Friday, 6 May 2011

I am agent hunting

at present. No, we are not going to sell the house. I am looking for an agent for a book I have written.
I have written other books. They languish in "the bottom drawer" of my computer files. There are a number of reasons for this. I will not go into them here except to say that some of them may yet get dusted off and looked at. It will all depend on whether I get an agent.
Last year one major publishing company asked for synopses by e-mail. I hesitated and then sent mine but heard nothing.
This year a much smaller but reputable company here in Australia asking for synopses and the first three chapters. I duly revised the synopsis to their specifications and sent it and the first three chapters away. They returned them recently saying it was not for them but with the suggestion that I should try elsewhere.
I was not surprised that the book was not for them. It has been a long time since they published a serious middle grade book. These days they go for the lightweight, shorter book. Do not mistake me. The writing is good but the books are aimed at restless readers.
In the meantime I had been thinking about agents. It is, I believe, almost as hard to get a reputable agent as it is to get published. At the same time most reputable publishing companies will not look at unsolicited manuscripts. I have researched this matter in depth. I understand the reasons for it.
The most successful agents often say they are not taking on any new clients. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that they wish to do the best they can for their current authors. I understand that too and I would not wish them to do less than their best.
So, where does it leave me? I am slowly and cautiously making approaches to possible agents. I am trying to find out what sort of people they are and who their clients are. It is sometimes surprisingly difficult. Sometimes I look at lists of authors and I do not know their work. Their books are not in our local library. How can I tell what the agent likes if I cannot read the author's work.
A bad agent may be worse than no agent at all. A bad publishing deal may be worse than no publishing deal at all. I keep reminding myself that.
One agent has just got back to me. The book is not for her but my story has merits. She also suggests I try elsewhere. I do not know what to read into this. Is my writing not quite good enough or is really just not something she wants to handle? Should I really try elsewhere? Perhaps. It is difficult.
I have submitted to just one other agent at the present time. I am preparing to try a third. I have been told I should dive bomb all agents at the same time. I have also been told I should tread slowly and carefully and try at most two agents at a time.
This whole business puzzles me and frustrates me. I do not know what to think apart from one thing.
I wish there was an agent for agents!


Sarah said...

I have no advice for you Cat as you're further on in this whole 'process' than me. I just wanted to wish you lots and lots of luck :)

Rhiannon Hart said...

I don't know what I'd do without my agent and I just dived right in there, sending a few dozen emails at a time. Worked well for me. It's not just about how good the book is, but also if an agent feels a connection with it or if they've already got something similar on their books. That last bit was especially frustrating...

widdershins said...

Well, I sold my book without an agent, albeit to a small publisher, but there you have it. There's no right answer.

Most smaller publishers will look at unagented stuff. And don't limit yourself to Aussie agents or publishers. Truth is, unless you've written something that targets a very specific market then the majority of your readership will be in the US. Nasty fact I know, took me quite a few years and lots of research to come to terms with it. What you can do is try to make sure your contract includes a release in OZ.

The thing with smaller publishers, the reputable ones, is that they don't have big budgets, but seeing as you'll be doing most of your marketing/promotional stuff yourself anyway, in lots of ways it's up to you how many sales you generate.

Most agents/publishers will give you a rough estimate of how long their review process will take. If they don't then, politely, ask for one. If you haven't heard from them hen time's up then contact them. If they still don't answer then inform them, politely, that you're moving on.

You've got two responses saying your work isn't right for them. Take that at face value and don't read anything more into it than that.

We writers can really screw ourselves when we start second guessing ourselves and our work. Do you have beta readers, not family or friends, who can give you an objective crit?

One last word. With the advent of ebooks and epublishing writers need to remember that agents and publishers NEED THEM to survive, not the other way around ... kinda changes the power dynamic doesn't it!!!!

Hope this ramble helps.

Donna Hosie said...

Send off batches of queries, five at a time is an average figure. If you get no requests within the first 20, then you need to rework the query letter.

Keep on trying. You only need one agent to love it.

catdownunder said...

Thankyou - I know I am being a scaredy-cat about the whole thing!

Anonymous said...

This might not be very helpful - but I became disillusioned years ago with the huge gap between what publishers want to sell and what people want to read.
To understand me. you've only to look at the shelves in Smiths and Water stones and then at the shelves in charity shops to see the problem - people buy books, read them once, and then it's off to the charity shop.
In that climate, it's bound to be a hard struggle, for agents and writers alike, to find a publisher who wants to pay for anything that's well written and will stay on a buyer's shelf