Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Signed: Nervous

I have an agent and I am a bit concerned now: your latest blog post said that most books are sold within a few weeks. Mine has been with my agent for about 6 months. He is still going strong at it and doesn't appear phased at all, and we've only had 4 rejections.

He is one of the biggest names in the business so I have had complete confidence in him. But do first-time novels sometimes take this long to sell?

Please do not get nervous. I believe the blog post you’re referring to was my piece on the agent submission process, where I mentioned that I usually hear from editors within a few days or a few weeks. That does not in any way mean that if your book has been on submission for longer than three weeks that you should throw in the towel. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that I have an offer in a few days or a few weeks. What usually starts happening very quickly is activity. That means editors are rejecting the book, calling to ask more questions, bringing it up at an editorial board meeting, and, yes, making offers.

What I always remind my authors is that it only takes one. It only takes one offer to sell that book, and while we would love an auction for every sale, the truth is what we want is to see these books in print. I think the record for a BookEnds sale was two years. The book had been sitting on one or two editors' desks and the author and I had pretty much forgotten about it and moved on. After a while you even stop calling and simply assume that no news means no interest. Then out of the blue I got a call with an offer. The timing was right and the publisher wanted to buy the book. Of course, on the flip side of that we’ve received offers within 24 hours of sending submissions out.

I think the important thing to note is that whether your agent is the biggest name in the business or the smallest fish in the pond, you want someone with the necessary contacts and you want someone who has more than just enthusiasm for your book, you want an agent who feels passionate about the book you’ve written and has the determination to stick with it. Whenever I’m asked how many houses I’ll send a book to or for how long I’ll try to sell it, I always give the same answer: as long as it takes until either the book is sold or we firmly believe we’ve exhausted all of our contacts.

In the case of this reader it sounds to me like you are in great shape, not because your agent is one of the biggest names in the business, but because he is still going strong and you have complete confidence. Those are more important than almost anything else. Besides that, though, four rejections is nothing. You’ve got a long way to go before this project has run its course. Good luck!



Julie Weathers said...

To Nervous. If you still feel good about your agent and are comfortable with his or her abilities, then stick it out to the bitter end.

I had a wonderful agent for my children's books. As long as she still had hope, so did I. Good agents who believe in you are hard to find and I would never give one up without a fight. Hopefully, you are working on another project. Sometimes the project just isn't right for the times or requires more time to sell.

Be patient and have faith.


Anonymous said...

Anyone want to enlighten me on how many editors an agent should submit a book to if it doesn't sell right away? What is the number at which an agent could/should give up after being rejected? 10? 30?

I know a picture book writer whose agent gave up on a picture book submission after sending to only one editor.

I read on another blog about an agent sending a clients book to twenty-five different editors (accumulative, not all at once) before getting a sale.

Is there any reasonable middle ground? If so, what is it?

Rachel Glass said...

This is encouraging. I guess the bottom line is, finding the right agent for your work is like finding the right shoe; it needs to fit.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm the guy who asked the question. Just wanted to let you know that in between emailing the question and you guys posting an answer, we got a deal! So you're right- I had absolutely no reason to worry!

Mags said...

That's the best comment I've read in a long time, Anon 11:34. Thanks for sharing that!

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Congratulations anonymous!!! We love good news.

I don't think there's any set answer as to how many editors your agent should submit to. That depends on so many factors including the genre, marketability, etc. I think having a conversation with your agent about her plans and feeling comfortable with them is the most important factor.

Diana said...

Congratulations, anonymous!

Rachel Glass said...

I'll third those congrats!

Chris Redding said...

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. (John Lennon)
So if I have something huge I want to happen, I move in a different direction. When I wanted to get pregnant the first time I went for a promotion at work. I got the promotion and promptly found out I was pregnant!
I've learned that if I want a contract I need to focus on the next book. Especially if it is one in a different genre.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Anonymous on the deal and proving Bookends advice right on target, as usual!!

Best wishes.