Author Topic: Okay, how would YOU do it??  (Read 9986 times)

munley

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2009, 10:35:43 AM »
What would I do were I an agent?  I've thought a lot about this over the last year. I would do what my agency does.  I wouldn't take unsolicited submissions.  I would accept submissions based on referral and word of mouth. 

That leaves the market open only to writers with connections.

In my opinion, it is an honor to send a query.  I'm glad they are open to seeing my work at all.  They consider my work through a letter and owe me nothing. 

If I were any other kind of contractor, like a plumber or an interior decorator, I would consider it a matter of profession for both of us, something to be carried out with mutual respect and equal regard. Agents need writers. Writers need agents. They are not doing us a favor by taking us on as clients. We are both putting in our professional part of what it takes to get a book to market.


I love some of the suggestions below.  I would have appreciated responses like the ones suggested, but I don't expect agents to respond to an initial query.  After they have requested material, my expectations change, and I've never been disappointed. 

In addition to possibly spending hours a day at another job, like writing their own books, agents must (in addition to other aspects of the job I'm not mentioning): 

Most writers have other bread-and-butter jobs too, and often find little time to just write. It is good the remember that agents, like us, are not just sitting on their thumbs waiting to hear from us. It helps us to keep a realistic perspective.

If an agent can't handle the client needs listed above, why would she take on more clients?

I hate non-response or unthinking form rejections as much as the next writer.  What I'd hate worse is an agent who is so swamped by incoming query responses and the search for the next client, she can't do a good job representing me (which is one of the reasons I parted ways with my first agent).

Maybe one solution would be to be closed to submissions during certain times of the year and specifying on the web page that no queries received in the off period will be acknowledged. Literary journals state such policies all the time, and writers live with that just fine. Having an open submissions time would give a decent chance to writers who have no connections in the business, and allow and agent more time for existing clients. As an agent, I would not take the time to personalize responses to initial queries, but then again, I would not have a double standard, such as insisting that writers personalize their query to me, or having some other standard with manuscripts I don't feel a need to reciprocate. I once sent a full to an agent who stressed, in great detail, the need to send an crisp, unblemished manuscript and a very professional cover letter. I got the manuscript back wrinkled and stained with coffee. PLUS, her return "professional" letter to me was a handwritten note on a half sheet of paper that had been torn from the other half. (That agent is dead now, and I didn't do it. I didn't! I didn't!). I don't mind receiving a handwritten note on my original cover letter, by the way.

As for getting too bogged down to provide responsible service to the clients I already have, besides limiting open submissions periods, I would not ask for a partial or a full unless I could picture right off, from the initial query, some particular editor who might be interested. Reading more of the manuscript might indicate that wasn't a likely editor after all, but I wouldn't swamp myself with manuscripts with no clue beforehand who might want each one.




Offline MaryL

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2009, 11:44:35 AM »
What would I do were I an agent?  I've thought a lot about this over the last year. I would do what my agency does.  I wouldn't take unsolicited submissions.  I would accept submissions based on referral and word of mouth. 

That leaves the market open only to writers with connections.

Right, which is why it would suck if closed submission policies were the norm.  I was only answering what I would do, which is the original question.  (And my agent found me, not the other way around.  No connection. Miracles happen.)


Maybe one solution would be to be closed to submissions during certain times of the year and specifying on the web page that no queries received in the off period will be acknowledged. Literary journals state such policies all the time, and writers live with that just fine. Having an open submissions time would give a decent chance to writers who have no connections in the business, and allow and agent more time for existing clients. As an agent, I would not take the time to personalize responses to initial queries, but then again, I would not have a double standard, such as insisting that writers personalize their query to me, or having some other standard with manuscripts I don't feel a need to reciprocate. I once sent a full to an agent who stressed, in great detail, the need to send an crisp, unblemished manuscript and a very professional cover letter. I got the manuscript back wrinkled and stained with coffee. PLUS, her return "professional" letter to me was a handwritten note on a half sheet of paper that had been torn from the other half. (That agent is dead now, and I didn't do it. I didn't! I didn't!). I don't mind receiving a handwritten note on my original cover letter, by the way.

As for getting too bogged down to provide responsible service to the clients I already have, besides limiting open submissions periods, I would not ask for a partial or a full unless I could picture right off, from the initial query, some particular editor who might be interested. Reading more of the manuscript might indicate that wasn't a likely editor after all, but I wouldn't swamp myself with manuscripts with no clue beforehand who might want each one.


Love this approach. Limiting open submission periods seems like a fantastic policy. And, yeah, unprofessionalism on either end is unacceptable. Karma, Munley. Here's to wishing you were an agent!
 


I write for Penguin/Random House and Entangled Publishing.
Repped by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
http://www.marylindsey.com  and  http://www.marissaclarke.com

Offline AshK

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #17 on: July 06, 2009, 03:00:30 PM »
Form all the way, with thanks, unless I read the full and was on the fence. A form if I requested the full and ended up skimming and never once thought I'd offer. And no referrals unless I absolutely knew for sure the other agent would want it--being referred by someone can make one feel uncomfortably obligated sometimes. 

I imagine an agent spends time glancing and skimming queries, looking for something to really stand out. They get hundreds of letters a week, so they can afford to be picky. I received over a hundred different form rejections. I didn't expect personalized feedback on a mere query. That's what writers' groups are for. I got form rejections on partials. I didn't expect personalized feedback on them, either. That's what critique groups are for. And if I did my job right, I wouldn't get a form rejection on a full--I'd get an offer, but that's only if the agent knows who to sell it to.

Agents get paid to sell, not to do charitable works of mercy-critiques. Honestly, I would have loved helpful feedback from each of them. Shoot, from a fraction of them. But I never expected it, and can't fault them for the form rejections. If I were their client, I'd want them hard at work selling my books--not being nice to a hundred strangers a day.

I guess marketing for such a long time makes me comfortable having these opinions. I was much younger and much more sensitive when I first started this query business, and I know I felt differently back then.
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Offline Aiala

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #18 on: July 06, 2009, 03:22:06 PM »
Agents get paid to sell.

Yup, exactly. So much so, that in their eagerness to sell, they never stop to ask themselves if what they're pushing should be sold. The result is that we end up with such hellish sewage as If I Did It, and literary civilization continues its sorry decline into ruin.   :'(

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Offline bodwen

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #19 on: July 06, 2009, 03:28:24 PM »

I blame the publishers. 

An agent might choose to hook a huge advance with the memoirs of a celebrity who was voted out on week 4 of a VH1 dating show, but nobody's forcing the publishers to take the bait.

Offline Lizzerbear

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #20 on: July 06, 2009, 03:53:53 PM »
Bodwen, by that same logic you must then blame the entire population of America b/c editors have to acquire books that will sell whether they want to or not or they'll lose their jobs. And Americans are far more likely to spend their $ on a poorly ghost-written memoir by the reality-star-of-the-week than even the most brilliant literary fiction ever written. I know that doesn't make it right, but the publishers have to sell enough of those truly terrible celebrity "written" novels and memoirs, in order to be able to afford to also sell good, quality fiction and nonfiction.

Horribly sad, but true.  :crazy:

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Offline Aiala

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2009, 03:55:26 PM »
Agents and publishers alike are guilty of colluding to bring forth lowest-common-denominator crap for the sole purpose of enriching themselves. Whether it's of benefit to the consumer is irrelevant. Of course this is simply free-market capitalism at work, I get that, but so is pimping or selling heroin.  :)

~A~


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Offline bodwen

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2009, 03:57:27 PM »
And Americans are far more likely to spend their $ on a poorly ghost-written memoir by the reality-star-of-the-week than even the most brilliant literary fiction ever written.

Maybe, if given the choice.  But we're not being given the choice.



Offline twoheadknight

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #23 on: July 06, 2009, 05:46:08 PM »
Sorry if I sound bitter, but I'm pretty sure if you laid LIGHT IN AUGUST by Falkner out with some book written by some bimbo from The Hills, your average American would pick the one with the hot chick on the cover, and leave the Faulkner in the dust.

If the consumers didn't buy it, the suppliers wouldn't supply it. 

What we all need to do is stop whining about books that suck, and stop buying sucky books  :zip:.  I'm guilty of buying utter crap books because they seem entertaining, so it's my fault as much as the next guy/gal  :emb:.

If we buy the good stuff, we'll be helping solve the problem.  If not, then we need to get off our high horses and read our Dan Brown quietly in the corner...

Offline JeanneT

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #24 on: July 06, 2009, 06:11:33 PM »
And unfortunately, I don't like Light In August.  :eek:

I think twoheadknight is right. Whether it's Twilight or the ten-thousandth Harlequin novel that is exactly same as the previous nine-thousand-nine-hundred and ninety-nine, it's the fault of the buying public.

If readers wanted other works, publishers (who ARE in it for the money) would happily provide it.

Sorry if I sound bitter, but I'm pretty sure if you laid LIGHT IN AUGUST by Falkner out with some book written by some bimbo from The Hills, your average American would pick the one with the hot chick on the cover, and leave the Faulkner in the dust.

If the consumers didn't buy it, the suppliers wouldn't supply it. 

What we all need to do is stop whining about books that suck, and stop buying sucky books  :zip:.  I'm guilty of buying utter crap books because they seem entertaining, so it's my fault as much as the next guy/gal  :emb:.

If we buy the good stuff, we'll be helping solve the problem.  If not, then we need to get off our high horses and read our Dan Brown quietly in the corner...
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Offline Aiala

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #25 on: July 06, 2009, 06:30:57 PM »
If readers wanted other works, publishers (who ARE in it for the money) would happily provide it.

First they'd have to learn how to recognize quality. Lately, they can't. Oh, sure, they'll still publish Tom Wolfe and Pat Conroy, but only based on their past stellar track records. Do you seriously imagine they'd consider Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers if some unknown newbie sent it in today?

Please. It'd be rejected in two seconds flat. No vampires, y'see. 
~A~

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Offline bodwen

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #26 on: July 06, 2009, 06:51:36 PM »
I don't think its as bleak as all that.  Great books might not be flying off the shelves at the rate of the topical dreck, but they do tend to have a longer shelf life and better selling power -- whenever a publisher is brave enough to put one out and give it the marketing it deserves.  People are still discovering books like "The Princess Bride" while nobody has wondered aloud what Colleen Haskel has been up to lately.  (If you're headed to google to remind yourself who Colleen Haskel is, I rest my case.)

My local Borders has a table called "Summer Reading" that has many good books written in the last ten years.  (I'm just sad that it all fits on one table.) 

It's too bad that publishers don't have a televised celebration of the year's greatest books.  Without the Oscars I think all movies would soon devolve into CGI fests, bromances, chickflicks, and remakes of cheesy 70's franchises.


 
« Last Edit: July 06, 2009, 07:50:29 PM by bodwen »

Offline SunriseSunset

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #27 on: July 12, 2009, 04:14:57 PM »
I'd have pre-prepared queries to suit each type of rejection:

1. I've got something similar
2. The storyline has been done before, so make it more original
3. Too many typos/errors
4. It just didn't grab my attention
5. You need more revisions before sending out more querys

Finishing all with 'Good luck with other agents. This is a form rejection because I don't have time to respond to everyone. Don't be disheartened because Winners never quit, and quitters never win.'
I must go down to the lonely sea and sky...

Offline isinglass

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #28 on: July 14, 2009, 02:05:18 AM »
Yes, I Googled her. No wonder I don't remember. I watched three episodes of the first Survivor and gave up on reality TV.

I truly thought, when they said "Survivor," that it was more of a science/nature show, sort of like reality Castaway, and they'd have to figure out how to catch fish and build shelters. Instead it was, as I told a coworker at the time, "office politics with palm trees."

Offline ajcastle

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Re: Okay, how would YOU do it??
« Reply #29 on: August 03, 2009, 01:17:32 PM »
First, I would accept unsolicited queries. I feel like there is so much out there and maybe I'd get lucky enough to snag a gem! So, yeah, I'd want to have the chance to find it.

Second, I would ask for every query to include the first chapter of their book. Now, I say first chapter because it has been my experience that MANY good books I've read start off kind of slow, and maybe take several pages to get going. Not that I think that is good or anything I just think that I would want more time to make a decision. That said, if the query and first page or two completely disinterested me or was incredibly awful, I would stop reading.

I would have a polite standard rejection for queries. I actually don't mind standards. But, I believe in constructive criticism, I don't believe in flat out dashing someones hopes, so I know it would be a very thoughtful rejection query, LOL! I am absolutely of the opinion that just because I think something sucks, doesn't mean it actually does to everyone else.

If I ask to read more, I'd probably ask for a full. But in the rare case I just needed a little longer to see if I was actually interested, I'd ask for a few more chapters. But, I think I would probably know after reading one. In those  cases I would personally respond. I feel like if you get an authors hopes up and request a partial/full, then reject, they should know why. If it just didn't capture my attention enough, I'd say so. If I thought the plot was weak, I'd say so. If something didn't make sense I'd say so. I just feel like it would be my responsibility as someone who has elicited hope in this person to tell them why I'm rejecting it. Maybe my words or reasons would help that person to make the book the best it could be. But that's just me.