Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Praise of Trunk Novels?

OK, so I've been a literary agent for 25 years.  And over the course of those two and half decades, I have sold more than 2000 titles (yes, before printing prices went sky high and the Internet, the average paperback novel used to sell between 85,000 and 150,000 copies, so I used to sell 100 books a year).  I've had 8 titles on the NY Times best seller list.  It's been a good ride, and I feel fairly confident in saying that I know what sells and what American genre readers want to read.

But I've still had a handful of flat out failures.  I've had books that I loved passionately and no one bought.  Or they bought them and they hit the ground with a thud.

And, as an agent, you just have to walk away.

Or tell the author to come up with something new, and to put this one in the trunk (thus the term "trunk novels," which always makes me think of that scene from The Hunger).

Or even help the author come up with something new.

Sometimes the author gets mad at you and thinks you didn't love the book enough, and goes to another agent, who rarely is able to resell or even sell the book.

So it just languishes as that book that might have been.

Until now.

I can go back and track down all the books I loved that didn't get the attention they should have (or the right cover, or the right spin, etc.).

But it can't just be me, right?  I'm not the only agent who fell in love with something and couldn't sell it?

So send me your trunk novels.  Tell your agent friends to send me their trunk novels.  Let's show the world  what they've been missing. This is your second act.

I know there are some awesome books in storage out there.

I started this post because I had just written to an old client (one of my very first) whose first novel I had sold for $25,000 and then couldn't sell any of his others.  He never published anything else, but I loved his work and want to publish all four of the novels he wrote while we were together.  So I tracked hm down and emailed him.  And I hope he calls me Monday morning.

But that made me think of all the other fabulous books (both ficiton and nonfiction, because there's a nonficiton pop culture title I tried to sell a decade ago that should be making its premier at Riverdale Avenue Books soon too), and I wanted to share the possibilities.

So,  This is a call for publication, not representation, although I am sure it will be easier to get an agent once you have a publisher.

I was going to call this post Why It's Good to be an Agent and a Publisher, but then I expanded it from the personal, but I don't want to mislead anyone.

So, please send your work to