Literary Agents


#184

Right? Like we got all this time. People think we have time to wait when I could be exploring my other talents. I’m not going to keep trying twenty years from now. I’m getting to an age where the boat will soon sail. Lol.

That’s why I am just writing here on Wattpad for free. Because my mind will explode waiting and not getting it out of my head.


#185

I definitely resonate with that! I want to eventually turn some novels that I have, that are not on here, into some published work. Whether it’s self-published or not, I just have to get it out of head at some point!


#186

But what if all of the answers are no?


#187

My characters do not let me rest. Even if I want to.


#188

Oh, I agree. When referring to luck, I mostly mean in the extreme examples of J.K Rowling and the like; what all authors aspire to be, in landing some breakout success the likes of which are unprecedented. In regards to just “making a living” or becoming mildly successful, sure. Far less luck is involved and it’s more about growth, experience, trial & error. But if you want and strive to become a household name, it’ll almost always come down to luck


#189

I keep saying that there have been articles online that state Twilight wasn’t written well. What was well, was the originality of the overall story.

Who would think of a teen vamp falling in love with a plain Jane? She did. So she got picked.


#190

well, that’s the beginning mark of a great writer right there, from what I’ve heard.


#191

Then you go to the next thing I mentioned.

Send it to beta readers. New ones, ones that aren’t familiar with your genre, ones that are known for being harsh. Basically, get the freshest eyes, most critical eyes on them. And if they even say, “Hey this is pretty good!” Then you know that it’s not your quality, but maybe the subject matter of your book.

Sometimes there just isn’t a large audience for a certain book. And since agents and publishers want what will sell, they will reject strong pieces of work if the market won’t take it. That’s why I think at that point you should self-publish.

Lots of stories have had that where they were ahead of their time, or way too late to a genre. They just didn’t grab anyone’s attention, because it was the wrong time to release them. You can have an amazing story that still struggles to gain an audience. So you also got to know your crowd.


#192

Which part?


#193

Well, actually, that kind of story has been done to death. It’s a well-known cliche, even when those books came out. But Meyer just pretty much released it at the best possible time; Harry Potter fever was high, horny girls who were still in high school were (apparently) itching for a book like it, and it was delivered to em. Timing is everything, as they say. So while I personally could never understand how people considered those books good writing, I understand how subjectivity and bandwagoning/ mob mentality works :rofl:


#194

that part


#195

That is your subjective opinion. Millions of people love those novels and made both authors millionaires. Badly written books don’t sell millions of copies.


#196

I’ve worked with countless critique partners that said if they were agents, they’d sign me. One even re-did my query and went over my synopsis for free because she wanted to make sure my story got its best chance. I ended up not querying that one anymore. I was tired of the same ole same ole, though many eyes read that book and said okay, this is perfect. Send to an agent.

And don’t even get me started when one agent had a partial and gave me a form rejection after months of having the partial.


#197

Uh, and millions of people consider those books complete trash. What’s you’re point? Last two Star Wars movies sold gangbusters despite most of the fans thinking they were total garbage. Badly-written or badly-made anything can sell well if enough people subjectively like it.


#198

And it’s your opinion to say they weren’t badly written.

Hell, I loved the Twilight movies. I wasn’t a fan of the books though. But I have read articles where it did mention that the book was poorly written, though it sold. In fact, if you head over to goodreads tons of authors have stated this: how they wouldn’t read a book in that particular style again.

I have nothing against the author, she came up with a good story and it did well, period.


#199

You made the statement that agents pick up “poorly written books.” I was pointing out that’s your subjective opinion. Clearly the agents and publishers love those books, as did millions of people.

People want to trash successful novels and pick technical faults, when perhaps what they should be doing (if that’s their target audience) is figuring out what those stories do incredibly well and seeing if it can be applied to their own writing.

There’s a great definition that luck = preparation + opportunity.
Which basically mean you make your own luck by working damn hard. Or you can spend your time pointing to bestselling published novels and complaining they are badly written and saying that your work is much better. That gives away your power and you’ll be forever blaming external factors for why you’re not getting anywhere. Personally I’d rather focus I what I can control - which is the quality of my work.


#200

No one said that. Here we go again, words being put into mouths.

I am going to agree to disagree with you and move on.


#201

Any statement about how good or bad a work of entertainment is subjective; there is no universally beloved or hated anything. And whoever is free to love whatever it is they want, in the same way they are allowed to hate whatever they want. Plenty of people buy things they hate just so they can hate on said product more personally. So sales numbers don’t account for a work’s quality, just demand for said product, for whatever reason.

One can pick apart something they absolutely despise while still recognizing what all (if anything) it does right as well as take pointers here and there towards their own work. People multitask all the time; it’s not hard. Some people love to just hate on things they don’t like while others will blindly praise something even if there’s nothing to praise about it. Everyone critiques things differently.

There’s also another - and is the prime - definition of luck: “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”, which, while contradictory, is also applicable.
You’re free to approach your work however you see fit, as I am to my own. You seem to take me for someone who does nothing but complain, and you’d be mistaken. I spend most of my time focused on my own work, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spare any time negatively critiquing something I personally think is just a poor-quality product. In fact, I use it as a basis for things I shouldn’t do in my own writing, considering all the lengthy critiques academics and self-proclaimed connoisseurs of literature have given towards works they too consider sub-par. So even in overwhelming negativity, you can still find useful avenues for “applying it to your own writing”


#202

Epic thread! And fun to read. I have a few thoughts on some of the points touched upon and I’ll add my perspective. Caveat, though - Michael and AWExley know far, far more about the industry than I do. I’ve only been paying close attention for two years or so, and my focus has pretty much only been the adult fantasy market in indie and trad. I also haven’t been trad published, but I watch the trends and I did dip my toes in the query process when I was deciding whether to self-publish or to go on a full-throttle attempt to try for a deal with a publishing house. To be honest, it was threads in this club that convinced me to indie publish, for which I’m immensely grateful. It changed my life, I feel that the regular posters here should know that, if they don’t already.

The harder you work the luckier you are. Perhaps ‘talent’ is folded into preparedness, but I do think that it should not be discounted. Not everyone can be a concert pianist, no matter how hard they work or how much they want it. Opportunity, hard work, and talent influence ‘luck’ to a large degree. But it isn’t simply luck that one book is published and one isn’t, or one book succeeds and finds readers and one doesn’t.

I think the disconnect here is that ‘poorly written’ is not very important in the eyes of many (most?) readers. Perhaps poorly written is the wrong term - mediocre writing, let’s say. I do feel that the quality of writing is not subjective - if I put Twilight and The Blind Assassin in front of you, and you say that there’s no difference or you prefer the writing in Twilight then you don’t know what good writing is. Full stop. If you can’t tell the difference you shouldn’t be submitting to agents because they CAN recognize the difference, and it will take a truly amazing idea to overcome that lack of ability in the craft. But readers . . . a lot of readers don’t care. Many books that are written objectively poorly or have just average prose do well, because readers read for many different things, not just the cadence of the writing or the cleverness of the prose or the beauty of the words.

I like looking at Goodreads and comparing similar books. Publishers love to obfuscate how well a book is actually doing, but if you go to the book’s Goodreads page and they have not so many ratings after some time has passed since publication, then the book is underperforming. Though you need to compare similar books - say, trad published adult epic fantasy, as different genres and self and trad get reviewed at different rates. It’s one of the reasons I think I can tell that what publishers think is hot is not necessarily correct. They went all-in on Grimdark fantasy for a few years after the success of Game of Thrones, but the hyped releases they’ve been putting out for the past three years - which have almost all been grimdark - have been sputtering or downright failing. My takeaway is that agents / publishers don’t really know what the market wants. They thought fantasy readers wanted Grimdark, so all their big releases were grimdark. Failure. One little-known debut that was signed to a tiny advance - Kings of the Wyld - outperformed all the 6-figure advance Grimdark books over the last few years. Now I’m sure editors and agents are scrambling to sign more nostalgic, fun high fantasy books. But chasing trends is foolish, I think. Publish good books and trust your taste.

Also true. But I do think that agents get into a groupthink mentality where this or that is ‘hot’ and that’s what they’re looking for. Where it’s less about the quality of the book or underlying idea and whether they think it taps into the current cultural zeitgeist. Obviously those books still have to be good but I think they might pass on a better book that they think will not hit the current market and go with another book because it does. Or they think it will.

Now this is interesting. A few of the established writers here saying this isn’t the case, but I have to say that more and more I’m seeing trad publishers and agents sign writers with big social media foundations. Trad publishers I think - they would be foolish not to - are very willing to work with self-published authors who have found significant success. There have been 3-4 large deals signed this year by major publishing houses and self published fantasy authors, and some of us have been contacted by editors who want to see our next book first. Also, being a famous blogger or personality in the genre definitely can help in getting an agent or editor. And it makes sense. There are more and more books published all the time. Elevating above the white noise is increasingly difficult. Having a big platform and connections no doubt helps in getting the foot wedged in the door.


#203

I know Brandon a bit. We’ve been on several panels together and have conversed several times via email. I’ve watched his lectures and even gave him some commentary with regards to changes in self-publishing which he has incorporated). He DID at one time mention that for self-publishing you need a following (and he cited Larry Correia as an example), but I’ve pointed out that many self-published authors had no following, so I don’t think he feels that way now. One of the things I like about Brandon is he does change his opinion when more data comes in. So, it could be he believes that publishers want all the work done for them…but it doesn’t sound like something Brandon would say. You can ask him, he often responds on such matters.

I think it is reasonable to say that editors/agents want work that is well polished and many have stated to me “I won’t accept a work that’s not already 95% of the way there.” But I don’t think that means “the work has already been done for them.”

Maybe we are just in disagreement with how that statement is interpreted.

Yes, as I’ve said a celebrity book deal is different, and in that case the size of their fanbase will be a deciding factor. But if we are talking about the “most common case.” Which is two no-name authors, who submit debuts and one has a really small following, and one has three times as many followers. It will be the stength of the book that will win out.

Yes, and no. Before you are published…when you have no track record, the P&L is based on compariables because there is nothing else to go on. In some cases it means a higher advance, in others, a lower one. I’ve seen some debuts that have outrageous advances due to the excitement of “the perceived potential.”

But once you are publihsed, past sales come in to play. Unfortuantely, it’s usually used against the author…In other words, if you have poor sales, you get no new contract or a lower advance for the next project.

I earned out a six-figure contract in 9 months…a huge success, but even I was offered a lower amount for my next series…when I expected a higher advance. Why? Because the project was a prequel and the publisher made the case that prequels don’t sell well…and I should be happy to have a deal at all. To be honest, I was insulted with the offer, especially given how much I had made for the publisher and I was goign to walk. But my agent wanted to go back and get the deal sweetened. In the end…they upped the advance and I signed, but I did make them pay a premium for the initial insult.

When I got my third contract, I feel as if I was paid “over market value” because my publisher was doing a pre-empt to avoid a bidding war.

So as you can see…with these and my prior examples. There are many things come into play.

While “in theory” your statement is true, I’ve seen all kinds of wierd things, and sometimes it baffles the mind as to how such things are determined. But I “think” the main factor is based on the title more than the author, and past success doesn’t guarantee future “good offers.”