Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience is a virtue.

I've corresponded recently with several authors who had good projects. They weren't ready to go out, but they were getting there. After requesting fulls, these authors came back and told me they had already signed a contract of some sort with small presses, but that they were querying A) another project or B) the subrights or C) a continuation of the series under contract with the small press.

My reaction can be seen here:

Once a book has been published, whether by an indie press or online (both valid options!!) your road to a traditional publishing deal, should you later choose to see one, gets either a lot easier or a lot harder. Easier if you sell 10K+ copies of e- or p-book. Harder if you don't. Those sales numbers will follow you, and no, agents can't just leave out that it was previously published because that will violate the Warranties and Indemnities section of the contract you might sign with a publisher.

Further, the contracts that these authors signed would never have passed an agent's muster--one never defined which rights the publisher held, meaning that at any time they could veto anything else the book might become. It means royalty splits weren't defined. It means that you're at the pub's mercy. I couldn't take on a project tied up like that, even if it was a slam dunk.

The worst part, in one case, was that the author had been querying no time at all. Like 3 weeks or something. But she got the offer and just went ahead without an agent and, unfortunately, that impatience may have prevented her from getting a better deal.

If you don't want an agent, that's fine. But the truth is that most authors seem to say they don't want an agent, because that's in vogue, and act on that by signing with a publisher or self-pubbing. Then many decide they do want an agent. But if you've chosen to come to an agent in the middle, rather than at the beginning of your career, you're probably bringing baggage to the table.

My suspicion is that authors get that offer, and IT'S A REAL (if small!) PUBLISHER! and they just sign. Or they throw up their hands and THEY'RE GOING TO BE THE NEXT AMANDA HOCKING. And the decision may be a little rash. But by then, it's too late for an agent to get in the game.

If you get interest from a publisher, give the agents you've queried a chance to jump on you!! Tell them. Especially if it's only been a month. Because once you're published, you're published--even if it's poorly.


  1. Love the reaction :)

    Good advice, though. All the more so because it's difficult to follow with an offer (however small) in hand.

  2. Wise words. Thank you for this post, and the advice.
    I'm not there yet, but will certainly keep this in my mental rolodex for when I am.


  3. Good to know all this before one heads the wrong way.

  4. Awesome post--this is one to bookmark and refer my writerbuddies to if the time ever arises!

  5. Fun post. GREAT video response! HA! All too often people want the "quick fix". After all the hard work I'm putting into my book, I'm not going to sell myself short. Desperation is only a shot in the foot. It's nice to get the Literary Agent side of things. Thanks for the perspective! ;)

  6. Great post! Sometimes it's tempting to pick the fruits of our labor before they're ripe. Thanks for reminding us to be patient. :)

  7. The patience learned in the landing-an-literary-agent phase is a valuable one that will extend itself to the publishing phase. Learning patience from the query/partial/full requests, then through revisions and so on and so forth you attain (hopefully) working with a literary agent will pay major dividends later on with an editor/publishing house.

  8. Good advice to stay patient. I'll keep it in mind if I ever decide to query! (terrified of the process!)

  9. Keep in mind, too, that no one is saying that going the self- or small-pub route is selling yourself short!! Just be sure it's the one you want to take, because reversing that decision is nigh impossible.

  10. I heard that QueryTracker had posted the opposite advice recently. They even went so far as to say that if you used a pen-name and a different title nobody ever need know that you'd published your book at all unless it sold really well. Of course if it sold well, you could proudly proclaim how well your e-pub was doing.

    Most writers I know slagged the advice heartily, but no doubt some listened and that may be why you're seeing such a problem with it lately.

  11. I've met a number of indie authors, and I've talked with them about indie publishing versus small press publishing. What all of them have said so far is that, effectively, it wasn't worth it to do go that route because 1) they will have just as much upfront marketing to do anyway and 2) the presses will be entitled to continue to "skim the cream" for the duration of the contract. (This doesn't include authors who have set up their own micro-publishing firms or publishing cooperatives.)

    The most attractive part of working with a small press is that they offer editorial and formatting services, and that is a big deal. But marketing is hugely important, and the lack of that at many of the little houses has kept me from jumping on that bandwagon.

  12. ^^^EDITORIAL SERVICES!!! Deb's totally right--authors, if you're going the self-pub route, at least do us all a solid and get some beta readers and commit to EDIT YOUR BOOK. If you think you're too talented to need to do that, kindly get off my blog.

    What's the definition of a bunch of books before they've been professionally edited and revised? A slush pile.

  13. I will remember these wise words, in my haste and excitement to finding the "right" agent.
    I especially like your last comment. Thank you.

  14. Great advice. Thanks for the post.

  15. I have met many writers who self published or went to a small press instead of finding an agent. I always felt it was the last resort after traveling the hard road.

    Always great to read an agent's opinion on it!

    - Jen Hunt

  16. Great post! And it makes a lot of sense: clearly if you've gone down the self-pub road, you can't turn around and sell the same book - or parts of it like foreign rights etc - through an agent.

    My question though is another: what if you write in SEVERAL genres and decide to go the self-pub road with one genre and not the others? For example, I've just self-pubbed a YA paranormal/historical romance but I'm still looking for an agent for my other, more "serious" work (I'm into women's fiction). Is that a possible way to proceed in your opinion or is that a no-no?

  17. One of my dearest writing friends is going through this right now. Her first novel with an indie press crashed and burned. Now that she's trying to take the traditional agent route, she feels like she has this giant black mark against her.

    It takes a lot of deep, cleansing yoga breaths to do this.

    Also? I think I used that video reaction today when my dogs came happily bounding back from the cow pasture next door where they were having a grand old time rolling in the deep. Cow manure, that is.