8.09.2006

I'd pay to see that...well, ok, no I wouldn't

Dear Miss Snark:

(1) Is it standard practice, if an agency wants to represent you, to provide full or partial paid travel expenses to have a meeting with you? I'd be going West coast to East coast.

(2a) Also, is it standard practice, with a non-fiction proposal, to want the writer to provide the agency with additional writing (more than the standard three chapters) or (2b) proposal changes as part of the decision making for representing you?

(3) Does the proposal, e-mailing and a phone call usually give the agent all the information he needs to decide if he or she is going to represent you?

(4)
Or do they make a first-time writer jump through many additional hoops?


I could go on but I've picked the most unanswered and important to ask.

Thank you for your time.



1. no.
2a. no
2b. sometimes
3. mostly
4. ahhhh...how you phrase the question says a lot


The connotation for jumping through hoops is that it's a pointless exercise for our amusement.

Generally agents want to make sure they can sell something before they take it on. If you're getting a lot of requests to make changes or provide additional info don't look at as jumping through hoops, look at it as steps toward yes.

Generally, for amusement we read our slushpile.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

They not only want to have a good idea they can sell it, they also want to have a good idea you can complete a full manuscript. This is why more than 3 chapters may be asked of you, as you have no history of publication of books.

It is more common that the Snarkster may imply for an agent to make acceptance conditional on making changes to your non-fiction proposal. These changes may be minor editing or major reconstruction of the concept.

Actually, it is not uncommon to be asked to make extensive changes to the proposal to make it more marketable BEFORE taking you on. And, of course, even with the changes, you are guaranteed nothing--sometimes the agent still ends up saying "no."

The last proposal I shopped to agents resulted in two well-known agents wanting changes made to the proposal concept. One was an experienced editor and had very definite ideas of what she/he wanted and would not commit to representation before the changes, despite my having an extensive background of publication, where said agent had good reason to believe I could make any changes requested.

I made it clear I would make the changes but needed to know up front that I would be represented...even though a contract was sent to me, this agent would not verbally commit before the changes were seen...

At the same time, a second agent said he/she would take me on before the changes were made, understanding I needed to have a commitment prior to beginning the editing. I considered him/her to be more savvy business-wise, being able to take the chance I could make the changes.

Point being: Unless you are willing to risk losing an agent who is interested, you give them what they want--and especially if you have no track-record of book publication.

And the most important question of all you omitted: Do you have the marketing platform that will be necessary for an agent and a publisher to believe you can help sell your book if it is accepted.

Hasmita said...

:-D Well Said, Miss Snark.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hey, will agents pay my phone bill for me after we talk? Last one was less than £1.

Ryan Field said...

(1) Is it standard practice, if an agency wants to represent you, to provide full or partial paid travel expenses to have a meeting with you? I'd be going West coast to East coast.

1. no. --- My friend the agent would love this; I can hear the screams of panic from 57th Street.

Elektra said...

My Friend, the Agent sounds like the title of a sitcom. Any ideas for plots?

ryan field said...

Many ideas for a sitcom, but it would have to be on HBO or SHOWTIME. The opening scene would show a successful literary agent, holding a new manuscript at arm's length because it faintly smells of cigarette smoke, while he's puffing away on a "harmless" joint.

LeslieB said...

As a raw newbie, I would like to know - if an agent asks to meet with you, is it considered bad manners to say that you can't afford it? I have to be frank, a trip to New York is not budgetable for me. But I don't want to miss out on getting a good agent. Are face to face meetings common, or necessary?

Anonymous said...

Reading slush for amusement? LOL, I bet S&S had a field day with my 1st novel. Hey, never did get that "greatest novel ever written back" who knows it's probably being passed around.

At least someone has read it, its all good, its all good (sniff, wiping tears)

Annie Dean said...

Are face to face meetings common, or necessary?

It's not likely to come up unless they get you an awesome book deal, in which case you will be able to afford it. It's more likely you'll get together at a writer's conference that you both plan to attend. Also, most agents will try to work you for lunch in if you're going to be in town for a vacation or other business reasons, but I've never heard of an agent insisting on a face-to-face sitdown before offering representation, if they like your writing.