Tag s | Agents

Author Says / Agent Hears

Many aspiring authors communicate things they think are positive, or at least in the spirit of honesty and transparency, but end up being understood entirely different than the intended message.

In an attempt to show commitment, an aspiring author says, “I’ve been working on this book for ten years.”

An agent hears, “I am an extremely slow writer and once finished, enter a protracted spiral of self-editing which can take years. Don’t get your hopes up regarding deadlines.”

Hmm, doesn’t sound like a good prospect to represent, but I’ll still review what they have, only now with a skeptical eye.

Author says, “I already have the manuscript finished and the cover designed!”

Agent hears, “I know books can be published in two weeks once you have a manuscript and a cover finished.”

This is traditional publishing. It will take one to two years to get your book published, and the publisher decides if the book is finished and will design their own cover. Relax.

Author says, “I already hired an editor to edit my manuscript.”

Agent hears, “I’ll decide how the manuscript is edited, no one else.”

Again, this is traditional publishing. Publishers edit you. The manuscript is finished when they say so. Get ready to be in full collaboration mode.

Author says, “I don’t care about an advance or any royalties. I just want my book published.”

Agent hears, “I want you to work for me with no compensation.”

I often wonder if this author would ask a real estate agent to help them give away their home. Literary agents are paid when we sell something for money. Publishers make money by selling books for money, generating revenue and profit. There’s no need to forego advances or royalties. Writers should be paid…in money. If you want to give away all your earnings from writing, go ahead, but don’t expect everyone to do it.

Author says, “God told me to write this book.”

Agent hears, “I will be difficult to work with if you fail to sell my book or try to change anything.”

Honestly, I hate having to feel negative about this, but as the years pass, we all meet people who invoke the guidance of God when they simply want to eliminate discussion or disagreement. If I responded, “I don’t feel led by God to represent you,” an author might question whether I am truly discerning God’s leading. Let’s just assume believers are all on the same wavelength and leave it there. Then, write the book well and convince me why it is worthwhile, leaving out God’s endorsement.

Author says, “This book is for everyone.”

Agent hears, “I have no idea who this book is for.”

No book is for everyone. Not one. You might be able to make a case the Bible is for everyone, but even with the Bible, those who don’t believe in God and are not drawn by God have no idea what it means. And we don’t even address the language issue, which further limits readership. Most people in the world don’t read English.

Author says, “This book is for a crossover audience.”

Agent hears, “This book has objectionable stuff in it.”

Words matter. Those who write should be able to discern the meaning behind them, both obvious and not-so-obvious. When writing to a publisher or agent, spend as much care on the cover note and proposal, thinking about the reader, as you did writing the book.

Many a book has been torpedoed by a careless choice of words in the proposal or cover letter. I should know, I’ve done it myself.

 

Leave a Comment

Five Ways Getting an Agent is Like Dating

At a recent writers’ conference, I enjoyed my first “speed dating” experience. Maybe I should clarify. “Yes, you should,” says my wife. These were “speed dating for writers” sessions, in which writers sat down for rapid-fire five-minute appointments with editors, agents, and authors (many conferences provide writers with the opportunity …

Read More

Six Questions for a Literary Agent

1. What should a client expect from you as an agent? That I will work hard. That I will keep on top of the ever changing marketplace. That I will maintain my integrity as a businessman of honor and honesty. That I will protect your interests. That I will tell you the truth, about the industry, about your writing, about your ideas.
Read More

How NOT to Get an Agent

It’s a classic writer’s conference anecdote—even funnier because it is true. It didn’t happen to me, but to a friend of mine, who was not only followed into the restroom at a writer’s conference by an avid aspiring writer but was also slipped a book proposal. While in a stall. …

Read More

Agents Share Their Pet Peeves

Agents are people, too. Most literary agents, that is. And, like most people, we have our highs and lows. Our problems. Our irritations. Our pet peeves. I asked my fellow agents at The Steve Laube Agency to share their pet peeves with me for the purpose of this blog post. …

Read More

Variety is the Spice in an Agent’s Inbox

The other day a writer asked me, “Describe a typical work day for you.” I choked back a laugh and said, “There is no such thing as ‘typical’ in the day of a literary agent.” There are many things that repeat. Royalty statements, new deal negotiations, contract evaluations, reviewing client …

Read More

Yes, It’s Personal

We’d all like to think everyone will love all our books. But it just won’t happen. It’s personal, and that’s okay. Based on past posts, regular followers of this blog might conclude that I don’t like any book I start. That’s not true, but I’ll admit I’ve ditched a couple …

Read More