View Full Version : On agents and publishing - a little history

aka eraser
07-08-2004, 12:13 AM
An editor-friend sent me this today. I thought some of you might find it interesting.

www.villagevoice.com/issu.../essay.php (http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0427/essay.php)

07-08-2004, 01:39 AM
This guy kinda missed the point.

- Victoria

James D Macdonald
07-08-2004, 01:49 AM
I think it's the headline writer who missed the point.

Worth noting are:

a) newspaper articles predicting the demise of the publishing industry go back over a century, and

b) fee-charging agents (Deering in this case) don't even read your manuscript.

07-08-2004, 02:53 AM
Not a very accurate or knowledgeable piece of writing. It makes wrong assumptions, lumps all agents together, brings up predictions that weren't even accurate at the time.

07-08-2004, 09:42 AM
Victoria Strauss wrote:

This guy kinda missed the point.
The way he rambled, I'm not entirely sure what his point was. But the history is indeed interesting, and on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis the essay does contain some good stuff.

Have Fun,
- Steve Eley

07-13-2004, 01:59 AM
What concerns me is this. Firt the author states that the NY times wrote that publishers:

are "not overfond" of the wheelings and dealings of agents: "They say he has been of advantage to the few writers of the first class, having made their work much more expensive, while he has been the ruin of all the smaller fry. The steady, old-fashioned relationship between publisher and author no longer exists."

Then he later goes on to state that:

now many publishers will not even look at this manila-enveloped tide of humanity: They happily leave that drudgery to agents. Publishers, to their great relief, no longer have to be the first to say: I like it.

Which is it? I figure I am not wasting my time by romancing agents who will represent my interests. Rumor has it you can't get a publisher without one. Opinions?

07-13-2004, 02:54 AM
I have a friend who just this spring signed his third novel contract and he's never had an agent. He queried the first novel, they asked to see it, he sent it and they bought it and his second one as well. Now all he has to do is tell them he's working on a book and they are ready to look it over. That's how he sold the third one. He is nurturing that old fashioned relationship with his publisher and it's great to see.

Mind you, I have no delusions that this is the way it is for everyone. After all, that same publisher rejected me.

aka eraser
07-13-2004, 03:35 AM
Savvy that first quote was not the writer's. He was quoting a NY Times article from the 1890s.

07-13-2004, 06:31 AM
>>I figure I am not wasting my time by romancing agents who will represent my interests. Rumor has it you can't get a publisher without one. Opinions?<<

If you want to sell fiction to a major publishing house, you need an agent. Most imprints won't read unagented fiction mss. any longer (you can sometimes get around this, but many imprints are really serious about it), and those that do give them bottom priority. Even if you get a major publisher to look at your unagented ms., you may be waiting a year or more to hear back--which is a long time to be kicking your heels, since most publishers dislike simultaneous submissions. It can take a while to get an agent, but once you do s/he will cut the publisher response time way down, not to mention get your ms. on the desk of an appropriate editor (as opposed to her assistant whose depressing job it is to sift the slush).

If you're interested in independent publishers, you probably don't need an agent: these publishers are used to dealing directly with authors. Nonfiction authors and children's authors can also risk going it alone, since editors in these fields are more open to unagented writers.

Another thing an agent (a good agent, that is) will do for you: negotiate advances and contracts to your advantage (publishers will often lowball authors they deal with directly, and aren't as willing to give ground on issues like subrights), and sell your subrights (such as foreign rights) if they are salable. This can be lucrative, for both you and the agent. A smart and educated writer may be able to agent him/herself for publication in his/her own domestic market, but selling subrights is very hard for a writer to do.

- Victoria

07-13-2004, 06:22 PM
ChunkyC, interesting story!

However, I think overall I agree completely with VStrauss. It seems you need an agent just to get in the door today, not to mention having someone in your corner negotiating for you who knows the business.

aka eraser, I'm sorry, you're quite right--I had that in my original post but had problems posting.

07-13-2004, 11:46 PM
Savvy - Victoria certainly knows what she's talking about. My friend's publisher is a smaller one, and I mentioned his story primarily to point out that it still can be done without an agent if you write a darn good book.