Saturday, November 03, 2018

deal categories and prioritizing queries


I have reached the point where I'm ready to start querying. In the process of making a list of agents, I also started looking them up on Publisher's Marketplace, and I discovered some agents list their deals on their page, and some of them have the type of deal also listed, as in a 'nice, very nice, good, very good or susbstiall' deal.


 So my question is are there other categories of deals and what kind of order do they come in. For instance, is good better than nice, or vice versa? Clearly, substantial is better than good or nice, but are there other categories like average, through the roof, and going to auction, and would you be comfortable giving approximate advance ranges in each category?


I ask because everything else being equal, wouldn't it be better to go with an agent who makes lots of substantial deals over someone making a few nice deals here and there, or someone making a lot of very nice deals over someone who makes the occasional substantial deal?


Deal categories were created by Publishers Marketplace, not by agents.
Here's how the categories sort out:





Prioritizing by number and/or level of deals is not a good idea.
It's not a good idea because not all deals are reported, and some deals are reported in ways that don't  reflect reality accurately.  In other words, deal reports aren't notarized statements, and particularly on the larger deals, there's a lot of ... ahem ... flexibility.



The best way to  prioritize your query list is Me First, then everyone who has sold books in your category.  Your goal is to find someone who loves your work, plans to stick with you through the long haul, and has a client list you can verify those things with.

I've made big deals and small deals for the same client. I've had books that didn't sell for that client.

Much of what makes an agent right for you isn't quantifiable.



16 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

In life two things are quantifiable: envelopes with windows and calories.

Cheyenne said...

I’ve read before that not all deals are reported. Why is that?

Sherry Howard said...

This area of deal-reporting is another squishy, malleable element of publishing. I keep my membership, but I use it as a base, not a Bible.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Evaluating agents on some mathmatical formula does seem unteneable. For instance, an agency I really respect has just promoted a brand new agent. No agsnt background but she worked at ome of the major publishers in my genre. So not much of a track record for herself but the agency is fantasic. So I am going to query her. OP, go with your gut after doing the research.

nightsmusic said...

My questions would be: Are you writing for the deal or because you can't help yourself and have to write and thus, get it out in front of people, which leads me to question 2, Is it more important to get the six figure deal with an agent that's a PITA to work with or have an agent who, based on the feedback out there, would be a great fit. While we all like the money, sometimes it's about much more than that. At least for me.

Bunny said...

"The best way to prioritize is Me First...." made me snort coffee across the breakfast table. Too funny!

Panda in Chief said...

I know I am always comparing the Lessons of Janet to Things in the Visual Art World, but it applies here too. I've been in Big Important Galleries that turned my head as a young painter, who, unless you are already a big star, don't give you the time of day, and smaller "less important" galleries in not great locations that sold my work like snow cones on a hot day at the beach, and didn't dump me when the economy crashed.

Guess which one I'm still with?

Like E.M. says, do your research then go with your gut. The numbers don't come close to telling the whole story.

Colin Smith said...

Others are already saying this, but I haven't commented much in the last few days, and non-contest Saturdays tend to be slow so here goes... :D

Yes, agents can fight for good deals, but, from what I gather (I'm not an agent), big deals are not always in the best interest of the author. Especially if the agent isn't sure if there's enough of a market for the book to cover the huge advance. Remember, authors don't see royalties until the advance is paid. Clearly that's not always the case since agents make big huge stonking deals (is that a PW category?) all the time. But it is a consideration that good agents will make.

All that to say, the quality of an agent is not how many A-list clients they have or how many BHS (Big Huge Stonking--it's a thing now) deals they make. It's how well they treat their clients and how much trust you think you can put in them.

Think of it this way. Agents with superstar clients are more likely to give the big names the most attention because, face it, they bring in the most revenue. And agents who are always chasing the BHS deals might turn down good offers from publishers for more money, which is not always in the writer's best interest.

I'd say that trust relationship is more precious than silver.

Jen said...

@Cheyenne- Some agents don't report deals b/c they're busy. I was under the impression, at least from what my agent mentioned in passing, that agents have to report their deals to PM for them to be in those daily/ weekly reports.

So, I guess, the moral of the story (at least for me) was don't assume an agent who hasn't had a deal mentioned in PM isn't actually getting deals? [shrug] It's hard to know what goes on behind the scenes for sure. :)

@OP- Honestly, when I was looking for an agent I devoured those PM emails like manna from heaven. I wanted one of those "top" literary agents, not realizing that there are a lot of factors involved in what makes a "nice" deal vs. a "significant" one. I also learned the hard way that finding an agent who LOVES your work and who has the same vision for your career should be your #1 priority. Don't be afraid to ask questions to potential agents to get a feel for how they work and what their plan is for your MS. And good luck, OP! I hope you get a ton of offers! :)

Craig F said...

I'd like one from column six, please. I think any agent would also like that. I don't think they are ones that decide, though. That is between the book, itself, and the publishing company.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


I use news of these mega deals more to get a sense of the trend in publishing. When a book about waitressing in contemporary New York, another, a YA about Black Lives Matter and a third one about two women animators all net million dollar advances, I borrow them from the library and see for myself what all the buzz and dollars-love was about. Interestingly, in doing this, I discovered another way of reading books. It's like trying to see the figure hidden in a 3D image. It places a huge burden on each book because I want it to justify itself to me, but I found, happily, that each book does have its own peculiar magic, its unique active ingredient that elevates it from the rest.

Now, if only I could capture some of that literary pixie dust and scatter it all over my manuscript. For now I can only dream of significant deals while I slog through 1,600 words a day.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Know how I choose who to query?
1) They represent my genre.
2) They are taking queries.

Elissa M said...

Jennifer, you've been peeking at my priority list!

Now I have a quandary. Janet says I should query her first--but I know for a downright fact that she doesn't represent my genre. I mean, an auto-reject from the Shark is still better than an auto-reject from anyone else, but is it worth wasting that nanosecond of her time?

Colin Smith said...

Elissa: I think Janet would say yes, it's worth it. You're more likely to get a rejection if it's not a genre she's comfortable with. But in the past she has said she'd rather see something outside of her wheelhouse in case she loves it than never get the opportunity to say "yes." :)

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Colin and Elissa,

I have tried twice to query the Shark.

Each time, I go to her agency's web site, and when I see, listed SO clearly, what each agent represents, I end up querying another agent because I can't bring myself not to follow the instructions.

Liz Penney said...

I read Publishers Marketplace all the time. One, I use it to find agents/editors who might be interested in whatever I'm shopping at the time. Two, to 1) check size of deals pubs offer and 2) make sure an agent isn't only selling low-hanging digital fruit that doesn't need an agent. I also look at trends in what's selling etc.