PDA

View Full Version : Questions about agents


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


Pages : [1] 2

whitesilkbreeze
February 15th, 2007, 05:51 AM
I've been reading information on the pros and cons of finding literary agents (out of pure curiosity), but it made me ask another question: How do you go about finding an agent?

To be more specific, do you send your manuscript off to several different agents at once, or do you send them off one at a time? How do you choose which agent you want? Is it an unusual or a common practice for authors to meet prospective agents before they decide who they would like to work with? Is it atypical for authors to have overseas agents or is it fairly common? These are all the questions that have been hovering around in my head recently, and if someone could answer them, that would be lovely!

Holbrook
February 15th, 2007, 06:21 AM
I've been reading information on the pros and cons of finding literary agents (out of pure curiosity), but it made me ask another question: How do you go about finding an agent?

To be more specific, do you send your manuscript off to several different agents at once, or do you send them off one at a time? How do you choose which agent you want? Is it an unusual or a common practice for authors to meet prospective agents before they decide who they would like to work with? Is it atypical for authors to have overseas agents or is it fairly common? These are all the questions that have been hovering around in my head recently, and if someone could answer them, that would be lovely!


I will try and answer your questions.

Finding an agent;

Well, there are a number of places to look.

First off there is The Writers' and Artists' year book, this lists agents, publishers and loads more.

This site;

http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/peba.htm

and this one

http://www.agentquery.com/default.aspx

You need to find an agent that states they represent the genre you are working in. Then you need to double check they are ligit, not a fee charging or scam artist, sadly there are a few around.

This site is good for that.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php

Also google for all you are worth. A good agent will have sales.

Once you have your list of agents you start applying.

Most agents state what they require first off, either a one page query letter detailing your novel, sales etc... This can either be email or snail mail, each agent tends to state which they prefer.

See Miss Snark's for advice on hooks query letters and so forth.

http://misssnark.blogspot.com/

She is an agent and often gives you an insider's view on things, she advocates not giving anyone an exclusive.

Some agents request the first three chapters or fifty pages or five plus a synopsis.

Look on the sample chapters and query letter like a application form for a job.

If an agent requests your whole manuscript, look on that as an interview. Neither means you re going to get the job i.e. taken on by the agent.

You approach agents, the choice is theirs, made on many facts mainly can they sell your work.

Yes people have agents in other countries.

Will add more later, got to dash.

BrianC
February 15th, 2007, 07:58 AM
First, you have to find a volcano. Not one of those dusty, boring extinct volcanos, but a real ripper of a lava-spewing, fire and brimstone furnace, with the heat and the smoke and the whole nine yards. Then you must assemble your sacrifices. A virgin, contrary to common belief actually, is not required. The sort of evil being that you wish to summon is not impressed by mewling, wide-eyed naivete. No no, this spawn of Satan wants cigarettes, and liquor, and piles of newly-minted cash. Gather all of these things on the lip of the volcano . . . and then throw yourself over the side. After your body has burned away into nothingness, the agent will appear to smoke your tobacco, drink your alcohol, and spend your money. Maybe then you'll get an offer of representation.

Holbrook
February 16th, 2007, 02:03 AM
Err, what Brian say as well...:D

KatG
February 16th, 2007, 11:16 AM
As a former spawn of Satan, let me see what I can answer here.

Agents are author representatives -- they sell author's works and manage their business affairs with regards to those literary properties, in exchange for a commission percentage of the author's earnings from those properties, plus payment from the author of some expenses the agent incurs in performing this job, that they have asked beforehand to have reimbursed. Such reimbursement of expenses is often put off until there is a sale.

An agent and an author enter into a contract that spells out the terms of their business relationship, usually for a set period of time, to be renewed if everything works out. If an author makes a sale with one agent and then later changes to a new agent, the first agent usually remains the agent of record for the sale and continues to receive commission for all income related to that sale. An agent cannot guarantee that they can sell the rights to a work, but are expected to use their best efforts.

An agent is therefore an employee of the author, but one who is an independent contractor and highly sought after. The agent has to pick and choose a very small percentage of the works submitted to him as those he believes in and thinks he can sell and hopefully establish the author in a long-term career. Some agents have an already full list of clients -- a closed stable -- and won't take anyone else on unless they are very big in the field. Some agents don't have a closed stable but are unwilling to take on the extra work of trying to break new authors into the market. And some agents eagerly seek new authors, who are sometimes easier to sell than mid-list authors with unimpressive sales records. Some agencies are very big, plus have movie agent divisions representing actors and filmmakers, which make way more money for them. Some agencies are medium-sized and concentrate only on books. Some agencies are small and may consist of one person, but these agents are often just as welcomed by publishers as the larger firms.

In sff, it gets a bit difficult because despite the rising growth of the field, it is a specialty market and one which was long considered odd. Only a small percentage of agents handle sff, and the number of publishers in any given territory that they can sell sff works to is quite small. Thus, it's way harder to get an agent for sff fiction than for other types of fiction, and you face more competition, since sff's popularity has increased the number of authors who want to write and publish it.

The first step to finding an agent is to gather names. It is usually best to start with your home territory, if you are in an English-speaking country, though it's not required. You can get agent names from reliable directories, from the acknowledgement pages of published works, from other authors, from friends and acquaintances who may know of an agent, from research on the Net. You must be careful in compiling this list because there are con artists who pose as legitimate agents, but are not. In compiling your list, you can take into account the size of the agency, what you can find out about their reputation and client list, and what your particular needs are. If you are interested in publishing with a small press, be aware that this may or may not be a workable option for an agency.

You may be able to connect with agents face to face through friends or acquaintances who know one, or by going to a place where they will be. Writers conferences that include sff may have visiting agents who are willing to talk with you about your work. SFF conventions may also have agents attending, though they may not specifically be looking for new clients there. Such opportunities may give you a chance at a review by the agent, but nothing more. Most agents you will be contacting by query letter or query submission package, depending on their individual requirements.

Agents have neither the time nor the inclination to audition for authors as clients, especially unpublished authors. So if they are interested in representing you and make the offer to do so, they may not be willing to talk with you face to face before you become a client, or let you pester their other clients for references. They will, though, answer questions on the phone usually.

Some agencies, the larger ones, have sub-agents who specifically sell overseas rights. Others have contractual arrangements with overseas agents to sell those rights for their clients. So yes, it is very common, but it is usually through your home territory literary agent, rather than the author going out and contracting with a lot of different agents himself. Commissions on foreign sales may be slightly higher than domestic ones because the commission is split between agents. This will be spelled out in your agency contract. If you are just starting out in the market, though, it may be in your best interest to sell World rights to the publisher, since foreign sales are less likely. That would be something to discuss with your agent. Unagented authors who sell to a publisher directly usually give the publisher World rights, but an author can possibly retain those rights and hire an overseas rights agent to sell them.

Tony Williams
February 16th, 2007, 04:51 PM
An interesting post, Kat.

I have read views by some authors that it's better to find a publisher for your work first, then go looking for an agent to negotiate the best deal. You are far more likely to be accepted by an agent if you already have a publisher.

The catch to this is, of course, that you are far more likely to find a publisher if you already have an agent...

KatG
February 17th, 2007, 03:34 PM
I have read views by some authors that it's better to find a publisher for your work first, then go looking for an agent to negotiate the best deal. You are far more likely to be accepted by an agent if you already have a publisher.

No, not necessarily. If you go to a publisher first and they make you an offer, and you accept that offer and then go to agents, you've essentially tied the agents' hands for being able to do anything for you to improve the terms of the offer, or even possibly the terms of the written contract, or to attract interest by any other publishers. And since the publisher will make a lone author an offer that is most advantageous to the publisher for the lowest advance on royalties possible, that means you've just lost one considerable potential advantage in having a literary agent in the first place.

Hey, but they make an easy 15% commission, right? And if literary agents were trying to earn their money through bulk sales, this might make sense. But agents can only effectively represent so many clients at once and they have to live long term with the clients they have. So for them, it's not just about making a sale, but what the author is actually producing, whether the agent thinks that author is good, can build an audience, go up the money scale, etc. So while you may be able to get an agent to take you on because you have a publisher buying, that agent will still want to look at the book before making the decision. Having an offer is not a guarantee of getting an agent (though having an extremely good offer might be.)

So what if you don't accept the publisher's offer and go running for an agent then? This can work better, but still, the agent's ability to do things is constricted. The author has to deal with the publisher who made the offer in good faith and not "shop" that offer around to other publishers. The agent might be able to open things up by asking other publishers to very quickly look at the material, telling them there's an offer on the table, but not the terms of it, but it's a lot more difficult to do without angering anyone than it is if the author didn't market the work exclusively to one publisher first. The agent might be able to get the first publisher to improve the terms of the offer, on the threat of it being sent out to other publishers, but maybe not. Still, this sort of thing does happen on a fairly regular basis. But again, the agent will decide first if he wants to rep your actual material and you as a writer. The promise of an offer is not necessarily an inducement.


The catch to this is, of course, that you are far more likely to find a publisher if you already have an agent...

Again, not necessarily. You are far more likely to have publishers reading your material and getting back to you sooner if you have an agent. And an agent can submit to multiple publishers at once without having to use subterfuge -- all of which are large advantages. But an agent can't guarantee a sale. And in sff, traditionally unagented material is still considered a definite possiblity for finding talent, it being understood that there are very few agents who represent sff works.

While the major publishers have had to cut back and many have gone to an agented only submission policy, not all of them have. It's a long wait, but they'll consider you. And there is now a network of small presses that did not really exist ten years ago that give authors other opportunities for publication. Most of the authors of these presses are unagented. A third option is to market a sff work as general fiction, which gives you a much larger pool of agents and publishers to try, but can, because of the sff elements, possibly make the work harder to sell and if sold, gathering an audience for it out of the tide of published fiction much more difficult to achieve.

I should also say here that my understanding from Rocket Sheep and others is that the Australian/New Zealand market is very differently set up than the U.K. or North America, and agents are very seldom involved there. So, you do have to know your own territory.

AgentRustyBones
February 19th, 2007, 05:40 PM
KatG's information was spot on.

Getting an agent to represent you can be almost as difficult (and often more difficult) to represent you than it is to get published without it.

The best thing an Agent does for the author is to know the marketplace, to know which editor to submit a work to at a particular publisher, or to know which editors have moved from publisher to publisher and who might need new clients themselves.

For the biggest publishers, the ones that won't take anything unless it is represented by an agent, the publishers have transferred some of the costs of doing business to the agents, by making the agents and their staffs do the sorting of the wheat from the chaff.

One thing to remember in publishing, is that even smaller, new publishers are overwhelmed by submissions--most of them from people who think tha tthey are the next Tolkien or Stephen King, but who are often nowhere close to being readable. By eliminating their 'slush piles'--many of those bigger houses have eliminated the need to pay junior editors fresh out of college to work their way through that stuff. Does it mean that they take the chance of missing on the next great American novel--yeah, sometimes.

As a failed independent agent (I didn't have those connections to the publishing industry that I discovered were needed to be successful), I can tell you that the agent does work for you, once they decide to take you on as a client. But the relationship between agent and writer can be quite complicated.

Good luck on finding a good agent. You don't need one to succeed in publishing, but finding a good agent who can work with you and who finds the right markets for your work can help you go from being a struggling writer with a day job to a professional author--if you have the talent and dedication to produce the kind of work that can become a commercial success.

Rusty

BrianC
February 19th, 2007, 05:46 PM
if you have the talent and dedication to produce the kind of work that can become a commercial success.**BLEEP** Personal Foul, paradoxical construction, inherently contradictory terms, 10 yards and loss of down.

AgentRustyBones
February 19th, 2007, 06:51 PM
I like that...


**BLEEP** Personal Foul, paradoxical construction, inherently contradictory terms, 10 yards and loss of down.

Except a personal foul should be 15 yards...