Author Topic: Agents and Editors  (Read 16919 times)

Lanternpost

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Agents and Editors
« on: November 15, 2005, 12:20:42 AM »
I've conflicting statements in certain writer's journals which I understand is not commonplace, but one bugs me in particular.  According to one article in Writer's Digest, a writer should try to sell his story when while he is involved in the process of writing the manuscript.  Another article months later (undoubtedly by a different author) claimed that the manuscript should be completed.  Anybody have any ideas concerning that?  Because if the first is true, I can send out my first couple chapters now which would be so much more convient.  Of course that's as long as they're willing to throw a contract at me.

Also, in Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, he states in Chapter 5, The Life and Business of Writing, 3. Agents,

"For your first novel, you don't need an agent until you've got a contract offer from a publisher.  

{ . . . }  Once you have that contract in hand, you can send it to the agent you want to have representing you . . ."

However, isn't it true that most publishers don't consider ANYTHING unless approached by an agent?

He also says not to hire an agent for any more than ten percent of your earnings.  I agree and understand, of course, but it seems that there are very few of those.
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EUOL

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2005, 02:09:35 AM »
Lanternpost,

Whew!  A couple of different questions to answer here.  First, finish the manuscript or not:  I say wait until you're finished.  From what I've heard from editors, the split is about 80/20, with 80 percent of the ones I've talked to saying that an unfinished manuscript from a new author is an immediate rejection.  

If you send off the first few chapters, most editors--and most agents--are going to want to see the entire novel, assuming they like what they see.  


Do you need an agent:

I got an offer on ELANTRIS, then went to an agent, just like Scott Card suggests.  However, Eldon Thompson (who also just got a big hardback deal with the first book coming out this summer) said that he got an agent first, then went to publishers.  

Right now, about half of the publishers in sf/f will look at unagented submissions.  (Tor, Daw, and Ace among them.)  Half won't.  (Dell, Harper, and Bantam being among them, I believe.)  

My suggestion is to try both--seek an agent and a publisher at the same time.  There are a few agents who don't like finding out an author has already been marketing a book, but the 80/20 seems to fall down on the side of them not caring on this one.

Finally, 10% or more?  When Scott wrote that book, ten was the standard.  It's gone up to fifteen.  I don't know of any major agencies that don't start at fifteen for new authors.  That isn't to say you can't get one for ten, but I don't think is as hard-fast a rule as it used to be.  
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stacer

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2005, 03:48:32 AM »
On the question of whether to finish a manuscript: finish it. Even if all the publisher asks for is the first three chapters as a writing sample (which we do), the manuscript must be ready to send if requested. Not to mention it really shows your professionalism if you've finished a book, or three or four--it shows that you can write a book, and aren't just interested in short fiction, for example, and shows that you know how to finish what you've started.
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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2005, 09:34:36 AM »
For novels, just finish the darn thing. THere are too many people out there who can't finish a story.

Nonfiction, however, most publishers only need a chapter and an outline for a proposal. Then they talk to you about deadlines and stuff.

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2005, 01:57:29 PM »
Good point, E--yes, I've often heard that nonfiction editors don't need a whole manuscript.  That seems to be the big exception.
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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2005, 04:37:15 PM »
That's true, and it's for a very good reason--nonfiction is highly specialized and requires a lot of research. No one wants to do a year's worth of research and writing, only to be told that no publisher will want the book. It's best to do preliminary research, propose the book, get a contract, and then do your in-depth research. And then you can use your advance to pay for the research. :)
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Lanternpost

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2005, 12:42:39 AM »
Thanks for comments, everybody.  Your answers have been swift and relentless.

I was wondering about something else, too.

The other day, while I was browsing the Harper Collins website, a little window appeared on my computer screen.  I thought it was just another stupid advertisement but it wasn't; it was a survey concerning the site and new features the company was considering to make available, some of which were for a small fee.  

There were eight new features supposedly and a ninth box in which you could include suggestions.  Only three of the options were pivital in my mind, however.  The first is, that they would sell the books that they publish from their own site.  (I always felt this was inevitable; they should have been doing it much sooner.)  The second feature would be available for authors to communicate more efficiently with their editors or members of management.  The final and the best of all:  assisting the author with publication.  

My theory:  they are searching for new talent.

Now I could be thinking too deeply here, but these are the ideas that these features imply to me.  1.  By selling their own books on their website, they are maximizing income.  They no longer have to sell it to Amazon at 45% of the cover price so that's an additional 15% in their coffers.  (Common sense, eh?)  This would result in two perks for the author:  first the author might receive a bigger bonus and second, its a sure thing that they publisher would be more likely to publish quality authors that would have, at one time, been considered a risk.  Whether they do or not, of course, is their own perogative.

So does anyone else have another explanation?
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Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2005, 01:14:40 AM »
At TOKYOPOP our store at our site is actually run by...our distributor, CDS, so the earnings increase is only like 10%, if anything. We don't have time to run a store ourselves, even if it is just from web orders.

Anyway about all the questions that everyone already answered...Brandon wasn't quite complete in his answer about the agent, because he had been sending various things to his agent for like what...a year already?...that Joshua was thinking were almost good enough to try selling to publishers. The one that Moshe bit on just happened to be one that Brandon hadn't sent to Joshua to look at. But that is what happens when you have 13 books already written.

Definitely finish the book. And only write first novels, no sequels. Once you sell one book, you can contract for a sequel, but no one buys just the second novel in a series, so to maximize your selling potential, keep writing first novels or standalones.

Once you are an established writer then it's fairly common to contract for a book before you've written any of it; this is done by querying or talking up your editor at a bar. But this is impossible until you've got a few books under your belt, or sign a two/three-book contract when the editor's already read your completed first book manuscript.

Writing a book without a contract beforehand is called writing "on spec"; some established writers find that they write with much less stress and much more freedom if they write books on spec instead of under contract; but it's a gamble, so when you're starting out, you usually want to get contracts, because that means you're paid part of it up front and you have something to live on while you're writing it.
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42

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2005, 02:58:26 AM »
According to what I've been told, it is also important to note that publishing houses can have different approaches to purchasing novels based on genre.

From what I've seen and heard, it is generally easier to make a career as a genre writer than as a "literary" writer. SciFi/Horror/Mystery/Romance writers tend to carry more name recognition in their own genre, with readers who will purchase their books on name alone. Once that name recognition is established, they will publish just about anything that author writes.

Publishers of supposed "literary" works don't seem to be as interested in purchasing series or carrying any particular author as their flagship author. They appear to be more interested in publishing one really good book from an author (with the right credentials) and maybe a follow-up book. Once they've gotten critical praise and maybe a few awards, they just let the author disappear.

So a lot of places are looking for new talent. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are looking to help you make a career out of writing. A lot of places aren't looking for talent as much as product.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2005, 02:58:45 AM by 42 »
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Lanternpost

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2005, 02:37:17 PM »
You're right, Ookla, because of warehousing which I didn't think of till now.

I don't know if I would write a sequel, though, not unless its a projected cycle.  I would have to have a lot of very good ideas for it.  I just don't like continually doing the same thing, especially since I like a little of everything.

42, "literary" is properly stated.  The word used to mean quality.  That was when H. G. Wells, Mervyn Peake and Edgar Allen Poe bore the same title as Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackery.

Today the Harold Bloom's and other self-proclaimed "scholars" of the word wield it with snobbery.  It has to be set in the "real world" so they will appreciate it.  Then they will accept it even if its stories about a person working at an old folk's home.
That is why we now have to use quotation marks with that once very respectable word.

Sorry.  Had to vent a little.
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Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2005, 02:46:12 PM »
That's just a fraction of what's been discussed on this forum already in the past. ;) You'll find that most of us are of a like mind.

Anyway shouldn't this thread be moved into the Writing Group section?
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Lanternpost

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2005, 10:48:35 PM »
probably
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Lanternpost

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2005, 12:27:05 AM »
How long, does it take for a book to see print after an agent agrees to represent the author, hypothosizing, of course, that the agent would be able to strike a deal?
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Spriggan

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2005, 04:06:47 AM »
Well I don't know averages, but Elantris was about a year from the time the contract with TOR was signed.
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42

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Re: Agents and Editors
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2005, 10:16:11 AM »
A lor depends on scheduling and logistic matters. Publishers can only afford to publish so many books per year, and they don't want to publish them all at once. That would be the biggest factor from what I've heard. Fiction tends goes rather quickly (several months to a year or two). In non-fiction I've heard of/met people where it has take several years. Course, often nonfiction is contracted before it has been completely written.

Also, there are production and legal issues that can bog things down from time to time.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2005, 10:16:36 AM by 42 »
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