Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finding a Literary Agent, Part III

This is the last post on the Q&A from last week's The Writing Life daytime talk series program on finding a literary agent. Read Part I and Part II.

Our speakers:
Zoe Pagnamenta (ZP), founder of The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency
Sharon Bowers (SB), partner at The Miller Agency
Elisabeth Weed (EW), founder of Weed Literary

Q: When can I move on from my current agent?
EW: Look at the term clause
SB: If you're unhappy, drop the agent an email to let them know.

Q: Why would you need an agent if an editor is already interested in your book?
ZP: I think it's in the best interestsof a writer. The agent can guide the writer through the process.
SB: Agent is more involved in the marketing than an editor is. For example, we can call the NY Times if we know them to try and get attention. The agent is your buffer. If you're unhappy with the editor or something going on with the publishing process, the agent will work with the editor.

Q: Why is the standard agent fee 15%?
EW: It used to be 10%. It's just become the industry norm.
SB: Fee is not negotiable.

Q: The Miller Agency website says it doesn't take unsolicited manuscripts. How could we submit to you?
SB: We do look at unsolicited work and will always take on writers we want to sell. We take a lot of referrals. It's just become our house policy not to solicit because we get so much. So in keeping with that, we've also made our website very minimalist.

Q: Is it appropriate to send a full manuscript?
SB: I like having the full manuscript of a novel, but if there's a good hook...

Q: What's the easiest kind of book for you to sell?
EW: A sexy, upmarket thriller
SB: If you're currently on a tv show right now. Also, a really smart mystery series -not a standalone mystery. Something like Tana French...
ZP: Historical fiction

Q: Are parenting books over?
EW: I've done some. But I've been told it's tough now because so much information is online. The more specific the topic, the better.
SB: Author's expertise on the topic is crucial.

Q: Would you ever introduce an editor to an author before signing?
EW: Typically no. Sometimes when there's an auction for a book.
ZP: Very often we might do a phone conversation. Editor might want to know how receptive the author is to edits.

Q: Who does fact checking?
EW: Publisher will fact check.

Q: Is there an argument for smaller agencies versus large powerhouse agencies?
ZP: Definitely you get more attention from smaller agencies. They take fewer meetings.
EW: Smaller agencies like ours have more time for writers.
SB: If you have the choice of a larger agency, though, you probably have more choices. If a large agency wants to sign you, go for it. I say make hay while the sun shines.

...and that's all folks. Did I catch everything from the Q&A? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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