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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"First Impressions" Critique & IWSG on Agents

Aloha,

 Before I get to my IWSG post below, I’m participating in FIRST IMPRESSIONS, (which offers short critiques of beginning pages submitted in advance.) This awesome project is the brainchild of Dianne Salerni and Marcy Hatch.
Please stop by and let me know what you think of page one from the memoir I am co-writing.


 
A Segway.


 
Speaking of putting myself out there, here’s a Segway to my post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
 
 
 
 
My issue is with “I’ve got an agent” posts.
I hope no one thinks I’ve been eating sour grapes – that's so not my intent. This subject has bothered me for a while, just wanted to share.

Trust me, I enjoy reading and commenting on posts that help launch Cover Reveals, promo new releases and especially those “I’m-going- to-be-published soon” deals.

I also appreciate seeing the number of success stories rise on Querytracker.net (it was 886 when I signed up – last month – and now it’s at 945.)

I would simply suggest caution against getting too excited to anyone who signs with an agent - whether new or established. 
Agents can’t guarantee a sale – trust me, I know, (I’d like to stick my neck out and ask any agents reading this to comment – am I way off base?)

Agents shouldn’t be viewed as a status symbol either.

Sure, it’s a nice chunk of the publishing puzzle, but agents shouldn’t be expected to produce a quick sale out of thin air – especially when they, too, may be new to this industry of ours, you know the one that's imploding and recreating itself even as I write.

This isn’t a good time to be a first-time author in the world of publishing, so of course, it would make sense to many people who think an agent can solve all their publishing problems, but that’s asking a lot.

Perhaps I am thinking too deep into this subject, and that’s a fair comment. However, here are my two experiences so far:

·         Missing out on a reportedly large advance and a contract with one of the big six all with a well-known agent (in 2009).

·         Having an agent (at a writer's conference) read my pages, look me in the eyes and say, “I guess I’m repping you, then. Let me send you over our standard contract.” Eight months later, I'm still waiting... Hawaii isn't *that* far away! (2012).

Honestly, I wish anyone (and everyone) with a new agent only the best wishes for success, but you should also prepare for the disappointment of not finding a publisher (or suffering through a non-communicated change of mind.)
My former agent and I ended our relationship amicably in 2010, and it’s fun to hear people’s reaction when other writers say, “he was your agent. Wow.”

In the case of the second agent-to-be- that-never-was, my perception is that I was strung along far too long. One phone call or email (to put me out of my misery) would have been more than welcomed.
So, what happens when I sign with a new agent?

First of all, I hope to find someone who will become as passionate as Donald Braswell’s story as I am.
And when I do, I will make sure to link the agent’s name and contact info to my bio with the understanding that our working relationship is a partnership.

Because I already know that although the story may be done, the hard work will have only just begun.

43 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

Mark, I adore you, but ... aren't we supposed to be making ourselves feel more secure, not less so? :p

Lol, I totally see what you're saying, though. :D And I agree completely. There is more to publishing than agents - a healthy dose of luck is always useful, too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It happens! Someone told me only one out of nine or ten manuscripts ever find a home. So you're right that it doesn't guarantee success.

Dani said...

I'm sorry to hear that about you and your agent. Hopefully one day your manu will find a home. And I understand what you are talking about. I haven't really explored that far into it (I just joined IWSG today and starting out) and haven't decided which way is better... Indie or Agent... hmmm...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The other day, one of my friends told me she had landed an agent. The same day, another friend told me she was leaving hers. I'm with you on the playing down "I've got an agent" screaming on social media. I used to think it was cool when writers celebrated with big contests. Now I think that maybe it's better to mention (or not mention) in passing, than make a big deal over it, only to walk away from your agent a year later.

I've noticed those who have left an agent and landed a new one tend to make less of a deal of it than before. It's like how you make a big deal of your first marriage, but when you get marry after a divorce, the second wedding is much lower key.

Annalisa Crawford said...

You make a lot of sense. My work is small press not Big Six and I've always known that so I've never been tempted to search for an agent. It must be very exciting to sign anything, though, if you've been looking for long enough - so I imagine that's where the excitement is coming from, 'something' is happening at last.

Julie said...

This was good to read and puts words to thoughts... doubts... I've had about the agent-meets-writer relationship. No guarantee, is it?

I've done a little freelance work with magazines and the lack of communication with editors--even after writing and submitting a requested article--the stringing along, and subsequent lack of contract after months of work and waiting produces similar frustrations. Grrr.

Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.

Shell Flower said...

Oh Wise One, some great points here. Getting overly-excited about landing an agent kind of reminds me of having your first child and all the energy you put into having the perfect birth. I swear people sometimes spend more time planning the birth than really preparing to have an actual baby to take care of. Yeah, it's awesome and amazing to have that baby, but then you have YEARS of raising the actual child. Even if you land the most awesome agent, you're still going to be out on submission, have to deal with edits, perhaps full rewrites, and then you're still not guaranteed book sales.

Julie said...

I'm sorry to read about the experiences you had, and I've read a few posts from others who got agents and then never ended up with contracts. It's such a tough business sometimes I wonder how anyone ever makes it through to the published stage.

Love the segway pic! That was a great transition to your main topic, very smooth. :D

Libby said...

I get what you're saying. Same thing with playwriting. Having an agent helps, but much of the work is still on you.

E.J. Wesley said...

Really enjoyed this post, Mark. Though I confess, I thought it was going to be another humorous one when I saw the Segway pic ("You look badass on that Segway!" said no one, ever.").

This is a tough one for me, because I know how hard we struggle for affirmation in our writing careers. And agents can be a big part of that process. So many writers try literally for years to get an agent's attention, and I have a hard time scrutinizing their right to celebrate when they finally do get one.

That being said, you are very, VERY correct in your observations about the degree of success. And I think, reading between the lines, that's where you're headed with this--an agent guarantees nothing, and proves less.

A book on a shelf or with a link to purchase/download is the outcome we all want in this endeavor. Anything short of that is an equal step in the right direction in my eyes. I'm just as thrilled to read about someone finishing a first draft as I am when I read they've secured representation.

It's like a hurdle race: you have to clear them all, and none of them are any higher than the last. So just keep running and jumping until you cross the finish line.

Cherie Colyer said...

It would be nice if agents had a magic wand. I think your comment about finding an agent that is as passionate about your writing as you are is key.

David P. King said...

Wonderful post, Mark. Exactly what I needed to read today (I just joined the group and spoke about this subject). Yes, it would be great to have an agent (as I'm sure you feel that way), but I'm aware it's only a step in a long process. I sure hope your work finds a publisher soon. It deserves to be out there. :)

running4him said...

Thumbs UP!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Well, crap, you mean (cue the angelic music here) *getting an agent* doesn't automatically insure fame, fortune, and a VIP parking place at the mall??? You spoilsport.

Just kidding. Great post. Count me in as your newest groupie. Nice to meetcha.

Morgan said...

Spot on, Mark. SUCH a great post. :D

Brinda said...

I know people who think that an agent means their book will be sold immediately and published. I know too many writers who have waited years while agented and have no sale.

It's good to educate those new writers who do not understand this.

Ciara said...

From a writer who has been through two agents, I agree. The status thing, where people drop names and scream out their front door cracks me up. I feel bad, because I know it doesn't mean they have a sale. Yet, it is one more step in the right direction, if one is pursuing traditional publishing.

Cherie Reich said...

I'm still chuckling over the "Segway" to your IWSG post.

I completely get what you're saying about those "I got an agent" posts. I am completely happy for them, but the real work in getting the book accepted for publication and then published is just beginning. I've heard of so many authors who never sold the book they got an agent with or they did sell it but to a smaller publisher with no advance or they still ended up going Indie with the book. It's much more exciting to hear of book deals than agents. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Truer words have never been spoken! Just because one gets an agent doesn't mean one has arrived. That agent still has to sell the book. And more often than not, he or she doesn't.

Johanna Garth said...

Couldn't agree more. Just had a long conversation with a friend whose book is a BIG DEAL. She has an agent and big 6 and all the rest. Our analysis was, at this point in the game, unless a big 6 wants to throw full backing behind you, you're often better off going solo. I realize that doesn't address the agent piece, but it's the same general idea. On the flip side, I do understand why people jump up and down. In writing it feels soooo good to get "professional verification" that the work you're doing is good.

Patsy said...

I agree that getting an agent doesn't guarantee anything, but (for those who chose that route) it's generally a good thing.

Suzanne Furness said...

You are so right, Mark. Signing with an agent is NO guarantee to landing a publishing deal. I KNOW been there, done that! Signig an agents contract (a really good agent too) was the best feeling. I really thought I'd made it and everything else would just fall into place. But sadly it didn't result in a publishing deal, the agent concerned left the agency and I was politely 'let go.' Gutted doesn't come close. But hey I got there once I can do it again, right?

Great post, hope your ms finds a lovely home.

Melissa said...

Very good post. You're right. Writers need to be choosey. :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Well stated, and if this was in private, I'd tell you about a specific example I can think of regarding "making a big deal" prematurely. But it's not, so I won't. Let's just say: I AGREE!

And thanks for the shout out! You're getting a good response to your first page, I'm happy to say!

Kelley Lynn said...

This is a great post Mark. I think its important to celebrate every step on this journey. Typing the end on your first novel. Finally getting through your first edits. Getting your first partial request. Your first full. An agent. A publisher (small/large). First sale. First Review.

So while getting the agent isn't a sure sign of 'success', it is something to be celebrated. But then understand that it is on to the step.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

I am so curious now. I want to know who the agent was. :)

For the longest time I didn't want to do the agent search. Then I decided I wanted to be traditionally published, and so began the query letter/agent search. I am so hating querying that I'm seriously contemplating self-publishing, and moving on to the next story. I don't know what to do...

mshatch said...

thank you so much for mentioning first impressions! It's something I really enjoy doing and I truly believe that the more I critique other people's work, the better my own work becomes.

and I love this post - totally agree. I desperately want an agent but I also know that having one does not automatically guarantee me a book deal and the ability to quit my day job - much as I wish it were so!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks for the info. After my post on rejection, this does put things into perspective. We all think it would be awesome to have an agent and think, "I've made the big leagues now!"

I guess it's not so true after all. Man how this industry twists and turns one's emotions. Why do we even bother? At times like these self publishing certainly seems the way to go.

Suzi said...

Darn Blogger. I just lost my comment. So again...

Now you've made me curious too about who your former agent was.

I will be excited when I land an agent. -Notice I said when and not IF :) - But I understand it doesn't mean getting published. It's still a long road. But it's one step closer, so I will do a happy dance when that time comes.

Nancy Thompson said...

Exactly why I circumvented the agent thing. But I must admit, landing an agent would no doubt give me a feeling of validation. But ultimately, it's about publication.

Samantha May said...

I've never been on a segway. I've always wanted to...

This post really put things into perspective for me. I think what happens a lot is that the writer will forget that landing an agent is just one part of the whole process, and not the end of the process.

M Pax said...

Most writers I know these days don't have agents. Those I know have them, most don't have publishing contracts.

cleemckenzie said...

I feel a little sad when I see those posts, Mark. The author really has such high hopes based on getting that agent, and I hate to be the balloon buster with the news that they are still a ways from being published--if ever. Then there's the well-published and the so-so-published difference. Not something most people talk about, but it's there.

Great post and I mean it!

Kirsten said...

Now that was a smooth segway ...

I appreciate your honesty about this. I suspected that having an agent represent my work was only one step of a long, and often fruitless, process. I also feared that writers seeking validation are a target for unscrupulous agents.
Strangely, straight talk from someone like you who's been through some agents makes me feel more secure rather than less so. I can see that having 'an' agent is not as important as finding the 'right' agent.

Of course, first I have to finish revising my book!

Kirsten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

Wise words, my friend.

Nicole said...

Also added some comments to your opening page post - so cool to see a glimpse of your story!

Mary Aalgaard said...

So true that having an agent does NOT guarantee a book sale or success. Still, it is a feather in the cap and gives a writer a little more hope. So, I've heard. I'm going to take a look at your memoir. I'm thinking of starting one soon.

Also, loved your Dad blog on the disappearing child. They find the darndest places to hang out! (I have four boys.)

Tammy Theriault said...

good information, thanks!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Such a good point! It's exciting, nonetheless, but it is so important to be prepared for your ms not finding a home. It happens so often!

Donna Hole said...

I want an agent because its the only way to get a movie deal!

I am submitting to small publishers though; I got discouraged after only about 15 rejections.

.......dhole

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. it's good to have others' lessons learned out there .. and good to be wary ...

Cheers Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Oh boy did you hit the nail on its head, or is it the head of the nail? Whatever, you're so right. I've had 3 agents, one was a big NYC icon, and what happened.... nuttin' honey.

Ended up someone knew someone who knew someone, and I'm now published with #3 coming out before my one year old grandson starts college, I hope.

Thanks for visiting my blog, Mark, and leaving such a kind response. Happy Wednesday!

I"m #192 on Alex's IWSG list. Sorry it took so long for me to drop in.

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