Showing posts with label multiple submissions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label multiple submissions. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bad Agent Alert

I’m a published author who recently signed with a new agent. I love her. She responds quickly to all my emails, keeps in touch and moves quickly. Lately though a few things have come up that make me wonder if I’m being scammed. When looking at her web site it seems I’m her only published author, and the books she’s promoting she didn’t even sell. My biggest concern is that recently she was getting ready to submit my proposal and told me that she could not make multiple submissions, that she’d been talking to an editor who told her that if editors learn a book is out with other houses they will simply throw it away. She said that it’s a rumor among authors that agents can make multiple submissions, but it’s not true.

Let me explain first that this is one of those cases where it’s possible you aren’t being scammed, but definite that you are in the hands of a Bad Agent. I’m not sure this agent is intentionally trying to stonewall your career, and since you didn’t mention it I’m going to assume you didn’t pay any money up front; however, this agent clearly does not know or understand how the business works. In my mind a bad agent can be as destructive as a Scam Agent, sometimes more so since a scam agent is clearly breaking the law, and a bad agent is “only” damaging your career.

Let’s look at this case logically. In reviewing recent deals made by agents I regularly see postings about auctions or pre-empts. None of those things could exist if it weren’t for multiple submissions. Let’s also look at what your friends and their agents are doing. My guess is that if you ask any of them, their agents are making multiple submissions. How can it be a false rumor if everyone else is doing it?

My advice, get out. Now. It’s not your job to teach Bad Agent how to do her job. It’s your job to look out for you and your career. Bad Agent isn’t doing you any good, and if she doesn’t know how to submit, how do you expect her to negotiate a contract.


Monday, December 07, 2009

No Simultaneous Submissions

Obviously writers can't query one agent at a time - no one would ever get published in his or her lifetime. But several agencies are asking for not only a query letter but also for pages, anywhere from 5-50 (and I have to say, asking for 50 boggles my mind). I recently got a response from an agent asking for a partial (just 20 pages or so) and states that simultaneous submissions aren't considered. I don't know how to handle this. Technically the other queries are just that - queries. The agencies just happen to ask for more than just a single letter. So while the agent reads the partial, I still have chunks of manuscript at other houses waiting to be sorted through. I don't really know what to think of this. Any thoughts on how to handle it?

Before I get to the real question, let me clarify that 50 pages is basically a proposal. These are agents who are asking for more than just a query letter, but accept unsolicited proposals. Back in the day, and for quite a number of years, BookEnds had this same policy. At the time we were a fairly new agency and had more time to read submissions. We were also still feeling our way and learning what we liked, and of course it hopefully gave us a bit of an edge in that we got to see the writer’s work before everyone else.

It’s not uncommon for agents to ask that pages be included with the query. I don’t. I find that typically I’ll only read the pages if I would have requested them anyway, so I just ask for the query and request the pages when I want more. While I won’t reject authors for sending pages, I rarely read them anyway. However, I think it’s becoming more common and simply depends on the agent.

I think not accepting simultaneous submissions is the same thing as asking for an exclusive. Do a search on the blog for "exclusive" or "exclusives" and you’ll see a great deal of information. However, my suggestion is to simply send along the material and note in your cover letter that other agents are reviewing at this time, but you’ll do your best to keep her apprised if anything should happen. If she chooses not to read it, frankly, it’s her loss. I really think, though, that, in most cases, asking for exclusives or saying you don’t accept simultaneous submissions is nothing but a scare tactic on the agent’s part. She wants to make sure she doesn’t have competition, which to me says she doesn’t think highly enough of herself to think she can compete. Obviously these two issues are hot buttons for me. I think authors should have the chance to choose an agent if possible, and not accepting simultaneous submissions or asking for exclusives takes the power out of an author’s hand, power you should have since it’s your career.

So in case I didn’t make myself clear, send it anyway and let her know other agents are reviewing. And of course if any agent offers representation, my suggestion is always get in touch with all agents who have pages or material and any agents who still have a query, but who you are really interested in. Give yourself the opportunity to choose an agent rather than simply waiting for someone to choose you.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Agency Policies

I have a question about why most agents auto-delete queries that are mass mailed or are simply titled, "Dear Agent."

Let me give you a short scenario:

Writer Mary has written her book. Is it any good? Maybe. Mary does all the stuff most agents recommend, she goes to critique groups, polishes her manuscript, researches all the good websites for how to write a compelling query letter, and then decides to query.

Now, we all know that 999 out of 1,000 times, her query is going to be rejected. She may have issues with the query letter, issues with her writing, or the story just isn't currently marketable (or a thousand other things). Fair enough, and I think most writers realize that these ARE the stats. So do agents. You ladies both know how the slush pile works better than I, or any other writer does.

So by agents stating online that they want a personalized letter, they are telling every writer out there to spend hours on EACH agent they choose, knowing they are still going to be rejected by almost every one of them.

So often I hear agents say things like, "It's all about the writing." Okay, fabulous. Well then, why do agents care about the heading of the query so much and not the meat? Does the heading always pre-qualify the story? If Mary has written an extremely well thought out query letter and written prose that could knock the socks off anyone, but she puts "Dear Agent" or mass mails it to multiple agents, they won't even read her query. On first blush, that smacks of hubris. It seems to uphold the fallacy that agents are prima donnas and simply must have a personalized query to stroke their egos.

But most agents I have spoken to/emailed weren't like that. So I am confused why agents want a writer to spend so much time doing something that's going to get them nowhere and why the focus is taken off the actual story and writing and onto something the doesn't really matter anyway. Agents know writers are going to query multiple agents.

I can only think of one good reason, but it doesn't address the issue for the reason.

I'm sure in your history, you've found that people who send out mass mailings do it without concern of which agent gets what story. They'll send their medical mystery to agents who only accept non-fiction or science fiction. The notion would be, "Well, if they don't care enough to personalize, then they probably don't care enough about their writing." But by telling writers not to generalize their query and not mass mail, you're not addressing this particular issue. People who do that, don't read up on the proper way to query anyway and will continue to do the same thing. I suppose that it does give you one more easy out for a query in the slush, but it almost seems a ridiculous rule.

Is this merely a way to try and stave off the ridiculous amounts of query letters you folks get? I can't imagine it would work. That slush pile is like your credit card bills: it just keeps coming at you.

I will continue to spend around 30-60 minutes on each agent I send to, and still garner the 99% rejection rate, but it would be easier to just craft one package and send it out.

I included the author’s entire question here because I like the short scenario. I also think that the author was sincere in asking the question and not at all attempting to be snarky.

Sometimes I’m honestly not 100% sure why I do things until called to explain. What I do know is that there is always a reason and in the end it’s what works for me. Before answering the actual question, let me fill you in on a little agent secret. We don’t actually expect each individual query to be personalized beyond much more than the name. In other words, once you craft a solid query you should be able to simply cut and paste that query into the email and add the agent’s name to the top. Yes, I know that still takes longer than writing one general “Dear Agent” query and adding 50+ names in the “to” section of your email, but that’s the way it is.

So why are we so demanding? No, it’s not about stroking the ego, that’s what this blog is for [insert grin here and prepare for angry anti-agent backlash], it’s about professionalism and making things a little harder on you. When I started in publishing, email did not exist (in publishing). Authors who wanted to query were required to write (typically type at that point) an individual query letter, place it in an envelope, add a stamp, and mail the old-fashioned way. In other words, it took a little bit of work, which meant that only those who were really serious would make the effort. Now we have email and everyone and their mother is writing a book and haphazardly sending it off to agents. You nailed it when you said that it’s a way to stave off the amount of queries; it’s also a way to ensure that people actually need to think about the queries they are sending.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had to send out resumes (and let’s hope it continues to be a long, long time), but I remember back in the day working hard on both my resume and cover letter. I would agonize over every little word and each formatting indentation. Each cover letter was personalized to the person and company I was submitting to. Sometimes I would simply change the name and other times I would add a line or two that gave it a little extra oomph. I think of queries the same way: you are trying to impress someone and in doing that you are hopefully putting your best foot forward. If you send a query to everyone and their mother and I can obviously see that by all the names at the top of the email, it shows that you only want to do the minimum required to get the job. It makes me wonder if you feel the same way when it comes to revisions and the writing of your book in general.

I hope I properly answered the question. What I can tell you, though, is that if Writer Mary really spent that much time crafting a query, she isn’t mass mailing to 50+ agents at a time. She’s too serious about her writing career to do that. Those who send out the mass queries typically think publishing is easy and haven’t bothered to learn otherwise.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Waiting by the Phone

In February I attended a writer's conference, pitched to an agent and he asked for my full MS. We had a very pleasant and positive meeting. Eight weeks later I followed up and he quickly and warmly replied that he'd get to it ASAP. Two weeks later I contacted him again because another agent requested a partial, but as an exclusive. I let the first agent know, because I wasn't sure how I was supposed to handle the issue and to try and nudge him for an answer since he'd had my MS for ten weeks. Once again I received a prompt and warm reply. He encouraged me to send my partial to the other agent and said he was still "looking forward" to reading MS. That was four week ago.

Am I being naive thinking this guy will ever read my work? Other than not getting an answer, all my communication with him has been positive. Do I contact him again or move on?

Anything is possible. What I would focus on is moving on. It’s hard, I know, not to try to put all of your eggs in one basket, but since you are getting requests for partials from other agents I would keep querying, keep submitting and continue to touch base with Agent #1 every 3 to 4 weeks or so. By my calculations he’s had the material for about 12 weeks now. That’s about when I would think you should be hearing from most agents. While I know many will say he’s probably just not that interested if he hasn’t gotten to it yet, and certainly that’s sound advice, it also doesn’t mean he won’t be all over you with interest once he’s finally had a chance to read it. I know that frequently I’m overwhelmed by the submissions that are taunting me (and yes, they do taunt) and sometimes I find myself frozen by their glaring eyes. Even though I’m excited to read a certain submission, the shear numbers of submissions I should be reading overwhelm me. What finally breaks it for me is that one book that gets me excited to offer representation again.

Never give up, but keep moving on and checking in, with everyone who is reviewing your work. You never know when that offer will come, who it will come from or what it will spark from other agents.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two Agents, One Agency

I have a question I hope you can help me with. After passing on book 1, an agent at an esteemed house offered to consider any future work of mine. I told her about my WIP (book 2), and she said she'd like to see it when the full is ready. Subsequently, another agent at the same house (which allows non-simultaneous queries of its agents) requested a full of book 1, which she still has. It's only been two months since I sent it.

Now, book 2 is about a week away from being query-ready, and it's admittedly much stronger than book 1. I don't want to lose the chance of working with this agency because I'm waiting on a weaker book. Is full disclosure best in this case? Should I send the first agent book 2 with a disclaimer that a colleague is still considering book 1? Or should I status query the second agent, and mention book 2, as well as the outstanding request? Or something entirely different?

Uff-da. This is a tricky one and one of the reasons why BookEnds doesn’t encourage querying multiple agents at the same house. I thought about this for a while and ultimately decided that I think you have two possible options. Of course you might come up with more, but here’s what I’ve determined.

Your first option is to send the first agent a query thanking her of course for her interest and reminding her that she had suggested you requery, and then explain the situation and see what she wants to do. She might simply suggest you contact the second agent since she is already considering book 1. I know that if a situation like that were to occur at BookEnds our advice would be not to have two books out with two agents at the same agency at once, and we would suggest you simply send book 2 to the agent who already has book 1. The only thing you lose here is the possibility of working with the first agent, so, if it’s really important to you, or if your dream is to work with that first agent and you feel you want to give her first dibs (so to speak) I would suggest you move on to option #2.

Option #2 is simply to wait it out. The second agent has had the manuscript for two months, you are still about a week away from querying. Since she’s requested the full I would think you should be hearing at the three-month mark. If not, it’s perfectly appropriate to nag at that point. Start your query process and hold off on that agency for now, but give yourself a deadline. If you haven’t heard from the second agent either by the time their suggested response time is up or in four months (from submission) I would go back to option #1 and see what happens.

Ultimately it sounds like you are in a great place. You are clearly writing work that’s garnering a lot of attention and catching agents’ eyes. In my mind you aren’t going to lose by going with either option #1 or option #2, it really just depends on what feels most comfortable to you.

Good luck!