Offer in hand

I know that if you are offered a contract by a publisher, then you can start calling agents and asking for representation. I also know that the publisher had better not be something that is beneath an agent's notice. I was wondering where the line is drawn, particularly in the case of university presses. Are all university presses beneath an agent's notice? Are the big ones, those that publish 100 books or more per year, treated the same as regular publishers?

Or do you look at the size of the advance and decide whether an agent would think it worthwhile based solely on that, regardless of whether you are dealing with a university press or some other type of publisher? And, if that is how you figure it, then how big does that advance need to be? I don't want to make a pest of myself by calling agents if agents wouldn't be interested anyway.

P.S. I'm talking about this situation when it involves trade books, not scholarly monographs, because I know that scholarly monographs don't pay beans even with the big guys.

First, don't call. Email.

Second, there's no hard and fast rule on how big a deal you need before an agent will take you on. I've done big deals like this, and small ones. It mostly depended on the project and whether I thought the author was a good investment.

You're not making a pest of yourself if you email to ask if they are interested in this deal.

You're not a begger at the banquet of publishing, come hat in hand asking for a favor. This is my business; now it's yours too. You have something of value, I offer a service. The negotiation is about whether it's a good match, not whether you or your offer are beneath anyone's notice.

I know it sounds like agents think of themselves as all high and mighty (don't call! don't drop in! don't speak before noon! Include an SASE!) but I assure you it's primarily a management tool to keep the cluefree from clogging our day planners. Act like a professional, expect to be treated as a pro, and it's all good.

And if an agent doesn't bite, email me again and I'll give you the name of a contract review specialist who will help you negotiate the contract so you don't sign away rights to your first sprung loinfruit.


Ryan Field said...

It's good to know there's an alternative if an agent doesn't bite.

Anonymous said...

"I know that if you are offered a contract by a publisher, then you can start calling agents and asking for representation." That's true, but you make it sound like you have to have an offer before getting an agent. You can also get an agent and have them look for a publisher.

I don't know any university presses that do fiction, but miss Snark's advice should apply to non-fiction as well provided you sniff out the right agent to ask.

Anonymous said...

"don't call! don't drop in! don't speak before noon! Include an SASE!"

use a towel not the drapes, now stand on the other leg oh er

speaking of "sprung loinfruit" I slipped on the ice in the driveway and my walk as well as my blogging is a little slow.

Heather Janes said...

Kristin Nelson blogged yesterday on this subject, saying that an author who called her with an offer in hand "handled the whole situation exactly right." Is this another one of those things where every agent has their own preferences? I've seen advice to call agents when you have an offer in several places...?

Carla said...

Yesterday's blog post by Kristin Nelson is relevant to this topic.