Thursday, August 2, 2007

Some Questions Regarding Agents

I know rejections are just that, regardless of how nicely they are phrased as a let down, but what about the way a book is rejected to an agent? Is that written any different? If you're not writing to the writer, are you more honest as to the reasons for rejection?

Sometimes.
The reason we're not always up front about our reasons for rejection is simply that we're not sure how you'll react. This is true of any agent we don't have a relationship with, either. If we have a sense of how the agent (or the author) will respond to constructive criticism, we're more likely to offer it. We'd much rather help people than upset them. Telling where the line between those things are, though, is very difficult when dealing with strangers.

EA, I wonder if all editors respond that way to all agents from the agencies you mentioned in your post. I once had an offer from a young agent at one of those three agencies, and I turned it down because the clients he referred me to had not yet made sales, and described him as submitting to one or two publishers at a time, then waiting many months for a reply. I chose an agent who is not in NYC and not with one of those agencies, but who had an impressive list of recent sales in Publishers Marketplace. Was that a mistake?

Nope. Sounds like you made the right choice. Good for you for doing your research! Having an agent at a high-powered agency is not necessarily the same thing as having a high-powered agent.
Since, to stand a chance, we have to query agents just as widely as we submit to publishers, and there's all this talk about an agent/client relationship being like a marriage (there'd better be a LOT of Mr./Ms. Rights out there), how do we avoid landing with a dud?


Do just what the person above did—ask for client contacts, and talk to those people about the treatment they've had and the results they've seen.

My agent works at a great agency (though not one of the ones you've named), but I'm beginning to wonder about her as an individual. My ms has been out to six houses for five months, and we've only heard back from two (both rejections). Obviously she's not a "push this to the top of the pile" name. Now I just hope she's not a "trash it" name!

Don't assume this. The "trash" list is very short. Most agents have no chance of getting themselves on it.
Your agent shouldn't be letting your manuscripts sit, though. She should be able to get you a response in less than three months, or be able to tell you why. Part of an agent's job is keeping track of which editors have which manuscripts, and for how long, and if it's been a while it's their job to politely and professionally nag the editors. And maybe subtly imply that the editor is in danger of hurting their relationship with the agent.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've gotten more useful rejection comments and faster responses since I've had an agent--sometimes. A lot of the time it's still "just not for me" or silly gushy stuff ("oh, I so much enjoyed reading this absolutely delightful story, thank you so much for sending it--but no").

Anonymous said...

I wish editors would respond here anonymously about their response times to agented subs.

Because it seems to me like agent submissions are taking longer and longer these days. Not just from my experience, but from others that I hear of. I wonder if it's because there are more and more children/teen authors who are agented than say, five years ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm also reeling from agented response times, and I AM repped by one of those three agencies you named.

EA...when an agent nudges, and I know mine does, what is the typical response from an editor? Do you give very little detail and just say it's still under review or give specifics?

I keep hoping the long response times are because the ms is making it to the next level, but I'm afraid that hasn't been the case...yet. What gives, EA?

knicksgrl0917 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

are you more likely to get back to the agent quicker if this is the second book by an author you've already published? or does it just not matter, when you've got a towering pile of papers beside you and not enough time?!

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for other editors, of course, but at my company our response time to agents has gotten slower in large part because there are so many more submissions now then there were even five years ago. I suspect this is yet another repercussion from publishers closing their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, though as we are still one of the companies that accepts unsolicited and we're getting more of those, too, we have a double whammy these days.

I find that there are also more manuscripts submitted that turn into a bidding war within hours, so of course those cut in line ahead of all the other agented things.

I will always tell an agent if I like something and am taking it to the next level, so in my case, at least, a long silence means that I have not had a chance to read it.

When I have some reading time and am choosing which submission to look at next, I usually pick up the manuscript that I've had the longest. But sometimes I'll give precedence to a manuscript if I've worked with the author before, or if I'm very intrigued by the premise, or if an agent I have worked with a lot and trust is especially excited about something.

Anonymous said...

This is great information. Very helpful; thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, EA, and anonymous @ 4:54.

I am the one who asked about the long wait time ... good to know I'm not being unreasonable if I nudge my agent a bit at this point.

And thanks for all of your work reading all those manuscripts! We writers are not always a patient breed, but I think most of us do understand that the long wait times are not for lack of hard work on your part!

Editorial Anonymous said...

"Are you more likely to get back to the agent quicker if this is the second book by an author you've already published? or does it just not matter, when you've got a towering pile of papers beside you and not enough time?!"

I'm more likely to *want* to, and feel more guilty when I don't. And sometimes that translates into quicker action, but sometimes it doesn't.