Monday, February 16, 2009

Agents

Working on: Just about everything except writing

Mood: Pretty harried

Sorry, here I am bringing up the rear again. My thanks to Lisa Hendrix for a friendly nudge about my turn at the blog.

Although I am currently between agents, I have never entered into a book contract without one. If you've never seen a literary contract from a traditional print publisher, well, they can run 15-20 pages. I always read mine before signing them, but it was after an agent had vetted it for me. Not only is an agent paid to shop your work around, they also earn their money by making sure that a writer gets the best possible deal. Some of the changes they make are just fine-tuning (50 author copies instead of 25, for instance), or they might be more significant, ones that entail marketing cooperation from the publisher, certain audio/film rights, etc. You know, things that might not even cross our minds until it's too late.

Years ago, a keynote speaker I saw at National noted the fact that she didn't have an agent. She'd written for the same editor at the same publishing house for twenty years and couldn't see the point of representation. Most of us will never know that kind of stability. Editors come and go--I had a different one for each of my first four books--in these days of consolidation, a writer could suddenly find herself writing for a completely different house, or the same house with all new policies. Or she might want to write a completely different kind of book under a pseudonym for a different house. I personally feel that someone looking out for my interests is a must.

That said, getting an agent can be as difficult as finding a publisher, especially in these times of economic upheaval and technology change. Many agents now accept submissions via e-mail. Unfortunately, in my experience, that doesn't necessarily mean they will respond. There are about five I queried last year who have never acknowledged me, even after two follow-up e-mails. It's hard to know what to make of that: was the submission so horrible they didn't even feel it necessary to punt it back with a withering rejection? Did they receive it at all? Are they so inundated with submissions that mine was lost in the shuffle? Who knows?


My life is about to settle down again very soon, and I'll take up the search again.

Alexis Harrington

2 comments:

Susan Lute said...

Alexis... I totally understand what you're saying. The business right now is very confusing. Good luck with your agent hunt, and I hope "life" settles down quite nicely, soon :)

That's the thing about modern technology. It's hard to read into the silences. What does it mean? I'm one of those who need a response from my agent, even if it's only a one liner. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do well with one who is too busy, or whatever, to send a reply. It comes under the heading of manners for me. That's a good thing to know when you're on the hunt :)

Alexis Harrington said...

That's true about manners, Su, and I guess I'm so old that I still remember them. And expect them. I'd love to write a piece about this for some writers publication, but under an AKA--it's SO easy to get snubbed or otherwise in trouble in this business.