Friday, August 05, 2005

An Interesting Day

I have to admit, I like seeing literary agents show up in my blog comments. Even when said agents don't agree with me and cite facts that contradict my opinion, or happen to work for the agency that represents RWA President Tara Taylor Quinn (broad wink.)

I also like hearing writers talk about their experiences with agents, especially when they don't jive with my own. Thanks to Tam, Stuart and Tobias for giving us their insight, and if you haven't been out hopping, check out Tobias's post on getting an agent first here.

Given that we have three authors and an agent disagreeing with me, I gave all this a lot of thought. I see no problem with submitting to agents and publishers simultaneously. However, from what I've seen happen to aspiring and established writers, as well as my own experiences with agents and publishers, I can't get behind the idea of pursuing an agent first. That's why I'm going to be stubborn and stand by my opinion.


  1. Anonymous4:11 AM

    I recently backtracked and decided to pursue an agent first instead of a publisher/editor. What went into my decision was the fact that what I'm writing does not fit inside of genre fiction labels(I consider it to be Historical Fiction with romantic elements in the vein of Diana Gabaldon and Lauren Willig) and without an agent, I really don't feel that I could sell my current WIP successfully. My future agent will know what house and what editor to send it to, how to market it and such. I feel that it's a bit easier to pursue editors first when what one is writing is clearly defined because one knows what said editor wants/represents/edits. Otherwise, unless one knows someone in the Biz, one is shooting in the dark. Which is why I am going to write to the best of my ability and then write some more. It's the least I can do.

  2. My own experiences with both agents and publishers have been less than satisfactory, with the result that after too many years and six completed novels I am neither published or represented. This may be because I can't write for toffee, or it may because I'm very unlucky. Most likely it's because about five years ago I got so hacked off with rejection letters I stopped submitting my material. Now I have four completed novels that only Stuart MacBride has read and I've been shamed into trying to sell some of my work.

    So who do I send it to, agents or publishers? In the UK at least, I can't help thinking that if you are a slush-pile author (i.e. not a famous name, journalist or somehow connected to the business already), then you have to find an agent first. And as the likes of Publish America and Publish and be Damnned start flooding the world with books that should never have seen the light of day (not to mention MacMillan New Writers and its ilk), good agents are going to be more and more important.

    If you're lucky enough to land a publishing deal without an agent - great. Well done. You must be both an outstanding author and have a great deal of luck. But I for one would be happier working with the agent who had spotted my genius and agreed to nurture it before there was obvious money in it.

    An agent has asked to see one of my manuscripts having read the first chapter. I will say no more.

  3. Anonymous11:04 AM

    I'm hunting an agent first.

    I have read in a couple of places that you get a contract first and an agent second for fantasy and science fiction.

    That for mainstream fiction you get an agent first and a publisher second because no one reads the mainstream fiction slush pile at publisher's houses any more so you have no hope of getting a contract without an agent.

    I'm starting with my mainstream fiction so I'm going to get an agent first. (My work is currently on the desk of a very promising agent and I am keeping my fingers crossed.) If I decide to submit my science fiction work, I'll do a little more research and then (probably) submit to publishers without an agent.

    I don't know if what I read about the sci-fi and fantasy rule (contract before agent) -vs- mainstream fiction rule (agent before contract) is accurate or not.

    Anyone out there (agents, editors) want to take a stab at that?

  4. Anonymous11:08 AM

    I have to respectfully disagree w/Tobias' #2
    2) Your agent can simultaneously submit your novel to a number of editors. You can't.

    It's not that we can't, but that we're not supposed to--big difference. While I understand that agents simul-submit for different reasons than writers do (IE buzz, competition and the chance to take a manuscript to auction), that doesn't and won't stop me from simul-submitting. It's also not something I do willy-nilly. There IS a method to my madness, I have my reasons, and they work well for me. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.

    Interesting discussion all around. Frankly after my own agent/editor experiences I'd much rather land the editor first.

  5. Anonymous11:19 AM

    anonymous at 11:04

    May I ask what kind of material you publish?

  6. Anonymous3:35 PM

    I already mentioned this on one of the earlier comment threads, but I feel the need to point people again to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's classic post “On the Getting of Agents”.

  7. [Shrugs.] I've had good luck with publishers, i.e., editors. My successful query ratio was quite good with editors. And even when rejected, all had a few helpful comments--no form rejections. Eventually, I sold the novel to a small publisher.

    The ratio was much lower for agents. A few didn't even bother to reply. (I sent SASE. Where's my darn stamp?) Most just sent form rejections. Two requested partials and were nice in their rejections.

    I don't have anything against either, but for this newbie, editors were much more approacheable.

  8. Anonymous6:37 PM

    I'm in Pat's corner.
    I've always had luck with publishers at least responding, usually positively, even if they didn't buy. I've only received one form letter for all my efforts with editors.
    No such thing with agents, though.

    I know quite a few who owe me 37 cents.


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