Pay to Play Agents

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

byarvin

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If you skip all of this and devote yourself to writing a good proposal, you won't have to worry about schmoozing skills or how you come off as a person. Spend your workshop money on events that improve your writing, and then just submit.

It's much better if people like you because of your writing than if people are willing to look at your writing because they like you. And of course, any of this is better than paying somebody to get you published.
 

frimble3

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Besides, whether a publisher accepts your book, or you self-publish, your skills at schmoozing are no longer useful once the book goes into the system.
What are you going to do? Buttonhole each potential customer and hand-sell the book? At some point, it's going to have to fly on it's own, with only its blurb and back-copy to hold it's hand.
 
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Yeah, I get all of this, but it sounds like conventional wisdom. I'm trying to think of some outside the box solutions in addition to the conventional.
Okay. Sure. There are ways to get professional career people to do something they don't want to do/would not normally do/that goes against their expected professional behaviour.

Why would people do such things?
1. Fear. Mafia hit men can get dudes to do all kind of stuff if they/their families are threatened.
2. Shame. Naked pictures on the internet is a pretty good incentive.
3. Love. Few agents would refuse their beloved, adored spouse, even if spouse's book wasn't top notch.
4. Money. Offer an agent a hundred million dollars to represent your book. As a one off, they'd be crazy to turn down that kind of dosh.

I'm sure you can think of others. All illegal and/or unethical, agreed, but they're outside the box.
 

byarvin

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I think there's something else here too - this is the wrong moment to think outside the box. Your entire writing output should be outside the box. Every chapter and every paragraph should be unexpected. Put your energy into surprising and delighting everybody who sees it.

What we are suggesting on this board isn't "conventional wisdom," it's the basic structure of the industry. As you go along, you'll find lots of examples of conventional wisdom to challenge, and if you're serious about writing, your work should be filled with them.
 

frimble3

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Okay. Sure. There are ways to get professional career people to do something they don't want to do/would not normally do/that goes against their expected professional behaviour.

Why would people do such things?
1. Fear. Mafia hit men can get dudes to do all kind of stuff if they/their families are threatened.
2. Shame. Naked pictures on the internet is a pretty good incentive.
3. Love. Few agents would refuse their beloved, adored spouse, even if spouse's book wasn't top notch.
4. Money. Offer an agent a hundred million dollars to represent your book. As a one off, they'd be crazy to turn down that kind of dosh.

I'm sure you can think of others. All illegal and/or unethical, agreed, but they're outside the box.
This would make an excellent comedy, about a mobster who knows nothing about publishing, but who wants to do his trophy wife/favourite daughter a big favour by getting her first novel published. One way or the other. Because he loves her, regardless of the merits of the book.
 

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This would make an excellent comedy, about a mobster who knows nothing about publishing, but who wants to do his trophy wife/favourite daughter a big favour by getting her first novel published. One way or the other. Because he loves her, regardless of the merits of the book.
Isn't this the plot of a John Travolta movie?
 

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This would make an excellent comedy, about a mobster who knows nothing about publishing, but who wants to do his trophy wife/favourite daughter a big favour by getting her first novel published. One way or the other. Because he loves her, regardless of the merits of the book.
There is a similar Dick Francis book about a rich mobster guy whose son wants to be a jockey.

Sorry. I have a bad habit of derailing threads here. I will try to work on being better about that.
 

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The idea of having to be a schmoozer to get an agent kind of horrifies me.
I'm not sure it's terribly different than learning to write a query letter, another skill that, while not directly related to my writing, offers a way for people to learn about my work. Making connections, doing the elevator pitch, and networking are all ways to market my career. I think it can be good to get out from behind my desk from time to time and meet the people I hope to work with face-to-face!
 

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I'm not sure it's terribly different than learning to write a query letter,

You're fortunate that it isn't for you. :)

FTR I've had two agents, both acquired without meeting them face to face. One I did eventually meet in person, but only because she lived near me at the time. The other I never did; I still haven't any idea what she looks like.

I'm unagented at the moment, but I assure you that's not due to lack of schmoozing.

Making connections, doing the elevator pitch, and networking are all ways to market my career. I think it can be good to get out from behind my desk from time to time and meet the people I hope to work with face-to-face!

No doubt these are good and useful skills to have - getting published is a game of luck, and it never hurts to cast a wide net. But for many of us this kind of thing is essentially impossible. Ultimately, no matter what you do - and cold queries are still the most common way to acquire agents - the writing has to back you up.
 
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I'm not sure it's terribly different than learning to write a query letter, another skill that, while not directly related to my writing, offers a way for people to learn about my work. Making connections, doing the elevator pitch, and networking are all ways to market my career. I think it can be good to get out from behind my desk from time to time and meet the people I hope to work with face-to-face!
Be cautious. I have seen agents cornered for an elevator pitch, and it did not go over well. If you're participating in an approved pitch fest at a conference that's a very different thing than a literal elevator pitch.

That said, by far most contracts are generated by the ms. submission. A successful pitch gets you an opportunity to sub a partial or ms. to the agent.

This is an opportunity you had before the pitch.
 

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I didn’t find either of my agents at a conference, and I’m terrible at face-to-face pitching. But I do think that paid pitch sessions, paid critiques (which can be done virtually), and free resources such as agent blogs and tweets and MSWL can give you an education in how agents think and what they’re looking to sell in your genre right now. All that can give you an edge, provided your manuscript is good.

I think many writers also embrace PitMad and PitchWars as “out of the box” methods. They’re quite competitive in their own right, but it’s yet another way to grab an agent’s attention.

Endlessly rewriting your query and first pages can pay off. Writing the next book can pay off. Simply persisting in the face of failure can pay off. (I’ve tried all three of these unsexy tactics.) Or not. You just never know.

Or you could become a social media influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers, and if those followers are at all likely to buy your books, there’s your in! Not a feasible route for most of us, but it has worked for some.
 
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mccardey

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I'm not sure it's terribly different than learning to write a query letter
It is though - it's terribly different. Often it's not a skill you can learn at all and for those of us who can learn to approximate it, we still find we don't do people and meetings and launches and talks without paying a significant price. Social Anxiety is very real for me, and other issues exist for other people as well.

Quite often, I suspect, it's a thing that we came into the world with, and why we learned to isolate and read early (and loved words and books) and how we find so much satisfaction being alone all with our work.
 

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This would make an excellent comedy, about a mobster who knows nothing about publishing, but who wants to do his trophy wife/favourite daughter a big favour by getting her first novel published. One way or the other. Because he loves her, regardless of the merits of the book.
Sounds like Citizen Kane where he rents out an opera house to debut his wife (who was not a great singer nor did she really want to be there). It was a combination of hubris on his part and (supposed) love/pride in his wife.
 

Harlequin

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95% of bookends clients come from the query slush. About 2% from referrals, 2% from conferences, 1% other (eg inheriting someone else's).

Paying an agent to shop your book around won't help you because it presupposes that the only reason an agent isn't already shopping your book is a lack of monetary incentive. The monetary incentive is already there, which is why agents sign books they think they will sell and sign clients they want to work with career-wise.

If you had a pay to play system in place, what would happen is that an awful lot of people would shell out money and never see a return. Which good agents know, and that's why only shysters do it. Having an agent isn't going to automatically open doors for you; editors only buy 1-3% of agented submissions landing on their desks. It's still tough, even with rep.

#

Longer answer, on why the process matters:

Learning to query isn't just about going through pointless motions of formality. Learning to write and pitch books is actually a microcosm of the whole business, and this is why querying is so difficult: you are learning *publishing* the industry. It is an absolute mountain to climb.

Writers who have mastered query letters have learnt to assess the commercial potential of their own art, how to capitalise and sell it in a business sense, and how to gauge when a book is ready. They have made the (wobbly, baby steps) leap from hobbyist to aspiring career writer.

I get the frustration of writers who are beating their head against the door but in most cases (exceptions always apply) a working manuscript + working query will yield requests, even if not offers, and that's generally how you know you're writing to standard (the rest is timing, personal taste, market trends, ie luck; that can only be controlled for through persistence.)
 
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Ravioli

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But we hire go-betweens to sell other things for us, our houses being the most obvious example.

I'm trying to think of a way to get past/around the wall of even getting an agent's attention.
I don't know about international ways of doing things, but I've only ever dealt with realtors who only got paid once the place they represented as actually sold or rented thanks to them. Until then, all they do is drive around and show houses HOPING to make a sell, but unpaid for the time being.


With traditional agents and their credibility, I think a lot of it is BECAUSE they're not guaranteed to see any money at the end of their efforts to get a book signed. They go to that trouble because they think the book is worth it, and publishers trust this judgement precisely because of this lack of a guarantee for the agent to see any money at the end of it. Or at least that's my theory. I'm always more inclined to trust someone when their success depends on my own.
 
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mccardey

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95% of bookends clients come from the query slush. About 2% from referrals, 2% from conferences, 1% other (eg inheriting someone else's).

Paying an agent to shop your book around won't help you because it presupposes that the only reason an agent isn't already shopping your book is a lack of monetary incentive. The monetary incentive is already there, which is why agents sign books they think they will sell and sign clients they want to work with career-wise.

If you had a pay to play system in place, what would happen is that an awful lot of people would shell out money and never see a return. Which good agents know, and that's why only shysters do it. Having an agent isn't going to automatically open doors for you; editors only buy 1-3% of agented submissions landing on their desks. It's still tough, even with rep.

#

Longer answer, on why the process matters:

Learning to query isn't just about going through pointless motions of formality. Learning to write and pitch books is actually a microcosm of the whole business, and this is why querying is so difficult: you are learning *publishing* the industry. It is an absolute mountain to climb.

Writers who have mastered query letters have learnt to assess the commercial potential of their own art, how to capitalise and sell it in a business sense, and how to gauge when a book is ready. They have made the (wobbly, baby steps) leap from hobbyist to aspiring career writer.

I get the frustration of writers who are beating their head against the door but in most cases (exceptions always apply) a working manuscript + working query will yield requests, even if not offers, and that's generally how you know you're writing to standard (the rest is timing, personal taste, market trends, ie luck; that can only be controlled for through persistence.)
ooooh I'd love to see this stickied somewhere..
 
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Harlequin

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Ah the stats will probably change in short order! Odds keep getting longer. Querying gets harder. Fundamentally unfairness is built into the system.

But I' feel strongly that adding a pay to play component would make the unfairness worse. Self pub is already pay to play. Just about the only strong, consistent counterpoint trad can offer there is essentially being more accessible, because querying is free. Marginalised writers would suffer enormously if that changed.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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Learning to query isn't just about going through pointless motions of formality. Learning to write and pitch books is actually a microcosm of the whole business, and this is why querying is so difficult: you are learning *publishing* the industry. It is an absolute mountain to climb.

Writers who have mastered query letters have learnt to assess the commercial potential of their own art, how to capitalise and sell it in a business sense, and how to gauge when a book is ready. They have made the (wobbly, baby steps) leap from hobbyist to aspiring career writer.
A hundred times this. The query-writing skill is not just something you use to query. Assuming your book gets an agent and sells, you use that skill to write the pitch for your option book that your agent will give your editor (agents have input here, but I think often the author drafts the pitch). You use it again to write a “one-sheet” for the film agent who is shopping your book to producers. Some of that pitch may even end up in the book’s cover copy. The days when authors didn’t get their hands “dirty”in the business of selling their work is long gone.

I learned some of what I know about pitching and selling from my day job (headline and subhead writing) and a lot of it right here in Query Letter Hell. I rarely posted my own queries, but I read other people’s threads voraciously and critiqued when I felt I had something to contribute.
 
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