Agent Roundtable


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Thread: Agent Roundtable

  1. #1

    Agent Roundtable

    came across this roundtable interview featuring some of the industry's sexiest agents and thought i'd share. quotes i found particularly interesting:

    You are all deep inside this world, but so many writers aren't. If you were a beginning writer who lived out in Wisconsin or somewhere and didn't know anybody and you were looking for an agent, how would you do it?
    STEINBERG: I would not worry about looking for an agent. I would work on my writing for a long time. And then when I was finally ready, I would ask everyone I know what they thought I should do.

    MASSIE: I agree with that. I would concentrate on getting published in well-regarded literary magazines and, chances are, agents will come to you.

    RUTMAN: I wouldn't relish the prospect of looking for an agent if I had not come through a program, where a professor can often steer you in some helpful direction. I guess you'd start at the bookstore.
    Where are you finding writers, aside from referrals? Are you reading literary magazines? Are you reading blogs?
    MASSIE: No blogs.

    RUTMAN: Not for fiction.

    STEIN: Hell no.

    RUTMAN: Referrals are about 75 percent of how I find writers.

    MASSIE: A lot of my clients teach in MFA programs, so I get referrals from them. I get referrals from editors. I get referrals from other agents.

    RUTMAN: There's a big range of where referrals come from.

    STEIN: But every now and then there will be something in the slush—and I bet this is true for you guys, too—that's not just well written but is also well researched and shows that the person knows your list and is really appropriate for your list and also has published well.

    MASSIE: And sometimes when I read a short story that I like I'll send an e-mail. "Are you represented?" Once in a blue moon someone's not represented.
    STEIN: I don't even read synopses. Do you guys?

    STEINBERG: I skip right over them. I go to the first page.

    STEIN: I hate synopses. They're terrible.

    RUTMAN: It's hard to write a synopsis well. And when we're talking about literary fiction, it will probably not make or break an agent's interest going into page one. You're not like, "Oh, there's going to be an unexpected plot twist two-thirds of the way through. I'm going to hang in there long enough to find out how that goes."
    discuss.

    Link: Agents and Editors: A Q&A With Four Literary Agents | Poets & Writers
    Writing cleaner than he lives.

  2. #2
    I think when it comes to fiction, a writer has better odds going the self-publishing route. They should write their novel, set up a quick publishing company (just a sole proprietorship), outsource for editing and cover art, learn to format for Kindle, and try to ride that wave. Agents are a joke.

    The ones that don't handle big names are going out. The ones that handle big names don't need any other clients.

  3. #3
    Member Ilasir Maroa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward G View Post
    I think when it comes to fiction, a writer has better odds going the self-publishing route. They should write their novel, set up a quick publishing company (just a sole proprietorship), outsource for editing and cover art, learn to format for Kindle, and try to ride that wave. Agents are a joke.

    The ones that don't handle big names are going out. The ones that handle big names don't need any other clients.


    I guess I'll tell that to all the new writers whose agent just sold their book to one of the bix six publishers. I'm sure they'll jump at the chance to trade in their 20,000 copies sold for 20.



    There are great reasons for some authors to self-publish, but right now, there are also good reasons to go the traditional route.
    "A plot-driven story is anything with a plot." ~BS
    All lines are arbitrary; otherwise, we wouldn't have to draw them. ~Nicholas Vesiri

  4. #4
    Don't take the drivel in that article too seriously. Those agents, and the magazine which hosted the roundtable, belong to that rarified group of self-important snob who are firmly convinced that the bathroom always smells like gardinias before they flush, and that the writing worth reading is that which they deem literature. Those snobs wouldn't touch a book that 95% of the reading public (those who actually pay for books and keep the industry alive) would read.

    "Concentrate on publishing in well regarded literary magazines . . .", "A lot of my clients teach in MFA programs . . .", "I wouldn't relish the prospect of looking for an agent if I had not come through a program . . ." Please, people, get over yourselves.

  5. #5
    That is 4 out of the thousands of agents out there. While I value their experience I do not think that any one person or agency is going to be the same. Every author/writer has to look at their options and make an educated decision for themselves. There are plenty of people who have made successful carriers out of indie publishing it just takes dedication and hard work. I for one would rather do the work and have my fate rest in my own hands than hope and pray that some agent will pull my needle out of the haystack someday. Every viewpoint is valuable but no one is right all of the time.

  6. #6
    Member Ilasir Maroa's Avatar
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    First, keep in mind that these are agents for literary fiction. That genre works differently than other genres in commercial publishing. While I don't agree with everything said, most of the information is accurate as far as publishing literary fiction.

    I'm also very disappointed to see the agent-bashing going on here. Seriously, this thread is not about whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is better. It's about some info for those thinking of publishing literary fiction. Also, if you're going to bash, please cite come evidence for your claims.
    "A plot-driven story is anything with a plot." ~BS
    All lines are arbitrary; otherwise, we wouldn't have to draw them. ~Nicholas Vesiri

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Don't take the drivel in that article too seriously. Those agents, and the magazine which hosted the roundtable, belong to that rarified group of self-important snob who are firmly convinced that the bathroom always smells like gardinias before they flush, and that the writing worth reading is that which they deem literature. Those snobs wouldn't touch a book that 95% of the reading public (those who actually pay for books and keep the industry alive) would read.

    "Concentrate on publishing in well regarded literary magazines . . .", "A lot of my clients teach in MFA programs . . .", "I wouldn't relish the prospect of looking for an agent if I had not come through a program . . ." Please, people, get over yourselves.
    i dont know. id be more inclined to trust people who are firmly planted in the industry than . . . . whatever it is you are. which is not to say that what said agents contend is gospel. just that waving your rattle around and saying they have no connection to the reading public, when the reading public essentially accounts for their entire margin of profit, while at the same time offering nothing to support your 'claims,' makes you sound . . . well, i'm not allowed to say what it makes you sound like.

    clearly you don't need to come from a writing program to publish a great novel, or publish in journals, or whatever. i think there are, like, eight million threads on here about that. but pretending it doesn't help is ludicrous.

    i posted the article because i found it interesting and thought other people would find it interesting too. im happy you contributed to this discussion, even though i think you're wrong
    Writing cleaner than he lives.

  8. #8
    I'm looking for an agent right now. For my book there are only about 25 in North America that handle the horror genre. My plan is to see if I can secure an agent, failing that I'll go directly to the publisher, failing that I'll look at self publishing.
    MJ Preston is an Author and Artist at Large who hails from Canada.
    He is the author of the novels: THE EQUINOX, ACADIA EVENT, HIGHWAYMAN Book One, and numerous short stories and articles.Hidden Content To learn more: visit: Hidden Content Hidden Content
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  9. #9
    good plan. i wish i could help re: finding a horror agent, but most of my peers do literary stuff. one does memoir, another sci fi. but no horror. best of luck regardless! i think your plan - try to find an agent, then a publisher, barring that self publish, is the way to go about doing it. why not aim for the top?
    Writing cleaner than he lives.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Ilasir Maroa View Post
    I guess I'll tell that to all the new writers whose agent just sold their book to one of the bix six publishers. I'm sure they'll jump at the chance to trade in their 20,000 copies sold for 20.
    There are great reasons for some authors to self-publish, but right now, there are also good reasons to go the traditional route.
    I'm not saying books don't get picked up by agents and sold to the big six. I'm saying it's a lottery. There's no rhyme or reason why those books are chosen over others that are not (given the same standard of writing). But unless the bix six are willing to advertise all over the place to get those books noticed, the author might just as well have self-published. If a publisher is going to have a fiction line, they have to publish someone, that's true, but for the first time novelist, in this publishing environment and economy, they're better off seriously self-publishing. After all, they're going to have to do all the marketing anyway.

    Let's say you get $50,000 dollars for a three-book contract from a name publisher. that means, when it's all over with, you get about $35,000 after taxes and agent fees--over three or four years, and god help you if you don't deliver those manuscripts. Yet, you can't even quit your pizza delivery job on that money. When you finally realize how bad you've been ripped off, and yet you still have to write and deliver. Well, let's just hope you have a prescription for Lexapro handy, because you're going to need it.

    Oh, and those thousands of agents out there who after charging you a reading and editing and "postage" fee end up selling you on a contract with a small press who then stipulates you have to buy a hundred print copies if you want it published in anything but a badly-formatted Kindle edition--well, let's just say I'm not talking about them.

    I know a woman, before the economy collapsed, who got a three-book deal with, I think Penguin. She couldn't come close to quitting her day job.

    It is true, a big six publisher, if they want to can make a best seller out of anyone. But they don't do that. That's why I say an author is better off self-publishing and keeping the rights to their work. They're going to have to market the book themselves anyway, and if they want to walk away from it at any time, they can.

    This isn't agent bashing. This is the reality of the situation. This is fiction in the Kindle era.

    How many bookstores do you think are left? How many publishers do you think are left who are dishing out bucks to authors with no fan base? Oh, I'm sure it happens, but until you read their contracts, I suggest you reconsider whether or not they got a good deal.
    Last edited by Edward G; March 11th, 2011 at 09:09 AM.

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