Saturday, June 30, 2007

previously unpublished books

Kristin Nelson had a great posting on why you shouldn't tell an agent in a query about the ten unpublished manuscripts on your shelf. With a few exceptions, I have to say I completely agree with this. Almost everyone has unpublished novels on their shelf, but why advertise it?

Lets say I have a lunch meeting with an editor. We've just introduced ourselves, and I immediately start telling him/her about how the books I haven't able to sell for my clients. All agents have books they couldn't sell, and in my case I'm proud of each of of them and still think publishers made a mistake by not buying them (don't get me wrong though, my batting average is pretty good). But what possible benefit is it to me now to bring it up? An editor will assume I haven't been able to sell a book on occasion, but now I've brought it front and center to the conversation. Ultimately, I'm there to sell new projects, and that's where the focus should be. The same logic applies to authors and queries.

And no, most agents don't think that ten previously unpublished novels means your productive. You could have written ten novels in fifty years, or ten 20,000 word novels, or ten really bad novels. If you're productive, just say that. I'm looking for a client who can write books I can sell, and while its nice if they write three such books a year, I'll take one book every three years too. I've said before that I want authors who have multiple books in them. This is absolutely true - but you still have to get through the door on your first one.

Once again, let me point out there are exceptions to this. And while I typically say every agent is different, I think I can fairly say that most agents feel the same way as me. You mention ten previously unpublished books, and we take it on its face. You've written ten books no one wanted to publish. Be proud of them, but just don't mention them while shaking my hand.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More to come...

I hope you enjoyed Ted's piece, and I'm expecting to post at least at least ten more by the end of July - just keep checking in from time to time.

On a different note, I was asked recently why I don't list my specific clients, their books and awards, or recent deals on my website. Well, the single biggest reason is because I just opened up my new agency at the end of January. I've made a number of sales since then (June has actually been an awesome month), but the contracts aren't done and I certainly don't have cover art to post. Also, what awards do I list? There are so many awards out there, and a few of my clients have won or been nominated for more than 50 regional and national honors, so I'm concerned about the commitment it will take to list them all. And what if I miss something? Now I've managed to piss off one of my clients. I guess other agencies develop some type of criteria for this, but I haven't settled on a proper formula yet. Finally, its just time consuming, and I have enough on my plate (I know, blogging isn't helping on that front).

Some time in the next year I'll get this page set up, but in the meantime you can always check the numerous resources out there available to authors, such as Agent Query or Publishers Marketplace. In the past I haven't always posted my deals on these sites, but I will start doing so now.

I guess the point in all of this is that don't assume that because an agency doesn't list their clients or their books on their website that they aren't doing deals or have a good client list. Some agencies don't simply because they have too many clients and awards. Others are old school, and just think that information should be private. And others just opened their shops, like me, and will get around to it eventually. If you do a thorough search of the resources out there, you'll still be able to get this information relatively easily.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Agent Stories - Ted Weinstein

Ted Weinstein of Ted Weinstein Literary Management is leading us off in the "Agent Stories" series.

Once upon a time there was a talented graphic designer and business consultant who made a career out of using visual thinking techniques to help companies as wide-ranging and successful as Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Sun Microsystems and eBay solve their business challenges. He wanted to teach his techniques to many more people and decided that a book would be the right tool.

Although momentarily dazzled by the idea of working with a "name" literary agent, he took the advice of his former colleague, the legendary designer Roger Black, and signed instead with an agent who instantly understood his unique insights and had passion and creative ideas for how to package them into a book.

The initial proposal and its author wowed editors at every major business imprint, but all were fearful of the cost of producing a four-color illustrated book and rejected the project. Crestfallen, the author and his agent had long discussions about whether self-publishing would be the right approach or if a book just wasn't meant to be. But rather than letting the author give up or head down a path fraught with great expense and risk, the agent spent many months helping him rework his ideas and develop a new proposal for a book that conveyed the same uncommon insights and techniques in a format closer to what traditional business book imprints are comfortable publishing.

The revised proposal generated even more excitement and led to a whirlwind tour for the author to meet with editors at major publishers on the East and West coasts. The agent held a lively auction and the book sold for six figures to one of the world's leading business book publishers. Next Spring, literary agent Ted Weinstein recommends you pick up a copy of "The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems with Pictures," by Dan Roam, published by Penguin Portfolio.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rocky Balboa and Rudy T

There are those agents that submit your book to twenty editors and then drop you and the project if it doesn't sell, and then there are those who stick with you no matter what. In general, I've always tried to be the latter. Let me tell you though, it ain't easy to do. It's heart-breaking, expensive (since we don't collect on expenses until we sell your book), and unbelievably time-consuming, and since the break-through deal is usually not for that much money, there's very little initial pay-off.

Now I'm not saying it's any easier for the author. In fact, I imagine its quite a bit harder (especially on the "heart-breaking" front). But the bottom line is that pain heals, while quitting lasts forever. In honor of this, I'm going to solicit from a few agent friends some of the more extraordinary and heroic agenting stories and post them on this site.

More to come...