Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Query Question: the hybrid author

With the growing popularity of hybrid and self-publishing options, I have a number of published authors in my writing chapter who are not represented and now wish to find agents.

Publishers like Tule, Booktrope, and Entangled are accepting authors without agents. In addition, several of these authors have pending deals that are based on proposals -- the books aren't written.

How would these authors find an agent now? What would a query letter from a published author seeking representation after-the-fact need to say? 

If you're querying for a novel that hasn't been sold, you query as normal. In your pub credits you mention the books you've sold previously and the publisher to whom you've sold them. If the books are sold but not yet published, you say "forthcoming from X Press."

If you're querying for a novel for which you have an offer in hand (book written or not), you put that information in the subject line:

RE: Query for Title (publication offer received)


One of the HUGE drawbacks of taking on clients who have not had an agent negotiate their previous publishing deal/s, is that the author is now tied up by the terms of that contract.

Sometimes that's not the best news you can bring to the table:



63 comments:

brianrschwarz said...

I once heard a story about a huge band who toured back in the 90's. They were playing stadium level shows for tens of thousands of people every night, covering the distance from LA to NYC, and they were doing the whole thing out of a beat up twenty year old 8 passenger van. They signed a very terrible deal which they did not have an entertainment lawyer look over before signing. And when the tour was all said and done? They owed ten grand back to the label.

Pretty obvious they got screwed. And it'd be great if they were the only ones... but no.

Sometimes doing well in an industry is as much about who you're married to as it is about how well your book was written.

I believe the best course for us unpubbed artists is still to revert to the hybrid method when faced with no other choices. And it's not for the same reasons it used to be. It's not because people can't do well self-publishing. It's not because self-publishing carries a stigma (which it still does to a small degree).

It's because approaching traditional publishing first ensures that we have the best chance/experience possible with it.

That's my two cents! :)

AJ Blythe said...

There you go, another surprising answer for me. I would have thought having pub credits would just be a positive.

What issues are there with having contracts for previous books? Surely the agent only has to worry about the books that come from the first contracted to them?

(Oooh, am I first today?)

AJ Blythe said...

Dang. Brian, you win *grin*

Donnaeve said...

It's interesting, this particular issue of previous publications w/out an agent with a small press. You've talked about these contracts in previous posts, with some do's and don'ts, but these contracts still churn up the water no matter how careful a writer may be when negotiating the terms.

What makes this a bit of a conundrum is sometimes writers are simply trying to obtain "street cred," to build up their publication portfolio so that they might catch the eye of an agent, and what they might actually be doing is the opposite. That looks like a thanks, but no thanks picture. Maybe the agent would still want to untangle the mess if sales were stellar.

I got ice cream! Yum.

brianrschwarz said...

Unlike pasta kitten - we can fly unfettered into good contracts and building a solid backline of books to help us later on.

I thought about deleting my first comment and adding this bit... but then why delete when I can just vomment again?

Also- this brings something interesting to mind. If someone went back and deleted every comment they had ever made on QOTKU's blog... would anyone else wonder what the heck was real? Pretty sure my brain would explode. :)

Amanda Capper said...

"... the author is now tied up by the terms of that contract."

My agent-less contract with the publisher was for only the one book. Should I mention that in the query? I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt. This publisher would have nothing to do with any further books I produce. I also retained movie rights. Ever the optimistic possum.

brianrschwarz said...

AJ -

We swapped days, remember? I'll send you the Carkoon spreadsheet again for reference.

It's tough to read because it's basically a bed sheet covered in peanut butter grid lines and words, but you'll get the idea.

I get firsties on Thursday and you get them on Friday!

MB Owen said...


Brian,if not mistaken, it's yarn-kitten, not pasta kitten, though I like your moniker better. :)

Is it all the waiting (and waiting) + feeling that there are eleventy-million other people trying to squeeze through the same traditional door that has writers turning to self-pubbing?

Kitty said...

Brian, I thought I was the only one who saw pasta kitten ;~)

Btw, my reCAPTCHA verify was "Cep 59054-630bLagoa Nov" Really?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

MB: not just eleventy-million competing but also the impatient-wanna-pub-NOW or people who want or need to be paid sooner than the glacial pace of trad publishing. And I'm aware the there are folks who love being enterpreneurs and want to do the whole ball of yarn (NOT me!)

I think what Amanda says is key. Signing a contract that only involves rights to one book and only specific bits for that one book.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Recently I heard of Inkshares. A rep was presenting them at Shakespeare and Co. I didn't go because I prefer to find an agent because there is so much more than just seeing the words in type and the books on a shelf.

I wonder what Janet thinks about their publishing contract. The link is direct.

They write "Please read this contract thoroughly. It’ll only take 5 minutes."

AJ Blythe said...

Oh, right *slaps forehead*. Sorry, Brian, it's that timeshift again from Down here to Up there. And all that peanut butter was distracting.

Colin Smith said...

MB: There are a number of reasons for self-pubbing, most of them good and valid, and I can sympathize with them. Not just the speed of publishing, but also taking control of your career, getting the most money out of each novel sold, not being at the mercy of an agent's wish-list or a publisher's catalog (e.g., it doesn't matter to you whether an agent/publisher thinks vampires won't sell--you can publish your vampire novel and prove them wrong... or right!), just to name a few. However, this whole contract business is one of the reasons I still want an agent. I want someone to help me navigate a publishing career, not just help me get a novel on the market.

brian: I had some really cool spreadsheets, then Craig went and did the laundry... *sigh*

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I don't have a single useful thing to say today other than if I had an offer from a publisher, I would be scrambling for an agent harder or a good entertainment lawyer. I was in real estate long enough to know how people can get screwed around on bad contracts.

Once they sign them, they can't bring them to Julie Realtor and ask her to fix them. All Julie Realtor can do is fill out promulgated contracts and agree that's a horrible contract you signed.

After the big crash in west Texas in the 80's we were forced to move to town. The boys were bored out of their minds and I still took them out to a friend's where they had their rope horse and to ride steers, but they was still a lot of pent up energy.

Cody, the middle one was outside every waking minute roping something. The roping dummy, tin cans, passing dogs, passing cats, birds, shadows, his brother Brandon. And that's where the trouble started.

Brandon wasn't all that interested in roping, but that didn't mean he couldn't rope. Brandon would be outside working on his go cart or something and Cody would rope at his feet and trip him. The fight was on. I'd hear, "I told you to stop roping me!" Then I'd see the two of them flying past a window one of them intent on murder.

One day the battle ended in the front yard with strangled screams that I had to go check out. Brandon had roped Cody, tied his feet to the top rail of the fence and had the water hose out trying to drown him. "Are you going to rope me again?"

"Brandon, stop trying to drown your brother. Cody, stop roping Brandon, you know he doesn't like it."

And that's how I envision myself negotiating publishing contracts. Me upside down with my feet tied to the top rail and someone trying to drown me. I'll pass. Life is exciting enough without borrowing excitement.

On another note, I discovered yesterday I don't have any Neosporin in the house, but I do have Tri-Care Wound Care. It reduces pain, fights infection, and repels flies. I should be good.

Donnaeve said...

Tri-Care Wound Care repels flies.

*note to self for future backyard bbq's when ALL flies in Harnett county come visit.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Useful is overrated. You usually have something worthwhile to say. Like today--another fun story! And very true. I'd rather have an agent than be trussed up in a contract lasso.

Julia said...

I think I'm looking at this first novel as akin to a first time mortgage - you get one shot at that really good loan and "newbie" status when there's a bit of "Here you go; now let's see what you can do with it," on the table, and I guess I don't see why one would attempt to do that on his/her own. Understand that I've heard the arguments - but you can always go back and self/indy afterwards. The OP suggests that the option was there for the writers to approach agents, so it was voluntary - so it seems rather cart before horse to me and

Julia said...

Drat. WHY I attempt to do this on iPhone before hitting the library eludes me. "Never lose an opportunity to shut up," indeed. Someday I'll heed that. This is not that day, Aragorn.

Anyway, Janet's pic seems very appropos.

When the wood in the room's
Filled with dresses for June
That's Armoire....

Moon Jelly

Dena Pawling said...

In my local RWA chapter, there are authors who self-pub, authors who sell direct to publishers, authors who have agents, and lots of hybrids. A few months ago, one of the agented authors said her agent actually encourages her to self-pub certain things [which she enjoys doing]. I'm not sure how they determine which to self-pub and which to sell thru the agent.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie: wow, sooo vivid! lovelovelove the story.

Colin: LOL, so the peanutbutter grid was washed away?

And I forgot to mention in my first comment, awwwww. Love little blue-eyed Siamese kittens. We once had a Siamese cat but its mother was a mixed breed. So obviously the unknown father's genes dominated.

Kitty said...

Julia, one time we got stuck with a bad real estate contract. We were hoping to relocate out west, but first we had to sell our home. It was 1980 when nobody was selling homes due to double-digit mortgage interest rates and required hefty down payments. So the realtor urged us to sell on a land contract and offer an interest rate lower than banks. We got a buyer within two weeks. The only problem was the realtor didn't say anything about the contract being short term. Instead, we got stuck with a 20-year contract and paying income tax on the 'income' for years. We eventually sold it, at a loss of course. But we just wanted out of the damned thing. Live and learn.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: Here are a couple of reasons I might self-pub something even if I have an agent:

* To keep it separate from what I'm publishing with my current agent/publisher--maybe even putting it out under a pseudonym. Especially if the agent thinks it's not something any publisher she knows would take.

* Old titles that have been deleted and with which I now have full publishing rights. Just because Harper thinks that title's done with, doesn't mean there aren't a few thousand folks out there that may still enjoy it.

* Perhaps I want to publish a novella, or a short story collection--these are (as I understand it) typically harder to sell to a publisher. Again, especially if this is outside the norm of my usual work.

There's three I can think of off the top of my head.

LynnRodz said...

Okay, at first I thought, what a cute kitty with all that spaghetti around him. Then I thought, nope, that's yarn because it's on the floor. Then I thought, hmm, maybe he dropped the plate off the counter and now he's covered in pasta. My last thought was, Geez, Lynn, get a life!

Signing a contract with a publisher is one of the reasons most writers would rather have an agent by their side.

As far as self-publishing goes, there are a few good reasons for self-publishing. For example:

1. Nobody will publish your poems unless you're a well-known poet. (Dena, I think this is a reason for certain hybrids.)

2. You've honestly tried the traditional route for years with no takers and you believe in your work, so it's your last resort.

What is this with everyone wanting to be first? I'm usually tapping my foot waiting for someone to comment first before posting mine. Then I start whistling and tossing a coin in the air if there are still no takers. I guess tomorrow I'll just have to make AJ wait until Saturday. (Kidding AJ, you can be first.)

Hey Colin, speaking of lawyers (I skimmed over yesterday's comments today) get Dena to evict that no good insurance guy! Jennifer will be joining us soon.

Aj, have your hubby go to the zoo and I don't mean Tijuana! (No offense to anyone from Tijuana, they have great margaritas there.) The San Diego Zoo is considered on of the best in the world. Then again, being from Down Under, you probably have some great zoos yourself.

Mark G said...

hybrid, self published options lead to,

'I have a number of published authors in my writing chapter who are not represented and now wish to find agents.'

I'm going to be nice and keep my mouth shut.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Brian: the thing you describe, building up a presence and then getting rid of it all to make people question reality, is what we in the business call "gaslighting"


So, any supplies from the real world Carkoonians want me to bring on touchdown? Sunscreen, puppies, nutella, Dungeons and Dragons books...?

Colin Smith said...

Jennifer: Leave the D&D books behind. We have plenty of both dungeons and dragons here. In fact, I do believe a visit to The Lair is on the newbie tour.

You can definitely bring some Nutella, though! :)

Karen McCoy said...

Dena's comment led me to a question. Is it as much of a yarn tangle if the author chooses to go hybrid once they've gone traditional first? Any drawbacks to this scenario? Colin's post-agent self-pub ideas sound pretty reasonable.

MB Owen said...

Karen/Colin: The first crop of reasons Colin gave for self-pubbling are ones I've often heard--and more power to those industrious writers who choose this route. The second crop of reasons Colin offers I hadn't considered. Interesting stuff. I wonder how an agent(s) would look at this?

Megan V said...

I swear, these comments are one of the best parts of my morning.

Julie Weathers-I love your stories, they are a pleasure to read and always make me think "she really needs to write a memoir or an autobiography, just so I can buy it."

As to the original post, I'm guessing it's like this.

Contract signed=Yarn kitten. Yarn kitten would be all tied up. Agent won't want to spend time untangling. Whereas, offer received but no contract= Pasta Kitten.
Pasta kitten would send agent something along the lines of Query for TITLE: Bird In Claws

Dear Agent,

I have a bird in my claws and it ready to eat my pasta manuscript. Please reply fast. Pasta almost gone. Bird might be gone soon. *whisker twitch* Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
A Cute Kitteh

And Agent might jump in to rescue the bird.

Karen McCoy said...

LOL, Megan! I vote for "Pasta Kitten" as one of the ReCAPTCHA memes.

brianrschwarz said...

@MB - I should just hire you to point out everytime I'm wrong. It'd keep me thoroughly entertained and you thoroughly employed. ;)

@Kitty - You are not the only one who saw pasta! Thank you for making me feel less silly (if that were possible).

@Jennifer - Gaslighting sounds sort of like high school to me. I disappeared my junior year for post secondary and never went back... and I told no one.

Also - Bring more peanut butter. I'm running out. And more sheets.. the ones i've been using, even after a good wash, look bad. But maybe it's because I keep getting ready for bed like this!

Donnaeve said...

Actually..., the picture is almost suggestive. For instance,when Brian said it was pasta, I saw pasta. Then MB said, no, it's yarn, and THEN it looked like yarn to me. Yarn. Pasta. Pasta. Yarn. It almost reminds me of that book about subliminal advertising called the THE CLAM PLATE ORGY from back in the early 80's.

I love going off topic! Whoop!

Dena Pawling said...

Colin -

Quite a few of the authors in my RWA chapter self-pub their backlist once they get their rights back. And regarding the one agented author I mentioned, I remember the book she just self-pubbed wasn't her usual romantic suspense, but I don't know why she self-pubbed it. I suspect you're right tho, in that maybe it was a genre that wasn't selling that well right now. I do know she self-pubbed using her regular name. Another author who sells direct to Avon started a new series in a totally different tone than usual (most of her stuff is dark, this new series is lighter) and her editor asked her to pick a pseudonym. The new series is still with Avon.

So many different scenarios.

REJourneys said...

"Sometimes that's not the best news you can bring to the table," unless you bring pasta-yarn kitten too. Then it looks better or was it you'll have something better to look at?

I imagine some people soley do self-publishing because they write for fun, edit for fun (those poor twisted souls), and decide "why not see if I can make something extra?"

That'd be me if I wasn't so determined to fill my plate (which I had to pick off the floor after pasta-yarn kitten rearranged the kitchen table). I love being busy, it makes down time all that sweeter.

That was somewhat relevant...

I don't know much about contracts, except that I would hire a contract lawyer to tell me what I was signing (and to see if I could get a better deal).

On another note: If pasta-yarn kitty knocked the Shark's meal to the floor in an effort to rearrange the kitchen table, would the kitty, and all its pasta-yarn, be sent off to Carkoon? Or do cats have nine strikes before they are exiled?

Note three: I had to pick sushi. I'm pretty sure one of those images I selected wasn't sushi, but it took it anyway...

Susan Bonifant said...

Brianschwarz,

This is really well put:

"I believe the best course for us unpubbed artists is still to revert to the hybrid method when faced with no other choices...because approaching traditional publishing first ensures that we have the best chance/experience possible with it."

Julie,

Every time you say you have "nothing to offer," I know there's a good story coming, with a startlingly relevant bottom line.



Amy Schaefer said...

REJourneys, everyone knows you can't exile a cat. They just come back the very next day.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm goona make copies until my ink jet runs dry, then I'm goona to staple all the copies together, then I'm goona hit the streets and hand out all my little stories to whoever wants one. If they read it fine, if they don't who cares. Everybody needs birdcage liners anyway.

Oh wait, the newspaper already does that and I don't have to use up my ink, paper and staples.
Hey, I'm famous. So why am I here? I'm delusional too.

Carkoon is such a happy place. I love my happy place.
Drool....

Numbers, all I ever seem to get is numbers.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

With commonly reading 99% rejection rate from agents, what are we poor little woodland creatures to do. Those are not enviable odds. Of course, like most here, I would love to have an agent, but beggars can't be choosers. And, unfortunately, with facing those odds, I do feel like a beggar, even though I wholeheartedly believe in my work. Even though I'm fairly confident, at the same time, I feel like Oliver, hands cupped together, "Please, Sir, can i have some more?" Poor Oliver. Woe is me. Self-publishing is an option, but far from Option #1, but maybe I should be happy that it's so much easier these days to go that route... It's all a big big learning process, and I learn more efficiently through experience, not to say that I don't read other's experiences and value them.

@ LynnRodz and AJ, Ooh, I've been to the zoo down under in Sydney - The Taronga Zoo right in the Sydney harbour - stunning!

alaskaravenclaw said...

They're not really odds, though. It's not random chance; what the writer brings to the table makes a big difference.

MB Owen said...

@Ginger: is it really a 99% Rejection rate? Wow. Really?

@Brian. Do I REALLY SOUND like that?!! Ewwww.

I need donuts.

bjmuntain said...

There are many good reasons to self-publish. It doesn't have to be last resort or only certain genres/lengths/whatever. For a lot of people, it's having control over your career, your book, and your money. And that's fine for people who have good money sense, a good lawyer to turn to, and a lot of designing skills (or are willing to pay for them).

But I'd rather have an agent. I can read legalese not too badly, but I hate negotiating. Someday, I may self-publish some things - but I'd rather have an agent advising me on what and when, to make sure I don't screw up my career. I think this sort of self-publishing can be very useful for an author who is also published traditionally.

Many traditionally published authors are now self-publishing, as well. But they have a following already, so it's not like Little Suzie Newbie trying to yell at the world through a straw, "Buy my book (please)".

And now Amy's got me singing The cat came back.

Craig said...

Wow, late afternoon EDT and the thread is still the thread. Amazing.

A while agone Carolynn announced that the whole query thing was a crapshoot. That stuck with me and I kept my eyes open.

Sure enough, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Your dream agent woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. Or got sick of social media. Maybe the author you compared yourself to got arrested on a domestic charge.

All you can is your best. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and give the die a cast. You can't win if you don't bet.

The peripherals won't matter if you hit the right agent at the right time. Don't let them see you sweat and keep at it.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

@ MB Owen - Well, I guess some agents have only a mere 94.55%rate....Donuts sound like a good idea, but that kitten tied up in pasta is giving me a hankering for linguini. I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!

LynnRodz said...

@Ginger: that's what I had for dinner as well, all because of that photo. I'm not complaining, it was good.

I've never been to the zoo in Sydney. AJ mentioned her husband was in San Diego for a few days and she wanted suggestions on what he could see/do while he was there.

Donnaeve said...

If it's of any consolation, I'm fixing spaghetti as we "speak."

It's okay, don't worry! Kitten not included.

:)

Perfect. I even got to choose pasta.

kdjames.com said...

I thought it was a pasta kitten too, but that has more to do with me being gluten-free and longing for real pasta. *sigh*

I'm slowly starting to recover from the people overload of last weekend (the wedding was perfect and everyone was so very happy!) but OMG, that was a lot of talking and listening.

I don't have anything useful to add either and, unlike Julie, don't even have a great story to tell. But I do find it interesting how much things have changed over the past several years. Publishing things. And the conversations we're having. Seems the only thing that hasn't changed is that readers still want a good story.

Blogger had better not make me look at pasta.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait a minute, wait minute, you had kitty parmesan with linguine and I wasn't invited?

DLM said...

Dagnabbit, MB Owen. Now I just want doughnuts for supper. It's a good thing I'm too much of a couch potato to go buy any, and there are no doughnut delivery services locally. (There is one brilliant COOKIE DELIVERY service - warm, homemade cookies and milk, right to your door! - however, for good or ill, I am out of their service area ...)

Also: I have no response to the question. Obviously.

Hi!

Bye.

:)

DLM said...

Also, I worry about cats and yarn, or string, or dental floss, or anything like that. It can be dangerous in the extreme when they (inevitably) start eating it. So I'm telling myself that's pasta.

Also: aww. Pasta Puddy. Kes-ke-se.

bjmuntain said...

kdjames: I feel your pain. The rice pastas are okay, though. But they don't stay long and stringy for very long. The kitten wouldn't have much to play with.

I agree with DLM. My sister's first kitten would eat the strings of tinsel off our Christmas tree the first year. It was funny, in that it would invariably come out - and we were very lucky it didn't cut or bind anything on its way through. That was the last year we used tinsel.

So yes. Pasta is safer for kittens.

brianrschwarz said...

I've gotta jump in on our probability debate!

Here's the deal you beautiful humans. If there's 1 million writers in the world... 5% of 1 million is a lot of humans (50,000 to be exact).

You've gotta remember two things when you play the probability game.

1) the people who win arent the rule, but the exception. You can't expect to be the rule and throw the dice. You have to put in more effort than anyone else. You have to improve your odds and not fold for anything.

2) What matters most of all is doing what you love as passionately and with as much conviction as you can muster. It's easy to quit. Even easier to quit before you finish what you started. But the statistics are pretty clear on this one - you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

I get it. Some of us won't get an agent. Not ever. Nor will we make kabillions writing fiction. But some of us will. We're already leagues ahead of average by being here, reading this blog and learning, perpetually moving forward. And I think that's worth a garbage load of awesome.

So if you're with me in the query trenches, high fives to you. I'm not quitting. And I like you all too much to hear you complain about the odds. Because the odds blow, but yall better stay on the horse anyways! ;)

Pretty sure Janet expects it too! ;)

I hardly ever swear...

But fuck the odds. ;)

DLM said...

Brian inspires me once again. If only there were any agents left to query, I'd bother 'em right now!

But for now, the WIP. For when the goods are good, but the odds are against 'em anyway.

kdjames.com said...

BJ, the quinoa pasta is pretty good too. But you're right, it's not the same as the real thing. I remember way back when I was first figuring out I had this problem and was still very much in the denial/bargaining stage of grief. I decided maybe it would be okay to eat angel hair pasta, because it was so skinny and maybe it wouldn't have as big an impact. Yeah, right. :eyeroll: My body was pretty emphatic about what a dumb idea that was.

As for odds, you all have significantly improved yours just by reading this blog and asking questions and talking to other writers and LEARNING. There are SO MANY compelling voices over here and every single time you write a comment (yes, that counts as Writing) you hone and strengthen and gain confidence in your voice and your power as a writer. Simply refuse to quit.

Colin Smith said...

You beat me to it, brian. The statistics may be interesting, but they are irrelevant. We don't write and submit to agents because the odds are great. We do it because that's how you go about getting published traditionally.

To put it another way: what are the odds of getting an agent if you never write a novel? If you never submit a query? If you never try? I'll tell you: ZERO. Your odds are infinitely better if you actually finish the novel, edit it, and query it.

bjmuntain said...

I haven't tried quinoa pasta. Not sure why. I'll have to pick some up. I've just gotten in the habit of eating rice as my startch - many types of rices, but rice. It works for me, because I tend to forget I'm cooking something... yeah. Not good for the pot or the food. But the rice cooker stops on its own.

I think the stats being given above were for agents going through their queries, not for writer success. Agents get a lot of ugly stuff in their inboxes. If you write crap (say, you're querying your first, unedited novel), you have a much higher chance of a rejection than if you write well (like one or more novels, fully critiqued and edited).

Moral of the story: write well, get a terrific product to sell, and you're chances of being in that agent's 1% will be a lot higher than those poor slobs who pound out a 50,000 word novel in November, then send it out without fixing it.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Heidi-come-lately wonders who put LSD in the punch in Carkoon?Not that she minds. It just means everyone will be more likely to not interrupt as she gets long-winded.

I'm going hybrid this year.

Currently I'm an unagented author who's sold two novellas to a Respectable Small Press, and am about to deliver a third. I'm published with the RSP because they take novella length and they've treated me well.

I have some full-length novels that are making the agent rounds. I get full requests and good feedback, so I believe I am sellable, but most of the time the agents are saying, "Not For Me". Alas. After all, it is a tough market. (I'm told many, many times that I'm publishable, just not This Project at This Time. Please sent more.)

My experience with a small press has taught me that yes, I want an agent, and I want to sell to a commercial publisher and I want someone else also interested in marketing my books. I have very specific reasons for pursuing this path, and not just "Ooh, the whuffie!"

I also know that not every agent wants to rep me, not every book I write will please my agent, and not every project will get sold to an editor. There's gonna be stuff that's not going to end up on the shelves.

For these projects, I'm lucky enough to have the indie route. In this 21st Century, now that indie publishing is gaining the same respect that indie music has enjoyed for years, and quality products can be created and offered worldwide, I've got a beautiful new outlet in which to offer my work.

Sure, I'll continue to pursue the traditional route. I see benefits in it for me, such as belonging to a team of professionals, but at least it's not the only path.

As for being pre-contracted to a publisher before seeking representation, I can see how certain clauses in a contract can create headaches for an agent for subsequent projects.

I haven't had this, but mates of mine have had contracts that ask for First Refusal Rights for subsequent projects. (i.e.: the next book an author writes must first be offered exclusively to the contracted publisher. Publisher is under no obligation to accept or publish that book.) Oh, you might think that's something cool if you're a greenie (you want my next book as well? awesome!), but it's actually a rather nasty clause.

This also falls under Janet's "Exclusives Suck" policy.

Such bear traps in a contract can annoy a future agent to no end.

Previous contracts can have some less-than-stellar clauses. Could be something as simple as a complete rights grab (which I have had, more fool me), to something as nefarious as the First Refusal Rights.

Sometimes you don't realise how bad something is until ex post facto. This is why we love Her Sharkness for sharing her professional expertise. Not all of us are contracted to an agent, but at least we can borrow Her Sharkness's experience for the price of a top-shelf sip.

It helps prevent us from making some really stupid mistakes.
___________________
Her Grace is not a robot. Though she has played one on TV.

Sam Hawke said...

I once read a post by an agent - I've searched again but unfortunately can't find it - that addressed that whole '99%' thing. Basically she said it's a useless stat. Instead, she said to think about it like this. Of your 'competition' you need to take out:
- genres she doesn't rep
- ones that are flagrantly not following the submission guidelines
- ones that are coo-coo banana pants, claiming all kinds of grandiose rubbish, being aggressive/rude, endorsed by God, etc
- ones that demonstrate absolutely no grasp of English writing skills (ie riddled with errors).

That takes care of the completely not under consideration ones.

Then you ALSO knock out ones that are competent but unoriginal - boring, overdone, cliched stories or ones flagrantly ripping off bestsellers.

And you're left with... maybe 5%?

It's that 5% that are your ACTUAL competition. If you're here reading the blog I think it's safe to assume you're not incompetent, crazy, unable to follow basic directions or conduct straightforward research. I'm pretty confident you're in the 5%.

Of course it's still hard. You still have to dazzle the agent - make them LOVE your work, not just like it. But 1% of total subs sounds unachievable. 20% of realistic competition sounds a LOT more reasonable.

AJ Blythe said...

LynnRodz, thank you for shimmying over a day. Y'all are so obliging here ;)

I suggested the zoo to The Hub, but we used to live close to 5 different zoos (one of which was Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo), so I think he's a little zoo-ed out.

Brian, your "F**k the odds" made my grin. Only way to look at it. Brilliant.

Really disappointed I don't get to play the pasta game :(

RobCeres said...

This post spawned two thoughts.
First, who are the good self-publishers and good publishers that take un-agented work? Presumably Entangled is good, but after that it gets very fuzzy for me. It’s fairly easy to scour the internet and identify good agents (spotting all the bad ones is harder). This does not seem to be true for self-publishers.
Second, a good thing that agent rejection letters did for me is force me to realize that my manuscript was not ready for primetime. Okay, well, it sucked. Had I gone self-published I would never have realized that and revised, revised, and revised. And without that, my self-published book, like oh so many self-published books, would never have sold. Let’s face it. The reason so many self-published books don’t sell has nothing to do with how much work goes into self-promotion and everything to do with the quality of the writing.
And by the way, self-promotion mostly doesn’t work. Nobody even likes to hear people brag on themselves. Nobody believes people who do. Nobody buys self-published author’s books because the author tells them to. And Twitter book ad spam, oh man, don’t even get me started on how annoying that is.

bjmuntain said...

There's a huge difference between self-promotion and marketing.

Self-promotion: Telling.

Marketing: Showing.

Self-promotion: Buy my book!!!!!

Marketing:

- blog posts on similar topics
- interviews
- chats with possible readers about topics covered in your novel
- book trailers (but only if they're done so well that people will enjoy them without ever reading your book)
- finding your audience and engaging with them
- finding a need your book fills, then talking about that need
- the big marketing slogan these days is: Engage, engage, engage.

You're right. 'Buy my book spam' sucks. I like how Sam Sykes does his on Twitter. He'll be talking about something totally different, answering other people with made-up conversations, and the conversation will end with 'Buy my book' just thrown in as a sarcastic afterthought. And you won't see it coming, so it's hilarious. He does other types of marketing, of course, but I don't think I've ever seen him use 'Buy my book' seriously. Unless he includes the word 'seriously'. Which is also just funny.

The ones that say, "My book is out! Buy it!" are okay when the book first comes out, sort of as an announcement to your current followers who - you might believe - will also be excited. After the initial excitement, marketing gets more nose-to-the-grindstone, less 'Buy my book!' Or you'll drive off all the folks who have been reading all your posts and are now tired of that message.

JEN Garrett said...

Glad to see I'm on the same page as Janet. Someone just asked me that question. I told her, basically, that being successfully published can be a good thing if you have more than one manuscript. Essentially, the agent earns more money on new projects that don't have a contract yet.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

@ Brianschwartz - Giddy-up. The odds suck, but I'm not a quitter.

Btw, my taglitierri was yummy, and even better was the to-die-for chocolate mousse!

b-Nye said...

Think it's yarn kitten though...