View Full Version : Agent First or Publisher First?

09-10-2004, 04:09 AM
Is to best to give up on finding an agent and just send your work out to publishers?


09-10-2004, 04:16 AM
Fiction? Non-fiction? Genre/subject? How many agents have you queried? What is the percentage and type of response?

If you are not getting positive responses to your query, it probably needs work.

James D Macdonald
09-10-2004, 11:07 AM
Nothing says you can't do both at once.

Meanwhile, I sure hope you're writing your next book.

09-10-2004, 10:53 PM
Unc, I miss your old title. Your new one has my skeered, though. :rollin

As for the post, I've heard it's really better to have an agent. But it does depend on whether it's fic/nonfic.

If you can get an agent, great. If not, it won't hurt.

That's what I have heard....

09-11-2004, 03:47 AM
What was his old title and what is the new one??


“Today is the best day. Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow will never arrive.” ~ David Wolfe

09-11-2004, 05:15 AM
The old title was: Chief Baker and Dictionary Rewriter.

I remember reading that and wondering, "Where are the butcher and the candlestick-maker?"

The new one: "I live here."

James D Macdonald
09-11-2004, 05:29 AM
There was an intermediate form of "Board royalty," too.

As to what's better:

You don't need an agent to sell your work, but it helps.

You don't need to have sold something to get an agent, but it helps.

The way I put it, sometimes, my agent lives in New York so I don't have to.

09-11-2004, 05:07 PM
I write children's fantasty. When I say children, I mean the 9-12 year old children. Anyway, I got some advice that children's writers do better just to go to publishers.

Being a nobody, I was better received by the small publishers I targeted than by the agents I queried, who all gave me the form-letter. (I consider that to be a four-letter word.)

Somebody else said that if you can get a publisher, then you can get an agent to work out the details for you. Well, if I've come this far with a publisher, I am not going to let an agent swoop in for a share after I've done all the work.

Anyway, if I finally sell this book and get it out, I'll probably look for an agent again, when I've got some more publishing credit. I'll get him to help sell the next book.

Just MHO.

James D Macdonald
09-11-2004, 07:02 PM
... I am not going to let an agent swoop in for a share after I've done all the work.

Just so you're aware, even with totally legitimate publishers, sometimes there are landmines hidden in the contracts that an experienced agent can help defuse. I'm not saying you shouldn't ride bareback, just keep it in mind, and if you're being your own agent you should study up on publishing contracts.

The rule for negotiating contracts is this: negotiate it as if you and the editor are best of friends, but as though the minute it's signed a bus will hop the curb and nail you both, so that the contract has to be carried out by your next of kin, who hate one another.

(Hope that made sense.)

09-11-2004, 07:51 PM
Would hiring a literary lawyer be a better choice in this case (the lawyer would take a fees, but not a % of sales, I suppose)?

09-11-2004, 10:21 PM
Good question. Could a lawyer (literary or otherwise) be just as good in that situation?

Kate Nepveu
09-13-2004, 05:58 AM
A very famous lawyer whose name I am blanking on has acted as agent for his equally famous clients (e.g., Bill Clinton), partly because as high as his hourly fees are, they're still lower than a % of the advance.

However, for non-celebrities, I'd be surprised if the lawyer would handle foreign rights, for instance. If all you want is someone to look at the contract, it might make sense.

Also, I don't know how the publisher would react to an attorney being brought it; agents are usual, but people tend to twitch when they hear "lawyer."

09-13-2004, 05:38 PM
I would have a lawyer look over any contract I was thinking of signing, from a mortgage to a book contract, I think.

A legitimate publisher should have no problem if their contract is standard, I would think. Lawyers might not know publishing, but they can spot a something that might be in the fine print.

09-13-2004, 07:14 PM
a lawyer who does not know about publishing will not catch those land mines. We are not talking about a legal snafu but terms, like the 7 year thing in the PA contract, if they don't know publishing, how are they going to know if that is good or bad, and so on.

There are legit agents who will do a contract review and negotiate a contract for you for a flat fee and no royalties.


09-14-2004, 02:18 AM
Agreeing with Shawn--an ordinary lawyer probably will not be able to give good advice about a publishing contract (which is how at least some PA authors got caught: they took the contract to a regular attorney who didn't see anything wrong with it).

- Victoria

09-15-2004, 04:40 AM
Ah, ok. Good point.

James D. Macdonald
07-29-2005, 08:34 PM
Agent, publisher, or lawyer?

There's no one path -- you'll find folks who got legitimately published tried many different ways, with greater and lesser degrees of success.

07-30-2005, 06:05 PM
Just a quick comment, from a lawyer:
The role of a lawyer and the role of an agent are different. A lawyer is a counselor and negotiator; an agent is a negotiator and salesperson. Although there are exceptions, most lawyers are lousy salespersons and most agents are not-up-to-the-task as legal counsellors. The agents who do tend to provide good legal counsel usually consult with their own lawyers… or have law degrees, but do not practice law outside of their agencies. I'm sorry to say that a substantial number of big-name agents, including AAR members, provide inadequate legal guidance to their clients. I'm not at all sorry to point out that many "literary lawyers" who also act as agents (I'm not among them: I don't do agenting at all) can't do much, if any, better for their clients than a trip to Writer's Market would do.
Basically, the purposes and mindsets are pretty much incompatible.