Miss Snark Should Be Less Xenophobic

Given that geography and proximity, as you've noted, aren't really things one should worry about when querying an agent, might you elaborate about why not living in the states is detrimental to a prospective author? In an age of e-mail and globalization, shouldn't it not matter? Shouldn't the manuscript stand on its own no matter the geographic origin of the author?

"Should" is not a word with much meaning when you are discussing how things work around here. I should care about the homeless; I should give more to charity; I shouldn't discard the hopes and dreams of Aussies/Kiwis/Tazmanian Devils/Transylvanian werewolves, not to mention the odd Canuck here and there, unread.

Well take me off your "should list" cause I'm just telling you what I do. I don't offer it up for philosophical dissection, although you're welcome to do so in the comments trail.

The truth is, for me, it's a pain in the ass to have clients who are far away, outside the reaches of the US Postal System and hard to reach at 9am when I want to yap at them.

I should be a better person. I'm not. Live with it.

Now, as to why geography doesn't matter in your agent search, the question was "is it important to have an agent in New York". That's not the same question or even the flip side of the question "does living outside the USA help/hurt your chances of snagging a US based agent".

Now, to be clear, not all agents feel this way, AND I have clients who live in furrin lands. I know I don't like it cause I'm dealing with it and it makes me cranky. I also said earlier, and I'll say again, I would sign someone living in Precious Ramatswe, Botswana if they wrote as well as Alexander McCall Smith.

And that should just about cover it.


Loudlush said...

I should count my blessings that I'm only an Aussie and not a Transylvanian werewolf or an odd Canuck. Time differences are a killer though.

illiterate said...

Aren't there any agents in the authors' respective countries, though? Why not apply to them? I know it makes me a nitwit, but I'm honestly curious.

Anonymous said...

Love ya, Miss Snark.

And I don't mind being called at 9AM EST. I do well at midnight.

Not a Transylvanian werewolf or an odd Canuck either.

Anonymous said...

Illiterate: If I'm not mistaken, it's because if the author wants to sell to a big name publisher based in New York, then the agent is going to have to go to New York once in a while for face-to-face meetings. That gets pricey.

Anonymous said...

Illiterate, one reason a writer might not approach an agent in another country is because the writer is not from that country. Not everyone lives their whole life in the country they were born in. For example (can you see that Miss Snark's comments on this topic have given me considerable angst?), I'm an American writer who is moving to Germany for job-related purposes. I'll be there a couple years, after which I'll return to the states. If I were to attempt writing in German, any self-respecting publisher or agent would roll over laughing. No way would I try to publish in Germany. We don't usually publish books in Quechua in the U.S., so why should I expect a German publisher to publish something of mine in English?

Like the person who wrote on this topic awhile back who was teaching short-term in Africa, I've got an American bank account, I pay American taxes, and by the time a book was published I'd be back here to promote it. Aside from extra postage costs (paid for by me), I really don't see why my physical presence elsewhere is a problem. Nor do I have a problem reading books by Aussies or Brits or Indians or whoever. But I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if it's a headache for Miss Snark, well, she can certainly opt out of that plan.

illiterate said...

anon 2: Thanks. Yes, I see that part, despite my disabilities. However, I do believe there are big publishers in other countries, so what makes the US agent necessary, to, say, an Australian? Also, I believe Random House, and some other 'big shots' actually German...

Again, it might just my illiteracy speaking for me...

P.S. not perposely trying to annoy anyone.

Nessie said...

And I thought being a canuk was gonna be a big problem- eh!

Bella Stander said...

If you want to be published first in the US, you seek out an American agent first. If, say, you live in Australia and want to be published there first, get an Aussie agent. Then if your book takes Oz by storm, your agent can sell US rights with the assistance of a US agent.

Anonymous said...

Hugs and fluffy bunnies, Illiterate! You weren't annoying anyone. :D

Kiskadee said...


I was living in Germany when I first started writing, in English. It was logical for me to find a British agent, and I did. I flew out there for my first meeting with her, and when promotionm time came around my publisher paid for me to come to England and put me up for a week, all expenses paid. That's just what they do.

It isn't much more expensive to fly from England to the the US than from California. I'd do it, Plus, agents come to Europe regulrly: there's the London Book Fair and Frankfurt. I've always met agents at book fairs.

Now I live in England and am seeking a US agent for two main reasons:

My three books were never published in the US, so though they did not sell as well as hoped in Britain, I don't have a bad sales record in America, and yet I have excellent publishing credits.

An American theme, American characters, more marketable in the US than in Britain.

I have not found that being in Britain has been a disadvantage in shopping my new ms. I've queried only agents who accept equeries to save postage, and have several requests for partials and fulls. Three A list agents and one B-list have requested my full ms, non-exclusive and per email. I can't possibly complain.

Two requested the partial, but per snail mail - non-exclusive.

Also, illiterate: Random House may be German-owned, but still if you're writing in English you'd want to submit to the American or the British branch, not the German head office. The German house is still caled Bertelsman, and they only accept books written in German. The houses work independently. For instance, I am published by Bertelsman in German, but that does not mean I'll be automatically published by Random House in the US - I'm not.

Cayendi said...

It is not just about English writers who have moved abroad. I am Dutch, born and raised here in the Netherlands and I don't see myself moving abroad any time soon.
Yet, I don't write in Dutch (anymore), but in English and I would have a very hard time selling my novel(s) to publishers here in the Netherlands. Non-Enlgish countries do not tend to publish English literature.
That means that I have no other choice but to look for a agent/publisher in an English speaking country.

Catja (green_knight) said...

May I point out that writers in Alaska or Hawaii suffer from the same geographic disadvantages than writers in, say, the UK?

_Almost exactly_ the same. (Yes, I did look up cheap flights to New York for either.)

Mixed Bag said...

Hi illiterate.

I'm binational aussie/US living in France. My last book was written in English, with an American main character visiting France. So I'm trying to sell it in the US. My new book is also written in english, but about an Aussie returning to Sydney from France, so I'll try to sell it in Australia.

The US has 300 million people. Australia has 20 million people. The US is a bigger market, so if your story is at all American, it's best to try the US agents/publishers first.

I've lived in 6 countries for long periods of time, many others for shorter periods. A surprising number of US citizens are like me this way. If they're writing in English, they're not going to try to sell their book in the Thai/Turkish/Lebanese market.

Kiskadee said...

"It isn't much more expensive to fly from England to the the US than from California."

Ooops! I meant of course "from England to New York than from California".

illiterate said...

Everyone: thanks for the answers. Its a long road for me, but I was honestly curious.

Kiskadee and Cayendi, yes that definitelly anwers it, thanks. I'm a bit narrow minded, I fear, but being aspiring, and NOT inspiring writer(sorry, could not help my self), I wish to open my mind, a bit. Thanks for that drill.

An Odd Canuck said...

. . . and many, if not most, Canadians are in closer proximity to NYC than many Americans--we tend to cluster along the Canada/US border in the same timezone as NY . . . but that doesn't mean that Miss Snark is required to represent any of us, although it *does* mean I find her excuse just a little dubious.

illiterate said...

I appologise for my ignorence, but more for sounding like an insensitive git. Really.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

> outside the reaches of the US Postal System and hard to reach at 9am when I want to yap at them.

Makes sense :)

> I know I don't like it cause I'm dealing with it and it makes me cranky.

But this makes the most sense.

> If you want to be published first in the US, you seek out an American agent first. If, say, you live in Australia and want to be published there first, get an Aussie agent. Then if your book takes Oz by storm, your agent can sell US rights with the assistance of a US agent.

That's the way I always thought it worked, too, Bella. It would be more convenient for me, as a writer, if my agent were based in the UK. But if Andrew Wylie decided to come to Sheffield to hunt me down because he was so impressed with my work, I certainly wouldn't be telling him to naff off.


Thanks for blogging about this, Miss Snark - educational, as usual, plus it's sparked a fascinating debate :)

illiterate said...

Spelling mistakes again! Look at the bright side, guys. If an agent gets a query from one of you, she/he'll think, this writer is abroad, but at least she/he spells right. When the agent gets my query, where I manage to misspell every third word, or so, the agent underlines the misspelled words, prints NO, and mails it back.

Or, in case of Miss Snark, who is nitwit intollerant, I get a huge stilleto print on my forehead, and some bite-prints on my behind(courtesy of KY). That hurts...

Anonymous said...

I'm a Canadian author with a NY agent & publishers. Being Canadian hasn't made a lick of difference.