Monday, November 26, 2018

I only want my work sent certain places; should I mention that in the query?

I mainly write romance, which I realize isn't in your wheelhouse, but I have no doubt that you'll be able to offer some insight. I am about to leap into the query trenches, and hoping that my perfect-for-me agent and I will find each other and begin our wonderful working relationship soon. So, here's my question (and yes, I know I'm putting the cart before the horse here, but it's been on my mind):

The romance market is unlike any other genre out there, in that there are a number of imprints, attached to large publishing houses, that accept unsolicited submissions. These imprints also, for the most part, only publish ebooks (at least as a first step). This is not what I want. I feel like submitting to these imprints is something that I could do on my own, and while having an agent in my corner when it comes to the contract is a huge deal, I'm not sure I see that benefit as the same sort of asset as an agent's editorial contacts and relationships at places that don't take material from un-agented authors. I mean, wouldn't these sort of contracts be boilerplate? I can't imagine that there would be a whole lot that an agent could negotiate, although it is very possible that I could be wrong about that. It has happened many times before. :)

Is it wrong to say to a potential agent that I don't want to submit to these particular imprints? And now that I've written this down, I feel like I'm sort of being an ass-hat. I mean, I don't want to seem ungrateful, especially if I'm lucky enough to get to a point where this becomes an issue. Finding an editor that wants to publish my work is the ultimate dream, so am I being foolish by being so picky?

The question isn't if you should mention this, but when.
Do it in the query letter and it's an instant pass.

Nothing is more offputting than a writer telling me what they will and will not let me do before I've even read their work. It's the signal the query writer is someone who doesn't know what they don't know.

If/when an agent is interested in your work, you can certainly mention this. I have this conversation with all my prospective clients. It generally starts with a discussion about their career plans and expectations. Choosing not to submit to an e-book only press is certainly valid, but you want to make that choice AFTER you discuss this with your agent so it's part of a strategy not just a statement.


You're entirely wrong that a good agent won't be of value for a small press, or ebook press deal.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

Good question, OP. I am glad you asked although I suspected the answer would be exactly as our majesty said.

Years back, I was offered a publishing deal by a small e-book only vanity press which I passed on without giving it much thought. I had not submitted to them or anything. I was at a conference doing a pitch and edit of first pages workshop. The editor offered me a deal on the spot, a little too enthusiastically as I did not feel the book was anywhere near ready for prime time. Understatement of the century.

That vanity press disappeared the next year. That is why I want an agent - it is that kind of thing I want to make sure I avoid. Also, I want a space on the darn bookstore shelf. My, how my delusions of grandeur sustain me. Good luck, OP.

John Davis Frain said...

Don't most e-book publishers start with an e-book and then publish the print version? Why am I thinking I read that somewhere?

Regardless, if one must sacrifice the debut for the better of the upcoming catalog, it's a noble offering. And certainly worthy of consideration.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

This exact scenario actually did arise while I was Janet's client. We had discussed my career goals and were in complete agreement that I was committed to signing with a major print publisher. Then I went and wrote something, supposedly just for the fun of it, that was too short and too far outside the box to ever be picked up by one of those houses. A friend who wrote for a digital imprint read and loved it and offered to forward it to her editor with a glowing recommendation.

I immediately emailed Janet to ask her opinion. She said go ahead, but DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT SAYING YES TO ANYTHING WITHOUT MY SAY SO.

As it turned out, they did make an offer. And that was the point when Janet traded me to my now-agent Holly Root, who had other authors with that same publisher but still picked through their boilerplate contract to be sure they hadn't snuck in any new wordage that might have tied our hands when it came to selling my next, bigger book to another publisher. Because even boilerplates can be changed, and it's rarely to author's advantage.

Some writers will tell you that having an agent involved in those kinds of contracts is giving away money. And others will tell you the sob story of how their digital imprint hasn't made any effort to sell their books in years but because of how 'out of print' is defined in their contract, they can't get the rights to their work back as long as it's listed for sale on a single website, and what could be a profitable backlist is just sitting there doing nothing.

So you've gotta ask yourself, which one of those people would you rather be?

Kari Lynn Dell said...

In answer to J.D. Frain: My experience with digital imprints is that most now use print-on-demand as the second option, versus doing a regular print run of their own. There's no risk for them in POD and most don't have the marketing staff to get books into stores, which is what they've have to do to make a print run profitable. That's just not their gig.

The exception would be if they have a book that really takes off and there's a demand for print books, in which case getting them into stores becomes more a matter of just making them available than begging for shelf space.

Jen said...

Love the advice on this blog!

So, here's my lousy two cents: I have a friend who's a published romance author. John and Kari are on point. For one thing, boilerplate does NOT mean simple. There are many ebook first publishers who have complicated contracts that should not be negotiated solo. My friend tried that and got screwed over. So, having an agent is definitely helpful when dealing with e-book publishers, to say the least.

Also, many e-book first publishing houses (including Avon and Random House and Carina Press which is a part of Harlequin), often choose to put books in print that have sold well in ebook form (which John mentioned). So having your book only published electronic at first is not a foregone conclusion that it will stay that way.

From a non-romance writer perspective: After navigating shark infested waters in my own career, I have learned a LOT more after having an agent help me through. Things I thought I knew turned out to be erroneous assumptions. And I'm still learning.

GL to you, OP! I wish you a lengthy and prosperous career!

AJ Blythe said...

An agent will help to steer you to the best place for your story and career. I want to hold a hardcopy of my book but I want a career more, and if that means starting e-only then so be it. Work out your priorities so when you do land your perfect-for-you agent your career goals will be clear. Good luck, OP.