Sunday, March 30, 2008

Published Writers who Can't Get Agents

I gave up my Saturday to do a presentation on Publishing in the 21st Century (and how things have changed since 9/11), followed by a panel on why some multi-published authors can't get agents for the Novelists Inc. Writers' Conference. Since this is a writers' group that is open to writers who have published a minimum of two novels, it's a very different kind of writers' group. The median number of books published by members was 16!

Many members have had multi-book deals in genre work (or even work for hire) and suddenly find it has become harder and harder to get published and/or they had a brief moment of success in the 80's or 90's and now no one will touch them, since the numbers on their last book were so bad.

So the panel I was on was on how to fight this, and it was fascinating.

Lois Winston from Ashley Grayson's agency actually had a whole list of reasons why this might be the case, which was so thorough that I told her to submit them as an article for Writer's Digest Magazine.

But, of course, the biggest reason is that the market has changed irrevocably since 2001, and today, every book has to be perfect (not too long or short and well crafted) and come with a marketing plan. Which means you have to have quotes, a website and a list of bookstores where you can do readings. Every book that sells to a major New York publisher, whether it is a mass market, trade paperback or hardcover must be able to guarantee 25,000 copies sold, or it will not be published by a major publisher.

And that is why so many authors find themselves without agents and publishers.

I know a lot of agents who will not take on an author who brings in less than $25,000 a year. Many of my authors were those discarded authors. I've since been able to bring them up to that level, but it's a long process of at least 3 to 5 years. So, as an agent, I have to be in love with the author's work in order to make that commitment.

And not every agent knows how to build an author. They only know how to sell what's given to them. I brainstorm with my authors on a regular basis. We hatch a plan, and if it doesn't work, we come up with another one. For me, this is the creative process that I bring to my work, but not every agent wants to do this work, or work this hard.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Office Closed for Good Friday

I've been taking Good Friday off since I was a junior agent working for another agency and was asked to help move to a new office on that day. I told my boss that not only would I not help with the move, that I was taking the day off. She turned to the other commissioned salesperson agent on her staff, who had worked for her for 7 years, and said, "what's with this Good Friday? I never heard of it." My co-worker said, "as a matter of fact, I've been meaning to tell you I'm taking it off too." From then on, we went to church services at noon at Marble Collegiate Church together every Good Friday for years, until she moved her office to Toms River.

As I've shared with you, my mom is a liberal Protestant minister and I grew up listening to (and knowing) Norman Vincent Peale, who held the pulpit at Marble. So when I take the time to reflect on Good Friday, it's also a time to reconnect with my roots and all those services with my parents.

I do the big Easter dinner as well, with lamb and ham. I shop, I clean, I cook and serve and clean up. And then I'm supposed to be in my office bright and early on Monday. The Europeans have it right, with Easter Monday off, although I know that fewer and fewer Americans do anything to celebrate the holiday.

I believe that my liberal Christian up-bringing is one of the reasons I am so drawn to horror.

After my mother retired, she asked me why I had become an agent of horror fiction and I said, "because it's the most religious form of fiction there is." She smiled and said, "good answer."

It's amazing that so many religious holidays fall on March 21st this year. See the yahoo article for the complete story. Fascinating. There is certainly an end-of-the world fantasy novel someone could come up with based on this rare occurrence!;_ylt=Au9HCsBycnm09TZERd3dadUDW7oF

I wish all of you who celebrate something on this day a joyful holiday and a swift advent of some real spring weather.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Graphic Novel Junior Agent

Someone recently wrote in and asked who handles thrillers here? And the answer is all of us and none of us.

I'm not particularly looking for thrillers, but I like death and women in jeopardy stories, so a smart pathologist, forensics expert, serial killer profiler etc. unraveling nefarious deeds would be my cup of tea.

Jenny is a little more likely to go for the cop/CIA/military/soldier turned writer, but, again, that's not particularly what she's looking for.

Spencer likes historical fiction, so books like the Da Vinci Code would be his thing. However, what he's really looking for is sci-fi, narrative nonfiction and historical fiction, so he too is not really looking for thrillers.

Jenny has a blog where you can see all the things she is looking for (, if you haven't been there already.

I've kind of kept Spencer Ellsworth in hiding, because I don't want him to be deluged with submissions. He was our intern for a year, and was promoted to junior agent about six months ago, but he is getting his Masters and is a new dad, and is only taking on a handful of fabulous clients.

But he's ready to go public and asked me to ask for graphic novels. He is a comic book maven and loves the format and story telling of the graphic novel. So if you know anyone working in this new medium, email me with the header "Graphic Novel Jr. agent" and I will make sure Spencer gets your query.