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Of Agents and Coffee Breaks : Writers' Block Party • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

What's going on in your writing world? Connect with the writing community here and talk about whatever's on your mind.
touchstone
Sergeant First Class
 
Posts: 272
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 8:47 am

Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby touchstone » Sun Feb 05, 2006 4:15 pm


touchstone
Sergeant First Class
 
Posts: 272
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 8:47 am

Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby touchstone » Sun Feb 05, 2006 4:15 pm

It's been asked before and it will be asked again... what to do about agents? I have a few questions I was hoping you guys could help me with. Like, what exactly does an agent do - why do I need one? Reading Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul, I noticed most of the stories didn't mention the author having one as he or she sent her story from publisher to publisher. Is there a certain type of writing that requires an agent, or is it okay to just send your story to a publisher without an agent? I'm confuzzled and I'd rather not be confuzzled.

Thanks y'all!
~ touchstone

Curious
Lieutenant
 
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RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby Curious » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:55 pm

Agents come up a lot, but I'm not sure they've come up at this basic a level before, so that's a good question.

Most publishing houses--particularly the bigger mainstream publishing houses--will not look at manuscripts that you send in. They accept manuscripts from agents only. They rely on the agents to sort through the poor-quality ones and pass along to them only "viable" manuscripts. Particularly if you are writing adult fiction (not as in "adult!"--that's erotica--but as in "written for people who aren't children"), you will find that your options for publication are very limited if you do not go with an agent.

I've read a couple of interesting statistics about this lately. An agent declared that only about one in 500 manuscripts that come to her agency is worth passing along to publishers. Her agency rejects the rest. I've also read that editors accept only one or two out of every 100 manuscripts that come to them. Someone somewhere commented that it seems the odds are about 1 in 20,000 that a manuscript will make it to publication. Those two statistics together would seem to echo that depressing stat.

Clare

Jamesaritchie
Commander in Chief
 
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Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2005 12:11 pm

RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby Jamesaritchie » Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:49 am

In short, an agent handles the business side of writing. If all you do is write short stories or artciles, it's very unlikely you'll need an agent. Nearly all magazines accept stories from writers without agents. If you write novels or nonfiction books, however, and want these published by top commercial publishers, an agent is a must have.

Agents can get your manuscripts into the hands of editors who will not even look at novels or nonfiction books from writers who do not have agents. Agents handle contracts of all sorts, they deal with subsidiary rights, they shop you around, they find new deals for you, they can set up book auctions, on and on. Agents keep track of trends in pubishing, they know which editor at which publisher wants just the kind of book you've written, etc.

As Curious said, agents are used by publishers to weed out as much of the really bad material as possible. Even with agents doing this, the amount of junk that lands on a publishr's doorstep is unbelievable, but without agents it would be hundreds of times worse. Not so many years ago, publishers all hired first readers who essentially did the weeding. At some point, however, publishers found it was much cheaper to hand this task off to agents.

But the short answer is that if you want to have a book of any sort published by a mainstream publisher, an agent makes this task many times easier. But if all you wish to do, at least for now, is to write short stories and articles, you don't yet need an agent. By and large, agents only handle short stories and articles as a coutesy for the book writers they already represent. There simply isn't enough money in short tsories and articles to be worth an agent's time.

Jumbie
 

RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby Jumbie » Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:48 am

Well the agent question was answered quite nicely. But what about the coffee breaks???

Personally, I vote for thirty minute breaks every hour. :)


jasipper
Brigadier General
 
Posts: 3170
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RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby jasipper » Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:56 am


Jamesaritchie
Commander in Chief
 
Posts: 8276
Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2005 12:11 pm

RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby Jamesaritchie » Mon Feb 06, 2006 6:12 am


Aspiring
 

RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby Aspiring » Mon Feb 06, 2006 6:12 am

I'm going the agent route, because with all I've read and been advised, that seems the best for me. I've had mild interest but so far no major luck. I think I'll go for that coffee break...

jasipper
Brigadier General
 
Posts: 3170
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:05 am

RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby jasipper » Mon Feb 06, 2006 6:36 am

I agree with the agent route. I'm trying that direction, too. I'm just saying that I'm not going to rule out any of the different directions available. I do agree with James. That's why I'm trying the agents out, too!

Good luck!

touchstone
Sergeant First Class
 
Posts: 272
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 8:47 am

RE: Of Agents and Coffee Breaks

Postby touchstone » Mon Feb 06, 2006 8:20 am

Well, that about clears it up. Luckily I get along with people, so I can deal with an agent. ~_^ That seems to be the way to go.

Thank you all for your comments. They are always enlightening for me. Now you may have your coffee break, Jumbie. Thirty minutes plus!


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