Literary Agents


#164

Ah, I guess that could be so…using interns for queries. But yeah, partials and fulls are something the agent needs to see.


#165

If luck is defined as “being in the right place at the right time” then yes luck is involved. But all that means is opportunity meets preparedness. You can be the luckiest person on the face of the earth, and that wont’ get a poorly written book picked up.


#166

THIS. Makes me think of a lot things. I want a lot of control of my work because I created the story. It was my idea. I want input on the cover too. And when I read things like this, it makes me think that I may need to rethink if I even want traditional publishing in the near future.

Honestly, the more I read the things you’re pointing out is coming across like be careful what you wish for.


#167

So if I have no writing talent, but I’m very lucky I’ll get picked up?

Or I was unlucky for 13 submitted novels and I got “lucky” with the 14th? It wasn’t because my writing improved?

No amount of luck will get a bad book published. Luck isn’t random. It’s when opportunity meets preparedness. So, yeah if you wrote exactly the book someone is looking for, and it happened to cross their desk at exactly the right time then you may have “lucked out” - but that rarely happens.

What is the more common case is that you “improve your luck” by (a) writing more books – each one has a chance of being picked up (b) improving your writing so it’s not dismissed immediately.


#168

Yeah, but in this scenario (before publication), it’s the agent that holds the power, so you have to do as they say, and they don’t need to be concerned with your feelings.

Now, after you get picked up that dynamic changes. You have the power and you get to say jump and the agent says “how high.” If they don’t, you can easily get one who will.


#169

Knows what? That we hate form rejections or that luck is involved? If the former, well the agent’s don’t care what you like or don’t. If it that luck is involved. That depends on how you define luck.


#170

I read as much as I could stand of all 498…and usually that meant I gave up before the end of the first page. If the writing was so lacking that I couldn’t make it through page 1, there was no reason to read futher. Now, I’m always willing to look at their stuff again…after they fix the issues I point out…but when it’s at that level the “fix” is generally they need more practice and need to develop more tools to draw from.


#171

That’s not what I meant. Let me explain. If someone doesn’t get picked for a partial or a full manuscript that doesn’t mean that what they have isn’t good. Or their writing isnt good. It just means that the agent probably had like 200 submissions and only felt like picking five. So with luck, maybe, that’s why five were picked.


#172

You need good writing first and foremost. If you don’t have that, then nothing else matters.

If you do have that…then yeah, you can have a “bad break.” – Maybe the agent you submitted to was in a bad mood when they looked at it. But if the work is truly good, and you continue to submit, it WILL get picked up. In other words, not all the breaks will be bad.


#173

“I haven’t seen evidence of that. Is this an opinion, or something you can back up with third-party validation?”

–>Brandon Sanderson in some of his online lectures, various published authors who speak at conventions/interviews, threads/forum posts in regards to similar discussions, personal discussions I’ve had with editors/agents at Michigan Writer’s Workshop 2017. You yourself may not have any solid evidence, nor do I for that matter, but that in no way invalidates that its definitely a thing that happens. That’s like me saying “because I have no evidence of government or political corruption, it doesn’t happen.”

“No, I’ve had books rejected by a publisher who I was (and continue to) earn well for. They just didn’t think the book had potential. Terry Brooks (who has had multiple NYT best-sellers couldn’t get the publisher he’s been with for decades to pick up Street Freaks, so he took it to a friend’s publishing house).”

“Now if you are at a certain level…say Stephen King, Rowlings, or Patterson, they WILL take anything you write. But those are outliners. For MOST authors the publisher will judge the project on the merits of the books rather than the size of the author’s audience.”

–>I have no doubt that that is true. But I also have no doubt that (for example, if you get the reference) PewDiePie would land an agent/publishing deal before I would were we to submit similar but different books to the same agent/publishing house, even if mine was objectively a better book, simply due to the fact that he’s far more marketable/recognizable and would produce a better ROI.

“Easier, sure. So if you are really good seller they MAY take that into consideration, but as I’ve already noted, even best-selling authors get books turned down.”

–>Yes, but best-selling authors would simply be considered before no-name authors due to the difference in credentials, wouldn’t they?


#174

I could see that. But rejecting a query is usually a pretty fast process, so I would venture there are still a lot of agents that do it themselves, literally they spend less than 2 minutes a piece.

That number sounds about right to me.

Yes, not following directions is an auto reject for many agents. The reason…agents want authors who will be low maintenance…those that follow the rules and do their research. If an author doesn’t take the time to read and follow the rules, (or doesn’t take the time to discover if the agent is a man or woman), they have no patience…there are too many who DO follow the rules that they don’t care for those that don’t take even that minimum level of care.

Yes, exactly, which is why most queries only take a few minutes to reject.

Those numbers sound 100% on track to what I know of the industry.


#175

I agree with this part.

See, to me, what you are describing is persistence, not luck :wink:


#176

Yeah, but only if you choose to go the agent route. The book True to the Game, I once read the author sold that book before it got huge out of her car trunk. And where I lived, that book was a big hit during my teenage years. I would have never guessed she didn’t have an agent when I first read that book. A lot of people don’t really need agents. It would be nice to have one though, since they are the ones the big five listen to, but there are other options. And of course you know this already, I’m just saying.


#177

Well, seeing as how luck itself has subjectivity in its overall definition, meaning, logistics and all that, I don’t think you can really prove a claim like that. The Luckiest Man In the World could very likely prove you wrong on that, considering how luck would work in that scenario depending on people’s perception of it


#178

It’s the latter; and I know, which further confounds me about your “luckiest man in the world” thing


#179

In every contract I’ve signed I’ve had 100% say over the content. In other words, the publisher couldn’t make me change something (nor could they change something without me). Now I have seen one contract where the publisher wanted final say (and I made them change it), but the “industry standard” seems to be that the author gets the final say.

Generally, they’ll say you have input…but ultimately the cover falls under the purview of the marketing department and they will ultimately decide what it will be…and who knows if they listen to you or not. Now, with my second publihser…they were VERY good. Allowed me to pick the artist I wanted, allowed me to select the scene to depict, even let me nitpick the font used. So I essentially did have full control over the cover even though it wasn’t a contractual obligation.

There is a lot of value in starting in traditional and going to self-publishing…but I think the door may be closing as far as starting in self and going to traditional. But again it all depends on the ability of the author. For many, they can’t produce a “quality book” without help of the publisher (for content editing, copy editing, cover design), etc. And I’d rather have a professionally produced traditional book than a poorly executed self-published one. In my case, my self-published books are as good as (or better) than my traditional ones…can you do the same? If yes, then self is an option. If not, then you should go traditional.


#180

Well, all the persistence in the universe wouldn’t account for much if she isn’t lucky enough to have an agent who likes her work and wants to represent it come across it one day. Persistence can only get you so far considering our lifespans aren’t that long


#181

We can agree on that…there are often good books that are “missed” – call it luck if you want. But…if the author keeps submitting, it is highly likely that it will eventually get picked.

If a query is rejected 200 times, it may be a bad query, or a bad idea. So change the query and try again. But if the author is getting partial or full requests…and still getting a lot of rejections, it’s probably because their writing hasn’t matured to the level it needs to be.


#182

And also, “poorly written book” is COMPLETELY subjective; case and point:
-The twilight saga
-Fifty shades of grey trilogies

So poorly-written books not getting picked up is obviously not true :laughing:


#183

At some point I imagine that you can only say it’s about “luck” or “bad luck” after so long. At some point you have to wonder some thing things:

  • Does my writing need improvement?
  • Does the plot need work?
  • Are the characters flat?
  • Is this a niche market?
  • Am I writing to the wrong agents?

I’d go to new beta readers and tell them to be as brutal as possible. If they come back with love and praise, then I think the persistence here would turn to, “Welp, time to self-publish then!”

And after that, even with a large author platform, you still have no sales, I’d say it’s not luck based and more, “This book is simply not popular.”