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Author Topic: Several questions about publishing companies and agents
Unwritten
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Every time I add an agent to the list I'm compiling, I want to hyperventilate. I've got a short list of my favorite authors that write in my specific genre, and I'm researching them to find out who their agents are. I'm also going through a couple of lists friends from Hatrack have given to me. Just the thought of all the possible rejection in my future makes me want to cry--I've spent most of my life assiduously avoiding rejection. But it's time to stop dreaming about being published and actually work at it.

I read somewhere recently (probably on a link posted here, but I can't remember) that it's better to go with a mid-size publishing company if you're not well known, because if you go with a large publishing company, your book is a lot more likely to go out of print before it has a chance of success. Do you think this is good advice?

If so, I assume the agent is the first step in this process. Is it better to start my queries with the agents who have gone with smaller publishing companies? Perhaps even agents who work with specific publishing companies?

Of course, in the end, I understand that my options are limited by circumstances beyond my control, but I've done my best with this novel, and I want to begin my agent search in the same fashion, so the answers to these questions and any related advice would be highly welcomed!

Melanie

[This message has been edited by Unwritten (edited January 12, 2010).]


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MartinV
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Damn. You're exactly one step closer to publishing than I am. I have a story written but I will need to go out hunting for an agent/publisher soon.

Whew. Just thinking about it made me all weird. I have that excited/scared feeling. 98% excited, 2% scared. Or it could be the other way around.


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Rhaythe
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quote:
I have that excited/scared feeling. 98% excited, 2% scared. Or it could be the other way around.

Are you quoting "Armageddon"?

And both of you are a few steps ahead of me. I'm trying to get the editing phase on my novel done before I start spamming agents.


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JamieFord
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Aim high. Start with the best agents, the best publishers, and work your way down. Don't start at the bottom. Rejection isn't a terrible thing, it means you're out there trying.
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extrinsic
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I'd suggest visiting Janet Reid's and Nathan Bransford's blogs for infomation on querying agents. Also, trying out a query on either. Sort of a full dress rehearsal, Janet Reid critiques queries on her blog. She's taken on clients from trial queries she's received there.

Janet Reid is the Query Shark, and owner of Fine Print Literary Management.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com

Nathan Bransford is with the San Francisco branch of Curtis Brown, Ltd. literary agency.

http://blog.nathanbransford.com

The size of any given literary agency has little to do with manuscript acquistion. Most of the medium to large publishers don't accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries anymore. Small press publishers typically have little editorial oversight and limited acquisitions due to limited resources. The best practices path anymore is through an agent.


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dougsguitar
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Unwritten - thanks for posting this thread!

extrinsic - great links... promptly added to FAVS... thanks


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skadder
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I'd read this essay by OSC first.

http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1999-01-29.shtml


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Merlion-Emrys
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I started submitting my stories with not just the knowledge, but the assumption that I'd get many many many rejections. You aren't going to get far with this without coming to terms with that fact.
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Meredith
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Rejection is just the price of admission. I was never very fond of it, either. But I survived the first rejection and kept writing. You know what, after the first, it does get a little easier. Not that it doesn't still sting from time to time.

Which reminds me, I have to ressurect my list of agents from the old, half-dead computer and get started submitting again.


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sholar
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I think I read somewhere to plan on around 100 rejections for an agent. I suppose if you are planning on that high, you can't be too bummed when you start getting them. And if you do reach 100, well, by that point, you are so used to it, it doesn't hurt that bad either.

About the OSC article, I have read on many other writing pages answer to a similar question and in general they say, most big name authors who are giving that advice have not had to break into the market for a very long time. Also, if you look at the date, the advice was given over ten years ago. The publishing world has changed since then.

I have a draft of my novel complete, just revising- which feels a lot like rewriting. The few chapters I have rewritten are so much stronger then when they started though. I am not yet ready to send it through critters.

Right now, I am debating what name I want to use when I submit. Some agents want you to have a webpage before they submit, so I am thinking of doing that once I have a good polished manuscript. Ideally, I would just use first name and last name for the webpage, but I have choices. For first name, I have a unique first name, which I am told is not obviously gendered. And then I have the name everyone actually calls me (my facebook and e-mail actually use that name). For last name, I have maiden and married- legally I kept mine as like a second middle name. Married name is easy to remember, but a Y- so would be on the bottom row everywhere. Maiden name is a bit more boring and is also the name of a pretzel company (nice solid German name), but an S might be better placed for promotional reason.n And then of course, I have to decide what to do with the middle name- which I always thought would be cool to go buy, but was never able to make that catch on. Maybe this is my chance.

Yes, instead of actually writing and submitting, I am worried which variant of my name I will go by.


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MartinV
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My finished story is a novelette. It has 13k words (can change but not drastically). This goes into the short story marker, correct? If so, will I also be sending around query letters? Or are rules different?

I know there was plenty of talk about this subject sometime before but I would still like to get the info here please, if it's not too much trouble.

quote:
Are you quoting "Armageddon"?

Absolutely.

[This message has been edited by MartinV (edited January 11, 2010).]


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Meredith
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quote:
My finished story is a novelette. It has 13k words (can change but not drastically). This goes into the short story marker, correct? If so, will I also be sending around query letters? Or are rules different?

No. Short stories are different. Most agents aren't interested (there's not enough money in them), except at publishing credits. For short stories, you usually submit directly to the market. Sometimes, you might also include a query letter, though.


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Nick T
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Hi Unwritten,

As someone who isnít even planning to write a novel for the next couple of years, I should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but I tend to support those who say OSCís advice is a bit out of date in the current market. From everything Iíve read (and Iím a big fan of both the agents Extrinsic links to, so my advice may be biased), an agent is essential. Apart from the growing number of publishers that donít take unagented submissions, my opinion is that a good agent helps your writing career in many ways beyond getting you a contract.

Anyway, my only advice is that itís important to get a good agent. Iíve read it in quite a few blogs that no agent is better than a bad agent.

I believe Rachelle Gardner (linked on Nathan Bransfordís blog) has a post on what a good agent should do. Absolute Write also has a bewares and background checkís section which is essential for checking out an agent and their track record.

Iíve also heard the 100 rejections rule on various blogs.

MartinV, as Meredith said, youíd submit your novelette directly to a market. At 13,000 words it will restrict your markets a little bit (thereís not as large a market for 10K words plus), but thereís definitely no need to go through an agent.

Regards,

Nick


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Robert Nowall
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I'm not sure I can recall just what was in my mind when I sent my first stories off to market. I'd read The Early Asimov, and got to thinking, "I can do this." I remember thinking I thought I should be able to sell something at some point soon after (which didn't happen). I remember forming elaborate plans for future writing projects, most of which never made it beyond the note-making stage.

According to my notes, I started the first story I submitted on July 8th, 1975---and it was rejected four times by December 12th of that same year, after which I retired it---and by which time I'd written several more and was sending them out. (It wasn't the first story I wrote---I never submitted that anywhere, mostly because it fell between some cited word lengths the magazines were looking for.)

I remember the idea, vaguely---it seems kinda interesting to me, even now, even though it's not particularly original. But I'm sure my handling of it was clumsy in the extreme. (The manuscript still exists, but is less accessable than the turning-brown file card I typed out my submissions record on.)

Did I think the stories I wrote were good? Well, I thought so at the time, but as time moved on, I thought different.


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Unwritten
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Thanks for your comments. And thanks for the links. I am only working on an agent right now--well, actually I'm working on a query letter, but that's a whole different topic. But I know getting an agent is crucial. I'm mostly wondering how to decide how to order my list.

I'm sure it's been discussed on Hatrack before, but so many people seem interested in this topic that I'll ask again. Do I have to send my query letter to one agent at a time? or can I just toss them all out at once? (Ugh. Neither seems quite right, do they?)


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Meredith
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You can query more than one agent at a time. Personally, I would target half a dozen or so at a time. That way, if the query is just falling flat, you have a chance to polish it again. Trust me, getting the query right and the synopsis is the hard part in this. It makes taking the rejection look almost easy by comparison.
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extrinsic
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Agents are starting to toward the no simultaneous submission trend with queries. I've encountered a few who say don't. As with all markets, checking and following submission guidelines is a good idea.
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Meredith
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quote:
Agents are starting to toward the no simultaneous submission trend with queries. I've encountered a few who say don't. As with all markets, checking and following submission guidelines is a good idea.

Yes, always check submission guidelines. Everybody seems to want something different, for one thing. Some only want the query letter. Some also want a synopsis and/or anything from two to fifty sample pages. (Those usually want it sent snail mail, too, which gets expensive.)

So far, I've only encountered one agent who wanted to be told if I was making simultaneous submissions. (That was probably the most respected agent on this coast.) I would frankly tend away from any that required an exclusive at the query stage. Though I'd be happy to give them a short exclusive on a requested partial.

But about half the agents don't even reply to a query unless they're interested, including the agent above who would have preferred an exclusive query. You know that you've been rejected when you haven't heard anything in eight weeks. If you can only send out a query every two months, and you're likely to get twenty to a hundred rejections before you find an agent--well, you do the math.

Fair is fair. If they want to have the exclusive chance to read the query, then they should be willing to send an actual reply (which can still be a form rejection) within a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, I'm not going to deal with them. [/rant]

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 12, 2010).]


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WBSchmidt
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Meredith wrote:
quote:
Fair is fair. If they want to have the exclusive chance to read the query, then they should be willing to send an actual reply (which can still be a form rejection) within a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, I'm not going to deal with them.

I agree. Some published writers have the belief that an agent is YOUR employee, not the other way around. Imagine how long it would take to fill a job position if you could only interview once every two months. Sorry, no thanks.

If this becomes the norm (no simultaneous agent queries) then it will become even more difficult to get published. First, publishers eliminated the slush pile. This made it appear that getting an agent was a necessity (much debate about this topic even now). Now, agents want exclusives on queries. Exclusives on fulls I could somewhat accept but not the query process. Give me a break.

--William


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extrinsic
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Nathan Bransford reports receiving several hundred e-mail queries in one day, and replying to all of them the same day. I understand the same occurs in most well-known agents' inboxes, ones who accept e-mail queries anyways.

The above-mentioned unnamed agency takes its time with queries because they're evaluated by a committee process. They invest time and personnel and resources and ask for patience because they do and because they can. They do place manuscripts with the big publishers for large advances. However, exclusive querying of agents is still a professional courtesy, not a must.

Publishers that do accept unsolicited queries cannot do more than insist and blackball writers who ignore their submission policies. I've heard it go both ways with agents and publishers. Writers who ignore submission policies and get away with it; writers who ignore submission policies, get caught, and are banned. In my final analysis; conscious, critically thinking writers find their own best practices critical path by thinking for themselves. It's a free country.


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JamieFord
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(Agents are starting to toward the no simultaneous submission trend with queries.)

You should always be querying multiple agents. There's no such thing as an exclusive query. Submissions are another matter entirely.


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johnbrown
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As someone who just broke in and who knows a number of authors in the same situation, you try to get the biggest publisher possible.

Why?

Bigger publishers have bigger budgets--they pay you more and give you more PR. And from what I've learned you're not going to be removed from shelves any quicker. In fact, you're likely to sell more because they have bigger distribution. Yes, you may be just one of many authors, but depending on the company, that may mean something or nothing.

Besides, going out of print has to do with sales. You don't sell, then the bookstores take your book off the shelves and return them. It's THEIR decision to model (keep in in stock past the stores new release period which is 6-10 weeks, depending in the store, and can be longer for independents) your book or not. Not the publisher's.

Stephenie Meyer went with Little Brown. Big old honking deal. You're not going to get that with a small publisher. Larry Correia, me, Ken Scholes, Diana Rowland, Aprilynne Pike, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, etc. etc. all new authors, all going with one of the big publishers in their genre.

As for agents and rejections. Here's one data point. Book 1. I queried 30+ agents and publishers. A few asked for partials. Nobody bit. Book 2. I queried 50 agents. Vast majority passed. 8 didn't ever repond. But I did get 9 to 10 requests for more. Got an agent who eventually sold the book for a nice amount above the average at a place I couldn't get in over the transom.

So you will not ever write a book everyone wants to read. Your job is to find your audience, starting with agent and editor. And getting an agent IS helpful. You can still sell without one, but many houses won't even look at you without an agent.

Average first book contact $: http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2005/10/05/author-advance-survey-version-20/

More advice on getting agents: http://johndbrown.com/writers/finding-your-audience-and-getting-paid/

Don't fail to go to Buckell's link above. Here's just a taste of the goodies he's got data on.

quote:

First Novels: Agented vs. Unagented:

58% of our first time novelists had an agent, the other 42% sold the book without an agent, and a high number indicate they got agents right after or during the sale of the book.

The range in agented advances is from $1500 to $40,000

The median agented advance is $6000 (the average is $7500)

The range in unagented advances is from $0 to $15000

The median unagented advance is $3500 (the average is $4051)



[This message has been edited by johnbrown (edited January 12, 2010).]


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WBSchmidt
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I certainly will want to get an agent. I would like to think of that business relationship as being a partnership of sorts. There is the belief that agents are just another employee but I don't agree with that thought. Then again, I don't have an agent so I can only speak outside the window looking in. I personally like the thought of having someone guide me into a career of writing. Sure, I will make the final decisions regarding my career, but I look forward to having a guide on that journey of becoming a career writer.
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Meredith
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quote:
You can query more than one agent at a time. Personally, I would target half a dozen or so at a time. That way, if the query is just falling flat, you have a chance to polish it again. Trust me, getting the query right and the synopsis is the hard part in this. It makes taking the rejection look almost easy by comparison

One caveat to my earlier statement. It is not okay to query multiple agents at the same agency at the same time. Serially, yes. That is, you wait until the first agent at that agency rejects you. Then you can try another at the same agency. But not at the same time.

And I just now got rejection #23 on THE SHAMAN'S CURSE.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 12, 2010).]


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Brad R Torgersen
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Dean Smith and Kris Rusch suggest submitting to EDITORS first, and getting the AGENT only after you get a nibble from the editor. This is, of course, for novels only, as agents rarely come into play with short work.

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=357

Informative reading.


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johnbrown
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I love Kris and Dean, attended two of their workshops, but I can tell you that I would not have gotten any deal, much less the three-book deal I did get, by submitting to editors first and then waiting for bites. Because all the editors who were open to unsolictied manuscripts that I queried did not bite. But my agent knew exactly who to take it to. She got me my deal with a publisher from whom I had already received a rejection via the novel slush. She had access and knowledge I did not. Maybe I'm an anomaly, but I don't think so.

Furthermore, by following Kris' and Dean's advice on this, you limit yourself to only those editors who read unsolicited manuscripts. When I was shopping my SFF, that limited me to the slushies at Baen, Daw, and Tor. Unless, of course, I went to a conference, met an editor, pitched, and got a request. But then you have to be going to MANY cons to be able to meet all the appropriate editors at all the other houses, let alone the non-slush editors at the ones who do accept slush, and succeed in getting requests. It's possible to get requests this way, and I recommend going to conferences to do just that. But I don't think it's very efficient. Nor is it the only way.

An author is trying to sell something. I don't know of any business where I'd want to purposely exclude half or more of my potential customers (all those non-slush, non-unsolicited editors at big houses) when trying to sell.

However, if you get a decent agent, you suddenly get access. And your book goes out of the slush into a pile that suggests to the editor at least one pro thinks it's commercially viable.

Given Buckell's stats and people I know (Larry Correia, Brandon Sanderson), it's clear you do not have to have an agent to sell a book. But I think it's also clear that there are multiple routes to getting an editor's notice. There's no reason to exclude one of those routes. I'm very glad I didn't.

[This message has been edited by johnbrown (edited January 12, 2010).]


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Brad R Torgersen
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Good points, John. I think the underlying point Dean and Kris have tried to make is that there is no sin in sending to editors. I think the perception that agents are the ONLY route to a book deal has become so pervasive, Dean & Kris are trying to push back a little and say, look, agents are fine, but never, never, never let an agent STOP you. Never let an agent tell you they want re-writes, they won't send your book out, you suck, etc. No agent can write a check, and no agent can guarantee a sale. Editors do these things. So don't give an agent editorial power -- in your career -- when the agent is, in fact, subservient to your career plan. An employee.
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Brad R Torgersen
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BTW John, I am looking forward to seeing you and Larry and others at LTUE and CONduit. Thanks for sharing your experience with those of us further down the ladder. Much obliged.
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johnbrown
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Brad,

That makes a lot of sense. And you know Kris and Dean know the industry. I guess they're speaking out about limiting yourself to just agents, when both roads are just as good. From Buckell's stats it appears a lot of those with agents on the first book got them as/after they got hits. So going the editor route is obviously a winning method.

Make sure you introduce yourself at LTUE!


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Unwritten
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This is some amazing stuff. Thank you very much, especially those of you with actual experience with this sort of thing. It's a whole new world, and I begin to think that writing it was the easy part.
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Meredith
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quote:
This is some amazing stuff. Thank you very much, especially those of you with actual experience with this sort of thing. It's a whole new world, and I begin to think that writing it was the easy part.

JMO It was certainly the fun part.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 13, 2010).]


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Brad R Torgersen
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FYI, Dean Smith again, getting hairy-knuckled about agents:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=720

Dean tends to offer a fair amount of 'outlaw' advice that flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

I like him very much.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Dean is a bit of a maverick (he'd probably say he's a lot of a maverick), and I like him a lot, too.
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BenM
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The first comment on that latest post - and the discussion it prompted - was important to me as taken by itself his article initially read as a rant against agents as a whole. In reality though it seems a fairly helpful point of view on just what the limitations of agents are.
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Unwritten
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JamieFord--I just read your query on PubRants, and I just want to know how much you would charge to write my query for me.

That was extremely well done. If I tried to write something like that, no one would read past the first sentence.


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sholar
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703414504575001271351446274.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth

An article about the dying of the slush pile.


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Unwritten
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One agent said that in 2009 she responded to 38,000 queries and took on 6 new clients.

Sigh.


On the bright side: With odds like that, there's absolutely no reason to take a rejection personally.


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WBSchmidt
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Thanks for that link, sholar.

It's interesting that HarperCollins has a web "slush" pile (authonomy.com). I'd be very interested to know how posting your work to that site affects your ability to sell your rights. Since it appears that all those works are public without a login then they could potentially be considered published, especially since it appears these novels are posted in their entirety.

--William


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Brad R Torgersen
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Personally, I'm not big on the idea of MS getting electronically "voted" for in that manner. Especially if there is no user control. Anyone ever see how the NBA conducts its all-star balloting? Vote early, vote often! And note how few MS actually got plucked, from the sum of slush. Eh, there's still got to be a better way. Alas, it seems everyone on the controlling end wants someone else to do their jobs for them.

EDITOR, to AGENT: Find me the next Rowling!
AGENT, to EDITOR: Right!
AGENT, to WRITER: This isn't the next Rowling! Re-write it!
WRITER, to AGENT: No, it's not, could you please send it anyway?
AGENT, to WRITER: No, the editors only want the next Rowling!
WRITER, to AGENT: How did anyone know Rowling was Rowling, before she was Rowling?
AGENT, to WRITER: Shut up and give me a re-write! Make it like Rowling!
EDITOR, to THE WORLD: Oh why oh why can't we find the Next Big Writer??
AGENT, to EDITOR: Look, I have something here, it's what you wanted!
EDITOR, to AGENT: No, that's like Harry Potter. Find me something new.
AGENT, to WRITER: I said re-write this!
WRITER, to AGENT: I did!
AGENT, to WRITER: I said NOT like Rowling! Totally different!
WRITER, to AGENT: You have no clue what you're doing, do you?
EDITOR, to THE WORLD: (anguish) Where are my new Meyers and Rowlings? Oh, the humanity!


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