I was reading in the "Writing Lessons", the lesson titled "Do I need an agent". OSC says that authors of SF do not need agents.
"If you're writing sf or fantasy, an agent is not needed at first. In fact, the kind of agent you can get before your first offer from a publisher is not the kind of agent you want afterward, as a general rule."
Is that still valid advice? No agent until after the novel is sold?
Yes, this confuses me as well, and the evidence is mixed. A professional writer I took a class with a while back told me that since you're just as likely to interest a publisher as an agent with your book, you might as well just go straight to the publisher. Once you get interest, or your first contract, then you can find an agent who will negotiate a better deal for you.
However... at least one person on this site got their book sold at an auction by an agent, and I know agents (of non-fiction, anyway) who seek out book proposals. Furthermore, a lot of publishing houses won't take unsolicited manuscripts, but many agents will, and if the agent has worked with that publisher, they may be able to get you manuscript read, or at least have the opportunity to present it.
quote:A professional writer I took a class with a while back told me that since you're just as likely to interest a publisher as an agent with your book, you might as well just go straight to the publisher.
This seems to say there's no net difference between having an agent and not. I feel nn agent should know the industry and will know how to get things done. The author should consider how valuable that is to him. Some might feel they can get by without one, where others may feel they need someone on their side who knows things.
Well, it's old advice, for one. And two, not everything OSC says is gospel.
You should look at several factors when considering to get an agent. One, they know the business, so they know the tricks publishing companies play. Agents also no the legal side. It's amazing how one word in your contract can mess you up. I know of an author that signed a three book deal with a company and didn't have an agent. The publishing company worded the contract to basically say (but not in words that she could understand) that all three books would have to earn a profit before she would get any royalties. So the first two books were great successes and she got no money. Now the third book is out and might be profitable soon, but that's a high price to pay for not having an agent.
Agents also know who to talk to, and they can query multiple publishers at once. It's also been shown that an agent can get you more money, especially on subsequent book deals.
The way I'm doing it is to try to find an agent first, and if that doesn't work, to go alone.
You'll notice that OSC didn't start with an agent, but he has one now. A writer needs to be concerned with writing. An agent is the person you pay (as in, they get a cut of your sells, not you paying them out of pocket) to deal with the legal issues and any other issues that you just can't understand. Unless you're a literary lawyer as well.
The industry has changed a lot in the last twenty years. When OSC started out, the standard (from what I remember) was that you published a couple books through the publishers first, then you got an agent. Almost no one I remember started with an agent.
Then, it seemed there was an awkward period where publishers didn't want unsolicited manuscripts, but agents didn't either. Publishers like agent-represented manuscripts because it's a sort of filter. The agents gets to sift the slush pile for them. Now, though, it seems the standard is leaning more and more towards getting an agent right off the starting line. I think this will continue.
So, I think the advice from OSC is a couple years old, and a bit out of date.
I don't have an agent (or even a book that needs one yet), and I've never been published, so that's a strictly amateur take on it. My timeline is probably suspect, too
It is old advice, but I think there is still some truth to it that the best agents don't look seriously at unpublished authors.
If you have some really good short story credits, you're more likely to get a good agent and there are, of course, some exception among agents. But an author with a book sale is a lot more likely to get a good agent from everything I read and hear as well as my own experience. That doesn't mean you shouldn't necessarily try to get one, but you should also stick to agents with (personal opinion here) a proven track record in the genre and not be surprised if you get turned down until you show that you can make them money.
There are plenty of publishers who will look at unagented books, including Tor. It takes longer and it's frustrating, but an author can shop their own novels.
[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited September 19, 2007).]
Both my first and my second, annepin. Keep in mind that I shopped them to small presses and they are still being considered. So I'm not passing myself off as a huge expert.
I chose not to even send queries to the major presses like Tor at least partially because of the return time. Tor tends to take at least a year to even ask for a ms, much less make a decision.
My next novel, which I'm working on now, if things go according to plan *crosses fingers* I'll have novels published and will shop only to agents.
If you really want to go with the major presses, in that case an agent is pretty much a necessity unless you have one h*** of a lot of patience.
Edit: Elaborating, I did a lot of research on small presses to find ones that are solid and not likely to go out of business and actively market their books to indies. After that, I contacted authors from the ones that I was interested in to see what their opinions and experiences with the publishers had been. Then I made a database of the guidelines of the ones I was interested in being published by. Then I put together submission packets and spent a lot of time biting my fingernails.
[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited September 19, 2007).]
One advantage of having an agent is that agents can auction books, though not all of them do.
Another advantage is that agents can submit to publishers who don't consider unsolicited (and/or unagented) manuscripts.
There are still publishers in SF/F who do, but there are many who don't.
I have had two agents (neither of whom did me any good), and now I have none, but I'm not actually trying to sell a novel right now either.
If I were, I'd probably talk to author friends about their agents and try to get referrals.
If I were someone who didn't know any authors to ask in that way, I'd arrange to attend writers conferences and workshops that have the kinds of agents I would want in attendance, and I'd make a point of introducing myself to agents at those conferences and workshops, so that I could ask about sending them a partial.
Another advantage of having an agent is that you might spend less time staring at your email wondering why no publisher has contacted you. Then again, you might spend all your time wondering why you haven't heard from your agent.
I think that for selling work having an agent is a good thing. There are advantages, but a lot of publishers do buy from the slush pile including Tor, Ace and Baen. But they take years (I've known of authors who waited more than two years to hear back from Baen). It's not a process I'd care to go through.
As Kathleen pointed out, an author can't auction and the chances are you can't pick up the phone and pitch a book to them. So I'm not saying that it's not good to have one, but for an unestablished writer, the fact is that they can be hard to acquire. Yeah, conferences are good to attend.
quote:Elaborating, I did a lot of research on small presses to find ones that are solid and not likely to go out of business and actively market their books to indies. After that, I contacted authors from the ones that I was interested in to see what their opinions and experiences with the publishers had been. Then I made a database of the guidelines of the ones I was interested in being published by. Then I put together submission packets and spent a lot of time biting my fingernails.
I don't mean to threadjack, but I've got two questions for Jeanne T. What specific genre to you write, and what small publishers have you singled out as being 'good'.
I have an agent, and she sold my novel--needless to say, I'm thrilled. (Though it's commercial fiction, not SF&F).
OSC is right in that you CAN sell your novel without an agent. But, it doesn't mean you should. It's up to you. An agent can get you in front of a lot of publishers, all at once. If you're on your own, the process is going to be slow going.
The key is to find a GOOD agent, and thanks to the Net, you can do a little digging. Editors & Preditors has listings of shady agents. Agentquery.com has good info on finding agents that specifically rep SF&F, and PublishersMarketplace.com lets you look up agents to see their deal history (not everyone reports, but it's better than nothing).
I'm reading a book called "How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words." There are about 80 different authors in there that explain how they got started.
There is not one consistent "it" thing that helped them make it, except for being persistent. Some had agents, some didn't, and some were clever about it (Clive Cussler faked a retiring agent - and sent it to another agent). Many sent out hundreds of manuscripts, and some sent 1 or 2 and they were snatched up or their was a bidding war. Some wrote 7 or 8 novels before they were published.
I'm sure that if we took a poll right now on how long we have each been writing it would vary a lot. And I bet that if we came back here in a couple of years (when we are all published of course) and talked about how long it took etc, it would vary as well.
In the most recent OSC Literary Workshop, he advised:
Send query letters to multiple desired publishers.
If you get back requests to send in the manuscript, wait until you're pretty sure the publisher(s) you really want have a reasonable chance to respond (it's not like the publishers are hanging fire to read anyone's manuscript).
Send the manuscript to the single publisher you want to work with, making it clear the manuscript was solicited. If they reject it, send it to the next publisher, and so forth.
Once a publisher decides they would like to have you sign a contract, then send query letters to the agent(s) you would like to have represent you. Indicate that you have been offered a contract on your book and are seeking their representation.
So, that was OSC's thought as of August 2007, FWIW.
There's a difference between queries and manuscripts when it comes to submitting, right? I ask because I know a lot of publishing houses won't take unagented manuscripts, but does that mean they won't take query letters either?
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The ones who say they won't take unagented usually mean anything unagented, is what I understand--but I could certainly be wrong about that. WotC takes unagented for some of their lines (not the D&D worlds though) when they're open--they are frequently closed to subs. Baen, Ace Books, ROC, DAW take unagented. And as has been mentioned, Tor.
Of course, there are dozens of other smaller or lesser known publishers who also do.
I suggest checking Ralan.
Edit: And in this case, I would say that Mr. Card's advise is probably worth considering. Contract in hand, you are certainly more likely to get an agent, but keep in mind that some of the publishers take one heck of a long time to look at unagented mss.
Seriously, I recently exchanged messages with a writer who had Baen take more than two years. Of course, that was during the period when Jim Baen died so that may well have affected things. Still, I think one of the big arguments for an agent is that you will get your ms. read in less than a year or more.
[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited September 20, 2007).]
I landed five books without the help of an agent. Four were with major publishers.
In addition to all the other reasons, not having an agent actually forces you to LEARN about the book industry -- something that fewer and fewer authors do nowadays. It's not something you're going to find in a book, it's stuff that you're going to learn only by hitting the streets and getting your hands dirty (she said, mixing her metaphors deliciously).
You also need to remember that an agent is the employee of the author --- a lot of folks make a big deal about having an agent, but why? (If you have a family lawyer, do you go bragging about him/her?) And this agent--no matter how skilled in the industry they are--will be buckets more effective if YOU know what it is YOU want, because you know about the industry.
Get a job at a bookstore. Volunteer at your local library. Submit to lots and lots of magazines. Subscribe to PW Daily, and read the emails. Go to conventions and meet people.
Don't take "no" for an answer, and don't wait around for someone else to do your work for you.
Gee...the longest I've ever had a novel out was just over a year. (Del Rey, a long time ago now.) I'm sure they just mislaid it---after a query I got a prompt rejection. (It deserved it.) The others were weeks or months, whether a handful of complete MSS or a plethora of 3-chs-and-outlines.
I'd go with learning everything about your market that you can. In particular, read the work coming out of where you're submitting to. (I've got to get back into the swing of that, one of these days. I mostly pick and choose in the magazines, and browse the book racks in the SF aisles but hardly ever buy.)
One book I read had an agent saying that if you never hear back from them, to go ahead and resubmit, as the first submission may have been lost. Elsewhere I see that there are agents/publishers that just don't respond at all if they are not interested. Not wanting to be a pest if a submission is not wanted, resubmit or not? Is it ever ok to resubmit after a makeover of a horrid, ugly query into a work of art? (okay, I'm dreaming about the art)
[This message has been edited by palmon (edited September 21, 2007).]
I say do it. If they've already decided to reject it and just not tell you then by pestering them with a re-submission that isn't going to make your odds of them accepting it any worse. 0 can't reduce further. But if they genuinely did lose it, or might be interested in your changes, the new submission might catch their eye. Whereas the unsent new-submission never can.
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Well, from what I read after Jim Baen's untimely death Baen got really far behind, but they are notoriously slow. For the short story division they are CURRENTLY saying if you submit to them that the editors are still reading March submissions.
Their book division has the reputation for being slow as well, though. I've seen numerous posts on the subject on the Baen Bar and have seen other authors comment on waits of over two years. But some people REALLY want to sell to Baen.
[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited September 21, 2007).]
I just found this tidbit about TOR (on this website) " Notice that TOR considers the chapters-and-outline to be a submission. That means you can only send it on an exclusive basis. You can't send it to multiple publishers at once. This is a change from when I was starting out - in those days, the partial-and-outline were considered a query, and you could send it to everybody at the same time, only submitting the whole manuscript when asked for it."
[This message has been edited by palmon (edited September 22, 2007).]