THE Group for Authors! discussion

90 views
Publishing and Promoting > Should I have a literary agent?

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 210 comments The bigger question might be "Can I get an agent?"

Agents are busy people. They receive hundreds of manuscripts to look at, and at the same time they have to represent the writers who they do have on their books. As agents generally only get paid when an author is published, they need to be absolutely sure that a new writer has a good chance of being published.

That means that agents turn down the vast majority of writers who approach them. I haven't got any firm figures, but I'd guess that it's in the high 90 percents. Maybe even 99.9%.

The $64,000 question is whether your writing is good enough for an agent to want to sign you. I don't know the answer to that question, but this is what I do know ...

1. First novels are normally not very good.

2. Agents and publishers typically hate NaNoWriMo books. They want a manuscript that has been lovingly written and polished to within a micrometer of its life. Not something that has been dashed out in an arbitrary deadline.

By all means try to get an agent if you want to go down that route. It is very hard, but you might be either fabulously talented and/or lucky. All I would suggest is that you don't pin your hopes on it. It is a very tough world to break in to.

If you are really serious about writing, then I wouldn't start with a hunt for an agent. Instead, I'd advise you to get better at writing. Read books about writing. Research on the internet (I recommend absolutewrite.com). Go on training courses. Write a lot. Join writers' groups. Read a lot.

Until and unless you are ready to go full time as a writer (and it sounds like you are not) treat writing as a hobby that you are passionate about. It's a bit like playing golf. Lots of people play golf at the weekend even though they have little chance of becoming a professional.

Enjoy playing golf/ writing. Most of all, enjoy the process of getting good at learning how to play golf/ write.

The agent comes much much later. Unless you are fabulously talented and/or lucky.


message 2: by Gary (new)

Gary Jones (gfjones_dvm) | 53 comments Good advice. I've got a stack of agent rejection letters for my first novel, and at least 3 times as many agents never bothered to respond.

A question for someone who has 1 or 2 books published might be how many copies does your book have to sell before an agent will have serious interest in it or in your next book?


message 3: by Geri (new)

Geri Schear (gerischear) | 3 comments I agree with Will 100%.

In my opinion, you're looking at the process back to front. Publication plans come last, not first. First write a good book, and not just something you can toss off over the course of a month. Something you put your heart, soul and self into.

Then re-write it. And rewrite it again. Have your friends read the draft and give you their input. Edit it or hire someone to do it for you. Then, and not till then, should you even think about publication.

If, at the end of this process, you decide to submit it to agents, make a list of the top fifty who handle your genre and start to send the MS to them. If the work is good enough, you will succeed. Even if you decide to publish the work yourself, at least you will produced something you can be proud of.

Good luck.


message 4: by Liangzhi (new)

Liangzhi Gao | 16 comments Thank you very much for your advice.
I am a new one in Goodreads. I am not familian with it.

I have some questons:
1) Could I publish my own Ebook on Goodreads?
2) If I could , how to do so . Where is the key ?
3 ) What formate (WORD? PDF ?Mobi? Epub?)
4) My books are on Philosophy. How can I contact with people(or writer) , who heve the same interest?
PLease advise,


message 5: by Faith (new)

Faith Liangzhi wrote: "Thank you very much for your advice.
I am a new one in Goodreads. I am not familian with it.

I have some questons:
1) Could I publish my own Ebook on Goodreads?
2) If I could , how to do so . ..."


The Librarians Group https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/... may be able to tell you how to post a sample of your ebook. Books are not published on Goodreads, but some authors do post samples of their work. To find other members who share your interests, you might try searching for, and joining, groups in your area, although there doesn't appear to be much under philosophy. You could also look up a book that interests you and look at the positive reviews and see which groups the reviewers have joined. At least that might be a start to finding members who share your interests.


message 6: by Mellie (new)

Mellie (mellie42) | 618 comments Liangzhi wrote: "Thank you very much for your advice...."

You need to stop hijacking unrelated threads with your questions. You have done this in numerous discussions that I have seen. You come in and asked people to do things for you, promote your book, sort out book issues, or asking general questions.

It is incredibly rude.

Read the FAQ section, many of your questions are answered there.
Use the search function to see if your question has already been asked.
Start a seperate thread to ask your questions.
Don't hijack.
Don't spam.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Lauren wrote: "Hi everyone.
I am in the process of publishing my debut story. It is self-published which is an appropriate decision since it is my first story and I wanted to share with everyone before graduating..."


Hi Lauren. I see most people respond to you in the context of writing. Yes, you need to perfect your craft which comes over a long period of time. But number one question to ask yourself - if your aim is to write fiction - is are you a good storyteller? Being a natural born storyteller is number one priority. If you can't tell a tale then all the most perfect writing in the world will not save you from the slush pile. Relax a little, close your eyes and let your imagination flow. And tell a story. Approach your character as an actor would. A friend of mine copy edits for some of the world's greatest writers and is obviously good at her job. However, she admits she could not write a work of fiction because she just doesn't have the imagination. I do. I hope you do too. Good luck.


message 8: by Brigitta (new)

Brigitta Moon (brigittamoon) | 16 comments Hi Lauren. Thanks for putting that question out there. I was considering the same thing. I am currently on my 7th book and when I look back on the first I see where it needed a lot of rewrite. I finally did a second edition for my book MISTAKE. This was my second book. I didn't have an editor for any of them. Editing is hard work and I'd love to farm it out. The one I'm working on now is slowly coming together. I have been writing and rewriting, trying to put out the best manuscript I can. I intend to hire an editor for this one before even attempting to approach an agent. My reason for wanting an agent is that the big publishing houses only deal with agents. Good luck Lauren.


message 9: by Mimi (new)

Mimi Marten | 21 comments As an INDIE AUTHOR...., spend your money on editor and cover designer.

I know many authors who have an English degree, one is teaching English college courses, and they still pay for an editor, sometimes two.

We all know not to judge the book by it's cover, but we still do. :-)


message 10: by Kate (new)

Kate Walter (katewalter) | 7 comments good advice from everyone about agent hunting and manuscript
preparation. My memoir went through many drafts and lots of
rewriting ( after getting feedback from my workshop). Then I hired
a book doctor and rewrote it again-it took years. Tried to get an agent. No luck but the rejection feed back was helpful and then
I wrote another draft and sold Looking for a Kiss: A Chronicle of Downtown Heartbreak and Healing to an independent press, Heliotrope Books. I took the cover photo myself- and it is a
very cool picture if I do say so myself.


message 11: by Susana (new)

Susana Franco | 1 comments Do not look for an agent. They are busy people. Try to find a publishing company that makes all the publishing work for you as an e-book. You just have to pay for their digital publishing services and you end with 75% from your book royalties. The trouble here is that all the promotion and marketing work has to be done by the author. I did this way or else it would take a lot of time to see my story published. But I confess that it is exhausting. Because the time we are concerned with the book sales doesn't allow time to write the next one.
If you do not have time to promote your book, I would recommend to get an internet marketeer to do it for you. Then with the first sales results, if they are fine, just try the conventional publishers.


message 12: by Gary (new)

Gary Jones (gfjones_dvm) | 53 comments I've heard--and I have no way to determine if this is true--that conventional publishers aren't impressed or interested unless your book sells around 20,000 copies.


message 13: by Jon (last edited Mar 08, 2016 06:30AM) (new)

Jon Etheredge (jonetheredge) | 495 comments Consider hiring one or two people with whom you are on speaking terms to perform live reads. I paid the wife of a fellow Harley rider fifty cents per page to come into my home once a week and read a new manuscript out loud over a spaghetti dinner. This was done after the first draft had been run through a ten-person working group (charged only with reading and commenting on the story).

By the time "Dream Talker" was ready for live reads, it had been professionally critiqued by Barbara Rogan (money WELL SPENT), edited for grammar, typos, plot holes, libelous representations, boring sections and a dozen other considerations I hadn't thought of. The live reads took about two months and found pacing and flow problems that needed to be addressed before sending queries to publishers.

Total cost - ten special edition books for each member of the working group, $50 for Ms Rogan's thorough and spot-on critique, $200 for the live reads, $40 in spaghetti, and $100 in toner and paper.

Result - "Dream Talker" was picked up by Pen-L Publishing, the third place I sent it to. Another round of editing (free!), another cover design (free!), and my book was finally ready for the big time.

Total time required - three years (yes, my typing skills are dismal). Your mileage may vary.


message 14: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Anton | 31 comments Mimi wrote: "As an INDIE AUTHOR...., spend your money on editor and cover designer..."

As both an INDIE and BIG-5 AUTHOR, I couldn't agree more. Even when I'm writing for Penguin, I hire my own editor to make sure my manuscript is as good as possible before sending it off to the publisher.


message 15: by Mimi (new)

Mimi Marten | 21 comments As both an INDIE and BIG-5 AUTHOR, I couldn't agree more. Even when I'm writing for Penguin, I hire my own ed..."

Well said, Maggie. I know the biggest argument from a lot of writers is that they don't have the budget for it. I'll say...., if you want to make it as an author who writes for living, not just as a hobby...., Go make the money somewhere else to be able to pay for your editor and cover designer, to give your book the best chance to compete in today's market. :-)


message 16: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Kope In my experience, self-published books count for next to nothing with agents and publishers. Twenty years before signing with my agent I had a book deal with a very small press in Virginia that was pretty much a waste of time. After that, I self-published three books (one hardback novel and two non-fiction paperbacks). I sold about 6,000 copies total, won a Small Press Book Award for one of them, and another was selected as a Military Book Club Featured Alternate Selection.

It counted for next to nothing. What did count, and what eventually landed both an agent and a two-book deal with Minotaur Books (St. Martin's Press) was a great story accompanied by great writing.

Focus on building your writing and storytelling skills. Everything else is a secondary consideration. I never hired an editor, though, like many, I considered it. Instead, I studied words; I studied how to build powerful sentences; I studied potent writers.

Final thoughts: My manuscript was mailed to my agent about five months before she got around to reading it, that's how busy agents are. When I got the call from her she wasn't even finished with it, but knew she wanted it. If you have stories inside you that won't be contained and won't leave you alone, you're bound to succeed. Good stories are a force of nature.


message 17: by Sally (new)

Sally (brasscastle) | 261 comments Spencer wrote: "...stories ... that won't be contained and won't leave you alone... Good stories are a force of nature. ."

Ooooo! I like this! And agree with it wholeheartedly! That's what's happened to me so far. I haven't sold many (yet) of my debut novel, but feedback from readers has been consistently most satisfactory. For me, that is an important measure of success.


message 18: by Danny (new)

Danny Johnson | 41 comments Lauren wrote: "Hi everyone.
I am in the process of publishing my debut story. It is self-published which is an appropriate decision since it is my first story and I wanted to share with everyone before graduating..."


Lauren: junior college, grad school, typing pool, it doesn't matter a wit, if you can write...I suggest you find a really good writers group and start getting qualified feedback...self publish is only good for the experience and feedback


message 19: by Paulo (new)

Paulo Ramos (pauloramos) | 1 comments Spencer wrote: "In my experience, self-published books count for next to nothing with agents and publishers. Twenty years before signing with my agent I had a book deal with a very small press in Virginia that was..."

Spencer: "Good stories are a force of nature." Exactly.


message 20: by Toni (new)

Toni Bunnell (tonibunnell) | 70 comments I agree with Lauren to find a good writers' to share your work. I also recommend asking at least six people to read and feed back on your work prior to self publishing.


back to top