, anything with obvious drool on it, etc.), but I read pretty much everything else.

The point of "what's an agent's day like" is that it's not about reading. It's about paperwork, emails and phone calls. It's about writing submission letters and then packing up (or having an assistant or intern who packs them up) submissions, and getting them out. Remember, this is NYC. I don't have a car. How do you imagine a submission of 10 or 15 400-page manuscripts gets out the door?

The reason the reading takes so long is that it's the last thing that gets done, often in the evening or on the weekend, etc. And at that point, even the most enthusiastic agent and editor might be a little worn out.

I don't review queries on a set schedule. Sometimes I have let an entire month accumulate and then spent four hours going through them. Lately, I've been reading them daily. I'd like to keep doing that, if my schedule permits. That said, though, I haven't been to the gym in over a week. And it's probably more important right now that I get to the gym and keep myself healthy than anything.

We've also added a "stats" page at http://www.zackcompany.com/submissions.htm, which shows any author where we stand as of the last date we tallied everything.

And, no, I've never worried anyone was throwing away a great book. The odds are awfully long that could happen.

andyzack
12-16-2004, 04:36 AM
When an agent and author reach irreconcilable differences, it's time to part ways. When an author starts to give an agent orders or tell him how to sell a book, that's when it's time for the agent to say good-bye. While there is certainly a time and place for an agent to ask an author for a direct request for action (say not making something a deal-breaker), agents are not the employees of authors.

And, neither are authors the employees of agents. If an author feels like an agent is treating him as such, then it is time for author to say good-bye.

The author/agent relationship is a partnership, just as the editorial/sale relationship is a partnership. You should be rowing together, in the same direction; not barking at one another to go one way or another.

Sgt Spanky
12-16-2004, 04:43 AM
Well, it's 1 pm. What have I done today?

It's after 4p here and I've decided to do this post.

I started at 9 am, when my intern showed up. He has a big interview for a real job today at a major publisher. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a sport coat, so we spent a few minutes seeing if mine would fit him and could he wear it to the interview (he can).

My advice here is to suggest to the young man that he start dropping hints to his folks that he needs a few new items of clothing to help in his career search. It's that time of year, y'know, so now's the perfect time while there's still a few shopping days left.

I read and answered several emails from clients and editors.

This requires no advice. I'd have done this too if I were an agent. Good job! :D

I reviewed materials in advance of a meeting and then went to a meeting with an investment advisor to discuss my firm's pension plan.

This is businessy stuff. Businessy stuff makes my ears bleed and my eyes glaze over. :\

I returned to read a long email from a client about the cover of his book (brilliant observations!) and wrote an email to him and the publisher that I hope will keep things on a cooperative level rather than the publisher just picking the cover and doing what they want (the work is religious nonfiction and the author pointed out in a very clear manner that none of the images they want to use are applicable).

This sounds perfectly reasonable. If the publisher fails to consider the author's well thought out arguments then I think we should arrange a visit to suggest more firmly that he/she reconsider using vice-grip pliers and a screwdriver.

I read and logged a rejection on a project and forwarded it to the author to review.

What's this? The author's work was rejected!? Then the course is clear; he/she must be dropped in favor of a more promising writer. Myself, for instance. :smokin

I opened a giant tin of chocolate-covered, peanut-butter pretzels one of my clients sent me for Xmas.
Apparently any hopes of keeping trim this month are doomed.

It's Christmas! This is no time to concern yourself with proper diet and nutrition. That's for the other 92% of the year.

This afternoon, I need to finish reviewing a contract from a major house. Now here's a way to waste an agent's time: send them the contract as a Word document, but protect it so that it is read-only. I cannot mark it up or make any of the changes I need to make. Several publishers have policies of refusing to send contracts by email or, if they do, they will send them only as PDF or read-only documents. This, of course, is grossly inefficient and has no real function. While I can use the comments and edits feature of Adobe to mark up a PDF, it is not nearly as efficient as Word. And a read-only file is really no better than a fax.

Can't you save a copy of the Word doc under a different name to edit?

My other favorite is a fairly major publisher that routinely sends five copies of the first draft of the contract. It's over a dozen pages long, I think, and I have never used that first draft. Thus, they spend the money to print all these copies and then to messenger it to me, and I shred four copies and use the fifth as a working copy. It's a tremendous waste of time, money, and trees.

Much of this is the reason that I, personally, think electronic copy, submission, and delivery should become the standard. Paperless is progress. I'd rather have trees than a lotta crap on paper to be shredded or tossed. I work for a huge company and I see a small deciduous forest worth of useless or outdated paperwork being thrown out every week. It gives me intestinal cramps to see that, especially when there's recycle bins in several locations throughout the building.

Sorry, I'm rambling.

Andy Zack
President
The Zack Company, Inc.
www.zackcompany.com

This is all correct and requires no further discussion.


On a Personal Note: Most of my questions are being asked by others. If I come up with anything else I'll post it. Glad to have you here offering your insights. It was damn swell of ya to do this, Andy.

wvonwegen
12-16-2004, 06:00 AM
I've been looking at this 'getting an agent' thing for several years, but I still don't have much to go on (I suspect there are lots of writers who feel the same).

My question is: do agents network & share information with each other, or is it all pretty much a 'lone wolf' situation? Would one reputable agent who works only in a couple of genres know other agents who deal in something different? Like "I only handle mysteries, but so & so is looking for some good sci-fi, but fantasy is not his bag."

king pixel
12-16-2004, 06:36 AM
Thanks for the insight Andrew. I do have a six-year old, so the thought of a "kids" version has crossed my mind (I already have her drawing plans of bridges - ha ha!)

As for gathering an agent, I will just keep plugging away. I have not ruled self-publishing but do not see POD as a viable approach for this project.

andyzack
12-16-2004, 06:36 AM
Walter:

It's the author's job to find the right agent for his stuff, though I have referred authors to other agents and vice versa.

wvonwegen
12-16-2004, 01:23 PM
Thanks Zack,


But that does not answer my question--do agents network, or is it pretty much a lone wolf existence?

andyzack
12-16-2004, 09:02 PM
I thought it did, but let me be more precise: It's mostly a lone-wolf existence, but I have referred people to other agents and vice versa.

And, you may want to note that Zack is my last name, not my first. Feel free to use it, but please do put a "Mr." in front of it. Or just call me Andy.

spywriter
12-16-2004, 09:45 PM
Good morning Mr. Zack,

1. I have heard that when an agent asks to read your MS, by that point, they are ONLY looking for a reason to turn it down. In other words, once you have been hooked by the query, you want to represent it UNLESS there is a problem with it. True or false?

2. I have also heard that agents and publishers don't try to talk themselves INTO a book, but rather, they try and talk themselves OUT of one. I guess they try and figure out why that book WON'T sell. True?

3. Lastly, since taking on a book is so very subjective, how many agents should I allow to ask for, read, and turn down my first 3 before I ask myself "HMM...What's wrong with my stuff?" COuld it be that there is nothing WRONG, it's just not what the agent thinks they can sell.

Muchos Gracias! (I am running out of ways to say THANKS!)

andyzack
12-16-2004, 09:52 PM
1. False. There's a huge difference between a query and a manuscript, so there's really no chance that an agent will choose to rep something based just on the query.

2. True. If you have to talk yourself into the book, it's time to reject it. There are plenty of books out there. You don't need to make excuses to rep something or publish something. If you aren't 100% sure the book is a winner, move on. If you think the book is a winner, think long and hard about reasons an editor might still reject it. Fix those problems or, if they aren't fixable, well, then it's not a winner, is it?

3. There's no set number. Read the rejections. If they aren't form letters, ask yourself if there's anything consistent about them. If there is, stop submitting and start rewriting to fix what's coming up over and over.

HapiSofi
12-16-2004, 10:08 PM
A few annotations:
Since finding an agent is never a quick process, I don't really think it's that calendar sensitive. Yes, August is when a lot of people go on vacation, and several major publishers close for the week between Xmas and New Year's. So maybe wait until after Labor Day and until mid-January to avoid getting added to the catch-up pile.Don't forget the spring sales conferences. And if you're dealing with science fiction/fantasy, the end of August and beginning of September is not the time to catch someone's attention. On the other hand, the doldrums of summer can sometimes be advantageous. When everything's quiet, the editors have more reading time; and with the summer interns there to triage the slush, the real books stand out more readily from the instant rejects.
Having a bad prior agent isn't a deal-breaker. It just depends on whether or not they made submissions. You have to keep in mind that publishers—but not all agents—do log in submissions. Hence, if they see that the same book was seen and rejected by another editor in the past, they will likely just return it.At least one house that I know of has that as an explicit policy: if one editor has rejected it, all of them have rejected it. (Like all publishing rules, that one gets bent once in a while.)
My advice to you if you are going to change agents is to get a complete submission list of where your work has been and give it to your new agent. Also, you might want to consider a title change.A title change might be enough all by itself. It depends on how detailed the logs are, and how assiduously people check to see whether a manuscript's been submitted before. Sometimes author and title are all that's recorded. On the other hand, I've occasionally seen editorial staff glance briefly at a submission and identify it as a manuscript they'd seen a couple of years earlier, when they skimmed 10-20 pages of it and tossed it into the return mail with a form rejection letter.
This afternoon, I need to finish reviewing a contract from a major house. Now here's a way to waste an agent's time: send them the contract as a Word document, but protect it so that it is read-only. I cannot mark it up or make any of the changes I need to make. Several publishers have policies of refusing to send contracts by email or, if they do, they will send them only as PDF or read-only documents. This, of course, is grossly inefficient and has no real function.It does indeed have a function. The last thing you want is to not be able to tell exactly where changes have been made in a contract. It's the same reason editors and production staff wail out loud when an author says, "I've incorporated all the copyeditor's changes I agreed with, and I'm printing you out a clean copy of the revised manuscript."
My other favorite is a fairly major publisher that routinely sends five copies of the first draft of the contract. It's over a dozen pages long, I think, and I have never used that first draft. Thus, they spend the money to print all these copies and then to messenger it to me, and I shred four copies and use the fifth as a working copy. It's a tremendous waste of time, money, and trees.Some agencies need multiple copies. It's much, much easier for the contracts people to automatically send out multiple copies than to keep track of which agency needs how many copies of contracts for which authors.
The point of "what's an agent's day like" is that it's not about reading. It's about paperwork, emails and phone calls. It's about writing submission letters and then packing up (or having an assistant or intern who packs them up) submissions, and getting them out. ... The reason the reading takes so long is that it's the last thing that gets done, often in the evening or on the weekend, etc. And at that point, even the most enthusiastic agent and editor might be a little worn out.Yup. The primary duty of the publisher, editor, and agent is to the authors and books they already have under contract. Submissions have to come second. There's no use finding promising new authors and books if you aren't going to do right by them once you've found them.

spywriter
12-16-2004, 10:30 PM
So, based on what you are telling me, a form letter is a good thing?
Every letter has been a form, except this one:

"Although your plot is compelling and writing quite good, we don't feel we are the right agency for your work."

I thought it was nice of her to tell me that my writing was good, but I still have no representation. Any suggestions on what I should do? Or do you think I just haven't found the right agent yet?

emeraldcite
12-16-2004, 10:48 PM
thanks for the take on your day.

quote/ We've also added a "stats" page at www.zackcompany.com/submissions.htm, (http://www.zackcompany.com/submissions.htm,) which shows any author where we stand as of the last date we tallied everything /quote

i found these interesting. (i took a look at them ealier and it's what inspired me to ask the question.)

follow up: what are some of the pitfalls of the job? what do you do with a manuscript you can't unload?

thanks!

SavannahL
12-17-2004, 01:44 AM
Hello Andy. Let me add my voice to all of those who sincerely thank you for being here and providing your valuable insight. It's much appreciated!

My friend and I write satire aimed at women. We put together a proposal and then sent out queries that included a URL to sample items on the web.

We received some very enthusiastic rejections. Most of the agents told us they "loved" our stuff and thought it was "very funny," but...

"women's humor isn't selling right now."

What does this mean? In the section of our proposal (which none of the agents saw) that deals with competitive titles, we included several "women's humor" titles that, indeed, have sold quite well within the past two years.

So...did we fail in our query's hook? Should we work on more closely relating our book to recent sellers in this genre?

Or are they saying we should query at a later date, when perhaps women's humor IS selling?

Second question: If a writer has had verifiable success on the Web ("verifiable" in the sense of audience numbers and a demonstrated ability to sustain them long-term), does this make him/her a more salable commodity to an agent or publisher? Or is Web success considered no success?

Thanks again so much! I look forward to your response and wish you a very happy holiday season.

Savannah

SRHowen
12-17-2004, 04:25 AM
On the number of submissions to agents it takes to find one--my search took 65 (three months time, from when I started querying agents to when Andy asked for more material.)

Some were form letters, while a great many had personal notes on them--One said I bet I am going to regret not taking this on, your writing is outstanding--but alas I must pass.

Another agency passed on the full ms and told me why--I gave the ending away in the first three chapters, so why read on--I fixed that before I sent more out.

I got several hand written notes, the worst, or the most annoying were the scrawled no's across the query letter.

And I got a lot of the no thanks, your writing is great, but it doesn't fit our needs. (I am of the personal opinion that these are a type of form letter)

I got a few praising my query letter. But their lists were full so they passed.

I went mostly with the Writer's Market, but found Andy at Publisher's Market Place.

I am of the opinion that you and your agent must fit well together, they have to see the same vision in your book that you do, and that can be hard to find.

Shawn

spywriter
12-17-2004, 04:48 AM
Thanks for you info SR...that really helps. However, I have a question for Andy or whomever can answer it. I just got a rejection today from someone I sent my query to. They told me that editors are not buying anything over 100,000 words these days unless you are a best selling author. I am so confused, because my first book was 80,000 words and I had a well known agent write across my query, "beef this up to at least 100,000 words if you want to sell it."

I thought writing more would be better. Having said that, I did not put any filler into my book...it's what you need to think the book's complete.
Anyway....who has the answer??????? What's the magic number?

maestrowork
12-17-2004, 04:56 AM
There's no magic number. Obviously if your book is TOO short or TOO long, you may have a problem. But 80K and 100K? They're within the norm. I'd say if one agent says this, and the other says that... move on. You want an agent who is enthusiastic about your book, not how many words there is. Besides, if you truly believe that your book is as good as it gets and it stands at 100K, stay put. If you can't believe in yourself and your own book, how are you going to convince an agent?

That's my opinion.

spywriter
12-17-2004, 06:22 AM
Thanks for those words. My book ss more than 100,000 by a decent margin, but it can't be less. It wouldn't be the same story. I am not a filler writer...that's the story. Anyway...thanks again. I do believe in my book and it its length. I only hope the magic agent fairy finds me someone that likes it like I do.

FranMW
12-17-2004, 08:35 AM
Mr Zack, thanks for taking the time to help out us newbies here.

I've got what's probably a dumb question, but here goes:

When an editor says "no simsubs" I know that means you don't send that particular story to anyone else -- and this makes sense, as the editor is looking to buy/not buy that particular story. However, an agent is looking to acquire an author-client, not just a particular novel, yes? So if an agent requests a full ms and says "no simsubs" obviously that means you shouldn't send that ms to other agents, but....should you also not have other agents looking at full mss of your other novels? Will it cause a professional conflict if two agents make an offer to an author based on two different books -- and if this were to occur, what does the author do?

cheers,
Fran

HapiSofi
12-17-2004, 11:43 AM
Spywriter said:
I have a question for Andy or whomever can answer it. I just got a rejection today from someone I sent my query to. They told me that editors are not buying anything over 100,000 words these days unless you are a best selling author. I am so confused, because my first book was 80,000 words and I had a well known agent write across my query, "beef this up to at least 100,000 words if you want to sell it."At the heart of this is per-unit cost. Basically, the more copies you print, the less each one of those copies costs -- and it's a steep curve. An extremely popular author who writes a doorstop of a novel is okay, because so many copies are printed that the publisher can charge a reasonable price for each one. A writer who isn't terribly popular yet, but who writes a long, long novel, is in trouble. With far fewer copies being printed, those are going to have to be expensive books.

However, readers have started to balk at paying high prices for books by unfamiliar authors. Currently, the balk point is in the high mid-twenties. If you're an unknown author, a 120,000-word novel is going to have to be priced above the readers' balk point. That's bad.

That's not the end of it, though. The big chains have noticed the balk. When their computers notice "modest sales on previous novel by this author" plus "high price on next book by this author," they not unreasonably decide that with a cover price that high, the book isn't going to sell very well anyway--and they cut their advance orders.

When the publishing house gets news of the cut, they have to recalculate the per-unit cost to see whether the book's price still holds. It doesn't hold. If the number of copies has dropped, the per-unit price has gone up. The book is now untenable. Various melancholy fates await it.

There's no use protesting that it's a really swell book, and the readers are going to love it, honest. If the stores don't order it, the readers are never going to see it.

That's what's happening to oversize books now. So why did that agent tell you to beef up your previous book? Back then, big books were selling better. Readers were a little easier with their money. Readers also had a perceptible preference for longer books. They complained about too much fat and not enough muscle in the writing, but if you put out a 50,000-word novel, they'd be uneasy, and wonder whether there might not be something wrong with it.

That's my answer. Andy may have a completely different take on the question.

pencilone
12-17-2004, 06:51 PM
Andy, you are a gem!


I'm just a humble newbie myself and now in the editing stage of my first novel, hoping to finish it in a few months and then submit it. I do not have any writing experience and I am wondering what should I do to make an agent or publisher read my query, synopsis and 3 chapters.

Here are some questions:

1. Shall I tell them I have no previous writing experience or shall I just be silent about it? What if they ask for a Biography? Shall I just mention my career & studies up to date or shall I just ignore the demand for a Bio, as I have no published experience?

2. I'm wondering what is best to submit first in order to save some time from the waiting stage. I know that many agents and publishers want just a query first and maybe followed (when asked) by 3 chapters and synopsis. I would like to submit the query, synopsis and 3 chapters from the start, just to make sure that I give them a chance to have a look at them before they make up their mind to reject or not. Of course, there is no warranty that my papers do not go straight in the bin anyway, but maybe there is more of a chance they read them, what do you think?

3. What is your advice for a writer who is not a native English speaker, living in UK, but submitting to the American market? Shall I make sure that the American version of words is used instead of British, or it doesn't really matter that much as this can be solved later if the book is considered publishable?

4. How can one overcome the catch22 where agents and publishers do not want to receive unsolicited submissions from new writers?

5. How can a new writer persuade an agent or publisher that he is serious about building a writing career (apart from describing possible future writing projects still in the draw)?

Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

Best Wishes,

Pencilone

maestrowork
12-17-2004, 10:32 PM
4. How can one overcome the catch22 where agents and publishers do not want to receive unsolicited submissions from new writers?

I can answer this one because Uncle Jim already did. When you send a query and they request your material, you're not "unsolicited" anymore. Your query is the solicitation.

spywriter
12-17-2004, 10:50 PM
I Can answer one of your questions too....

NEVER NEVER NEVER send an agent something they did not request. If the agent asks for a 1 page query, give them a ONE PAGE query. If they ask for 30 pages, do NOT give them 31. There are a number of agents who want a chapter or two with your query. If you are determined to do it like that, go with those agents first. I, for one, chose the agents who only wanted a 1 pager to keep down on costs. Of those, eight asked to read more. I use Writer's Market, or visit their websites to see what they are looking for initially.

Also, DO NOT query until your novel is done and read by at least 2 other people. You want your book to be perfect just in case someone wants to read it . DO NOT BLOW YOUR CHANCE with a great agent by handing in a NOT PERFECT manuscript.

pencilone
12-18-2004, 05:20 AM
I can answer this one because Uncle Jim already did. When you send a query and they request your material, you're not "unsolicited" anymore. Your query is the solicitation.

Maestrowork,

You are right about this one. But I also kind of remember him saying somewhere that it's OK to send the first 3 chapters too with the query, or I might be wrong?



NEVER NEVER NEVER send an agent something they did not request. If the agent asks for a 1 page query, give them a ONE PAGE query. If they ask for 30 pages, do NOT give them 31.



Spywriter,

I usually agree by default to complying with the official requirements, but I cannot see what harm is done by sending with the query the synopsis and the first 3 chapters. I understand that a full manuscript is bulky and takes up office space and builds up those horrific slush piles that I see in my nightmares, but an envelope of about 50 pages is not that much. I agree that if he doesn't want to read it, he can simply bin it, as it's not worth the postage costs to send it back to UK anyway.

But if he likes the query, then the chapters are just right there for a try to see how the writing is. Apart from the obvious reason of the cost and possible shortage of office space, why would an agent get annoyed if he gets more in his envelope than a one-page query? Andy, I know you'll point me in the right direction on this one.

I completely agree to the necessity to send a refined, edited and polished to perfection manuscript. I do not intend to send it as it is right now, I still have lots of work to do on it. I plan to finish all the editing and polishing in about two months, and then I want to be ready for the main game move ;) . I'm preparing my positions for a check mate!;)

Best Wishes,
Pencilone

DaveKuzminski
12-18-2004, 07:06 AM
And an agent would be right to not consider you because he'd recognize right then that you're incapable of following simple requests meant to benefit both the agent and writer.

SRHowen
12-18-2004, 08:12 AM
FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS THE AGENT GIVES.

If you don't it is a guarantee that it will go right in the bin, the circular file, file thirteen, the trash, the recycle box etc. et el.

I've taken a leave from Wild Child Publishing. And yet people continue to send me submissions. Many even start with I know you submissions page says --- BUT

No buts, those who can't even follow simple submissions guides how are they going to accept editing? Or other publishing "rules?"

I know you said i needed more description -- BUT-- My deadline was--BUT--

And what difference will it make if I send those three chapters and synop instead of the one or two page query?

Hmmmm, in a stack of biz sized envelopes don't you think that a big 9 X 12 brown or white or whatever monster is going to stick out? Or that a super fat biz envelope is going to stick out? Going into your query they (the agent) is already going to be thinking --Gee, this person can't even be bothered to follow directions.

And how much time will you save? A few days? Anyone, agent or editor would rather read a page or two than a fat padded envelope full of unasked for stuff. So, you fat envelope may slip to the bottom of the pile just because you failed to follow directions, actually losing you time.

Some rules can be broken or can slip by. But submission guidelines should be followed to the letter.

Like boot camp in the Army, they give you a list of all the things you can bring, (what sort of towels, underwear etc.) then when you arrive they take it all away and issue you the nice brown underwear and postage stamp brown towels. Why tell you to bring anything in the first place? Simple they wanted to see if you could follow directions.

I doubt agents and editors set out to see who can follow directions but why rub it in their face that you can't or think you are above the rules?

Shawn

pencilone
12-18-2004, 06:04 PM
Andy, Uncle Jim, is this your opinion too?

Many thanks,

Pencilone

James D Macdonald
12-18-2004, 07:19 PM
Uncle Jim, is this your opinion too?

What? To send three chapters with a query?

Well, if the guidelines say, "Submit three chapters with your query," yes. Otherwise, no.

If I were just sending a query, it would be one sheet of paper, with an SASE.

Generally:

No unagented means "If you aren't an agent, we don't want to hear from you."

No unsolicited means "Send a query first. If we're interested, we'll let you know."

pencilone
12-18-2004, 07:57 PM
Uncle Jim,

Thanks for your advice. I would gladly hear your opinion to my other questions too (see my posts above).

As I said, I'm just a humble newbie, and maybe my enthusiasm makes me think that some rules are for breaking. I wouldn't mind to see that my envelope sticks out from the rest (I even imagine writing "Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!" all over:rollin ), but if people cannot think out of the rules, then I guess I'll just have to do as they wish.

Shawn,

I grew up and lived half of my life in a comunist world where following rules were the norm of the day and I was in the army too... Maybe that's why I feel the need to rebel now and then.;)

All comments and ideas are greatly appreciated.


Best Wishes,

Pencilone

James D Macdonald
12-18-2004, 08:12 PM
I would gladly hear your opinion to my other questions too (see my posts above).

Andy is better suited to answer those than I am.

However: 5. How can a new writer persuade an agent or publisher that he is serious about building a writing career...

By writing something so amazing that they can't help themselves: They want it. Then ... do it again.

Dhewco
12-18-2004, 09:05 PM
I'm almost positive I've read posts where the big posters (the ones with thousands of posts) have stated that it is all right to submit a query with a short synopsis, even if all it asks for is the one page query.

David

aka eraser
12-18-2004, 11:17 PM
David, following guidelines is as close to an inviolate rule as there is in this game.

I'm going to immodestly quote myself from an article I posted on my site.

"Study their guidelines. If you can't find them, either in print or online, write to request them.

Adhere to those guidelines. They aren't suggestions. They're there for a reason. They detail what they're looking for, how they want it presented and who to present it to. Botch one of those up and add another rejection to the collection.

You have zero chance of being published if an editor doesn't read your submission.

That's a "duh" statement but it happens to a lot of writers. And they have no clue that their manuscript/story was rejected unread. (Clue: 75% or more of your rejections are form letters with nary a hand-written scribble.)"

Substitute "agent" for "editor" in the above and it applies to this discussion.

triceretops
12-19-2004, 12:16 AM
For any gun-jumpers

15--20 years ago it was very common place to send in a
synopsis and sample chaps--even in many cases it was routine to send in an unsolicited manuscript. Now the process is so selective as to weed out any chaff that an agent or publisher will not hesitate to ignore or reject en mass
anyone who does not follow their explicit guidelines. And
here's the kicker, the owner agent sometimes has sub-agents working under him/her, so be sure you target the right agent.
Agents specialize because they have different personalities.
Why is it so difficult to get their attention?

The Internet.

We have such a glut in the industry, swamped with so many new online scribes, that agents and publishers have to do something to relieve the burden, the mountain of mail.
If you can demonstrate that you've researched the agency or publisher, they'll know it right off the bat. Next comes the letter opener. And that's your first baby-step.

I've constantly heard agents and editors say, "I only have two eyes, have mercy!"

Tri

Dhewco
12-19-2004, 12:52 AM
Heh, I'm not sure it matters to me anymore. I have an agent. Whether she is effective for me, we'll see. I was only saying what I've seen on these boards from long-time posters. As for myself, I sent exactly what my agent's guidelines suggested...even had another client of hers help me write the query.


David

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:05 AM
Hapi:

I'm curious. Who are you? What do you do? You sound like you work or have worked somewhere at a science fiction/fantasy house.

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:08 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>I thought it was nice of her to tell me that my writing was good, but I still have no representation. Any suggestions on what I should do? Or do you think I just haven't found the right agent yet?<hr></blockquote>

Well, I wouldn't say a form letter is a good thing, since it's not very useful. However, finding an agent is a complicated task. From having a desire for a project like yours to whether or not that bran muffin is doing its job that day, there are many factors that affect an agent's decisionmaking. You just gotta keep plugging. Find the latest book from a few authors whose work is similar to yours, locate their agents (often acknowledged in the book) and try them.

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:12 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>what are some of the pitfalls of the job? what do you do with a manuscript you can't unload?<hr></blockquote>

I'd say the biggest pitfall is that you lose the joy of reading. All too often, you read drek all day. Then you are too tired to read something for fun. Most editors and agents I know have lost the fun of reading. It becomes pure homework, unfortunately. Many of the book people I know are television addicts. May of the television people I know are voracious readers of books. Interesting, no?

As for manuscripts I can't unload, I like to print things on the back of them, so I'm not wasting paper. Oh, that's not what you meant? Well, sometimes the author and part ways and they try another route (self-publication is number one). Othertimes, the author works on another project and we shelve the one that isn't selling. I once had a book that I couldn't sell at all. The author wrote a different book. I sold that. We then sold book number two to the editor as the option book. (We did not, however, point out to the editor that said option book was once rejected at the house prior to his purchase of the first book.)

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:22 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>So...did we fail in our query's hook? Should we work on more closely relating our book to recent sellers in this genre?

Second question: If a writer has had verifiable success on the Web ("verifiable" in the sense of audience numbers and a demonstrated ability to sustain them long-term), does this make him/her a more salable commodity to an agent or publisher? Or is Web success considered no success?<hr></blockquote>

I think your query failed on two levels. First, it obviously didn't communicate that a market exists for this kind of thing. Two, you expected agents to go to the web and read something that you reference in your query? Why would they do that? I read queries everywhere. On the train, waiting at the doctor's office, at my girlfriend's house, on the bus, sitting at a coffee place, at the diner, at a bar waiting for a date, wherever. I don't exactly have web access. So unless that query knocks my socks off, I am not going to set it aside to go to the web to read something additional.

Is web success no success? In most cases, yes. If you're writing a column for Slate, Nerve, or another frequently visited site, I'd say that counts for something. But if you have a personal site, already the numbers are going to be in question (you'd better be able to verify them) and, remember, that's basically a bit of vanity publisher. If you are published by Slate, somewhere there's an editor making a judgment on the value of putting you on the site. If it's your own site, the judgment is missing. However, if your site has been heavily reviewed on other sites, or in the news, that could be something. Patrick O'Donnell is a client of mine. His first book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0684873842/theandrewzacklitA/" target="_new">BEYOND VALOR</a>, was based on his terrific website, www.thedropzone.org. But the site had been reviewed in numerous places, many of them print. So if you have your own site and you want to write a book based on what you are doing there, get some good PR for the site, then use that to sell the book.

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:25 AM
Fran:

I believe you should submit your best book to the agents you think are most appropriate for it. I would not send two different manuscripts to two different agents. Most agents represent authors, not specific projects. Find one agent to work on one project, then build.

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:37 AM
While cost is certainly a factor related to the length of books, there's also the wholesale rack factor. Many supermarkets, drugstores and newsstands use racks to sell books. If you are a new author, you will never get more than one slot or one pocket in that rack. If only two books fit, that's the order. If five fit, that's the order. Which would you rather move? Two or five copies?

This, is, of course, mostly about paperbacks. When it comes to hardcovers, length is a huge factor in cover price and the chains have made a lot of noise that they think cover prices are too high. And they are right. But the reality is that they are at fault.

Keep in mind that a $24 hardcover is sold to B&N for, at most, $12. B&N then discounts that 20% or 30%. That leaves a 30% or 20% profit margin on that one book. Not bad, eh?

When I worked in a bookstore in 1983, the average discount to an independent was about 42%. Maybe 44%. On very large orders, maybe as high as 48%. But as B&N put independent after independent out of business, and grew and grew, it demanded larger and larger discounts. And publishers, afraid of losing this important customer, conceded. So how did they make up the difference in their margin? They increased the cover price upon which the discount is granted. This does have the effect of increasing royalties to authors (if their royalty is based on retail list price), but it also reduces sales, as readers are less willing to spend $24-$35 for a hardcover, and are turned off by $7.99 paperback prices, particularly since the type in those books is so small. When the economy was booming, a lot of hardcovers were selling. In a down economy, though, even the $7.99 paperback seems a bit steep.

Also worth mentioning is that publishers have deep-discount clauses that reduce the author's royalty when the discount goes north of 48-50%. So, no matter what, the publisher is protecting its margin, either by getting more from the consumer or by paying less to the author.

If you really want to see more books published and to pay less for books, go to independent bookstores to buy your books. You can even get them online. Just go to <a href="http://www.booksense.com" target="_new">www.booksense.com</a>.

andyzack
12-19-2004, 05:47 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>1. Shall I tell them I have no previous writing experience or shall I just be silent about it? What if they ask for a Biography? Shall I just mention my career & studies up to date or shall I just ignore the demand for a Bio, as I have no published experience?<hr></blockquote>
A three- to four- sentence biography is fine, but really only if your experience is relevant. Otherwise, I don't see the point. Saying that you have no writing experience is like walking up to a woman and saying, "Hi. I'm a virgin. Wanna have sex?" While, in some cases that might intrigue the right woman, in publishing, I suspect it won't do a lot for you.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>2. I'm wondering what is best to submit first in order to save some time from the waiting stage. I know that many agents and publishers want just a query first and maybe followed (when asked) by 3 chapters and synopsis. I would like to submit the query, synopsis and 3 chapters from the start, just to make sure that I give them a chance to have a look at them before they make up their mind to reject or not. Of course, there is no warranty that my papers do not go straight in the bin anyway, but maybe there is more of a chance they read them, what do you think?<hr></blockquote>
Submit what their submission guidelines request. No more, no less. If someone sends me three chapters I didn't ask for, it's annoying and, frankly slows down my response. That query and three chapters go the bottom of the pile (all 106 currently) of chapters I have to read. If you send a query that doesn't interest me, you'll find out in a week or so. Send me the chapters, it will be months, and the odds are the same that the answer will be "no." So don't waste the paper or the postage sending something they didn't request.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>3. What is your advice for a writer who is not a native English speaker, living in UK, but submitting to the American market? Shall I make sure that the American version of words is used instead of British, or it doesn't really matter that much as this can be solved later if the book is considered publishable?<hr></blockquote>
Actually, I'd go with British. Truth is, the Brits who write just sound so much more literate than the Americans. And I would not mentioned that you are not a native English speaker. If they can't figure it out, so much the better.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>4. How can one overcome the catch22 where agents and publishers do not want to receive unsolicited submissions from new writers?<hr></blockquote>
As someone said, if they request it, you are no longer unsolicited.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>5. How can a new writer persuade an agent or publisher that he is serious about building a writing career (apart from describing possible future writing projects still in the draw)?<hr></blockquote>
Just act professional. That's all it takes in any business, really, to show that you're serious about the job you're doing.

wvonwegen
12-20-2004, 01:51 AM
Sorry Andy,

That's what I get for posting at 5 in the morning Central European Time... my mistake.

Thanks for the frank answer.

From your website's query letter pointers, it sounds like a fair number of agents are looking for fiction authors who have personal or professional experience in the area(s) they write about.

Is this really a selling point with publishers, too?

If so, I guess that means only scientists & astronomers should submit Sci-Fi manuscripts in today's marketplace...

Irysangel
12-20-2004, 04:38 AM
Question #1: When you sign to represent a client, do you just concentrate on the one work at present, or do you go through all of their past projects and see if any of those are salable as well?

Question #2: Along the same lines as the first. As an agent, if you have an unpublished client with 4 manuscripts, and two are fantasy, two are romance, and all are vastly different, would you consider this a detriment (lack of focus) rather than a bonus?

Question #3: Do you fight harder for book rights, or for the appropriate advance for a first time author? I know someone that insisted his agent talk his advance down due to the fact that he wanted more rights and cover consultation. As a result, he got a very small advance. I've always heard that small advance = small investment on the publisher's behalf, and was curious on your stance as a literary agent. Is this author shooting himself in the foot, or playing it smart in the hopes that one day the rights will be very marketable?

Thank you for your time! It is truly appreciated.

pencilone
12-20-2004, 05:04 AM
Andy,

Thanks for your answers. Here's more:

Have you ever given up on placing a book with a publisher?
How long does it take for you to stop submitting a book that no one wants?
Have you ever dropped a client because you have not managed to sell his book?

Have you had any clients from UK? Would you consider any if the book is good enough?
Do you think that face to face contact is essential or everything can also be solved by mail/email?


Best Wishes,

Pencilone

SRHowen
12-20-2004, 08:21 AM
Pencilone--Andy an I have never met face to face, though I'd love to. Everything is done through mail/e-mail/phone with us as I'm in Texas.

Shawn

SavannahL
12-20-2004, 11:34 PM
I think your query failed on two levels. First, it obviously didn't communicate that a market exists for this kind of thing. Two, you expected agents to go to the web and read something that you reference in your query?

I should have clarified that we included a URL in electronic queries to agents who indicated they accept electronic queries. Obviously, we wouldn't include a URL in a paper letter. :rollin

I understand what you're saying about our first level of failure: not communicating that a market exists for our type of writing. I'm not sure what more we can do, when our query compares our proposed book to similar titles that have been excellent sellers. Of course, our full proposal makes the case much better, but we tried to hammer the salability aspect in our query, too. Evidently, we didn't do it successfully, so we need to go back and re-work that part.

I appreciate what you say about web publishing. Luckily for my co-writer and me, we fall into the category you mentioned of having a) verifiable numbers and b) high-profile print reviews. So, that bodes well for us.

We really saw web publishing less as an opportunity for vanity publishing than as an opportunity to prove to an agent and/or publishing house that we are excellent at marketing and promotion. I think we've achieved that (continue to achieve it, actually), which may work to our favor.

Thank you very much, Andy, for your candid responses. They're very helpful!

Savannah

HapiSofi
12-21-2004, 12:36 AM
Andy, I'm someone who's a lot more useful to this community if I can speak freely. Thus the pseudonym. I'm not working on any of your books, nor have I done so in the past.

andyzack
12-21-2004, 12:36 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>Question #1: When you sign to represent a client, do you just concentrate on the one work at present, or do you go through all of their past projects and see if any of those are salable as well?<hr></blockquote>
I prefer to concentrate on the best, most immediately marketable book.
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>Question #2: Along the same lines as the first. As an agent, if you have an unpublished client with 4 manuscripts, and two are fantasy, two are romance, and all are vastly different, would you consider this a detriment (lack of focus) rather than a bonus?<hr></blockquote>
I think I mentioned somewhere above that this idea makes me cringe. I would be wary of making the time commitment to reading each of these if an author is unpublished. And maybe if they are published. I got into a situation with an SF client who wanted to write mysteries and thrillers. The publishers didn't care about his SF track record and he was soundly rejected at every turn. While I made some money selling his SF&F works, I often wonder if it was worth the time I wasted trying to sell his works in other genres.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>Question #3: Do you fight harder for book rights, or for the appropriate advance for a first time author? I know someone that insisted his agent talk his advance down due to the fact that he wanted more rights and cover consultation. As a result, he got a very small advance. I've always heard that small advance = small investment on the publisher's behalf, and was curious on your stance as a literary agent. Is this author shooting himself in the foot, or playing it smart in the hopes that one day the rights will be very marketable?<hr></blockquote>
Honestly sounds like an uneducated author or a bad agent. I generally state right up front what rights I'm offering and that's usually the US & Canada and the non-exclusive Open Market, excluding Audio. If the offer is too low, I might throw in UK to get the offer increased. If I'm happy with it, then we accept it.

By the way, cover consultation is USELESS in most cases and advance has nothing to do with whether or not you get it. Most publishers will not define in the contract when they will "consult" you and so it can be very late in the process (some send the SOLICITATION cover, already printed) and thus is pointless. It is often simply treated as notification that there's a printed cover. You want approval. But, again, advance has nothing to do with it. It's all about how happy the publisher wants to make you.

andyzack
12-21-2004, 12:40 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>Have you ever given up on placing a book with a publisher?
How long does it take for you to stop submitting a book that no one wants?
Have you ever dropped a client because you have not managed to sell his book?

Have you had any clients from UK? Would you consider any if the book is good enough?
Do you think that face to face contact is essential or everything can also be solved by mail/email?<hr></blockquote>
Yes. Depends. Yes.
No clients from the UK. Canada, yes. Am happy to consider it. Do not believe face-to-face is essential.

andyzack
12-21-2004, 12:43 AM
Hapi:

Well, if you don't mind ME knowing, I'm sure you can find me with an email or phone call. After all, if you aren't working on any of my books and haven't in the past, we should work on that, no? ;)

Best,
Andy

HapiSofi
12-21-2004, 01:00 AM
Thanks kindly, but I'm not my professional self here.

vstrauss
12-21-2004, 07:23 AM
>>By the way, cover consultation is USELESS in most cases and advance has nothing to do with whether or not you get it. Most publishers will not define in the contract when they will "consult" you and so it can be very late in the process (some send the SOLICITATION cover, already printed) and thus is pointless.<<

I've had a cover consult written into all my adult book contracts, because this is something my agent likes to do. As Andy says, the what and when of "consult" isn't defined, so the publisher isn't really bound to anything beyond showing me the final version. However, Eos has been extremely open, letting me see the initial sketch, the revised sketch if there is one, and the final painting. They're also good about asking for input at the concept stage--but once the concept is decided on and the artist starts working, the time for input is pretty much done, unless I want to annoy and inconvenience a lot of people. So "consult" doesn't mean anything like approval or creative control--it's really more of a courtesy.

I'm lucky in that I've never had a horrible cover (so far). Wrong covers, yes. But they've all been handsome.

- Victoria

Irysangel
12-21-2004, 10:05 AM
Mr. Zack,

Thank you for your responses. Gave me a lot to chew on.


Happy Holidays!

NomadPress
12-23-2004, 02:36 AM
I can tell you that every publisher--large or small--wants authors to review and follow submission guidelines to the letter. There's nothing that makes me more irritated than to receive unsolicited queries from authors who obviously haven't spent two minutes reading the author guidelines on our web site. It's important to check publishers' web sites for updated information; don't rely on Writer's Market or any other print guide.

Another thing most publishers don't have time for and really, really don't want to receive are phone calls from authors asking if the publishers would be interested in publishing their book based on their phone pitch. An author who calls me with a book pitch is an author who definitely won't be working with me.

sqrrll
12-23-2004, 10:44 AM
Andy,

I am an unpublished writer. I recently wrote a YA novel and sent out a few queries. I received some positive feedback from one reputable agency (I checked them out). The reader for that agency asked for the first three chapters, liked them, then asked for the rest.

The reader liked the novel and passed it on to the Agent with a recommendation. Right now I am waiting for the Agent's response. It's been about 3 months.

At the advice of some people on this board, I sent a quick email to the agent after 2 months making sure the manuscript was received. The Agent responded with a polite email saying the book was received and that it would be a little while longer.

My question is, would it be improper to submit this YA book into a contest while waiting? The book must be postmarked by December 31st to be eligible.

The contest is Delacorte Press which I read about on the Children's fiction section of this board.

Thanks for your input (or anyone else's)

Chris

Jaxler
12-23-2004, 08:53 PM
<I can tell you that every publisher--large or small--wants authors to review and follow submission guidelines to the letter.>

Well...yes and no. I don't think it's necessarily a hard and fast, anal-retentive rule every publisher, regardless of size, expects every author to follow, do or die, come hell or high water.

I do think every publisher wants every new author to follow submission guidelines, mainly to make the editors' lives easier. That's very understandable, but sometimes the standard guidelines constrain the nature of a submission and will not do service to the creator who submits it or the editor who receives it.

My agent has been sending out a proposal of mine over the last few months that's anything but in the standard format. It's eminently readable, but it's certainly not traditional.

To date, the responses she's received regarding both the format (and the contents) of the proposal have been positive. As I understand it, one editor expressed his gratitude to my agent that she sent something for him to look at that wasn't just dense blocks of text.

Now, granted...I seriously doubt a writer with few or no credentials could get away with this--and probably couldn't find an agent to rep it, either--but the fact that the proposal has yet to be bounced back because it doesn't follow the guidelines supports the old maxim about exceptions made for every rule.

SRHowen
12-23-2004, 10:14 PM
can an author get away with sending a proposal vs a query letter. (package to include synop and sample chapters)(when agent asked only for query--they thought it would save a step)

An agent can also send simu subs and get away with it. An author trying to find an agent or publisher would be ill advised to not follow the rules to the letter.

There are exceptions, and they are just that exceptions, yeah a book might be picked up even though the author didn't follow the rules, but to point to the exception and say yeah, go ahead and do it because so and so did and they got published, is flushing yourself from the start.

I'm an exception, if you want to look at it that way. I made a major no no goof in my query letter. A dumb hit myself on the head what the hell was I thinking of goof--and I still got an agent, and a good one at that.

But do I go around saying, ok, this doesn't matter cause I made this goof and still landed an agent--no, because it's bad advice.

Shawn

maestrowork
12-23-2004, 10:21 PM
I'm not an agent, but I think submitting the ms to a contest while the agent is evaluating the work is, I think, uncouth, especially if winning the contest would get you published... you probably should tell the agent.

Jaxler
12-23-2004, 10:39 PM
<But do I go around saying, ok, this doesn't matter cause I made this goof and still landed an agent--no, because it's bad advice.>

In my case, I was offering an example, not offering advice. I made it very clear that my example was definitely an exception to the rule...nor did I recommend my approach with the proposal I referenced to people just starting out...which I also made clear.

But I've always found it comforting that when restrictive, locked-down, stay-inside-the-lines strictures are put forth that alternatives occasionally present themselves...which was my point.

If we were all toe-the-line drones, we'd be aspire to work in duplicate cubicles in an office building, not be our own bosses, putting our imaginations to work instead of placing them in stasis. Just that concept alone has a whiff of the rebellious to it.

Just call me Johnny Yuma.:p

andyzack
12-23-2004, 11:36 PM
Chris:

I can't see any reason that would be a problem.

andyzack
12-23-2004, 11:40 PM
Jaxler:

If I understand correctly, you have an agent and your agent is making the submission. Well, that's a far different thing than an unpublished author going after an agent.

Let me be clear about this: If you are an unpublished author, you should find out what the submission guidelines are for EACH agent that you are going to query and follow those guidelines. The ones for my firm are located at http://www.zackcompany.com/submissions.htm.

Best,

Jaxler
12-24-2004, 01:22 AM
Let me be clear about [b]this</strong><!--EZCODE BOLD END-->:

I offered an example to prove there could be certain exceptions to certain rules.

I mentioned that my agent was submitting my proposal which was formatted in a way which made it an exception to the certain rules.

In my initial post, I was responding to Nomad's statement about authors abiding by every publisher's submission guidelines, not about sending a query to agents in regards to them representing an off-format submission.

In my case, when I made contact with my agent, I explained to her that my proposal did not follow the standard specs as to submission format and explained to her the reasons why.

She expressed interest in seeing the package, I sent it to her and she agreed to represent it.

Having said that, I add the codicle (which I did before) that this approach is not one I would recommend for anyone who does not have a substantial body of published work behind them.

Regardless, it's still an example of the exception to the rule.

That's all I was sayin'.:smokin

SRHowen
12-24-2004, 01:48 AM
to be >:

If you read these boards you know that new authors, those who have never submitted before, cling to the exceptions. If they are given as examples of exceptions or not, they will cling to them.

In the thread to underline italics or not, one person said well I never do in my mss and my agent doesn't say a thing. Several other authors then said ahh, ok so I don't have to go back and reformat, even though James D and others with more experience said, wait, hold on, yes you do need to underline italics. They kept pointing to the exception because it matched the error (or non-conventional) they had made.

So we do have a habit of making a big point out the idea that exceptions should not be followed, successful or not.

The query I used is also non-conventional, as Andy can tell you. But I didn't go outside the "only send what's asked for" idea. There is no hard and fast rule as far as the query letter structure goes, but there is when we talk about what material to send.

Only send what's asked for.

And getting angry over people making it clear that the exception is not the rule is silly. We are all here to help each other.

Shawn

Jaxler
12-24-2004, 02:32 AM
I wasn't angry nor did I intentionally put the red-faced "angry" emoticon at the end of the first sentence.

When I emboldened and italicized, like this>: it popped up.

Believe me, if I were truly angry, I wouldn't use emoticons at all.:D

In this instance, I was only a little impatient since I felt I made it very clear that I was most definitely citing an exception to a rule, not offering advice. I was also very non-specific as to the nature of that particular exception, so there really wasn't much information anybody could use in the way of a template.

If some people interpreted my posts as actually counseling them to engage in the wholesale breaking of submission guidelines, then in my opinion they wouldn't be inclined to pay much attention to anything that smacked of rules in the first place.

SimonSays
12-24-2004, 02:54 AM
This thread was started by Andy so that those who wanted answers and information from an agent - could receive those answers and information from an agent.

He is responding based on his own experiences and his overall knowledge of industry standards and expectations - and I for one appreciate his generosity and insights.

While individual results can and often do vary, and many have andectotal experiences that deviate from the norm, this thread is not the place to share those personal experiences.

NomadPress
12-24-2004, 03:15 AM
I think it was my post that started this offshoot of the conversation and I certainly didn't mean to hijack it from Andy Zack. One common thread throughout his advice to authors has been to follow agent guidelines when submitting manuscripts and queries. I am seconding (thirding, now, I guess) that advice when it comes to publishers' guidelines, as well. I will definitely give an agent more leeway regarding a submission that doesn't fit our guidelines, but that's because in every case I've already spoken at length with the agent about the author's work. If an unagented author wants to submit a manuscript to us, it's important to check how we want the manuscript, and that we want that particular genre at all. When we receive submissions that aren't even remotely something we'd publish (and we state very clearly what we do and do not publish on our web site) it says to me that the author isn't doing his or her due diligence. Why would I want to work with someone who can't be bothered to see what kinds of books we publish?

maestrowork
12-24-2004, 01:10 PM
Q. for Andy:

How do agents (as far as you know or from your own experience) keep track of queries, partials or complete? Do you have a system?

Or let me put it this way: If in a query, I mention a recommendation and send you a synopsis and bio, should I include the same information in the partial or complete ms package so that you don't forget (so-and-so recommended me or what the story is about in a nutshell)? Or do you keep a file so that you can quickly reference previous correspondence, so the author doesn't have to keep telling you the same thing?

Thanks,

triceretops
12-24-2004, 02:50 PM
Good question, Maestro.

I too am in a position where I must send samples to the agent but it will be a few weeks. Should I send a copy of his solicitation of me back to him along with the requested material? Or am I already in his computer?

Tri

arainsb123
12-28-2004, 04:47 AM
Bumping this back up to the top because it's a superb thread.

vstrauss
12-28-2004, 06:16 AM
I'm going to "pin" this thread so it doesn't drop out of sight.

- Victoria

andyzack
12-28-2004, 06:20 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>How do agents (as far as you know or from your own experience) keep track of queries, partials or complete? Do you have a system?

Or let me put it this way: If in a query, I mention a recommendation and send you a synopsis and bio, should I include the same information in the partial or complete ms package so that you don't forget (so-and-so recommended me or what the story is about in a nutshell)? Or do you keep a file so that you can quickly reference previous correspondence, so the author doesn't have to keep telling you the same thing?<hr></blockquote>
I can't speak for other agents, but all we do is keep an alphabetical file of queries for which we've requested more material. When the material comes in, we attach the original query and then put it in the reading pile. The reading pile is ordered by date of ORIGINAL query, not when the requested material came in. That way, the first author to query us is the first to get his material read. We developed this system when we were requesting material only two or three times a year, in great big batches of queries that covered three or four months. Now we request material on the fly and the system may have to change, but that's how it works now.

We do not log anything into a computer. And I don't know that you need to include a copy of his request letter, though if the letter was personal and commented on various matters, it's not a bad idea--saves him from having to look it up. I would, however, mark the outside of the envelope "Requested Material."

Personally, I'm very environmentally concerned and I find it annoying when someone uses a giant USPS Priority Mail box to send me a chapter and synopsis. Chances are that any author will need a regular supply of materials when making submissions, so here's my suggested shopping list:

For sending out queries, get some #11 business envelopes and also some #10 business envelopes. Send out your queries in the #11, including a $10 SASE. This way, you will not have to fold the #10 and the agent will not have to unfold it.

Use large paperclips rather than small. The small ones fall off too easily.

Use binder clips for sample chapters. Don't staple them and don't use butterfly clips.

Get 10 x 13 manila evelopes for sending out sample chapters. The 9 x 12 envelopes are often too small and the 10 x 13 will work on anything from one to three chapters.

Should an agent request a manuscript, put it in a sturdy box (not just a Kinko's box). You can order fairly sturdy boxes called "literature mailers" from Viking Office Supply (www.vikingop.com) and Uline shipping (www.uline.com). Then put that into another box to actually mail it. You want your manuscript to show up crisp and ready-to-read.

Speaking of crisp...if you are printing your own copies, I recommend a paper of at least 92 brightness. If you are using an inkjet printer, use inkjet paper. If you are having your manuscript photocopied, speak with the copy shop to see what your paper options are. A good copy does make it easier to read the manuscript.

Also, make sure you DATE your query letter and any other correspondance. Make sure your name and address are on PAGE ONE of your query, preferably at the top of the page. Be sure to include your telephone number and your email address. DO NOT include your Social Security Number. No agent needs that unless they are paying you money.

If you are going to send out a fair number of queries, sample chapters, etc., you may want to open an online postage account. If you visit my site's Submissions page at http://www.zackcompany.com/submissions.htm, you can find a link to the one I use.

SRHowen
12-28-2004, 06:34 AM
I'm going to add something to what Andy said--be sure to include a draft number on any complete ms. In the slug line put Draft One if it is the first requested draft.

Andy and I went around and around over some edits he thought I had not done because someone leaving his firm did not file my draft one correctly--so he was on draft one and I was on the edited draft.

He must have thought I was nuts when I kept saying but I fixed that! If I'd put draft one on that first draft I sent to him it would have been a matter of looking at the top of a page and saying oh wait--I don't have that draft. Oops. Instead we wasted a mess of time and frustration over it.

Shawn

maestrowork
12-28-2004, 11:39 AM
Thanks! The information is invaluable. I've been trying to find ms mailers and now I know where to find them.

spywriter
12-29-2004, 02:53 AM
I was re-reading the thread/discussion about your new express read system and I have a question....

What do you do if EVERYONE sends you the money for the express read? How then will you prioritize them? As I see it, if ALL or many/most do it, then aren't you back to where you started? How will you find the time to read them all and still stay in your guaranteed response window?

Again, just curious. It's an interesting idea, but I am just not sure how you can really make it work well. Thanks so much.

andyzack
12-29-2004, 03:04 AM
Spywriter:

They would be prioritized by due date, for starters. However, based on the current demand, there's little indication of that happening anytime.

SRHowen
12-29-2004, 04:16 AM
Staples also carries them, at least they do here. MS mailers that is.

Shawn

WritingChick
12-29-2004, 06:15 AM
Hi Andy,

I heard that if you self published a book, you can still submit it to agents to have it reviewed and to be possibly represented. But when you have an agent, could you have an agent just for foreign sales? Also, does the agent get to choose which foreign sales your book would be in, or what happens to your book in general? Thanks! :)

sqrrll
12-29-2004, 11:25 AM
Andy,

Two questions for you. Thanks for answering my last one, by the way.

How do you find the agent who represented a certain book? Is it listed anywhere in the book? I have three books (Young Adult Sports series such as Matt Christopher's, Alden All-stars, etc.) I know I can query agents who represent sports and YA, but I would like to send a query to the agent who represented one of these specific books.

Second, I sent a requested manuscript to an agent and they told me that it was now logged into the computer. I saw you reference that in an earlier message. What does that exactly mean? Is that just a data entry of the book and it's place in the line of things the agent has to read? It seems obvious, but I was just curious.

Thanks,
Chris

spywriter
12-29-2004, 08:59 PM
Good Day again Mr. Zack....

I have written a lengthy book, as we have earlier discussed, with absolutely no filler. My synopsis is perfect at 5 pages, but I have had an agent ask for only a 2 page synopsis. I am a TO THE LETTER rule follower, but I have to tell you that I cannot....absolutely cannot...shorten the synopsis to 2 pages and portray the storyline accurately. I have to tell you that I would have hard time signing "this" writer if I thought my 2 pages was the whole story. In this case, is it okay to write the requester a letter telling them that the sheer size of the novel requires more pages? I truly want to do what is asked of me, but I also have to put my best foot forward when I send my materials. If I send 2 pages, they won't take me becasue the book will sound uninteresting, but if I send a compelling 5, they may get put off. What is a writer to do?

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

vstrauss
12-29-2004, 09:41 PM
>> How do you find the agent who represented a certain book?<<

Some suggestions:

- Check the book's acknowledgements. Writers sometimes mention their agents there.

- Do a Google search on the author. This may turn up a website, news story, or something else that mentions the author's agent (if you get a lot of hits you can narrow your search by searching for "author name"+agent).

- Check the publisher's website. Publishers sometimes have online rights listings that mention the agent.

- Check the author's listings on Amazon. Reviews in magazines such as Publishers Weekly, which Amazon posts, sometimes mention the agent.

If all else fails, you can write the publisher and ask.

- Victoria

sqrrll
12-29-2004, 09:46 PM
Thanks Victoria, that's a big help. I'll try those suggestions.

maestrowork
12-29-2004, 10:15 PM
Spy, why are you so certain that you can't pare your synopsis down to 2 pages? That's still over 1000 words. Sure, a 2-pager is not as compelling as a 5-pager. But what you need to do is to delete details without sacrificing the overall story. What agents (I can only guess) want from a 2-page synopsis is not the details, but the major turns of events and see if the story has momentum and merits, and most importantly, how it's going to end. They're probably looking to see if you have a solid beginning (premise), middle (meat), and ending (satisfaction). Limit your characters to only 2 or three major players. Limit your plot to only the big twists and big impacts.

Anyway, what I did with mine was I started with the 5 pages (or like 5 1/4) and cut. And to my surprise, I didn't lose that much afterward. Sure, I lose a lot of the details and minor characters, but the gist of the story and the major plots are intact. It's become an exercise of economy. And if you think that's bad, try to come up with a one sentence logline or one paragraph -- that's the ultimate challenge.

Of course, I'll let Andy correct me.

andyzack
12-29-2004, 11:18 PM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>I heard that if you self published a book, you can still submit it to agents to have it reviewed and to be possibly represented. But when you have an agent, could you have an agent just for foreign sales? Also, does the agent get to choose which foreign sales your book would be in, or what happens to your book in general? Thanks!<hr></blockquote>
You can certainly submit, but I think you'll find a general bias against such books. I'd say you've have to have sold a solid 5,000 units to the chains to get interest.

Your agent will likely send the book to his foreign agents. If they think there's a market for it in their territories, they will try and sell it there. There's no real control over where the book might be published because it, like the US, is a buyer's marketplace.

andyzack
12-29-2004, 11:25 PM
Chris:

Many authors acknowledge their agents in their books and so that's one place to look. Otherwise, you might try www.publishersmarketplace.com and their database of who represents whom.

You can google the author. Often authors have sites of their own and list their agents. If not, you can usually find a contact address and just write and ask them who their agent is.

I think you are correct about the log thing.

andyzack
12-29-2004, 11:27 PM
Spywriter:

If the agent bounces you because you sent a five-pager instead of a two-pager, that says a lot about the agent, and not anything good.

That said, if you can't get your book down to two-pages, how would you write flap copy, or catalogue copy, for the book? Any book can be gotten down to two-pages. You just have to be willing to leave out the minor plot elements.

DeePower
12-30-2004, 01:30 AM
Andy:

Honest.

As you probably are aware PublishAmerica hides behind the label of "traditional" publisher while they use the business model of a vanity/subsidy publisher. The authors that are accepted for publication by PA believe that PA screens submissions and rejects at least 80% of what is presented to them. In reality PA will publish almost anything. The quality of PA books suffers as a consequence and by default the authors who have published with them have to overcome the stigma of their publisher as well as many other hurdles.

What would you recommend to a writer that has been published by Publish America? Should that title be included in their bio? Should it be omitted? Does it make any difference to the agent? Do you think it makes a difference to a publisher?

Thanks

Dee

Dee Power
Co-author The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them, March 2005, Dearborn Trade
www.BrianHillAndDeePower.com (http://www.BrianHillAndDeePower.com)

andyzack
12-30-2004, 02:20 AM
Dee:

I give no credit to publication by PublishAmerica and it probably discourages me from taking someone on. Being published badly is worse than not being published at all. These books are on Amazon and at bn.com. There's a sales track being recorded. And it probably stinks. An author with a bad track record is harder to sell than an author with no track record at all.

michelle217
12-30-2004, 02:23 AM
Hi Andy...

This post has been a fascinating read. Thanks for being such a good sport about answering all these questions, of which I have two for you:

1) When a relationship has been established between writer and editor on a couple previous books, does one still go through their agent for future novel proposals? Or would the writer just pitch directly to the editor and leave the agent to handle the paperwork at that point?

2) What are your thoughts on <a href="http://everyonewhosanyone.com/" target="_new">this guy?</a> I'm sure you've probably heard of him.

Thanks!

Michelle <img border=0 src="http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/glasses.gif" />

andyzack
12-30-2004, 02:33 AM
Michelle:

1. You go through the agent, always.

2. I don't think much of the guy and I think his site is a waste of time.

WritingChick
12-30-2004, 02:51 AM
Andy,

Do you suggest copyrighting work if you're an author before sending to an agent?

Also, thank you for answering my first post :)

andyzack
12-30-2004, 03:50 AM
Absolutely not.

SRHowen
12-30-2004, 04:26 AM
First you write a one line plot summery of the entire book, then you look at your synop and get rid of anything that does not directly support that one line summery.

You'd be surprised at how short you can go.

Shawn

WritingChick
12-30-2004, 04:47 AM
It would make the author appear a newbie if they copyrighted, correct?

triceretops
12-30-2004, 05:21 AM
Writingchick--In at least my opinion, a preoccupation with copyright, stealing work, absconding with ideas, and other
such things have been indicative of unpublished writers. It has been the first question they ask me in a physical writing group. Mark of an amateur? Yes, more often than not. Surprisingly, I got that question more often from writers who dropped the course, or who had never written anything to be submitted to the group, let alone a publisher. Was I consumed with this matter when I first began writing?
I didn't even think out loud for fear that somebody would mind-meld with me and rip-off all my clever ideas!

Since we're on the subject of amateur pranks, don't pull this
one: After you write to an author and ask them who their agent is, do not tell such agent that you were "recommended
by" or "referred by" said author unless it is very clear that you have such a letter of introduction. Many authors will not divulge their agent's identity for this "name dropping" reason.
This one happens a lot. I know of a known author that kept dropping his agent's name at a convention. A week later the
agent's mailbox was bursting with "professional contacts"--
"lifelong friends"--"relatives"--"peers" and other such personages. The agent gave known author his first pink slip,
so to speak.

Rule of thumb: don't do anything Homer Simpson WOULD do.

Doh!

Tri

WritingChick
12-30-2004, 05:31 AM
That would probably be often annoying with the name dropping. I see your point now. Do nothing Homer would do :lol

ChunkyC
12-30-2004, 06:33 AM
Andy, I'd like to chime in and thank you for this thread. I am nearly ready to begin looking for an agent and this couldn't have come along at a better time.

1) When a relationship has been established between writer and editor on a couple previous books, does one still go through their agent for future novel proposals? Or would the writer just pitch directly to the editor and leave the agent to handle the paperwork at that point?
Your answer was that you should always go through your agent. Could you elaborate about the communications an author might have with a publisher after a book is sold, such as editing / galleys and so on? Are you always the communication conduit, or does the author deal directly with the publisher for those issues once a publishing contract is signed?

Thanks again for starting this thread. We just might have to nominate you for sainthood along with Uncle Jim. :D

andyzack
12-30-2004, 06:38 AM
Editorial conversations do and should be directly between the author and editor, however, the agent should be copied and kept in the loop, just in case.

Anything that is a contractual matter, from cover consultation to submitting the option book, should go through the agent from both sides. This ensure there's never a "he said, she said" debate and also it allows the agent to advise the author. I, for one, am very concerned about covers and many authors do not see the problems that I do when reading copy or looking at a cover. Yet many an editor would just as soon send it off to the author alone and that often results in a lesser cover.

HapiSofi
12-30-2004, 08:46 AM
Some miscellaneous comments-on-comments:

Andy Zack: "Should an agent request a manuscript, put it in a sturdy box (not just a Kinko's box). You can order fairly sturdy boxes called "literature mailers" from Viking Office Supply (www.vikingop.com) and Uline shipping (www.uline.com). Then put that into another box to actually mail it. You want your manuscript to show up crisp and ready-to-read."

Really good manuscript boxes are especially appreciated when the author doesn't want the manuscript back. They get re-used. A small, tidy, discreet indelible label with your name and the title of your book, placed in a spot where it's likely to be visible but not likely to get covered over by a later label -- say, near the edge of one of the short ends -- may mean that the next time the editor sees your name, it'll seem vaguely familiar. It's a dumb trick, but what the hell.

Andy Zack: "Also, make sure you DATE your query letter and any other correspondence. Make sure your name and address are on PAGE ONE of your query, preferably at the top of the page. Be sure to include your telephone number and your email address."

And while you're at it, put all that information on the title page of your manuscript. If writers swap stories about manuscripts that bounce from house to house to house before achieving dazzling success, editors swap stories about the times they've had to play detective and hunt down an author in order to buy their work.

S. R. Howen: "Be sure to include a draft number on any complete ms."

Or a date; those work too. Aside from the obvious benefits, it'll help stave off that disastrous mishap where production gets hold of an earlier version, sent to them purely for castoff and design, and sends it to the copyeditor. When you're that far along, there may not be time to re-copyedit the book using the correct version of the manuscript, and still make your publication date.

Various queries about finding out who agented a book: I'd start by asking the publisher. The identity of the agent can't be confidential information.

Spywriter: "My synopsis is perfect at 5 pages, but I have had an agent ask for only a 2 page synopsis. ... I cannot....absolutely cannot...shorten the synopsis to 2 pages and portray the storyline accurately. ... Is it okay to write the requester a letter telling them that the sheer size of the novel requires more pages?"

I wouldn't send a separate letter. If I had to send someone an over-long synopsis, the excuse I'd use in the cover letter would be "I'm sorry, I've worked and worked on this, but I don't yet have the knack of boiling my story down to two pages." Agents and editors have seen plenty of short synopses of long books. It's better to cop to an inability to write one than to tell them something they know is untrue. However, it's better to get the synopsis down to two pages, if that's what they want. The part to give up on is portraying your storyline accurately. That isn't necessary. What they need is to get a sense of what kind of story this is, where it goes, and how fast it gets there. They don't need to know exactly where the story stops for a quick burger along the way.

Andy Zack, on previously self-published books: "You can certainly submit, but I think you'll find a general bias against such books. I'd say you've have to have sold a solid 5,000 units to the chains to get interest."

It depends on the self-publisher. The hottest novel of the decade isn't going to sell 5K copies to the chains if it was published by PublishAmerica. Sales figures are meaningless when there's no sales force. If a really good book was published by a really lousy publisher, no sales can mean no sales lost. On the other hand, it wouldn't hurt to change the author's name and the book's title.

BTW, I fully concur with you on the everyonewhosanyone.com website. In its listing for the house I know best, it doesn't mention half the editors (including two of the most prominent and accomplished ones), and it gets the hierarchy wrong on the ones it does list. When I looked at listings for other houses, the more I knew, the more errors I spotted. The guy doesn't seem to know any more than you could figure out from looking at an office phone list. He also thinks "has a more elaborate title than" means "outranks." My favorite search result was for Baen, which I looked up on the grounds that if there were ever a house where the phone list won't tell you who's who and what they're doing, it would have to be Baen. The result? A bunch of entries containing the word "been." He doesn't list Baen at all.

SRHowen
12-30-2004, 09:43 AM
Yes, by all means put the date on the cover page, but put only a draft number in the slug line. While it is an easy switch to make (the date) if it takes time to place the ms it can seem outdated by that date at the top.

Some publishers, even with an agent, take a long time to get to your work.

I also know one writer who put the date in her slug line, her ms was misplaced in a move the agent made, in fact vanished for a year. When the agent found the ms she tossed it thinking it was old copy because she never took more than 6 months to get back to an author. Had the thing only had Draft One in the slug line the agent might have taken a second look.

Just a thought.

Shawn

vstrauss
12-30-2004, 10:04 AM
>>BTW, I fully concur with you on the everyonewhosanyone.com website.<<

Me three. He includes a fair number of bad agents. This is a doubly bad thing, since many people consider his listing one you don't have to double-check.

While I'm at it, Literaryagent.org--another oft-cited agent listing site--ain't so hot either.

- Victoria

maestrowork
12-30-2004, 11:18 AM
Q: When I query an agent about my completed ms, I casually mentioned a WIP I've been working on. The agent writes back and says, while he's not interested in the completed ms, he's interested in the WIP, and he would look at it if I query him on that.

Should I send him a query on the WIP, even though it's far from being finished, since he asked for it? Or should I wait until I'm done with it, which could be months from now?

aka eraser
12-30-2004, 11:03 PM
Deleted because my now my point is moot. :)

andyzack
12-30-2004, 11:09 PM
I'd like to ask that no one reply to Mr. Jones's comments. I think they do an excellent job of portraying his personality and intelligence and that we are all quite capable of evaluating his opinion accurately without any further comment. And, of course, the old adage, "if you ignore him, he'll go away," hopefully applies.

Thank you.

arainsb123
12-30-2004, 11:23 PM
(This post no longer makes sense)

ChunkyC
12-30-2004, 11:23 PM
cross posted with Andy's last post, content removed as requested.

HollyB
12-31-2004, 12:22 AM
Mr. Zack:

I'd like to add my thanks to the list of people who really appreciate the time you've spent answering questions here at AW.

How important are short story publication credits, both in terms of signing a new writer, and selling their work to a publisher?

Thanks much (also to HapiSofi and others for chiming in on this very valuable thread)!

andyzack
12-31-2004, 12:34 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>How important are short story publication credits, both in terms of signing a new writer, and selling their work to a publisher?<hr></blockquote>
I think writing short stories is a great way to explore your abilities as a writer. You can play with different POVs, settings, genres, etc. And I do pay more attention when an author's query lists credits in popular magazines such as ASIMOV'S, ANALOG, AFRED HITCHCOCK'S, ELLERY QUEEN'S, etc.

I also think a novel writer can do a lot to keep his readers' attention by publishing short stories with some of the same characters in between books. If I were writing science fiction, I would try and get a new short story in a magazine the month my new book comes out, and ask the magazine publisher to insert a notice and my publisher to buy an ad. Since there's no TV or radio advertising for science fiction novels, this is about as close as you can get, unless you learn Flash and do a great website or something.

spywriter
12-31-2004, 12:42 AM
Hello once more...from your friendly neighborhood SPYWRITER...

I am really writing this for a friend...no joke.

My friend has a wonderful and I dare say fairly original work of fiction, but I don't think that its at its best.

If you read a MS or first 3 and the idea is JUST GREAT but the writing is not quite there, do you take it on anyway and have them edit, or do you pass?

Thanks again...wishing you continued success in 2005.

spywriter
12-31-2004, 12:45 AM
THanks also to Hapi for some great info and to all the others who have lent us newbies thier time and knowledge!

Success to you all in 2005!

andyzack
12-31-2004, 12:48 AM
Spywriter:

That's not a black & white question. There's one book that had a GREAT idea, but the writing was just so bad it was never getting there. And how would I tell an author that? I just passed.

Other books I've certainly taken on and edited (or worked with my associates or interns to edit).

spywriter
12-31-2004, 12:53 AM
Thank you Mr. Zack for your time. One day, when my book is picked up and adapated to a movie and I win an Academy award, I will be sure to thank you again then. Enjoy the celebration in NY!

vstrauss
12-31-2004, 01:06 AM
Folks: I hate the idea of removing or editing other people's posts, but Mr. Jones's comment, in addition to adding nothing to the discussion, was libellous. So I removed it (I actually meant just to remove the content, but wound up deleting the entire post--whoopsie), and edited Anders's post which quoted it (sorry, Anders).

Mr. Jones is welcome to show up here to disagree with our assessment of his website, but just to name-call? Uh-uh.

- Victoria

ChunkyC
12-31-2004, 02:09 AM
Good call, Victoria.

Andy -- you mentioned advertising in your response about short story writing. How much promotion do you do for your contracted writers? (by contracted, I mean those for whom you have negotiated contracts with publishing houses.)

To clarify a bit: do you feel an agent should take an active role in promoting a writer and their upcoming publications, or is that something the publisher handles, or is it something in between?

andyzack
12-31-2004, 02:17 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>To clarify a bit: do you feel an agent should take an active role in promoting a writer and their upcoming publications, or is that something the publisher handles, or is it something in between?<hr></blockquote>
I maintain a website and a page for each author and each of their works. However, that's really just a value-added item a a part of my representation. I'm not a publicist or promoter and publishers do have publicity departments, so I think it's their responsibility. That said, many authors have found that publishers' publicity departments are not what they might have hoped, and have resorted to hiring outside publicists. I think that's rarely worth the expense and that a motivated author can probably do more on their own with a little assistance from the publicity department.

Gerard Jones
12-31-2004, 03:12 AM
You people crack me up. Libel, ha! A quote from the NYTBR disputing what Mr. Zack said about me and my free website? Nazi book-burning is what any reasonable person would call it. Ask Mr. Zack about his "Consulting Services." Like how much does he charge to ruin what might otherwise be good writing? When anyone ever says anything close to this...


First of all I would like to say that your book Ginny Good completely turned my soul inside out. Ginny was one of the most lambent pieces of writing I've ever read. It ripped me apart on the inside so much that I couldn't function for days. There's nothing I love more than a good old fashioned tragedy. Yours was the best of tragedies, top notch Greek quality, I must say.

Or this:

www.janmag.com/biography/ginnygood.html (http://www.janmag.com/biography/ginnygood.html)

...about any book Mr. Zack has had anything to do with, I'll be forever amazed. Guys like him need goons like you to protect him and yourselves from the simple truth that nothing you've ever done and nothing you'll ever do is worth doing. Oh, and be sure to delete this, like good little book-burners. Thanks. G.

dblteam
12-31-2004, 03:48 AM
Rather than deleting Mr. Jones' posts, perhaps the moderators might consider moving them to a separate thread? That way, those who would like to debate with him can freely do so without sidelining this valuable topic, and it would serve as testimony to Mr. Jones' credibility. Rather than leaving anyone to wonder whether Mr. Jones' deleted statements had any relevant content, readers could decide for themselves.

Thanks,

Valerie

vstrauss
12-31-2004, 04:08 AM
Gerard, I saw that squib in the NYTBR. Like a lot of the buzz about your site, it has less to do with the site's actual usefulness as a resource than with its status as a curiosity. As a curiosity, it's fabulous. As a resource it's flawed. That's my boring perspective, anyhow.

I don't have any doubt that you're a fine writer (BTW, are you aware that January picked Ginny Good for its "Best of 2004" list? I know this 'cause I'm in there too). But we're talking about your website, not your writing.

I know you've got some history with Andy, but I'd really appreciate it if you'd let this be the last set of insults. And by the way, I'm not going to delete your post. Sorry to confound your expectations.

- Victoria

vstrauss
12-31-2004, 04:13 AM
Valerie, I deleted Gerard's first post because it really was libellous. If this develops further, I'll consider moving it, but for now will leave it here because I don't really think it deserves a separate topic.

- Victoria

Gerard Jones
12-31-2004, 04:31 AM
Victoria, cupcake, the guy at the NYTBR said my little website was worth more than any five "how-to" treatises combined. Andy Zack and you say it's a waste of time and that you dislike me. I say you're both nuts and neither of you are worth disliking. You keep saying there are "bad" agents on my free list of the top 6,000 literary and talent agents, editors, publishers and movie guys in most of the English-speaking world, yet you've never named one. What kind of neo-McCarthyism is that? Andy Zack is not on my list. You wanna know why? I'll tell you why. 'Cause he's a bad agent, that's why. G.

andyzack
12-31-2004, 04:36 AM
For the record....

The only "history" I have with Mr. Jones is that I did not wish to be featured on his website. When he refused to remove my information, I was forced to appeal to his administrative contact. When the administrative contact became fed up with the matter, she sent a rather "colorful" email to the both of us. At that point, I notified them I would file a complaint with the site's host. After that, I received an email from, I believe, Mr. Jones's niece begging me not to complain to the host and that my information would be removed, which it was.

Mr. Jones subsequently made insulting comments about me to THE NEW YORK OBSERVER(http://www.nyobserver.com/pages/story.asp?ID=6421) and I provided the OBSERVER with a comment at the reporter's request. I think that comment was something along the lines of what I've said here, so there's really nothing new going on here. I've never done business with Mr. Jones, never read his book. When he originally emailed me about his site, I questioned why he would bother, since there are so many other fine resources out there (I think the Jeff Herman book is probably the best), and that's about it, other than our dispute about his refusal to take my information off his site.

Now, since I know someone will ask....I didn't want to be on his site because he was publishing my personal email address, which was encouraging folks to send me email queries, which I do not accept. Also, I did not agree with his project of sending a bizarre query to agents and then publishing their responses. Yes, it resulted in some good laughs, but often at the expense of some good people. He was also publishing my emails to him, without having asked permission to do so, which I considered unprofessional and impolite, at the least.

It would appear that Mr. Jones carries some animosity for me because of my efforts not to appear on his site. I cannot think of any other reason he would post such ill-spirited comments here. I was asked a specific question—what did I think of his site—and I expressed my personal opinion, which is my right. What Mr. Jones did, I feel, goes well beyond expressing a personal opinion. It's an attack, pure and simple, and the tone of his latest post seems hysterical and a bit irrational. And, on top of everything, I'm Jewish, so being accused of Nazi-like behavoir is particularly insulting.

As I said in the OBSERVER, Mr. Jones's comments speak for themselves. I'll leave it at that.

FM St George
12-31-2004, 04:36 AM
sounds like someone is seriously off his meds...

:rollin

Jaxler
12-31-2004, 05:02 AM
<sounds like someone is seriously off his meds...>

And the enangered Sidney Mellon part of his personality is taking over?

vstrauss
12-31-2004, 05:55 AM
Victoria, cupcake, the guy at the NYTBR said my little website was worth more than any five "how-to" treatises combined.

Gerard, sweetpea, I'll bet that guy never tried to sell a book to a trade publisher.

you say it's a waste of time and that you dislike me.

Nope. Never said a word about you. Said your site was flawed. It is. (It's not alone. Most agent listings on the Internet have the same problems, but few have the visibility yours does.)

You keep saying there are "bad" agents on my free list of the top 6,000 literary and talent agents, editors, publishers and movie guys in most of the English-speaking world, yet you've never named one. What kind of neo-McCarthyism is that?

OK, here are four:

- SE Literary Properties: In business several years, but no sales.
- New Elite Literary Agency: $95 upfront fee. Seriously clueless, as is evident from a reading of their website.
- Harris Literary Agency: $250 upfront fee. Editors ignore their submissions.
- Karen Lewis & Company: Everyone gets referred to a paid editing service run by a family member of the agent. Only "sales" are to Durban House, a publisher run by the agent's husband. Said publisher (which is included in your Publishers listing) poses as a small press but charges $25,000 to publish.

It's not my job to comb other people's agent listings for bad agents. I've offered before to check my files for you if you'll contact me before you put up new listings. That offer still stands.

- Victoria

P.S. I'm trying to find out how to move posts selectively out of one topic and into another.

SRHowen
12-31-2004, 06:27 AM
Victoria, you should have an edit box where you can check a post and then a drop down box where it asks you what you want to do with the selected post.

You can then move a post and have a choice of leaving a "shadow" of the post or moving it entirely.

Shawn

reph
12-31-2004, 07:17 AM
Shawn, ezboard doesn't allow that with single posts, as far as I know, only with whole threads. If you know a way to activate Topic Commands for one post in a thread, please share.

ChunkyC
12-31-2004, 07:36 AM
Perhaps a super-mod can do it. If not, you might have to copy the entire thread, and then in the new location, individually delete the posts you don't want there.

One way or another, I personally think it would be good to keep off-topic posts out of this particular thread, without resorting to deleting them except as a last resort.

aka eraser
12-31-2004, 08:21 AM
There is no way to move individual posts short of copying and pasting them to a new thread and then deleting them from the old. Formatting and links are lost in the process and it's a bit of a pain, but doable.

SRHowen
12-31-2004, 09:14 AM
Argh, I looked and yes, you can only do it with the whole thread--shoot, thought I had done it on my own board with just one post, my bad, I was wrong.

Shawn

Gerard Jones
12-31-2004, 09:46 AM
- SE Literary Properties: In business several years, but no sales.

This guy's nice. He has good links. Lots of agents haven't sold stuff...maybe 'cause they prefer not to sell schlock. I'm leaving him alone.

- New Elite Literary Agency: $95 upfront fee. Seriously clueless, as is evident from a reading of their website.

Anyone who pays an upfront fee is too stupid to write anything worth reading. So is anyone who buys "consulting services." There are lots of stupid people who, thanks to bad agents, think they can write. I'm not a cop and I refer people to your site so they can be aware of your research. They do look extra dumb, I admit, but maybe they'll be a perfect match for an extra dumb writer.

- Harris Literary Agency: $250 upfront fee. Editors ignore their submissions.

Editors ignore all kinds of stuff. 95% of all successfully published books are sold by 2% of agents. If they wanna call themselves agents, who am I to disagree? Again, anyone who pays an upfront fee is an idiot, but the people on their website look happy enough and they appear to have sold some books. Maybe their clients wanted to blow $250. Maybe it made them happy. People have the choice whether to be an idiot or not. All agents charge reasonable expenses; the good ones take those expenses out of the advance and if they don't sell the book, they eat the expenses. If an agent doesn't think enough of your work to gamble the cost of reasonable expenses if he or she can't sell it, he or she doesn't think enough of your work to represent it. There are lots of "good" agents who charge writers for expenses after they've decided they can't sell the book and those expenses often add up to more than $250. I wonder what Andy Zack's policy is vis-a-vis sticking writers with expenses if he's not able to sell their work.

- Karen Lewis & Company: Everyone gets referred to a paid editing service run by a family member of the agent. Only "sales" are to Durban House, a publisher run by the agent's husband. Said publisher (which is included in your Publishers listing) poses as a small press but charges $25,000 to publish.

They always looked pretty absurd, I'll get rid of both of 'em. See how simple that is? G.

DaveKuzminski
12-31-2004, 10:03 AM
Mr. Jones, please consider taking your argument to the Take It Outside portion of this overall forum. This topic, whether you like or respect Mr. Zack or not, is intended for him to dispense advice from the viewpoint of a literary agent.

While I do not see everything eye to eye with Mr. Zack, I have refrained from arguing with him in his topic over our differences. I think we should be considerate in this manner because it is fair to other writers who want his advice.

Gerard Jones
12-31-2004, 10:21 AM
I'm done discussing. If people wanna swallow his hogwash, that's their business. Thanks. G.

vstrauss
12-31-2004, 10:24 AM
They do look extra dumb, I admit, but maybe they'll be a perfect match for an extra dumb writer.

OK: I give up. Dave is right. We should shut this down.

- Victoria

HapiSofi
12-31-2004, 11:02 AM
He's gone? I can only give thanks. Whatta maroon.

arainsb123
12-31-2004, 11:42 AM
(This post has been removed by me since Mr. Jones has left)

snarzler
12-31-2004, 12:33 PM
Soooo :grin

Andy,

What's the worst way someone has approached you to be their agent?

Andrea

pencilone
12-31-2004, 07:34 PM
Andy,

Thanks for your answers. Here's more:

1. Please can you tell how many new writers with no publishing experience you accepted as clients in the past year (2004) and in the past 5 years?

2. Have you managed to sell their books?

3. What do you think it is best for a new writer with no publishing experience to do:
- submit directly to the publishers (of course the choice is restricted to those that accept unagented submissions) and look for an agent after an offer has been made or
- submit first to an agent?

4. Which genre novel do you think it is easier to break into as a new writer?

5. Do you see the fantasy novel market now as being hotter than ever (because of the Harry Potter mania)?

All ideas and suggestions most welcome,

Pencilone

EGGammon
12-31-2004, 08:08 PM
Andy,

I was checking your "What We Want" list and on it is this:

"No gay or lesbian fiction."

Now could you expand on that? Does that mean the book can't have ANY gay characters AT ALL? Or it can't be a fiction book AIMED at gay people? My novel, follows the lives of a large group of people and each character is different. A couple gay ones, but most of them (probably 95 percent) are straight. I added the gay characters to add diversity to a mainly straight "cast." I just wanted some additional explaining from you.

Thanks.

E.G. Gammon

pencilone
12-31-2004, 09:36 PM
Andy,

One more question (please remember I'm just a newbie and I hope I don't offend anyone with my questions):

1. What do you think is the role of the agent in selling the book to a publisher?

I know that this question may sound a little strange and too general. Some may say that if the book is good enough, it just sells by itself and it does not need an agent to do that. If the agent has no significant role in selling the book, than his role is mainly a legal one (taking care of contracts and following the book printing progress inside the publishing house, etc). In this case the agent presence is required only after a book is sold...

Others may say that even an excellent book will not be sold if no agent is there to push for it and open the right doors and make the right people read it. One may say that if the agent did not sell the book, then it is not the fault of the book, but it is the fault of the agent (lack of important contacts, no weight in spreading the word about a good book).

What do you think?

Thanks,

Pencilone

pencilone
12-31-2004, 09:51 PM
Andy,

One more question just occured to me:

1. Please can you expand on the qualities of a good agent?
What qualities should a good agent have?

2. How would you define a bad agent? And I do not mean a scam and a thief, just a low performance agent.

3. From a client point of view, how would you measure the performance of an agent?

Thanks,

Pencilone

leena44
12-31-2004, 11:09 PM
Mr. Zack: Thank you so much for your valuable information, and for handling the recent "problem" so well. And Happy New Year to you!

I have two related questions. I have read more than once that agents find "elegant" writing very hard to resist. The implication is also that "elegant" writing is very rare. The 2nd question is related: what in your view constitutes "literary fiction?" I was just on another board where someone came up with a new category: "popular literary fiction." When I think of "literary fiction" I think of a book like Lawrence Thornton's "Imagining Argentina," published a no. of years ago, as a good
example. But I also think that "literary fiction" could be found in any genre, if it is really good writing that is thoughtful and evocative -- if not "elegant."

What say you? Any good examples of "literary fiction" books that did very well in the market in recent years (besides "Cold Mountain.")?

Thanks so much,

Leena 44
PS: I've been "lurking" in this forum for several weeks, and it looks like it is full of wonderful advice from professional writers.

leena44
12-31-2004, 11:30 PM
Mr. Zack: Sorry, I forgot to put my lst question in the above posting. What, in your opinion, constitutes "elegant" fiction writing? Any examples of authors who do reasonably well in the literary marketplace would be appreciated.

Thanks again,

leena44

Lee Tasey
01-01-2005, 02:14 PM
Dear Andy,

I just got my computer back from the shop, so I've been MIA. I've also enjoyed reading your comments. Lots of good info here.

A YA agent asked for my novel; she said it would be 2-3 weeks for a response. It's been more than three weeks. What could be the reason for this?

Also, if a publishing house wants a novel, how much of the book will it change? One fear I have is this: when the novel is published it won't look like the one I submitted.

Best,

Lee

WenSpencer
01-02-2005, 12:17 AM
Hi,

I thought I would give my experience in answer to Pencilone's questions to Andy.

Pencilone asked:

1. Please can you tell how many new writers with no publishing experience you accepted as clients in the past year (2004) and in the past 5 years?

I had no publishing experience when I submitted my first sold novel, ALIEN TASTE, to agents in 2000. While I gathered many rejections, I was accepted by the well-known agent, Jim Allen. (He later died. I'm now with Donald Maass.)

2. Have you managed to sell their books?

Jim sold my novel within four months to Roc Books, an imprint of Penquin Putnam.

3. What do you think it is best for a new writer with no publishing experience to do:
- submit directly to the publishers (of course the choice is restricted to those that accept unagented submissions) and look for an agent after an offer has been made or
- submit first to an agent?

I fully recommend submitting to an agent first. Before ALIEN TASTE, I had written a fantasy novel that I now realize is horribly flawed. I submitted it to agents and publishers at the same time.

The agents always rejected the novel quickly, and in several occasions wrote a detailed letter to why they rejected the novel. They explained that while I was a strong writer, the novel wasn't strong enough to sell. (I could have chosen to rewrite the silly thing, but by that time I was sick of the project.) They encouraged me to keep writing and send them my next project.

The publishers, with the exception of Del Rey who took a month, all took YEARS to reject my novel with a form letter.

- Wen

vstrauss
01-02-2005, 01:13 AM
>>I fully recommend submitting to an agent first.<<

I agree with Wen, if your goal is to publish adult fiction with one of the large houses. You'll often see advice from older writers to find a publisher first, and an agent second. That was reasonable advice when those writers got started, but publishing has changed a lot in the past 20-30 years, and IMO it's no longer good counsel, if only because of the long, long wait you are likely to have to endure if you send an unagented submission to a large publisher. I think your time is better spent trying to find a good agent.

If you're approaching an independent publisher, it's much more feasible to go agentless--indies are used to dealing directly with authors.

- Victoria

HConn
01-02-2005, 01:22 AM
Welcome, Wen.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 01:41 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>What's the worst way someone has approached you to be their agent?<hr></blockquote>
I'd have to go with calling me and pitching me. It's about the writing. It's always about the writing, so a verbal pitch is fairly useless.

Beyond the verbal pitch is the author who calls me and tells me he'll be in town next week and he would like to come by to discuss his book. Like the "one-on-ones" that many writers' conferences have, a meeting to discuss a work I've never read really isn't productive. I've probably done 100 to 150 of such one-on-ones and have yet to find a project I'd represent. I also once spoke with a veteran mystery editor who told me he's been going to conferences for 21 years and had only found three authors.

I'm not knocking the conferences themselves; I think there's a lot of useful information to be found at them. But the one-on-ones just don't go anywhere for me.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 02:01 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>1. Please can you tell how many new writers with no publishing experience you accepted as clients in the past year (2004) and in the past 5 years?<hr></blockquote>

I can't say that I keep such records, but my best guess is two or three in the last year. And over the last three years perhaps all of them.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>2. Have you managed to sell their books?<hr></blockquote>

Well, the two novelists from this year we've been working with on editorial matters, so they haven't gone out. There's a self-published nonfiction author we took on this year for whose book we have an offer. As for the rest of the authors I've taken on over the last five years, I'd say it's a mix. But it's been a long time since I've given up on anything. I sold a nonfiction work this work on the 120th pitch/submission for hardcover publication by a major publisher.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>3. What do you think it is best for a new writer with no publishing experience to do:
- submit directly to the publishers (of course the choice is restricted to those that accept unagented submissions) and look for an agent after an offer has been made or
- submit first to an agent?<hr></blockquote>

I think an author should always have an agent and should find that agent before submitting to publishers. I ran into an ugly situation with a major publisher once. The author contacted me and said he had submitted directly to an imprint of this house and received an offer. I looked at his material and decided to represent him (coming with an offer in hand definitely does not automatically result in representation). When I contacted the editor to negotiate the offer, he said, "The offer was accepted; there's nothing to negotiate. We're happy to insert your agency clause, but that's it." Subsequently there was an extensive contract negotiation with the Contracts department and a better contract resulted, but the basic offer never changed.

Beyond stories such as these are the simple fact that authors generally do not understand what is and is not negotiable or worth negotiating in a publishing contract. An agent does.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>4. Which genre novel do you think it is easier to break into as a new writer?<hr></blockquote>

Considering that romance novels comprise some 50% of the book publishing output for the year, I'd guess that romance should be the easiest, but there's a lot of competition out there. After that, I'd say mystery.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>5. Do you see the fantasy novel market now as being hotter than ever (because of the Harry Potter mania)?<hr></blockquote>

Definitely not. For starters, I think the Harry Potter mania has cooled some. Many people I know didn't read the last one, despite having read everythng that came before. And recently I read the Japanese booksellers have been stuck with tens of thousands of unsold copies of the latest.

Additionally, I don't think there's been a wholesale conversion of Harry Potter fans to other fantasy novels. Sure, some kids will grow up and be more likely to read fantasy, but it won't be dragon fantasies or elves fantasies, I think, and those do comprise a huge number of the titles published every year.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 02:03 AM
E.G.:

I mean works that would be shelved in the Gay and Lesbian section of the bookstore only or primarily, not more mainstream fiction that happens to feature a gay character or two.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 02:31 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>1. What do you think is the role of the agent in selling the book to a publisher?<hr></blockquote>

In a way, I think you answered this question yourself, showing both sides the argument clearly.

My personal feeling is that I bring quite a bit to the table and mostly that's knowledge and experience. I do know who the editors are and I speak with them and meet with them. I work hard to what they are buying. I have over 1200 editors from mostly the US and UK in my database and for many of those, I have detailed notes on what they are hoping to buy right now.

I'm also very knowledgeable about publishers' contracts and what works and doesn't work. I know what can be changed and can't and what's worth changing and not. Many authors, it seems to me, think that a publisher is sending them a "standard" agreement that's going to be fair and acceptable. And that's just not the case. Publishers see themselves as the buyer of something, the customer. And the author is the vendor, the seller. Now imagine yourself as someone buying a car. You feel that the car should meet your specifications and be painted the color you want. It should run perfectly and have no defects, right? Well, publishers feel a bit about your book that way. But books are creative endeavors and thus very subjective. But not when it comes to contracts. Publishing contracts are written to ensure that the publisher gets what it wants from the book. Most publishing contracts do not give authors much protection at all and that's the primary reason to have an agent, because an agent should know how to get you those protections.

Additionally, most agents should know how to review your royalty statements and discover errors, and how to review the cover copy, etc., to advise you on what works and doesn't work. Publishers' royalty statements are not bank statements. You can't, frankly, trust them to be correct 100% of the time. I found an error this year, based on contract terms I'd negotiated, that resulted in an additional payment of $8000 to my client. I also found an error that proved that the Science Fiction Book Club's check for a payment had not been received. In this case, I made the publisher and author $1250 each, since neither the publisher's subsidiary rights or royalties departments had noticed that the payment had not been received.

If you were to review a contract and see the number of different royalty rates for different types of sales, you'd start to realize that there's plenty of room for error. Sales to bookstores are regular sales at regular rates. But if that bookstore is part of a chain and the chain has its own warehouse (Retail Distribution Centers, they are called), the discount is different and the royalty rate may be different. If IBM orders 2000 copies of your business book, the rate is different. If your book is shipped to Canada, the rate is different. Heck, one publisher says that if the book is shipped outside of the continental United States, the rate is different. Imagine if the company you worked for paid you a different rate for each day of the week, and then in months with 31 days, the rate for each of those days was different, then in months where there was a blue moon, the rates changed again. That's how publisher's royalty rates work.

Thus, it is a question of knowledge and experience that's brought to the table by most agents and the role they play is based upon that.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 02:38 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>1. Please can you expand on the qualities of a good agent?
What qualities should a good agent have?<hr></blockquote>

Detail-oriented, knowledgeable about the book publishing process, and willing to work with you to improve your work editorially and to explain the details that are affecting the way your book is being marketed to or by publishers.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>2. How would you define a bad agent? And I do not mean a scam and a thief, just a low performance agent.<hr></blockquote>

Throws it out there and sees if it sticks; doesn't negotiate the actual contract and takes the "boilerplate;" doesn't send the author the reject letters, particularly if those letters will help the author understand why his or her book isn't selling; doesn't have time to talk to the author.

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>3. From a client point of view, how would you measure the performance of an agent?<hr></blockquote>

Well, I'd want to know where it was being submitted and what the response was. I'd worry if my agent disappeared after the contract was signed. I'd want my agent's input on everything contractual, such as the approval or consultation on the cover copy, etc. If my book wasn't selling to publishers, I'd want my agent's thoughts on why.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 02:45 AM
Leena:

I think "literary fiction" is primarily just very well written fiction, period. I don't recall ever seeing a "literary fiction" section in the bookstore, for example.

As for examples, THE CORRECTIONS and THE LOVELY BONES come immediately to mind. MIDDLESEX is another example.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 02:54 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>A YA agent asked for my novel; she said it would be 2-3 weeks for a response. It's been more than three weeks. What could be the reason for this?

Also, if a publishing house wants a novel, how much of the book will it change? One fear I have is this: when the novel is published it won't look like the one I submitted.<hr></blockquote>
Well, it's the holidays and many agencies are closed. Plus, such deadlines are usually ballpark numbers and not written in stone. I'd give it another couple of weeks, at least.

Sometimes materials do get lost in the mail. I suggest that authors use Delivery Confirmation when sending materials in. I encourage authors to never send anything Certified Mail or Registered Mail, or via Federal Express or UPS, unless asked to by the agent or publisher, or for contractual reasons. These services are unnecessarily expensive and generally require a signature. In some offices, that signature can't be gotten, because the office is small and everyone is out to lunch, or the office is closed for a vacation period. This may result in an inconvenience to the agent and/or a delay in your material reaching the agent. If you must know your material got there, use a non-signature method such as Delivery Confirmation.

Alternatively, insert a pre-paid postcard that just says "Material arrived at the ___________ agency," and a note asking that it be mailed upon receipt.

FranMoran
01-02-2005, 03:29 AM
Mr. Zack,

If an agent has read an author's full MS and called them to request that they lengthen the ending and implement other small changes, said they're very excited about the book, and made a casual arrangement to meet in the next few weeks, how interested is the agent?
And how important is the meeting? ie, is the agent only likely to take on the author if the meeting goes ideally?

(is it obvious I'm talking about myself...?)

andyzack
01-02-2005, 03:37 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>If an agent has read an author's full MS and called them to request that they lengthen the ending and implement other small changes, said they're very excited about the book, and made a casual arrangement to meet in the next few weeks, how interested is the agent?
And how important is the meeting? ie, is the agent only likely to take on the author if the meeting goes ideally?<hr></blockquote>Well, really, only the agent can answer that, but from what you've said, the agent sounds very interested.

arainsb123
01-02-2005, 05:30 AM
Mr. Zack:

Thank you for taking the time to start and respond to this thread, and I have a question for you that I've received conflicting answers to.

Do you think that mentioning my age (I'm a teenager, as my signature reveals) in a query letter would be good or bad? I've settled on not mentioning it and only telling the editor/agent my age oif I'm accepted; is this a good tactic? My justification for this is that my work should stand on its own and that mentioning my age early on might cause an editor/agent to dismiss my work out of hand.

andyzack
01-02-2005, 05:32 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>Do you think that mentioning my age (I'm a teenager, as my signature reveals) in a query letter would be good or bad? I've settled on not mentioning it and only telling the editor/agent my age if I'm accepted; is this a good tactic? My justification for this is that my work should stand on its own and that mentioning my age early on might cause an editor/agent to dismiss my work out of hand.<hr></blockquote>If you're over 18 and can legally contract with an agent or publisher, I'm not sure your age matters, so long as your writing is good.

arainsb123
01-02-2005, 06:36 AM
I'm under 18. I would need a parent to co-sign any contract, right?

DaveKuzminski
01-02-2005, 06:56 AM
In most localities, yes.

JustinoXV
01-02-2005, 05:12 PM
Andy:

I'd like to ask you a question on the greetings you should use on query letters. Obviously if I'm writing a one person agency it should be Dear Andy Zack or Dear Barbara Smith.

But what about writing large agencies that may have a bunch of agents representing various kinds of writers (novelists, screenwriters, etc.)

When I query, I use To Whom It May Concern. It doesn't seem to put off people in the film industry. So would putting To Whom It May Concern offend people in the publishing world?

Just curious.

triceretops
01-02-2005, 09:39 PM
Why don't you use the "title" agent if you don't know any of the sub-agents. Frequently, the agency is named after a real person who is the founder and presides over the whole show.
Wot?

Tri

maestrowork
01-02-2005, 10:55 PM
For a large agency, I'd usually check the submission guidelines either in Writer's guide or on line -- usually they tell you who represent what. Then I'd call the agency to find out for sure... for example: Hi, I'm interested in querying your agent Mr. John McKenzie and would like to get the spelling of his name correct... Don't ask for the agent himself (many agents hate cold calls), instead ask the receptionist/secretary. 9 out of 10 times (from my experience) they'd tell you who to send it to. Sometimes you don't send it to a specific agent. With a large agency, they may use a front-line person -- everything goes to Ms. Jane Smith first -- who may also use an intern to sort through the hundreds of mail she gets each day.

But definitely, do your research first, then call the agency to find out.

AnneMarble
01-02-2005, 11:09 PM
I agree with Wen, if your goal is to publish adult fiction with one of the large houses.
Is it different for children's and YA fiction? I've been checking through the 2005 Children's and Illustrator's market. I realized that while there are some big publishers accept only agented submissions and queries, quite a few major publishers do accept unagented submissions, even asking for complete manuscripts.

Is this field more open to unagented submissions, or at least queries? That is assuming, you don't send them "Sammy the Sad Suitcase" or "Perry the Prancing Paramecium." :rolleyes

Of course, I still have to write something, other than the short story I wrote for my nephew about the dragon with heartburn... :rollin

JustinoXV
01-03-2005, 03:29 AM
I was asking the agent what his opinion, in his professional experience as an agent was. I wasn't asking for the opinions of writers here, as I know how many of you feel on the subject. No offense.

I realize that Andy deals with the publishing world, and things maybe different there.

Many of the literary agencies that deal with screenwriters will simple say just mail in the query letter or write it to the attention of the literary department (these agencies deal with actors, screenwriters, directors, novelists, etc.) They tend not to ever give out specific names. I know because I've called these agencies myself. So I generally use To Whom It May Concern. It's gets me read at agencies and production companies.

Any opinions on this, Mr. Zack. If you were working at a larger agency, how would you feel if you got a good query letter that said To Whom It May Concern. Would this cause you to trash the query?

andyzack
01-03-2005, 03:46 AM
<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>I'm under 18. I would need a parent to co-sign any contract, right?<hr></blockquote> It's not even co-sign. They sign on your behalf and become legally responsible for your performance of the contract. And I think it's the case anywhere in the United States, pretty much.

andyzack
01-03-2005, 03:55 AM
Justino:

When I see "Dear Andy Zack," I feel like the author did a mail merge but doesn't know how to use his word processor correctly. That's a strike.

I don't like phone calls and actually would never advise a first-time author to call any agency unless asked to do (say by email or letter) or returning a call (obviously, I'm referring to non-clients). There's a ton of information out there. Check the agency's website or Jeff Herman's guide to agents, etc. You can, of course, just write "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Agent" but that sends a message that you haven't done your research and are just throwing your material at barn doors, hoping for it to stick.

In publishing, as in many other areas, people have become very, very lazy about due diligence. You should know as much about your agent as a person you are going to hire for your own company. This person could be responsible for handling tens of thousands (millions, even!) or your money, eventually. Do you really want to find that person by writing a letter "to whom it may concern"?

andyzack
01-03-2005, 04:04 AM
Anne:

I don't actually represent any children's literature, so I can't respond knowledgeably to this question. But the general reality is that there are many publishers with many imprints and the rules aren't really written in stone at any of them. A guy knows a guy who knows the president of a publisher and suddenly there's a senior editor reading a first novel with no agent behind it. An editor has a neighbor who happens to have a daughter who writes children's books. I went on a blind date with a women two or so years ago. A friend hers self-published a book and wanted to find an agent to take it to publishers. I got a call and agreed to represent the book about ten minutes later. Many SF&F publishers will read unagented material. Some other genre imprints will also. They don't advertise it and probably discourage it, but they definitely aren't as strict about Hollywood, where a project without an agent attached usually comes back with a cover sheet saying "we didn't ask for it; there's no agent; we won't read it." That's not to encourage you to go it alone without an agent. I think having an experienced agent is important. But there are plenty of stories about authors who have.

JustinoXV
01-03-2005, 04:22 AM
Thanks for your responses, Andy. I just wanted to hear things from the prospective of an agent in publishing.

Film, is somewhat of a different animal. For example, I have screenplays at certain production companies. If I got a solid offer, I could basically call any major literary agency that deals with film and they'd negotiate the deal. In the film industry, it seems that people go by the reputation of the agency itself (CAA, ICM, William Morris, United Talent Agency,etc.) are all big names.

Though you could do research to find who works where, many books or even online databases have dated information. Addressing your query to an individual agent may do you know good if that agent has left the firm. At best the letter may be then either forwarded or at worse returned to the original sender.

So then, in these cases, I think all you can do is to do with the receptionist tells you and write something to the effect of Dear Literary Department.

I might add that each agent is different. The bigger Hollywood agencies, assuming that even deal with queries, will have very specific submission guidelines. Some want synopses. Others don't. A few ask for treatments. So it maybe best to call for clarification. The receptionist is there to answer these kinds of questions.

A lot of agencies will tell you that won't deal with you unless you have an industry referral or an offer already on the table.

It all depends. I once called ICM in New York to ask who to send queries to. They gave me a particular person's name. ICM in Los Angeles will tell you must have industry referrals. (ICM reps both novelists and screenwriters).

JustinoXV
01-03-2005, 04:38 AM
I do think that Maestro and the other writer who said call the agent may have offered good advice for writers in general.

I say this because I did call pretty much the entire WGA list on it's website in the beginning. If I was given a specific name on the phone, I did send my query to that person's attention. If not, I used a standard To Whom It May Concern.

I noticed though, that everyone had submission requests (if they take them). Someone wanted standard query letters. Others would ask to see your loglines (a sentene describing the essence of your screenplay). After reading all of your loglines, they'll typically ask to see the synopsis of the one they find most intriguing.

Others will want a treatment. Or some may want a query letter with a synopsis. Everyone is quite different in what they want. I think we would all agree here that the best way to submit is to follow the agent/producer/publisher's guidelines.

Risseybug
01-03-2005, 04:48 AM
Is it different for children's and YA fiction? I've been checking through the 2005 Children's and Illustrator's market

Ugh, Anne, let me tell you about tough. LOL. I queried several agents I found in Children's Market - all rejections. The field is definately smaller for us who write for the Harry Potter set. And getting into a big house, or even one of their imprints, without an agent is next to impossible.

But, I've found a couple of good, small presses that will look at YA unagented. If it's SF/F, Tyrannosaurus Press is a good one. They asked me for a writing sample based on my query only. I never found out how they liked it, b/c I signed with LBF before I heard back from them. LBF, by the way, is also open to all genres and ages.

Then there's Stone Dragon, who told me that they don't oppose to YA, as long as it's not one of those nauseatingly sickly sweet ones. Even Tor, I've heard, is not opposed to YA.
Those are good places to start. Actually, I just picked a bunch out of P&E, and that's how I found them. It was much more helpful than the CW&I Market.

Edited: Of course, with your publishing credentials, Anne, I shouldn't think it too hard for you!:D

AnneMarble
01-03-2005, 08:17 PM
Edited: Of course, with your publishing credentials, Anne, I shouldn't think it too hard for you!
I have publishing credentials? :eek

mistri
01-03-2005, 10:04 PM
When I see "Dear Andy Zack," I feel like the author did a mail merge but doesn't know how to use his word processor correctly. That's a strike.

Is that because you prefer Mr. Zack? I only ask because I tend to use the Dear Firstname Surname format as I can't always tell the gender of the agent or the agent is female and not everyone likes Ms.

maestrowork
01-03-2005, 10:53 PM
It's not about preference, I think. Usually we should type the full name in the address field, then in the salutation, only use the last name, unless you know the person personally (then you can just do: Dear Andy):


John Smith
John Smith Literary Agency
124 Main Street
Anytown, ST 00001

Jan 3, 2005

Dear Mr. Smith:

....

mistri
01-04-2005, 12:55 AM
Yes, I understand that. But in instances where say the agent is called Jamie Agent, how am I to know if the agent is male or female?

And if female, are they Mrs, Miss, or Ms? Ms is obviously safest, but I have known people who don't like it. Is it best just to phone the agency in that case? Are we to phone the agency for every female agent?

I'm only asking because I want to know the best thing to do, not because I'm being argumentative, honest! :)

I live in the UK. Does that make any difference? I used to work for a book publisher and regularly sent letters out to slush authors calling them Dear Firstname Surname. My boss, who was an incredibly precise editor, never commented that this was wrong.

andyzack
01-04-2005, 12:58 AM
To me, using Dear FirstName LastName really smacks of a form letter or that the author doesn't know how to use his word processor to do a proper mail merge. It's clunky and awkward and from line one makes me think something negative about the author, so I urge against it.

If you are unsure of gender, I suggest doing an internet search for the person. Most agents have an article or post somewhere that indicates their gender.

Best,

JustinoXV
01-04-2005, 02:38 AM
I don't think there is a query letter that you can write that will satisfy every single agent out there. Different people are different.

With that said, when you know the person's name and gender, in business letter's it is standard to say Dear Mr. Zack or Ms. Tate.

However, if you do not the person's gender, I don't think your career will be destroyed just because you sent off some queries with Dear First Name Last Name.

In the case of female agents, well, Ms. is the standard used in business these days. You might offend some woman who wants to be known as Mrs. Sugarbaker, yes. But you can't please all of the people all of the time.

And honestly, people do get agents at times without ever writing query letters. Beth Ann Bauman, author of the beautiful girls, got an agent by meeting a woman at a party, who it turns out was an agent.

Here in Los Angeles, a lot of agents only accept clients through industry referrals. There's no one way to get an agent.

I would invest the most energy into whether or not the manuscript is a viable manuscript. Not on what salutation you use. And truthfully, if I have an excellent script, a great concept, and the only fault is that I didn't use the best saluation, if an agent has a problem with that that's there problem. Any agent who gets so offended by that one thing I don't thing is an agent worth having.

andyzack
01-04-2005, 02:52 AM
Justino:

An agent friend of mine rejects every author who spells his name wrong. We all have our pet peeves....

SRHowen
01-04-2005, 09:32 AM
To me, using Dear FirstName LastName really smacks of a form letter or that the author doesn't know how to use his word processor to do a proper mail merge. It's clunky and awkward and from line one makes me think something negative about the author, so I urge against it.


An agent friend of mine rejects every author who spells his name wrong.

Eeeeekkk, I sometimes wonder how I ever got Andy as my agent. LOL I started out with 2 strikes against me. :o :x

But I do avoid the passive voice thing.

Shawn

andyzack
01-04-2005, 10:54 AM
It was a cool concept, well written, and VERY engaging, I thought. Simple as that. :)