I posted a quiz on Wednesday asking:
Do you know enough about publishing to be sending queries?
Here are the answers.
1. True or False: Literary agents sell your work to publishers.
FALSE. You license your work to a publisher. An agent makes the deal on your behalf. Selling implies ownership transfer, and you always always always own your work UNLESS you sign a deal that is work-for-hire.
It's VERY important that the word license is used in the contract.
2. True or False: Publishers register and own the copyright on books they publish.
FALSE. Publishers may register copyright but should always be on behalf of the author. Any contract that requires you to relinquish copyright should be re-negotiated. The contracts should specifically say "on behalf of the author."
3. A literary agent's standard domestic commission is:
c. Depends on the amount of the deal
Answer: b. Domestic sales are 15%. Subrights sales overseas are most often 10% but that percentage varies.
4. True or False: a good place to find out about agents are the ads in magazines like Poets and Writers, or Writer's Digest.
FALSE. Ads touting agents or agencies in magazines are most often list of places to avoid querying. Reputable agents don't advertise. They don't need to. Lists of agents are available on the AAR website, QueryTracker, Absolute Write and other similar places. A quick google search will do the job, as will a search of agent members of Publisher's Marketplace.
4. True or False: You need to hire an editor to go over your manuscript before submitting it to an agent or publisher.
FALSE. It doesn't hurt to have a second set or even a many-set of eyes on your work before it goes out but you don't need to hire an editor.
If you do elect to hire an editor make sure you know the difference between a developmental editor and a copy editor.
If you do elect to hire an editor get independent references.
5. True or False: It's who you know that gets you an agent.
FALSE. Being in NYC or knowing people who work in publishing can help, but it's not the one and only path to representation.
6. True or False: if you don't earn out your advance, you have to pay it back.
FALSE. You have to pay back your advance only in certain, very terrible conditions: you didn't deliver the book, you delivered a book that's not publishable. Those circumstances are, thankfully, rare.
7. True or false: The best way to meet agents is in person.
FALSE. Like all reptiles, agents are more afraid of you than you are of them. It certainly doesn't hurt to have met an agent at a conference but I signed most of my clients without meeting them.
8. True or false: agents are too busy reading queries to answer all of them
FALSE. Reading queries is a very VERY small portion of the daily workload.
9. True or false: agents are looking for the next hot category
FALSE. Agents are looking for work they can sell. Big hot category busters (like 50 Shades of Gray) are most often not-replicable. Chasing trends for your first novel while you're trying to break into publishing is a recipe for disappointment.
10. True or false: if you get an offer from a publisher, an agent will be more likely to take you on as a client.
FALSE. A small deal offer from a wet behind the ears publisher is often more trouble than it's worth. A contract offer that has been accepted by the writer can't be further negotiated either and that can hamstring an agent from making a better deal for you.