1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    To agent or not

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Steerpike, Dec 11, 2015.

  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's useful to remember that having an agent doesn't mean you have to use an agent for all your projects. I send some books to my agent, send others directly to small publishers, and self-publish others. Totally kosher.

    And in terms of the speed of publishing - it's definitely true that self-publishing can be fast, but if you're going through a publisher, having an agent can actually speed things up. Instead of sitting in the slush pile for months, my MSs that I send through my agent are generally read and responded to within a couple weeks. Depends a bit on the publisher, but definitely faster than if I'd sent them on my own.

    I agree that agents aren't necessary for every writer. But they certainly can be a useful tool for many of us!
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @BayView Yes, publishers certainly turn agented submissions around more quickly. But you have to offset that against the time it takes to get the agent. I know someone who tried for over two years before placing her novel with a small publisher on her own.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess it depends where you're starting from. Like, once you HAVE an agent, it's faster. But, sure, if you don't have an agent, it's an extra step.
     
  5. Krishan
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    Krishan Active Member

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    It's also worth noting that agents do much more than just sell your book. They can help you negotiate for a better deal, and are essential for managing film and foreign rights to your work. The time and energy it takes to find an agent who is right for you will often be repaid many times over - even after the book has been published.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I can do that stuff myself.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I should note that if you're primarily interested in contract negotiation, whether for foreign rights or for film/television production, you may be better off in the long run just hiring an attorney with experience in those areas. You'll pay the attorney's fees and be done with it. No ongoing commission like you have with an agent, no potential to tie up the work or future works etc.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you can, you're in a pretty rare position.

    Not the contract negotiation, so much, although knowing what to negotiate and what other people have gotten in similar situations is valuable. But foreign rights? My agent has contacts in different book markets all over the world, she took my book to the Frankfurt book fair (along with other books, obviously) and shopped it around there, and she understands the ways books are sold all over the place.

    Most authors don't have that knowledge or those contacts, so for most authors, agents are useful.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    They could be, however there are also literary attorneys with a lot of experience in all of these same areas that won't keep a percentage of your royalties on an indefinite basis, and won't have a lot of the other contractual provisions agents like. The downside is you have to pay the attorney up front out of your pocket.
     
  10. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    I plan on using an agent myself. Most are 15 percent royalties 20-25 percent from movie deals. It seems like such as small price to pay to have someone take care of all the behind the scenes stuff and let me focus on my work. Then again, my book is more a passion at this moment, and I make a living working on cars.
     
  11. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have been watching " Californication" on Netflix lately. That agent does damn near anything to get the job done.
     
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  12. Toomanypens
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    Just talk to a few publishers about writing and what they need and get a feel for them.
    All the publishers I talked to had plentiful conversation with me.
    We talked about all kinds of things and I got to know exactly what they wanted.
    After that point, the idea of a manager just seemed silly unless they directly requested one.
    The publishers I talked to had no great interest in making me jump that hurdle and gave me a person to contact with my manuscript.

    The sense I got from the publisher was that they were sick of hobby writer's trying to prove themselves, or going off articles they read online about publishers. Each place is probably different, but most seem quite aware of the nonsense being picked up from the net and are a bit exasperated by it.

    Just create an honest relationship and dialogue with them and they'll tell you what they are on the lookout for because it is in there interests to filter out signal from all the noise and get some good books.

    Just talk to them without pulling your book out. And remember, times are kind of changing, so you really need to talk to them yourself.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
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  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Were these Big Five publishers, or smaller houses? (I'm not criticizing smaller houses at all, just curious).
     
  14. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Either way it does give a small gimps of hope to newer writers. It's like calling a business and talking to a human instead of a computer voice.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't really make sense to me, mathematically. I mean, yes, there are hundreds of publishing houses, but there are millions of aspiring writers. If every publisher has time to chat with every aspiring writer individually and tell them what's going on in the market or whatever, I'm not sure how they'd have much time for doing any actual publishing.

    But a lot of newer and smaller publishers are hungry for submissions and do actively recruit writers. They may not be where you want your MS to end up, not if you want your book to have a shot at the big time, but they're definitely more receptive to author interaction. So - yeah, I'm curious about what publishers these were that had so much time for a newbie. If they were big publishers, I'm surprised, but in a good way.
     
  16. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I would prefer a small publishing house. It's like shopping at a small local market instead of Walmart. The Walmart's may be able to be cheaper, faster to market or have more influence in the market (once you are accepted) but that doesn't always mean it's the best way to go.
     
  17. Toomanypens
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    For transparency they were not in the top five but I realised through discussion that the top five would feel similarly, because they are all people.
    I will talk to the top five next when I have something closer to what they want, because there is no reason to get haughty.
    My aim was to start relationships and see who was around.

    My message was something like,
    "I want to make sure any submission I would make would work for you, what do you consider to be the most important things for a book to have or to accomplish"
    Except it was longer and more open to conversation, where they responded and I mirrored what they said and asked more details and they gave me what was on their mind.
    I also got them to trust that I wasn't some flakey, dead end writer by discussing who I was and where I was at with things.

    They said that "it has to work", and that at the end of the day all things can be "right with a book" but if it doesn't gel together then it was hard for them to go with. However that was after quite a few conversations and by that point it wasn't vague at all and I knew what they meant.

    The value of the conversation though was beyond the words, it was about being able to directly influence conversation and get a real response. I'm probably going to harper collins with my current book, and I'll aim to talk to them when I know I can firmly look them in the eye and have a talk about things. I can and will do that because I've already spoken to others and I'm confident that my approach is the right one, and exactly what they want.

    Its like a job or an interview, you show leadership and initiative and an ability to understand what they are talking about and to comprehend their priorities as a business, and they'll be glad to talk to you because you can only HELP their business.


    The big thing I learned was, no one was doing what I was doing, it seemed like the publishers were always dealing with infantile messages from people who had a single goal in mind and no flexibility. I saw huge relief in their messages back to me because I wasn't bagging them prematurely for not publishing my script, I was just trying to understand them better and EARN my way to publishing by not handing in anything half baked, and expecting them to fix it and shower me with riches ;).

    I'll say again, they really seemed relieved that I was realistic, and that I wasn't expecting unrealistic results and that I wanted my work to genuinely meet or go beyond their standards.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, there are definite pros to the smaller guys. But in terms of your analogy, I'd say it's more like selling to a small local market instead of Walmart. As an author you're a producer, not a consumer.
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds interesting - I hope you report back and let us know how it works for you!
     
  20. Alex R. Encomienda
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    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

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    Hello Bayview. I wanted to know, where would you find small publishers? And where did you find a good agent. I've heard of agentqueary.com is that a worthy place to look?
     
  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can look at the books you read yourself to see who publishes them - they may all be from big publishers, but they may not be!

    You can also look for on-line lists, like at https://querytracker.net - it lists both agents and publishers. But be aware that these lists are a starting point - they aren't usually vetted too extensively. So if you find someone who looks good, you should check out their website, look at a few books they've put out (use the "look inside" feature on Amazon to see what the books are like) and definitely check them out at http://pred-ed.com/ http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/ and http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?22-Bewares-Recommendations-amp-Background-Check .

    Be on the lookout for the red flags - neither agents nor publishers should ever ask you for money up front (publishers should never ask for money at all, and agents get paid by taking 15% of your income on the books they sell for you - you should never be sending any money to legit publishers or agents).

    Once you've done your preliminary research, send queries according to the formats they request, and if you get an offer don't take it right away. Contact some of the agent's other clients or the publisher's other writers and ask if they're satisfied with the relationship. Have someone who understands publishing contracts read the contracts over (I think the writers' guild in the UK does this for members for free, I think Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware will do it at least sometimes (that's a part of SFWA, so maybe you need to be a SFWA member? I'm not sure) etc.
     
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  22. Alex R. Encomienda
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    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

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    Thank you very much! I will definitely keep this in mind.
     

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