February 23rd, 2005


how exotic

I just answered a query from Qatar. I feel so... international. Heh.

where do we go from here?

shina_laris commented on 2/16:

I know that you've already posted a wonderful post about whether a first time writer should get an agent or not and how to choose a good one, but I was wondering whether it's easier for a first time writer to approach reputable agents or publishers first. Would they have more chances of getting accepted by a good agent than getting an offer from a publisher? I asked this because new writers are often advised to get an offer from a publisher before approaching good agents because good agents don't normally agree to represent new writers. However, if the chances of getting a good agent are higher than getting an offer from a publisher, shouldn't the new writers approach agents first?

You see, here's the thing... you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without getting a job, which could also be translated as: you can't get an agent without being published, you can't get published without having an agent. True - agents prefer authors with track records. But many of the major publishers these days won't consider unagented submissions.

The question of whether 'tis harder to get an agent or a publisher has oft been debated. And with no real satisfactory answer. Do I think it benefits authors to have agents? Yes. Admittedly, I'm biased. But I think only motivated by a little self-interest. I want to represent all the best books, of course. But as I think I mentioned somewhere on here recently, agents do a lot more than negotiate advances and can be there for the long haul. Find the right one, and you've found a publishing partner. I don't know who advises new writers that they should get an offer from a publisher prior to approaching good agents. I do know that it might make it easier to get that good agent if you have an offer in hand. But a good agent won't take you on just for the easy commission anyway. You've still got to have a book that engages them. Or at least that's how it works with me. And even if it might be nice to have a list full of multi-published authors, there's still nothing that compares with the moment when you tell a first-time author that they've just received an offer on their debut novel. Yes, it's rare for me to take on a first novelist these days (heck, I think it's nearly as hard for previously published authors to get on a busy agent's list) -- my current clients keep me quite busy. But I don't think I'll ever stop looking. Discovery can happen anywhere. Maybe I'm still too idealistic, but if that's the case, I hope I stay that way.
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