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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Even More Confused

   
Author Topic: Even More Confused
Meredith
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Okay, so I didn't check back until late.

The terms of the Pitch Slam contest were that "ninja" agents might drop by and make requests after the agents who'd signed on to be part of pitch slam.

Guess what? For the first time ever I got ninja'd.

But . . . But I had never heard of this agent and my usual sources (Agent Query and Preditors and Editors) turned up dry.

The agent is in England. I'm in California. She's apparently brand new with no extensive experience in publishing. (Already makes me a little nervous.) And her website specifically says she's looking for local talent. I'm almost as far from local as it's possible to get. Plus, the story in question has a non-standard fantasy setting more or less based on the settlement-era west (of the U.S.)

I'm really conflicted on this one. Likely going to think it over until the weekend.

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LDWriter2
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Would it do any harm to ask her some questions?

Maybe she will realize she made a mistake or you find out she is definitely not right for you.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
Would it do any harm to ask her some questions?

Maybe she will realize she made a mistake or you find out she is definitely not right for you.

No, of course it wouldn't hurt. The problem is that beyond the obvious "Does it matter that I'm in California?", there's no objective way to assess her answers.

Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves an agent, but a bad agent can be worse than no agent at all.

This agency (Broadland Literary) appears to be new--brand new. Only one author is listed. (Personally, if I were an agent with only one client, I'd hold off on putting up that page on my website until I had a few more.) There's nothing in this agent's bio to suggest experience as an agent.

It's raising a number of red flags. To be honest, being based in another country isn't really helping with that. If any difficulties did arise, that would only increase the complications.

My usual process in deciding whether or not to query a new (to me) agent is to check with other sources. Agent Query will tell me if they belong to any agent organizations, like AAR, recent sales, and often if they've worked for other agencies in the past. Preditors and Editors will tell me if they've made any sales (an important point) and also put a warning if they're "not recommended" or do something unethical, like charging reading fees. I'd love to use Publisher's Marketplace, but simply can't afford the membership at this time.

To be clear, I have no objection to querying new agents. I have and will again. But up to now they've always been in established agencies where I know they have expertise to draw on if they need help. That's not a bad rule and I'd be breaking it if I query this agent.

I also don't object to new agencies, but those I've queried have been ones established by experienced agents who decided to start their own agencies, not by somebody who just decided to become an agent.

I guess I know which side of the fence I'm leaning toward right now. [Frown]

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extrinsic
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A thorough analysis of Broadland Literary's website leaves me comfortable they are competent writers. The only drawback of the site is a too light body text color, that's difficult to read. Otherwise, all other motifs and features are in line with what I expect of a respectable literary agency masthead and advertisement. The grammar and style of their site suggests to me they know at least the business of writing and have done their homework and due diligence.

A new literary agency is I hope eager for business, and possibly more ammenable to and suited for working with debut writers than agencies that are long-established firms. That the agents are struggling writers of the genres they represent and have no listed representation or sales experience are small causes for concern. However, as a "ninja" agency for Pitch Slam, they are proactively participating in building their business brand, prospecting for clients, participating without guarantees, taking risks along with writers, and working on their business book.

Everyone starts somewhere. These folks are struggling, probably are fully invested in the business, and perhaps a groundfloor business with whom comparable writers may grow.

For you, Meredith, the major drawback I see is the agency's emphasis on East Anglia local interest. That's not your ideal marketplace for domestic U.S. promotion, personal agency-writer interaction, and distribution. However, as a Pitch Slam contest outcome, mutual recognition from and for the contest's milieu is another small step up from the fray. No representation contract is required as an outcome of the contest.

Offered representation could be a bargaining and incentive point for a more local-to-you agency.

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Meredith
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Yeah, extrinsic. I'm not so much worried about her being a scam artist as inexperienced.

From her bio, it looks like she has some editing experience. That's good. But does she have contacts in the publishing industry? Or is anything she submits just going to sit in the same slush pile as if I'd submitted it directly? Right now, I can't tell.

Still thinking.

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extrinsic
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Agent representation to publishers generally takes the form of a quick yes, maybe, or pass. The elevator pitch portion of a writer's submission is generally the end all, be all initially of an agent's business correspondence with a publisher. The publisher confidently assumes the agent has vetted the submission thoroughly and wouldn't offer an unworthy project.

Maybes may end up on top of unsolicited submissions, not under them. Because agents now perform the bulk of initial screening on behalf of publishers, publishers are obligated to respond more timely to agented submissions than for unsolicited, unscreened submissions.

I also confidently presume any agent in the industry actively networks, builds publishing contact networks beforehand, before offering representation services in the first place. Contacts made at bookfairs, writing conventions and conferences, client promotional and publicizing events, publisher social events, develops other social, personal aquaintance and family contacts for business purposes, develops online contacts through social media related to publishing culture. Plus, of course, actions speak louder than words: professional, judicious representation that attracts and appeals to and builds confidence from publishers.

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