Thursday, February 21, 2008

25 Agents

The March '08 issue of The Writer magazine has the lowdown on 25 agents currently looking for submissions. They cover what the agents want to see, what type of proposal to send, commission and complete contact information. Some of the listings offer response times, too. Writer's House, which has me as a client, is one of the agencies listed. If you're looking for representation, might be worth picking up the issue.

Reading listings like these can offer some interesting bits of info, too. Agents can be very specific about what they don't want, i.e. "queries only" and "no science fiction." They also drop helpful or encouraging hints, like "Especially interested in writers from the Pacific Northwest, the West, Alaska and the Pacific Rim" and "Unpublished writers considered."

Nine of the agents/agencies listed in The Writer also mentioned how many queries and manuscripts they on an annual basis:

Abrams Artists Agency: 1,000
Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency: 10,000
Jeff Herman Literary Agency: 5,000
Linda Konner Literary Agency: 1,500
Nancy Love Literary Agency: 2,000
Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency: 6,000
Alison Picard: 5,000
Wendy Schmalz Agency: 4,000
Scott Treimel: 2,000

Take your calculator and divide those numbers by 250 (the average number of weekday workdays in a year) and you'll get an idea of just how many queries and manuscripts these agents receive on a daily basis. Now imagine reading them and responding to them. Yeah, I think I'll stick to being a writer.

I recommend checking out any agent thoroughly before you submit or sign on with them. Make sure they're a member of AAR, and try to get some recommendations from other writers you know on who they like, who they've had trouble with, and who might be a good match for you.

If you'd like more info on agents, Laura Resnick has an excellent three-part article series that covers agents, agent-hunting, and working with and without an agent, which you can read online here.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info. Not at a place yet where I need it, but I hope to be there soon. (Hey, I can dream. Right?) :)

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  2. Anonymous11:34 AM

    Once again, Ms. Viehl, you R-O-C-K! You have to be building massive good karma brownie points somewhere for all the encouraging and useful advise you provide to the newbies. Thanks so much.

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  3. I see some of the same names that have been around for years, seeking clients, which makes me wonder: how much of their list consists of writers who pen one or two books and then bail?

    I imagine the same thing every time I read one of those stories about how little writers earn. I'm not saying they don't, but what I'd like to see is a list based on writers who have made a career of it, who have at least five books out. By that time, if you're producing regularly, how well do writers do?

    That would give a better impression of career prospects as a writer, than a list that consists of a lot of part-time writers, or who find it tougher than they expected.

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  4. Ann wrote: Not at a place yet where I need it, but I hope to be there soon. (Hey, I can dream. Right?)

    Absolutely. I spent ten years in that dream world. Great place to get some writing done. ;)

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  5. Anonymous wrote: Thanks so much.

    No problem. I had a very bad experience with an agent scam before I sold my first two books, so I consider it Zen revenge.

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  6. Bill wrote: I see some of the same names that have been around for years, seeking clients, which makes me wonder: how much of their list consists of writers who pen one or two books and then bail?

    Since the five-book career has become the three-book death spiral, and is heading into the two-book crash and burn, probably more each year. Of the writers I used to hang out with (back in the Jurassic era, when I got started) I think about 80% have quit or moved on to do something else by now.

    It's a very tough business to break into, but once you're in, it becomes even harder to stay in the biz.

    I imagine the same thing every time I read one of those stories about how little writers earn. I'm not saying they don't, but what I'd like to see is a list based on writers who have made a career of it, who have at least five books out. By that time, if you're producing regularly, how well do writers do?

    If you can break the $10K advance per book barrier (which is tough these days) and produce at least two, three books a year, and consistently build your readership, and have no unusual expenses, and chains ordering to the net don't wipe you out, then in theory you should earn enough to allow you to quit the day job.

    I think the main problem is the amount of money authors are blowing on vanity perks and/or self-promo versus sticking to a reasonable budget -- if you buy recklessly into the book trailers, designer web sites, pay-site blogs, travel to cons, shell out for trade advertising and so forth, it can consume most if not all of your writing income.

    That would give a better impression of career prospects as a writer, than a list that consists of a lot of part-time writers, or who find it tougher than they expected.

    One of the misconceptions about being a professional writer is that you will always build up until you're on all the lists and commanding advances in the millions per book. In reality, that rarely if ever happens. Most career novelists (say someone who has at least 15 books in print, and has spent a minimum of 5 years of being actively published) probably bring home between $50-100K on good years, and half that on lean ones.

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  7. it's not so much the writers bail as the agent loses interest when the writer doesn't sell after a couple of years. Can't blame the agent.

    What does suck is when an agent doesn't come right out and say "this isn't working, adios," but just ignores the writer's calls and emails until the writer gives up, which from what I've heard is not uncommon for a lot of agents. Sounds just like a dating nightmare eh?

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  8. Thanks for the info, Sheila. Timing's right for me cause I'm planning to send something off to Writers House so keep your fingers crossed for me :D.

    Umm, and just to second your reminder to research everything, I decided to look at the unfamiliar agents in the ones you did list and Alison Picard has a very mixed reputation, enough that she's "not recommended" on P&E.

    Cheers,
    Margaret

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