Literary Agents


#84

When looking at it from the perspective of the writer, ALL contracts are BAD contracts in that they are HEAVILIY weighted toward the publisher.

Now, that’s not to say it’s not worth signing them. Heck, I have 3 contracts with two different big-five publishers and 2 contracts with 2 different small presses.

And yes, a contract that required a copyright to be turned over is both bad and outside of industry standard, so it would be worse than most. And yes an IP attorney would tell you to get that changed or don’t sign.

But your notion of “help get favorable terms for the writer.” Really doesn’t exist - with an IP or without. The publishers walk in lock step and because they do, the writers have VERY little bargaining power, and the contracts WILL BE more beneficial to the publisher than the author, and no agent or IP attorney (no matter how good they are) can change that dynamic.

Again…that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t sign. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should sign anything you don’t fully understand, but there is no such thing as a “good contract.” There are just things you are willing to live with (in which case you should sign) or things you can’t abide, in which you must walk away.


#85

100% true.


#86

What utter nonsense. Agents KNOW what they want. They just rarely find what they are looking for. What they want is (a) a book with a compelling idea (b) which is well written © in a genre they represent (d) that they think will sell well.

When they reject a novel it is because one (or more) of those requirements were not met.

Yes, many do think in these terms.

I’m not familiar with “the next writer’s/publisher’s guide” that you are referring to. Are you talking about the publisher’s catalogs that indicate what books are releasing in the next season? If so, then I’d say that it rarely influences most agents as anyone looking at those titles is about 18 months - 24 months behind the curve before they can find and get a similar book on the market.

Wow, so there has been no fiction published in the last 20 years? I wasn’t aware of that change in the industry. If you are hearing “We don’t take fiction.” That just means you queried the wrong agents. There are thousands of agents that DO represent fiction. You were just putting your pole in the wrong lake.

When you look at whom? The agents? Because they don’t publish anything. Now it may be that an agency has some agents that represent fiction and some that do exclusively non-fiction. My guess is you sent your query to the wrong contact.

Well, that is yet to be seen, now isn’t it. First you need to get something out there, and then we’ll see if any are sold.

I have plenty of “beefs” with the industry. But in general being “lied to” is not one of them. (I’ve only had that happen once) – and it could be that my editor was just not informed about something that was happening at a level above them. So, no, after 10 years in the industry, I’ll say that “lying” isn’t rampant.

Many times what an agent is interested in…or think will sell…is NOT aligned with the publishers. So, yes, they can represent a book and yet not get it placed. This isn’t all that uncommon. It doesn’t mean they lied to anyone, it’s just that they thought something has potential, and couldn’t find a good match for it.

A 70% rejection rate would be INCREDIBLY low. Most agents reject about 95%-99% of the queries they receive.

As a risk-taker, I have no objection to your statement, but the industry DOES take risks, all the time in fact. It’s why 80% of the books that are published fail to earn out. It’s because only 20% of the books they took a risk on panned out.

I think that many people go into publishing with romanticized ideals about what to expect. One author friend of mine expected to quit his day job after the release of his first book. That RARELY happens. Most authors have to release 5 - 9 books to be in a position to earn a full-time wage (and that’s if a good number of those are earning well). So, a BIG PART of the problem is unrealistic high expectations. The best thing new authors can do is educate themselves on what is REASONABLE to expect. And that generally means about $5,000 - $10,000 income over the life of a book.

Both Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey bootstrapped a TON of new titles for the publishers. It’s successes like that which provide the cushion to try other works that may be a greater risk.

Not necessarily. If a “new idea” doesn’t sell, then it’s not what they need at all. The problem is it’s hard to determine (until the book goes on sale) which ones will “catch fire” and which will sink.

The strength of Harry Potter has absolutely nothing to do with the agent who said yes. If it hadn’t been Christopher Little, it would have been someone else (assuming of course Rowling didn’t give up trying).


#87

It’s pretty simple.

  • Big-five publishers - SOMETIMES have “open submission windows” where you can go into their slush pile (although I’ve not heard of any success stories of people getting picked up that way. But 99.99% of their books are sold through agents.

  • Small presses - generally don’t require an agent. You submit to them with the same query letter you use to get an agent.


#88

While you may be pleased with what SchuylerThorpe said, unfortunately he knows absolutely NOTHING about the publishing industry (Other than it didn’t work for him).

It’s best not to put your hopes behind someone who is telling you what you want to hear, and better to learn from those in the know what the realities of both self and traditional are, and then determine how best to proceed.

Agent’s do take chances…ALL THE TIME. Now whether they are going to take a chance on YOU is going to depend on what you have to offer. Again if you give them (a) a story they find compelling (b) that is well written © in a grenre they represent © and that they think that will sell, they WILL offer representation. Whether they’ll be able to sell it to a publisher is another matter. They’ll reject 95% - 95% of their queries, and of the ones they accept, I’d suggest they have only about a 50% success rate (maybe far less - I’m not as knowledgable on stats on that front. Maybe someone else has some good data.


#89

I’m pretty sure it was (a) fan-fiction (b) released through a small press then © picked up and blew up. I’m not aware of any self-published version of it.

The “small press” was “kinda” a hybrid model so that may be where the confusion comes in with regard to self-publishing.


#90

You’ve made some points, I admit.

What I agreed with, was taking a chance. New ideas. MORE new writers to join the existence of other authors and a response that doesn’t say subjective, when in reality is it what THEY are looking for. Not every single being.

Why not have some teenagers read through the slush pile for once? Where I am from, they crowd the bookstores and libraries and are the ones that get mommy and daddy to buy the books. Some, not all. But a few, I suppose.

Thank you for your thoughts, though. I am glad to hear a perspective from someone who is trad published. Again, you’ve made some valuable points and I think I am understanding how it all works. I just wish it was different. But that’s just all that is, a wish.


#91

To be clear, my sales were good but not great when I got picked up by the big-five. So it certainly helped, but I think they publisher liked the book and bought it mostly off of that.

My wife asked me the same thing. You see, by the time the contract came, my sales HAD gotten really good. And she estimated we would lose $200,000 - $250,000 if we signed. She didn’t want to risk that money. But I felt it was worth it to increase my brand and expand my fan base. Looking back 8 years later, I can say that signing WAS the right decision. Turns out we didn’t lose that money (That series has gone on to earn more than a million dollars, and I don’t think it would have earned that much if I had kept it self-published.

Now, that said…I won’t be signing any MORE big-five contracts. But at the time it was the right decison for ME and WHERE I WAS. There are still authors that are doing the switch from self to traditional, and each case is going to be unique. There is no universal answer there.


#92

Sorry, too may back and forth for me to know what you are referring to. What isn’t true anymore?

Yes, there are titles that COULD have been picked up by agents and then sold to the traditional publishers that ended up released through the indie route. But that doesn’t mean that there is now a shortage of submissions for agents to represent. The success of indie doesn’t change the agent’s math which is only 1% - 2% of what they receive will eventually be published.

[quote=“KatJordan, post:38, topic:37258, full:true”]
Your chances are better now because most people have gone DIY.
[/quote

I’m not sure how DIY improves or decreases your chances of success with traditional publishing. If you were indeed talking about traditional publishing chances. Again, I’m having problems following the thread.

100% agree.


#93

She’s pretty great. I’ve found her videos helpful :slight_smile:

Pretty sure that in her case, both her books are only self-published. She’s mentioned in videos that she’s done well with them (I think she says she’s made more money with her books than she used to as an accountant), but she also has a degree in business/marketing, so that’s probably a significant factor in her success.


#94

Yes, this is 100% true.

I think price point does come into play. The old $0.99 - $2.99 books aren’t getting as much interest as they once were. But $3.99+ with 10,000 sales is probably going to generate some interest.


#95

[quote=“XimeraGrey, post:45, topic:37258, full:true”]
I would consider the individual book and what going with with trad would get you. Generally the money in trad sucks, but if it gets you a wder readership that would buy your backlist? That could totally be worth it.

[quote]

I agree with all of that.

Good points to both. When it comes to genre fiction - either route can work. With general fiction, traditional is a better choice.


#96

You’re operating under a misconception. There isn’t a need for change…because there are still fewer publishing slots to fill then there are good books to fill them.

Agents do take risks…all the time…and “new authors” are picked up all the time. You seem to thin this doesn’t happen.

You are being generous…it’s not 89% being told no, it’s 95% - 98% that are. But it’s not because of an aversion to risk it’s because they are not getting submissions that they judge to be “good enough.”


#97

Which just goes to show you how subjective this business is. Now, for those books, you may be totally wrong in your assessment (if they are selling well), or you could be right (if they are doing poorly). The problem is until they “get out there.” NO ONE knows whether it will be a hero or a zero.

Lol, no it’s not about the the luck of the draw. Idea, skill, execution, genre, all these things come into play. You may think your writing is “ready for primetime” (and it may be), but the big problem is MOST of what the agent receives IS NOT.


#98

I’m loving this thread. So many balloons popped…including mine XD


#99

The insult came to “the industry as a whole.” You basically said "What is being published is completely boring and unoriginal and filled with so many cliches it gives me a headache.

I don’t think anyone but you is taking offense.


#100

Lol. I’m not even going to go there. Just like I don’t like certain movies. Just like I don’t like certain TV shows. I don’t have to like certain books. Period.

Making it seem like I am insulting an industry as a whole, was not my intention. NOR what I was saying.

Thank you.


#101

Well, by your own admission a lot of those queries were to people who didn’t even take fiction…so part of that is on you.

But as someone else mentioned, it may be that your work just isn’t good enough. Look I had 13 novels that I submitted over a 12 year period and raked in my own set of rejections (I think it was about 120). My solution was to quit writing…your solution is to self-publish.

Now in my case, the reason (which I can see now with 20/20 hindsight) is those books just weren’t good enough. After my 12-year hiatus I started writing again, and it was THOSE books that (a) were good enough (b) did well when I self-published them and © were later picked up by the big-five. The jury is still out on your work, we’ll know more after it is published. If it sells well, then you right, traditional missed a great opportunity (which does happen). If it sells poorly, then they were probably right in that it wasn’t ready for primetime or had too small of an audience to invest in. We’ll not know the answer to which it is until you have something published.

Pardon me, but you really aren’t qualified to tell “the new kids anything.” The reason I say this is you’ve had no success in either route. One of the reasons I’m at this forum is to give accurate information as someone who HAS had successes in BOTH self and traditional.

I have no idea if these numbers are accurate or just pulled out of thin air. If you have some data, please link some sources.

With that many books being put out, it’s impossible for you (or anyone) to read/classify them as you have. You are making an assumption and I think it’s safe to say that just based on the sheer numbers you are talking about this can’t be true.

Well, I’m sorry you are reading less…but I don’t think that is having ANY impact on the industry in general :wink:

Again, why you choose your books doesn’t affect the industry as a whole…but I will say that good covers and industry blurbs ARE definitely contributors to a good number of sales…good enough that you should make sure that both of those things are top notch.

Again, your VERY small sampling is way to make a larger “industry-wide” generalization.

There are plenty of books that have all of what you say, and sell quite well.

To give professional advice, you have to be a professional. So let’s look at some definitions of that word.

(1) characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession

You’re not knowledgeable about the publishing business.

(2) exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

Your behavior on this forum over a great many posts indicates a lack of this behavior.

(3) participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs

You’ve yet to earn a single dime from a published works so you don’t qualify there either.

This does appear to be a true statement. But that being the case, it really doesn’t help the “new kids” to learn anything.


#102

No one said that. The point, which you obviously missed, is you don’t poop where you eat. In other words don’t put down publishing if you plan on making your living from writing.


#103

Any business that did that probably wouldn’t stay in business for long. Teenagers might be voracious readers but they are low value consumers. Teens want to read for free or cheap - just look at the demographic of Wattpad, it’s primarily teens looking for free stories to read. I know of YA titles that were dropped by publishers because of low sales, yet those books were popular with teens. Agents and publishers make their decisions based on what is most likely to be commercial and return a profit.