Monday, May 05, 2008

Re-querying Agents

I wrote a book two years ago, and queried your company for representation. It got as far as a partial request, but the novel was turned down. Several other queries were sent out to the agencies that I thought would best fit myself and my writing style over the next year, but all got no farther than the partial request, and were eventually rejected. The book was later rewritten, and got a full manuscript request and an offer from a New York house. I would like to use this opportunity to get an agent and of course have the agent negotiate on my behalf. I really like some of the agents who have rejected the work, so would it be okay to requery them even though they rejected the partial, and if I do should I mention the previous version?

I say go for it. With an offer in hand you are in the driver’s seat more than ever. What’s the worst that can happen? These agents say “no” again? You’ve got an offer from a publisher, you can easily get over that rejection. If these are agents you really like and feel you could work well with, then I say keep knocking on their doors, with one caveat: Don’t rule out that there are a lot of great agents out there, and in addition to those who may have already rejected you, you should also consider some fresh names on your list.

One of the reasons you might be getting rejected is because you’re not actually the good fit you thought you were. By talking to agents beyond those who’ve already seen your work you are giving yourself a better chance of finding the perfect agent, and not just a great agent.

As for whether or not you should mention that the agents had previously seen the work, honesty is always the best policy. Absolutely let them know. They might figure it out anyway, and it’s better coming from you. If that means an automatic rejection, it wasn’t meant to be, but if your revisions fix exactly what they thought needed fixing, then you’re in great shape.




Anonymous said...

I say skip the agent and get a lawyer. They can negotiate for you and you pay as you go, not a percentage.

It's not about how much money you can make, it's about how much you get to keep.

Anonymous said...

Now, to me, a lawyer sounds like the wrong direction to head. They may have the technical expertise to negotiate for you -- read the language of the contract, rewrite more favorable points based on expertise in law, but they wouldn't have the industry expertise an agent would have --- what are similar books getting for advances/royalties etc, what quantities are similar books selling at, what points do publishers typically give up easily, which ones do they fight tooth-n-nail. Would an attorney know the standard timing for advance payments? Seems like you'd like to want industry experience on your side, not legal. The lawyer may charge you a lesser flat fee than the standard agent %, but the better deal the agent will probably negotiate for you will most likely pay out better in the end, IMHO.


Anonymous said...

I'm with Heather; a literary agent knows publishing contracts much better than an attorney would . . . unless the attorney is also a literary agent. :)


Anonymous said...

anonymous #1, Miss Snark disagrees with you strenuously.

Anonymous said...

150 - -
Just read the Miss Snark post and I stand corrected.

Anonymous #1

Robena Grant said...

Yes, Heather, I agree. I think an agent would have more ability to negotiate better deals as you progressed in the business. A good agent would be more helpful in advancing your career.

A lawyer could review the clauses of the contract but he/she wouldn't have the insider information that an agent would have. Also, the lawyer wouldn't have the contacts in the industry that would get your book to the best possible editor. I think a lot of this stuff is who the agent knows and their ability to network to get the material under the right eyes.

I know of one lawyer/literary agent who charges the standard agent fee.

Christie Craig said...

Okay, I'm confused by anonymous' response.

Why would a lawyer be the best person to go to? Yes, I'm aware that lawyers deal with contracts, but to me, it's like going to a used car salesman to sell your house. Or taking my son to the vet for his cold. Of course, if a lawyer is an agent, then I guess that changes things.

And I'm even a bit more confused by the last remark, "It's not about how much money you can make, it's about how much you get to keep."

Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, because I totally suck at math, but doesn't what you make, the bottom line, always affect the bottom line of what you get
to keep? 100% of $1000 might sound good, but compare it to 85% of $10,000 and well . . .

And while I'll never even pretend to know all the ins and outs in this business, I've seen enough to know that a good agent not only worries about the bottom line regarding money, but the big picture, as well. And, trust me, there is sooo much more at stake than just money.

My agent just spent over a week trying to get the wording in a contract changed so it won't affect the outcome of my next sale.


Anonymous said...

Robena makes a great point too -- an agent gets the manuscript to the right editors, which ideally gets a better offer even they are the only publisher offering, simply becuase they are the write publishing house or gets the ms to ALL the right editors, and they bid each other up. A lawyer wouldn't have any of those contacts so would be negotiating a potentially "low ball" offer, when an agent may have started you in a better place, and ended you in a better place.


BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I can't resist. I'm afraid I have to jump in here. Anon 9:44, it sounds like everyone else gave the answer I would have although I have a couple of things to add.

There's no guarantee that a lawyer will cost you less. If the contract is for $5000 a literary agent will cost you $750, a lawyer could easily go over that in two or three hours time. On top of that though, an agent is a sales person and has the ability to negotiate other rights as well, whether you're able to hold on to them yourself or she negotiates better splits with the publisher. I doubt many lawyers have the ability to do that.

Another thing to consider is that the agent might be able to take the original offer and parlay it into a bigger deal with the same or another house. A lawyer is unlikely to have those contacts.

And lastly, it's unlikely a lawyer is going to be able to help grow and build your career.

Oh, double lastly, few lawyer's actually understand publishing law and publishing contracts--a crazy business.


Anonymous said...

Back to the original post: I don't see why you wouldn't contact agents you liked but had initially rejected your work. You have an offer from a NY house. If they rejected you initially because they don't rep YA, then don't bother. If they sent a form rejection with no real reason, just a "no thanks:, then maybe I'd be on the fence about reaching out again (unless it was my crush agent:) If they rejected you because they thought the marketplace was already to crowded with your type book -- well, why not contact them ? You have an offer in a crowded marketplace - thats pretty good news! If they rejected you with a letter/email saying the writing was great but the story lacked X, contact them and say " you rejected my ms because it lacked X, I fixed that, and I now have an offer". Seems pretty straight forward. As someone else posted, worse they say is "no thanks" and you both move along fairly happy - they don't have a client they are not excited about, and you have an offer in hand and just need to find the "right" agent. Not so bad in the realm of the worlds problems, right?


Aimlesswriter said...

Good question. I think prepubs are a little nervous about doing something wrong/stupid in regard to agents.
Regarding calling an agent vs. lawyer? No way, you need an agent. Lawyers don't know the industry as well, don't have the connections and wouldn't be as helpful to your career in the long run.

Anonymous said...

If you find yourself in this situation, do you sent out a request to multiple agents at one time? Or do you send out the request for representation to one agent at a time and wait for them to turn you down before moving on to the next agent? What's proper etiquette here?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you would be right about a lawyer, if it was a movie script and you were dealing with a movie studio. In the book biz, no. Right now, even at 15%, any good agent will definitely earn their pay.

As for the topic question, I think it's a great story and well worth telling. That the author was rejected yet came back with a rewritten, better version and got an offer for themselves speaks volumes and will sell some too. By all means, they should renew their previous contacts but they should take Jessica's advice also. They should pick a dream agent, the most powerful, the best looking, the one with the straightest teeth, and pitch them. What the heck, they've already got a deal, all that remains to be seen is how big it is.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Anon 6:56:

If you have an offer in hand you have limited time, only about a week or so before the publisher will want a decision so in this case you want to let agents know your time frame and hit them all at once. Be aware you probably don't want to hit 50, just 5 or so of your top choices.