Thursday, February 5, 2009

Remote post!

DELLE JACOBS
CURRENTLY WORKING ON:
Second/third drafts of SIDHE, Medieval Paranormal
SIREN, sea fantasy.
MOOD: Jet-Lagged

I'm in frozen Louisville Kentucky, visiting family and attending my son-in-law's graduation from police academy. Since Louisville holds one of the most intensive training programs for police in the nation and I'll be attending both an information session and the graduation (which I'm told is a bit elaborate), I'll have lots to tell you when I get back.

On to the topic: Agents.

Some people do better with agents, and some less well. Some kinds of writing seem to require them more than others. I've had one who wasn't much good for anything except sneezing, maybe. one who was a crook, and one who has a very good reputation, but who hasn't worked out particularly well for me. I still do have a supposed working relationship with the last of these. But since I'm not aiming anything at her at this time, it can hardly be said to be working.

The difficulty for me is that I don't seem to need an agent right now. Several of my projects and planned projects are aimed at the ebook industry, and I can sell to an epublisher better than an agent can. But my medieval paranormal is one that might go either way. So I'm kind of caught in the middle.

My current release, APHRODITE'S BREW, is a perfect example of my dilemma. I originally wrote it as a Traditional Regency, and the first version which I submitted to the Golden Heart almost under protest since it was so totally un-ready, was barely 63,000 words long. I knew the market was failing, and I had just returned from England with no time to polish the book to submit. But it looked liek there wouldn't be enough entries for the category to survive, so I sent it in, knowing it wouldn't possibly final, so my anonymoty was protected. It finaled. Then it won. I knew it was going to win because two of the judging editors let it slip to me, and didn't realize I'd picked up on it. Both asked for and held the complete manuscript while they then watched the masrket crumble to their feet. I got my agent based on this manuscript, and of course I re-wrote it as a historical. But she had no luck selling it anywhere. Those two editors and another all wanted it, but it just didn't work out.
So I've really done a bit better than any agents have with my books. But I can't really blame her. The market was just awful then.

The trouble with agents is also what's very good about them. They don't want to take you on unless you look like a really good money-maker for them. That phrase, "not commercial enough", was the one thing that opened my eyes. They can love you work, but if they don't thinks some editor is going to offer big bucks for it, chances are excellent they'll keep going through their piles looking for the one manuscript that shows this possibility. And why shouldn't they? It's a business for them, and money is the currency of survival in our culture.

So I think, in a way, that's where I see the difference. Agents don't believe they can make money off some books, or they don't see the author as productive enough in the long run, for some reason. It's also true that they have to make quick decisions, and sometimes do rely on superficial information. That may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

Frankly, I don't see the point in writing a book that has only books that have widely commercial appeal if they aren't books I can enjoy writing. If I have a narrower audience for the books I write, but I'm not ripping my guts out writing a book that my soul detests, then I'd rather have that. It means less money for me. It also means an agent isn't going to be interested because he'll see less market appeal. For him, it must have both writing quality and saleability. And these days, they don't just want sales, they want big sales. High volume.

If you believe you need an agent to hit the market of your choice, then you need to also be assessing your work for that high volume sales potential. It's a slightly different thing than loving and believing in your book. It's a strong critical analysis of what will play well in your chosen market, and whether you are hitting that target. If you're getting there, then you should be looking for agents who have the ability to sell to your market because they can do more than just sell your authorship. Negotiation is one of their great strengths, and they can get the best possible contract that will work for you. If you're aiming at one of these markets, get an agent. Better yet, don't just take any agent, get one who is good for you.

5 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Delle! Hope you took some warm clothes with you! And congratulations to your son-in-law. Great accomplishment--and I look forward to the information you share when you get back.

Thank you for your wise words about an agent. I'm also focusing on the e-book market right now and don't feel I need an agent. That's working out well for me because I can focus on the other pieces of the writing business. Maybe someday...

Jessa Slade said...

An interesting point. As the e-book market grows, perhaps the agents' perspective will change too.

Susan Lute said...

I loved your last line...*Better yet, don't just take any agent, get one who is good for you.* That, I believe is the holy grail, so to speak, we should be reaching for, and the most difficult part of this business...agent...or editor... :)

Can't wait to hear about your trip.

therese said...

I'm looking into all venues, agent, ebook, etc...

I must say, the ebook editors are a lot more friendly with their - sorry - letters. :) Though with the story I'm personally marketing at the moment, the "pass" letters have been really nice. Almost an uplift, to get me through the screenwriting class - where I'm butchering my own novel...

Delle Jacobs said...

Made it back as far as Midway- I seem to be really hard on airlines. Broke the last plane, and they had to go get another. With much re-routing, we're going to arrive only three hours late tonight!

Therese, yes, ebook editors can be nicer about their letters. A good part of that is still supply and demand, though. They are swamped but not nearly as much as traditional publishers. I think sometimes we should do a blog on what rejection letters really mean. It can be anything from "You're on the right track- keep trying:" to "Don't bother me, my dog just died."