Thursday, October 12, 2006

Answering a publishing question

New reader with a few of publishing questions:

I think the general wisdom goes that if you have some short stories published in magazines, an agent is more likely to take you seriously and more willing to take a look at your book submission. Does it matter what genre the short stories are in? Do the type or character of the magazines matter, or does it just matter that they pay?

Also, about writing in multiple genres: if I publish a book in one genre, will it be difficult to publish in other genres? Finally, if an agent (that's already handling a published book of mine) only handles one or two genres and I write a new book outside of the genres she handles, what's the best way to handle this situation?

Sorry for so many questions packed in at once. There's just so much to learn about this business!

I take people seriously if I know the caliber of the magazine they've been published in. To steal a bit of Miss Snark's wisdom, if I can't easily google the magazine, then I don't know what it is. I personally only really give a lot of credence to professional-rate paying markets; I think it's wonderful that there's so many semi-pro magazines out there, but most of them just don't rank high enough on my radar. In regards to genre, if you're trying to get me to read your Scottish Highland romance novel, and you've only been published in SF publications, that looks a little funny.

As far as publishing in multiple genres, there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing that. Just be aware that as your first book in each new genre comes out, you're essentially "starting over". The best way to handle your situation is to look for an agent who handles all the genres you're writing in. Barring that, if you're with an agency that does exclusively children's stuff, sometimes agents will have no problem with you having a second agent for only your adult publications. Now me.. I want to handle all your stuff; unless you're J. K. Rowling coming to me because you've written a stupendous adult novel, I'm probably going to pass on your query since you've already got one agent working for you... who wants to split time and money and investment in a client with someone else? This is a business after all.


D.L. Rankin said...

Hey, Jenny. I have a publishing question. When it comes to choosing an agent, if a writer is fortunate enough to garner interest from more than one at a time, and one of them is famous, while the other is just getting their feet wet in the industry, which agent would you recommend? If the larger agent already has a lot of clients, do you think a newer writer stands the cnance of being overlooked? I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

kiwi said...

Jenny might think differently, but if I were you d.l.rankin, I'd send material to both. You can always choose later if fortune shines on you. Just make sure the agents in question are aware that you are doing this.

Clearly, every writer wants an established agent with decades of experience and countless sales. But more often than not, these agents have full lists and are very picky about taking on new clients, particularly first time writers.

New agents, however, are often in the process of establishing their lists and what they lack in experience and sales they often make up for in enthusiasm. Just make sure they’re legit. Do your due diligence! At the end of the day, an acquisitions editor will offer a book contract on the quality and marketability of your work, regardless of the avenue by which it reached their desk or slush pile. At best, a legit agent will only hasten this process and perhaps sweeten the advance check.

Good luck in your writing endeavors

Jenny Rappaport said...

Hi, D. L.! I agree with what kiwi has said for the most part. I also strongly believe in having a personal fit with an agent, so I'd also tell you to go with the one that makes you the most comfortable--assume that you're going to be working with the person for a long-term basis. Also, take into account what sort of terms are in each agent's author-agent retainer agreement and such; that can make a difference too.

As to newer writers being overlooked, it can happen, but I think it's more a fact that the agents are busy than anything else. Most agents only take on clients who they think they can sell, so they're not going to deliberately alienate you. And you should always remember what John Scalzi told me once, in regards to people not answering e-mails promptly:

(warning: flippant quote ahead)

"Of course, if they ignore the second e-mail, that's when you know
they hate you. And that's when you get out the voodoo doll and stab
stab stab stab STAB."