5.01.2006

I have an offer..why won't an agent take me on?

Your snarkness,

Now I've heard everything! A discussion on AgentQuest brought up writers who have gone after publishers themselves and landed interest enough to be offered a contract. They then contacted agents asking for representation to negotiate that contract. The ones contacted claimed no interest because their work had already been done. ????????

During my selling career in travel this would have been considered a freebie. Sure there is work involved but not the tough slogging sales pitching while competing with hundreds of others for the same prize.


Ya got any comment here?




I've turned down several people who've arrived with a contract in hand. I didn't like them, or I didn't like the project. Selling the book is what everyone focuses on when they talk about the importance of an agent, but if you're in sales, you know it's also important to "service the account". For agents that means making sure the author gets paid correctly, making sure the sub rights are being offered/sold/paid, making sure the book gets nominated for awards and prizes. And it means talking to the author. If I don't like someone you'd have to arrive with a contract worth so much money I could hire someone to talk to you. And I really don't want to be involved with a book I don't like because as soon as that book is listed as one of 'mine' I'm going to get a ton of queries for books like it.

If you're a good agent (and I am) there's no such thing as "just negotiating a contract". If that's all you want, you're MUCH better off with a contract review specialist not an agent.

11 comments:

-ril said...

It`s interesting that the anecdotes the questioner cites suggest the agents turned down the kind offer as "their work had already been done", yet Miss Snark's reply indicates that landing the contract is only the beginning.

Assuming not all of the writers fall in to the "didn`t like them" category, then could it be that either the agents concerned are not so bright, or the publishers landed are not so attractive to the agents?

-ril said...

It`s interesting that the anecdotes the questioner cites suggest the agents turned down the kind offer as "their work had already been done", yet Miss Snark's reply indicates that landing the contract is only the beginning.

Assuming not all of the writers fall in to the "didn`t like them" category, then could it be that either the agents concerned are not so bright, or the publishers landed are not so attractive to the agents?

nir said...

Well, I don't blame you. I wouldn't want to work on something or with someone I couldn't stand. Yuck!

overdog said...

Or maybe, "Our work has already been done" is another way of saying, "This one's not right for us."

skint writer said...

Great site.

Wonder if you can help?

What type of novel is most likely to be of interest to agents and publishers at the moment?

I have 4 novels in various states of completion and don't know which one to focus on.

1: A stream of consciousness literary novel with elements of mystery.

2: A murder-mystery story about the lives of 'bums'.

3. A similar story but told from two narrators' points of view - brothers, one a cab driver the other a police detective.

4. A group of teenage boys witness a murder - set mostly in the 60's. (has been described as a modern Laurie Lee)


Thanks

Beth said...

Once again, Miss Snark turns conventional wisdom on its head. :) I don't know how many times I've heard or read the advice that having an offer from a publisher will practically guarantee getting an agent's interest.

Dave Kuzminski said...

skint writer: the answer is whichever one you can write best.

Elektra said...

A question for Snarklings...

If you were to get an offer from an e-publisher sans agent, would it be wise to find one ASAP?

I know (or rather think I know) most e-publishers pay extra royalties instead of giving advances, so would it be worth an agents time?

Are e-publishers' contracts negotiable enough that it's worth the 15% you'd pay an agent (most e-pubs, from what I've seen, gobble up the rights that agents would usually sell for extra income)?

Deb said...

The following is just my opinion, K?

With e-pubs & small presses, you don't need to have an agent involved. Yes, the percentage is bigger, but remember most of them pay no advance. Your 35% of sales is 35% of maybe a couple hundred (couple thousand if you're lucky or do killer promo) books. So the incentive isn't there for the agent. What's 15% of practically doodly-squat? Nor do hyperstressed, overworked small press folks have time to tweak their contracts.

If you have an offer from an e-pub or small press, good for you. Take it, sans agent. Do your promo. Learn from it. And with your royalties, buy Miss Snark a small pail of gin and me a mochaccino.

T2

Anonymous said...

In that writer's case, he/she may have to go the first novel alone, sans agent. He/she could contact a literary lawyer to cover the fine points, and maybe after the first novel is published (and fingers crossed, does well) maybe an agent will show interest.

skint writer said...

to dave kuzminski - Ah, but I write all of them well ;-)