Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What to Do Next

Some time ago I wrote a post on Freakishly Unresponsive, Mysteriously Silent, Information-Withholding, Possibly Jekyll-and-Hydeish, Raging-Headache-Inducing, No Good, Very Bad Agents in which I said, “If it is a proposal you want with another agent, the submissions you pulled should be able to be re-sent at a later date. If not, let it die out and move on to another agent with another book.”

Obviously this is a topic that concerns a lot of authors because I’m still receiving questions on the subject. What happens if you can’t get the list of publishers your previous agent has submitted to? How long must you wait before resubmitting that work?

This is a tough situation for anyone and I can warn you my answer isn’t going to be pretty. My advice is that while you should certainly feel free to try and find an agent with that previously shopped work, because you just never know, the best and easiest thing you can do is start writing something fresh and new. Don’t just saddle yourself to the same work. There’s no set time limit to how long you should wait to shop the same work a second time. Some agents might fall in love with it and take the risk of sending it to the same editors a second time. Truthfully though, without having a history, most agents are going to be a tad gun shy, unless they are absolutely confident they know the right person for the book.

In one situation a reader noted that the book her agent was shopping was the first in a nine-part part series of which she was working on the later books. I’ve talked about this before, but will mention it again. I think it’s a mistake to put all of your eggs in one series basket, and this is a prime example of why. Even if your agent had been in close contact and kept you up-to-date on her submission process, what did you plan to do if book number one didn’t sell? My suggestion is to put down the series now, you’ve already gone above and beyond what you can do with it at this point, and start writing something fresh. Something new you can shop to agents and publishers “just in case.”

This is a difficult situation for anyone, but this is why I so strongly suggest career planning. Having a plan ahead of time can help prepare you for any situation, good or bad.



Anonymous said...

Is it typical for an agent to submit to one editor at a time/ I have a friend whose book is out on submission and that's what his agents plans to do. Seems a little odd and time consuming to me.

Julie Weathers said...

I think it’s a mistake to put all of your eggs in one series basket, and this is a prime example of why.

This is really hard advice, but valuable. I, of course, hope this wip sells because I love the story and the characters. However, if it doesn't, having an entire series done based on one book that may or may not sell would be heart-breaking.

If the next book sells a person can always dust off the first book.

Having said that, I think a true series that just uses the same characters and settings, but offers a stand alone book each time is different. I believe Tony Hillerman published for years before one of his Native mysteries hit it big. They then went back and re-released earlier works.

A continuation series, not sure of what the proper terminology is, depends on the first book to sell.

There are too many variables to hang your hat on one book.

Barbara Sheridan said...

If one can maker series books truly stand alone all isn't necessarily lost. Way back when I had a trilogy the first book of which no one wanted.

The third book turned out to be the one that sold--to you actually, for the old Time Passages line.

Anonymous said...

I do know many writers who were able to sell their second book in a series as their first book. I believe all had agents, though, so obviously, these agents counseled them to try again, based on editor feedback.

When the first book in my series was on submission, I got a lot of advice from fellow writers that I should write the second in the series. My agent didn't advise me either way (I stupidly didn't ask and she didn't offer the information). But based on what editors were saying, I knew it was time to move on to a fresh project, in case #1 didn't sell. And sure enough, it didn't.

I still pine occasionally for that series. And it's hard to wave goodbye to several years of hard work. But I know I need to put on my big girl panties and get on with it if I'm going to be a published writer.

Karen Duvall said...

Great advice, Jessica, about series books. And about planning ahead. My agent is shopping the first book in my series, and we've had enthusiastic response so far but no offers yet. But before I even got my agent, I started writing a new book in a whole new series just in case plan A doesn't work out. We already have interest from one editor in the new unfinished book. So who knows where that will lead? And though I'm chomping at the bit to write book two in the first series, I'm equally excited about the new series, especially now that I know I have editor interest. It's a wacky business. No wonder writers are neurotic.

jnantz said...

But, but, but, I just KNOW that first book will sell. It HAS to. If it doesn't, what am I going to do with the other twenty-seven that follow it?


L.J. Sellers said...

It seems that the likelihood of a second-book sale would depend on whether the series was based on a continuing character or continuing story line (sequel). But in this rapidly changing industry, almost anything seems possible.

Barbara Martin said...

Now I understand why I was told to write "stand alones" for my series. Thank you so very much. May you find the next best selling blockbuster.

Anonymous said...

It's tough on a writer when an agent turns "freakishly unresponsive" and "mysteriously silent". This has now happened to me. For six months I had, what I thought, was a perfect relationship with an agent who then suddenly fell silent. When ten weeks had passed without communication I sent an e-mail to ask where we stood and I was told that the agency no longer wished to represent me. I then asked for a show sheet but this was not forthcoming. What am I doing speaking of a show sheet? They did not even have the professionalism, or decency, to acknowledge receipt of my e-mail! I am therefore now in the position of not knowing which publishers have been pitched.

I am not however abandoning my book - it is non-fiction and I spent two years researching the subject and two years writing the book - because of a bad agent. Being a journalist and being used to pitching my work to editors,I am now my own agent. If I should pitch a publisher the ex-agent had already pitched, so be it.

From a writer who is not very happy at the moment.