Saturday, November 29, 2014

Query Question: one at a time, vs all your work contracts with agents

In researching agents, I found two categories: those who rep "one book at a time" and those who take on a writer for a contracted amount of time, or perhaps "career." What is the benefit of the former situation? 

One book at a time means the author and agent contract with each other for the one book (and presumably for the option book if there is one.)  The other option is the author and agent contract with each other to work for all the work a client will do.

The benefits of One and Done are:

1. If you decide the working relationship isn't to your liking, you're free to seek another agent at the end of the project.  When querying for the next book, it's a whole lot easier to say "my previous agent
repped books one at a time" rather than "my previous agent and I didn't get along."

2. You're not committing blindly to a future you know nothing about.  You're in for a year or two at most.

Both of these are true from the agent and the author point of view. If the client turns out to be a troublesome diva, well, the next book isn't automatically your problem.

I offer contracts for careers, not books. The reason is I've found over years of experience that first book may not be the first one I sell.  I prefer to be in for the long haul at the start. I want my clients to know they can have confidence for the long term.

Of course, there's a 30-day termination clause so either of us can end the representation agreement without cause at any time.

There's a lot to be said for both types of agency agreement. When you're interviewing all the agents who offer on your book, ask them why they offer the type of contract they do.  Make your decision based on that.


Colin Smith said...

I thought most agents repped long-term, not just single book. It's interesting to have the pros of the one-shot plan laid out, though it's not something I would consider (he said as if he's in a position to choose at this point). I like the idea of having an agent who, over years of working together, gets to know me, my life situation, and how I work. After all, the agent is supposed to represent my interests to the publishing world, so it's to our mutual advantage that we know and trust each other.

That's my idealistic 2c, anyway. Of course, who knows what I might agree to if I get desperate enough... ;)

Dena Pawling said...

I'm with you, Colin, your comments as well as your current situation. I'm looking at querying sometime early 2015. The thought of days, weeks, months, who knows [thank you Eeyore for a concise description of my next step lol], of waiting, biting my nails, rejection, more waiting, more rejection, and then hopefully one day get THE CALL, only to realize I'd have to do it all over again in 1-2 years. Not a pleasant thought.

Dena Pawling said...

Unless I was only writing the one book. Then I can definitely see the benefit for a one-book contract.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Like Dena and Colin, I also prefer a colleague/partner building agent rather than a one-time stance agent (though unlike Dena, I'm not even close to being ready to query).

Although, there's nothing saying that you can't submit a second query for your second novel to your first-time, one-time agent?

Craig F said...

Is the query process appreciably different if you sign will an all you write agent?

Everybody likes roller coasters but they do get old after a time.

AJ Blythe said...

I hadn't realised there were two different approaches to contracts. Interesting to note the approaches and the pros and cons for each.

Anonymous said...

Here's what would happen if an agent offered me a one book contract.

"Auuuuuuugggggghhhhhhhhh" the sound of a loud thump and uncontrollable sobbing in the background.

Agent: "Julie? Julie? Are you all right?"

No, Once I find dream agent I do not want to do it again. It would be like getting married to the perfect man to have the perfect child then going out to find another perfect man to have another perfect child or deciding whether we wanted to stay together with first perfect man to have second child.

Sorry, if it's a good match, and things don't go south, we'll stick together.

MNye said...

One amazing book every 10 years, sounds about right...