Miss Snark Can't Believe Her Eyes

Miss Snark,

you're being quite reasonable in warning authors not to obsess. In the bigger picture, though, agents do have different submitting styles. Some love auctions, while others refuse to even consider doing them. Some even prefer exclusive subs. An author has to be comfortable with stuff like that (and needs to know it before signing with an agent).

An agent who refuses to do auctions?
An agent who only sends to editors on an exclusive basis?

Comfortable with that? Are you insane?
Here, have a clue stick, hit yourself with it, cause an agent who categorically refuses to do auctions or multiple submissions is not someone you EVER want to be comfortable with.

It's not quite 10 am so there's hope you won't be nitwit of the day with this comment, but something REALLY amazing is required to over take it. (well, you're safe, the post above takes the cake)


Anonymous said...

Sorry to have to ask, but what are "auctions" in the context of submitted manuscripts? "Multiple subs?" Sure. But "auctions?"


Anonymous said...

I've heard that Donald Maass only does exclusive submissions to editors, that is submit to one, wait for reply, then submit to the next one on the list.

Anonymous said...

Donald Maass does exclusive submissions to editors. Is he someone we shouldn't work with?

Anonymous said...

I've heard that some publishing houses now prohibit more than one submission to the "corporate entity" -- by agents! Seems pretty silly. If my agent happens to send my ms to the wrong (or I should say, not the "right" editor)editor for this particular book, it strikes the whole conglomerate off his list! He can't send it to another editor. Bad for authors. Bad for publishers, too. How can one person's taste be considered as appropriate for the whole house? So in effect for this house, all submissions are exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, look at all the Anony-mice.

I think the Donald Maass Literary Agency is such a heavyweight that he/they can get away with doing most anything they please. Editors pay attention when DM says he's got something good to show them.

I'm also curious about what auctions are - based on the definition of the word "auction", I'm guessing it means more than one party is interested in the book, and based on how prices correlate with demand, I'm guessing that having your book go to auction is a very, very good thing - but I'd like to know, rather than guess.

Anonymous said...

An auction is just what it sounds like. When a bunch of editors say they want to make offers, your agent plans on a certain time for everyone to get their initial offers in, and then starts asking the editors to either outbid or meet the highest bid by a certain time, or drop out. It gets more complicated depending on auction rules, etc. but that's the basics. The highest bidder (and it's not always just money, but rights, format release dates, etc.) gets the book.

A pre-empt is when an editor offers you a bunch of money upfront in order to KEEP the agent from putting together an auction.

Anonymous #4: it's ALWAYS rude to send two different editors at the same house a single project. Usually when that happens, neither of them can purchase it. Part of what an agent DOES is pick the RIGHT editor at a any house for a given project. If he can't handle that, he's not a good agent, and usually if editors know they arent right for a project, they'll pass it on to another editor at the house. When you are sending it to a bunch of editors a few cubicles away from one another, none will take it seriously, and they will get very pissed off.

There are a few single houses within a corporate entity that are unable to offer competing bids, for instance, New American Library and Berkley Books. But other houses within the same conglomerate can.

Elektra said...

Miss Snark, please just kill me now. I just got back a query--the agent wants the full manuscript and a TWENTY PAGE synopsis

Anonymous said...

Miss S said:

"an agent who categorically refuses to do auctions or multiple submissions is not someone you EVER want to be comfortable with."

Miss S,

Oh dear! Please let me clarify. I said some agents *prefer* exclusive subs; meaning they will do multiple subs as well. But otherwise, I agree with your statement, and that was my point (honest!): Different agents DO work in different ways, and a writer needs to find this stuff out before signing with any agent. Please, oh please! That can't be nitwittery, can it? I thought it was just being informed.

Mindy Tarquini said...

Just shrink wrap the novel and send it to him/her.

Anonymous said...

I learned this weekend (from Anne Hawkins who is not my agent but who is incredible) that very few editors in the business get to take on a project without the consent of the corporate higher-ups. Those days are gone--there are a few clouted editors who are exceptions, as always.

So if your agent sends your manuscript to one editor at a house, and that editor gives it serious consideration such that a presentation is made to the higher ups, and those people axe it, there's mostly no way a different editor from the same house is going to change those corporate collective minds.

Another scenario--that first editor tells your agent, "I love this but I can't take it on for [insert reason here]--I'm passing it to the editor in the next cubicle over who will present it."

Anonymous said...

Something else I learned about auctions this weekend (also from Anne Hawkins):

They're a gamble. Sometimes it's a very good thing and the author sells her book for quite a lot of money--more than if the manuscript had been sold the regular way.

But then again, sometimes no one shows up to bid.

Sometimes only one editor bids, and he gets a great deal because he came in low. The author got less than if she'd sold her book without an auction.

I got the sense that an auction scenario is not entered lightly by an agent.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who actually signs with an agent is foolish. There's no need to sign a contract with an agent. I've been writing and publishing for years, have had three agents and never signed with any of them.

Elektra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elektra said...

Anonymous, maybe that's why you've already had three

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who actually signs with an agent is foolish."

Okay, now this I *gotta* hear. Why is it foolish? Is it the clearly-spelled out relationship? The easily enumerated contractual obligations? The mutual understanding of what each party requires and expects of the other?

I want to know what exactly is foolish about the wonderful contract I signed with my equally wonderful agent.

Gabriele Campbell said...

maybe giving the agent those 15% you could better use yourself, only that without an agent you probably get conditions that cost your more than 15%. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Gabrielle, I can state that in my case, my agent's 15% was worth more than what I might have gotten on my own. Also, I sold to a house I would not have been able to, to a department I wasn't aware of and an editor I didn't know existed. And that before we get into all of the non-monetary portions of the contract, or any of the other battles my agent has fought for me.

But my point is that anonymous didn't say *having* an agent was the foolish part (after all, s/she has had three). Anonymous said that *signing* was the foolish part. As in, having a contract with an agent.

Gabriele Campbell said...

But would an agent event start sending out a manuscript before a contract is signed?

Anonymous said...

Some agents still do the handshake thing and don't have a contract at all. Some agencies (ICM comes to mind) only sign a contract with you after they place the work, and it only pertains to THAT work. Different agentcies practice in different ways. I'm just curious as to what might be the perceived problem with an agency contract qua agency contract.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Ah, thanks.
Still learning the ropes here - I haven't a finished and polished novel manuscript yet, and you don't need an agent to sell short stories and German academic non fiction.

But I know
- to better get one
- to include a SASE
- not to use paper that matches the background colour of my blog
- don't pay anything upfront
- a good agent will mention clients and sales
- not to pester an agent about who's reading the manuscript every week
- writers have cats, agents have Killer Yapp
- agents prefer gin to whisky, and it's not a good idea to bribe them anyway.


David Forbes said...

I thought there was usually a floor bid on an auction. That is, everyone who wants to bid has to agree to at least X dollars, and then bids above that. I guess that's not always the case, but are there instances where there are minimum bids, or am I totally off base with that?

Mark said...

Sara Gruen sold her first book at auction. It worked out to two books so this is a viable option.

Anonymous said...

Kaytie makes a great point about the higher ups killing projects that editors love.

But what about editors who reject submissions when they know they are leaving? My agent sent me a letter from an editor who said my novel was nicely written but just not right for their list, mainly because she wasn't "blown away by the voice" but then she went on to say she was leaving to go work for another publisher! When my agent poked around for more details, the woman admitted she had brought the book up at their editorial meeting, so my agent said there's no chance anyone else at that house will want to consider my book.

Why wouldn't the editor simply pass it on to someone else in her department to review? Instead she killed my book's chances at that house for no reason. It's bad enough there are only so many houses to go around!

Ken Boy said...

Elektra--congrats! Writing a 20 page synopsis sucks, but it's definitely for a good cause.

Anonymous said...

Auctions usually happen once someone expresses interest...not before, unless there's a reason to expect huge demand. Sometimes you just don't know until you do submit, but that one bit of interest can allow the agent to set an auction with the others.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Elktra, that's great! much success!

Christa M. Miller said...

Elektra, who's that agent? So I can avoid them? LOL Just kidding hon! Congratulations, the request is GREAT news!

McKoala said...

congrats elektra! you can do it! twenty pages sucks, but hey, you have the power...

Anonymous said...

While I'm happy for Elektra at getting an agent's attention, I can't help thinking that her time would be better spent writing the NEXT book than a twenty-page synopsis.

Gayle said...


Congrats at getting an agent's attention! 20 pages is long, but think of it from the agent's POV. It will help provide a much clearer picture of the book as a whole than the little blurb (or 1-pg synopsis) with your original query. Don't think about how long it is, how much time it will take etc. Just take it one chapter at a time. You can do it!