Saturday, May 27, 2006

Going to Lose Me Some Money

I'm off to Atlantic City later today, probably sit at the Borgata and hopefully leave with all of my clothing. I'm bringing J.A. Konrath's WHISKEY SOUR with me. J.A. (or Joe, to his friends and everyone else) has a terrific blog which I post to pretty often, so it's only fair I check out his work. If you're an aspiring writer or want to know more about the publication process, check it out. Joe's second book came out last summer and his third arrives in a few months. Let's hope Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels can fill that series void that's been missing in my life.

In the near future, I'd like to discuss the recent controversy surrounding Barbara Braun and the SFWA's 20 Worst Agents list. I'll post at greater length later, but one thing all aspiring authors should know is that all agents are NOT created equal. Just because someone agrees to represent your work doesn't mean they will positively affect your career. There's a group of agents who submit to my colleagues and I whose submissions aren't taken seriously, mainly because we know they either have a terrible eye, submit 50 projects a month and just don't take their clients seriously, or know absolutely nothing about the editors they submit to. Their submissions always go to the bottom of the pile, and we take our time reviewing them. I'm not saying agents should know an editor's entire family tree, but at the very least they should know which editors buy what kinds of books. That's their job, plain and simple. I can't tell you how many times I've received a submission from an agent that doesn't jibe with my list at all, and I think, "Why?" Why wouldn't the agent submit to someone who actually acquires this stuff? Why don't they take the time to give their project a chance to sell? And I feel bad for the authors who unfortunately don't know any better and are just happy to have representation.

It's pure laziness on the agent's part, but also incompetance. An agent vouches for you professionally, but you don't want someone with no credibility vouching for you. Anyway before I drag on, if you're an author MAKE SURE you research an agent before signing on with him/her. Google their agency. Register with Publishers Marketplace and see what they've sold and where they've sold it. Check out Publishers Weekly, read author blogs, etc...

An author/agent relationship is really that: a relationship. Unless you're insanely desperate, you wouldn't date anyone just because they offered to buy you popcorn at a movie. It might be hard to believe, but sometimes having a certain agent can be worse for your career than having no agent. Professionally, agents are your best friend, priest, and partner. A good agent makes that 15% commission a bargain. A bad agent will not only never make you a dime, but potentially ruin your reputation and pollute the waters for your book.

My agent is fantastic. He worked his ass off not only getting me an offer, but giving constructive editorial feedback that was invaluable. He knew the industry to a 'T', maintained strong relationships with many editors, and had built a great client list. I wouldn't have a book deal without him.

The agents on that SFWA list aren't the only ones who can hurt your career, so do your homework and make sure that book you've worked so hard on winds up in good hands.

3 Comments:

Blogger Allison Brennan said...

Thank you for this fantastic post! Not because I'm looking for an agent (my agent is fabulous and definitely earns her 15% commission) but because so many unpublished writers don't realize the truth that there are simply agents out there who--while not "bad" in that they charge fees, yada yada--can't get you read any faster than the slush pile.

Getting an agent isn't easy, but they've become the first readers for editors. That's the business, which is why I only queried agents when I was unpublished.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

A couple of weeks ago an agent called me to pitch a Science Fiction trilogy. The imprint I work for doesn't publish Sci-Fi. When I told the agent this, his reply was, "Well they should."

That's as stupid as walking into an Italian Restaurant, ordering Tandoori Chicken, and getting upset when they don't serve it.

Needless to say, that's some pretty crummy agenting. And the next time this agent submits to me, let's just say the book won't end up in my overnight bag.

1:57 PM  
Blogger JT Ellison said...

Amen to that, brother. And allison, you're right on. Editorial advice from a stellar agent is worth it's weight in gold.
Hey J, bet on Red 21. Oh wait, that's how I lost all my money the one and only time I was in AC...

4:42 PM  

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