I just talked to an agent yesterday on the phone, and this is what she had to say:
great stuff, but in my experience these past
few months, editors are only requesting 50% of
what they were before the recession gripped us.
For instance, if I sent 10 query letters out to editors,
I could count on a request to see at least 8 book proposals. Now,
it’s 4. Everyone is afraid of taking a chance on
something. More cuts are imminent, and if
you stick you neck out on a project that tanks,
it may backfire. If a project tanks, you’re gone.
So why take that chance?
… To help make money for my clients,
I’m doing a lot of foreign sales, and then doing
a lot of ancillary sales – film and TV rights.”
For NYC, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you don’t take chances on books, you don’t have those breakout sellers, like The Secret, or God is Not Great, or whatever. But if you do take chances on books, and they sink in a bad market, you have that failure around your neck at the next staff review meeting. The whole thing is depressing to think about.
As far as how this affects us as writers. My advice is two-fold. First of all, don’t turn down any work that pays decently. This is not the time to be choosy. If it pays OK, take it. Bank the money. Secondly, concerning submitting to agents … you just can’t think about it. I mean, it’s always been tough to get a book published, right? Well, you could say that now it’s 20% more difficult. Nothing’s changed. You still want to produce something great and write a great query and synopsis because the cream does rise to the top – every agent says that same thing.
I’m already starting to see how this is affecting how agents do business – discussions of a different pay scale and higher percentages if book advances are low. I gotta say – that doesn’t sound that bad. The AAR will probably disagree with me here, but from a writer’s standpoint, paying a higher agent commission is not the end of the world. It will allow agents to continue to take on smaller books that are brilliant but likely to not be high-sellers.
I dunno. More on this as we go along.