PDA

View Full Version : How Long, How Long?



popmuze
04-13-2008, 08:13 PM
Lately I've been thinking about the old adage: It's better to have no agent than a bad agent.But unless you're dealing with an out and out scammer or someone who completely refuses to communicate, how do you know if you've got a good agent a bad agent or a merely mediocre agent?

My agent has my novel out for four months to eight places (I got four quick rejections and nothing for the last three months). My non-fiction proposal has been out for about a year to six places, two of which have been hanging onto it for six months.

Is it time for a change?

I'd like to know from the readership: How long did it take your agent to sell your first novel? How long did it take your agent to sell your non-fiction proposal?

Toothpaste
04-13-2008, 08:36 PM
For me it was quite quick. But I do like to tell the tale of my friend who had one MS with her agent going out to publishers for over a year. They had tweaked the MS, and while editors were interested no one was biting. Then an editor had a chat with her agent just about what she was looking for in general. The agent turned to my friend and asked if she would be interested in writing such a story, and now, ta-da! My friend has a two book deal with Harper Collins.

My point is, I think the difference between a good agent and a bleh agent is the devotion the agent has to your career. My friend's agent was very enthusiastic about that inital book, had a lot of faith in it. And the second that editor mentioned a topic that the agent knew my friend loved, she had my friend write about it. It's about both the author and the agent not giving up.

So do you have good communication with your agent? Do you know where things are being submitted? Have the two of you considered taking back the non-fiction proposal and tweaking it to suggestions? (the fiction one has hardly made it out of the gate, 4 months is nothing!)

popmuze
04-13-2008, 08:49 PM
I'm having lunch with this agent tomorrow. I'm hoping to explore a wide range of topics, both on and off the menu, tweaking the non-fiction proposal among them.

Adding to the mix, I've just finished another book, but I'm not sure whether to hand it over right now or wait to see what happens a while longer with the other projects. I have a feeling this could be the most commercial thing I've done, but maybe I need to save it to entice a new agent if this one doesn't work out.

Toothpaste
04-13-2008, 08:53 PM
See I would talk with my agent about a new book, and what they thought would make the most sense. But it sounds to me like you don't trust your agent. That there is an inherent worry, negative gut feeling. It's interesting because despite the year that passed for my friend, she was always very enthusiastic about hers. So I wonder if maybe you are sensing something then, something that isn't good. Is your agent doing things you don't like? Or keeping quiet, not communicating with you? What makes you think it won't work out with your agent?

Irysangel
04-14-2008, 12:30 AM
The trust issue is a big thing. I left my agent recently because the trust wasn't there on my end. He was doing business as usual and didn't understand my frustration. I, on the other hand, wasn't happy with the 'business as usual' and realized we weren't a good fit.

And 4 months and 8 publishers? I'd say that's a pretty good send-out. Are you getting a list of who your book is being sent out to?

To be honest, that would make me very happy (but I had a different experience last time and so maybe I'm easy to please, who knows. Heh.).

stormie
04-14-2008, 01:16 AM
It's usually a gut feeling. I had an agent who is considered very good with a very good agency. He kept me posted on who had my ms. and emailed responses from the editors as they came in. The problem: First, I didn't realize his agency had the policy to only submit to the largest publishing houses. I was on my own with that ms. once the ms. was turned down by the 12 he submitted to. Then, before that happened, he seemed to lose sight of why he was first drawn to that ms. He wanted me to make changes to it that I really should have said "I don't think so" to. It became not my work. We parted amicably six months ago, and now I have another agent looking at the full of another ms.

popmuze
04-14-2008, 02:18 AM
I guess the existential question is: Is it the agent or is it the book?

While no agent can sell an unpublishable book (by definition, if they took it on, they thought it was at least publishable) can any decent (or even half decent) agent sell any publishable book?

It's true that agents don't sell all the books they represent. But the unfair part is that if a half decent agent fails to sell your book--mainly because their contacts are limited and their submissions don't get a priority and nobody owes them any favors, etc.--then the book is considered unpublishable by all agents, even if it was sent to the wrong editors at the wrong houses in the first place.

Does this sound like the insane ramblings of a person at the end of his personal waiting rope?

stormie
04-14-2008, 03:07 AM
But the unfair part is that if a half decent agent fails to sell your book--mainly because their contacts are limited and their submissions don't get a priority and nobody owes them any favors, etc.--then the book is considered unpublishable by all agents, even if it was sent to the wrong editors at the wrong houses in the first place.
No, that's not true. As I said, my former agent said his agency only submits mss. to the largest publishing houses. That doesn't mean my ms. doesn't merit being published, it's that it hasn't been to all the publishing houses, even the small-to-mid range ones.

It also doesn't have to do with an editor that "owes them any favors." That doesn't happen. Yes, they have connections, but not in that way. And the agent usually targets editors who would want to publish that certain manuscript.

Don't loss faith just yet. But if in time, you have that gut feeling it isn't working out, move on. You won't be the first, nor last, to switch agents.

LLivingston
04-14-2008, 09:27 PM
But I do like to tell the tale of my friend who had one MS with her agent going out to publishers for over a year. They had tweaked the MS, and while editors were interested no one was biting. Then an editor had a chat with her agent just about what she was looking for in general. The agent turned to my friend and asked if she would be interested in writing such a story, and now, ta-da! My friend has a two book deal with Harper Collins.



Um... Hi there! I believe I'm the friend of which the divine Toothpaste speaks!... At her insistence, I have been lurking here at the Mighty AW for a bit and - since my particular case seems to have been cited in this thread - thought I'd chip in with my take on the matter! (Also - "Hello AW Community! Glad ta meetcha!")

Now - I have to say first off - my situation is in no way what you might call typical. As Adrienne mentioned, my first book that sold was not the first book I wrote. Of course - that part is fairly typical - but, the bit unique to my situation is that, the first book I sold wasn't exactly written yet. In fact, the book sold in, as Adrienne pointed out, a 2-book deal based on 5 chapters and a plot synopsis. The pitch was based on some ideas that I had been playing with but had not exactly gotten around to turning into a fully-formed manuscript - by any stretch of the imagination - when my agent got in touch to tell me that an editor at Harper Collins was interested in that very sort of thing.

It all happened very fast after that and it was kind of insane. Very cool - but insane.

And the relevance of my situation to this thread is essentially this - my agent had signed me on, based on another project entirely, quite a few (ie: a LOT more that four) months earlier. She was still shopping that project when this particular opportunity knocked but, in the interim, I had gone to New York with the express purpose of meeting with her - so that we could get to know each other, as it were, and boy! am I glad I did. Over the course of a two and a half hour lunch, she found out enough about me and my interests and my areas of expertise that she knew I possibly already had a project in mind that would suit the tastes/ needs of this particular editor.

And, in turn, I learned a lot of stuff about her - like, it really didn't matter if my project didn't sell in the first month - or two - or six... she was my advocate and she was tireless and damned if I wasn't going to write something else for her to pitch in the meantime if that one didn't sell. I trust her implicitly. Which, as a few of the poster on this thread have already pointed out, is absolutely KEY to the success of the agent/ writer relationship.

From what you have posted, popmuze, I certainly wouldn't give upon this agent. But I would find out as much as you can about where you and your work stand and what the future plan of action is. I hope you have a fantastic lunch and that you ask as many questions as you are asked. And if you think of anything POST-lunch, then I hope you come away from that meeting feeling that - by all means - you can e-mail or call your agent.

It is, in my opinion, communication that is so very vital in this kind of partnership. And I feel extremely grateful to have landed with an agent who feels the same way. It's what got her - and me - my deal.

Anyway - I not sure if that was the least bit helpful, but I am sending GOOD LUCK vibes your way.


And to the rest of the AW group, I look forward to participating in this community! I've heard nothing but good things!!

Cheers,
Lesley_Livingston

ishtar'sgate
04-15-2008, 01:15 AM
I'd like to know from the readership: How long did it take your agent to sell your first novel?
He didn't. I had a reputable NY agent but he had my manuscript for a year and couldn't sell it. Gotta give him credit, though. He tried. When we parted company I sold my manuscript to a small literary press in Canada. From what I understand it's done as well as it would have done with an agent and larger publishing house, so I certainly have no complaints.
Linnea

popmuze
04-15-2008, 05:57 AM
Had that lunch today and I have to say, the burgers were terrific.
I learned a lot about how dismal the book trades are these days, almost as bad as the music business.
But as of tomorrow my NF proposal is going out to four more places and the novel to several more as well. In a couple of weeks I'll be delivering the next book.
Another kernel of inside wisdom: the hottest genres, at least for this agent, are graphic novels and YA.
So it looks like I'll be heading back to high school.

LLivingston
04-15-2008, 06:40 PM
But as of tomorrow my NF proposal is going out to four more places and the novel to several more as well. In a couple of weeks I'll be delivering the next book.

This is all good! It sounds as though you had a productive meeting (with bonus yummy burgers...) Good luck to you.


Another kernel of inside wisdom: the hottest genres, at least for this agent, are graphic novels and YA.

I can't argue with that - obviously - but trends cycle and, dismal as it may seem sometimes in this business, I still see a lot of adults reading on the subway. And not many of them are reading YA.

Cheers,
Lesley_Livingston