Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Agent interview

Dear Ms. Perkins,

Below are a series of six
questions involving your industry including one that
involves a hypothetical novel.

Regards,
Teacher at XU


1. What kind of novels/books do you normally choose
to represent?

I represent all kinds of horror, social science fiction, dark fantasy and dark fiction, as well as erotica. In nonfiction, I represent pop culture titles - both high and low-brow. Books about TV, music, art, literature.

2. Approximately how many query letters do you receive
in a given week?

Between 200 and 500.

3. What about an author's query letter pique's your
interest?

Voice and subject matter.

4. If you find an query letter interesting and ask
for the author to send you the manuscript, what are
you looking for in the first 50 pages that will tell
you whether or not this is a marketable book?

If the author can write, if the book has voice, if the story is well-told and the pacing of information is structurally sound.

5. I will now offer you a brief synopsis of a
hypothetical work and, if you don't mind, could you
explain how you would try to market this book to a
publisher? if it is even marketable in the first
place? and, if it isn't, why not?

This hypothetical work is a character driven revenge
tale set in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Two
former lovers, Kieth, a public relations expert
working for an expanding university in the South Carolina
mountains and Caitlin, a woman in the middle
of an ugly divorce and struggling to hold onto her
children, decide to make a new start for each other.
The still married Caitlin secretly travels to the
mountains so they can be together for a weekend and
rekindle their romance. However, during their time
together, they become the victims of a violent home
invasion in which they are beaten, raped and robbed.
Unable to go to the police for fear of losing her
children in the upcoming divorce hearings, she
convinces Keith to stay silent and repress the violent
memory and humiliation. What follows is an
examination of guilt, repression, anger and eventually
revenge as the story follows Keith, trying to survive
in a world whose violence and brutality he cannot
comprehend and Caitlin as she struggles to stay
strong, despite an emotionally crippling experience,
through her divorce and the beginning of her new life.
It is a look at the effects of violence, not only on
the victims, but on the perpetrators, the police,
whose job it is to administer justice, and the town
that has allowed for the creation of such violent and
flawed individuals. Eventually, though, secrets are
revealed and justice, in one way or another, will be
served.

This is an interesting novel, and dark in places, but it's just not the kind of thing I handle, so I would reject it with a note saying it is interesting and that I wish the author luck in placing it with the right agent.

6. Does an author in today's publishing market, stand
much of a chance without an agent?

Not in any one of the major New York houses.

7. What is your take on self-publishing companies
like booksurge.com, etc.?

They have their place for local memoirs and history, family cookbooks, and poetry and over-anxious authors who can't wait to go through the agent/editor process and/or do the editing that is necessary to get published by one of the major players.

5 comments:

Dr. Hack said...

8.

Do you still enjoy being a part of the publishing business, even though, as an agent, you have to deal with whiny, cry baby authors all day long who don't think they're getting a fair shake?

9.

Are writers more of a pain in the ass than they were 20 years ago?

KingM said...

Lori, of those 200-500 queries, what percentage of them are inappropriate to your needs, as is the aforementioned novel.

BTW, that "hypothetical" novel sounds pretty specific to me.

Leo Stableford said...

Hi.

I posted a counterpoint to your opinions regarding self-publishing in this post at my blog.

Normally I wouldn't specifically draw attention to something which criticises an opinion except that in this instance I thought the teacher who submitted the questions to you might appreciate a greater context by which to measure this opinion regarding self-publishing outlets and their utility to writers.

All the best,

Leo Stableford

Lori Perkins said...

Leo:

Thanks for your rant. But I stand by my statement that self-pub is best for books with a small audience.

It costs money to self-pub. Most writers are young and don't have it to waste on 1,000 copies of their book that they will have to sell out of the back of the family station wagon in order to make the money back.

I am an agent. I SELL books for money, so self-publishing is the exact opposite of what I do. I beleive that if a writer is really determined and has something to say, s/he should spend the money on craft, studying and editing and rewriting.

But peace to you.

Leo Stableford said...

The minimum amount of money required for any author to see a book-like object in print and in their hands is around $15

For no extra charge they can make it available to a global market (who may not buy it but hey it's better than having a non-existent market).

Self-publishers have more options and are required to spend less money than you seem to think. This is all the point I was trying to make.

Bruce Bethke has resigned himself to never finding an orthodox publisher for his novel "Cyberpunk". He isn't spending a bomb on selling it himself. And if he'd not self-published I would never have been able to read or enjoy it.

You may not think that's worth it but I'm sure both me and Mr. Bethke will reserve the right to disagree with you about that. One happy reader makes one happy writer and there was no one in between the two at all to make either unhappy in this transaction.