do you look for when considering a new novelist?
The first thing I look for is
The second most important thing
is a properly prepared proposal. It’s important for the new novelist to
know how to prepare a proposal. We have guidelines on our Website for
your convenience. If the author doesn’t take the time to learn how to
do the proposal, then I don’t have time to look at what he/she sends
me. The easier you make it for me to review your material, the sooner
your proposal will get read.
Next, has the author had
anything published? If you come to me with seven hundred published
articles, I’m for sure going to take a look at your work. Tell me about
yourself; why are you qualified to write this book? If you’re
self-published, don’t tell me you are a published author.
Self-publishing is fine, but we do not define it as being a published
author. Our definition of being published is being published by a CBA
or ABA house that sells into bookstores and distributes to other
markets. If you have self-published a book or book, tell me how many
books you’ve sold on your own. One of my clients sold a thousand books
a month of his self-published book. I was impressed, took him as a
client, and sold his book to the first publisher who looked at it. Now
we’re working on his fourth book with that editor.
I look for an author who is
flexible, willing to consider my suggestions, and work hard. Will you
be open and honest with me? I’d like to know if you are willing to work
with an editor before we send the proposal and/or the manuscript to a
publisher. The competition is so fierce that we need to have a nearly
perfect proposal and manuscript to submit.
My final note: If by working
together you have a best-seller, don’t leave me for another agent.
Remember to “dance with the one who brung you.” In another column we’ll
deal with when it’s appropriate to change agents.
What will my
contract with a literary agency entail?
While I can’t say what every
agency’s contract includes, I do know that Hartline’s follows industry
standards. We ask for industry standard commission on any sales we
make. We do not charge fees or ask for up-front costs. Our authors
don’t pay us until they see payment for their work.
In the past, agencies routinely
asked authors to help with expenses, such as telephone calls, postage,
and travel. Now that most publishers accept electronic submissions and
the cost of long distance telephone service has decreased, these costs
aren’t as great for agents, so fewer ask for help with these expenses.
Hartline agents do not ask authors to help pay postage, phone, or
travel bills. We do not ask for reading or evaluation fees. These sort
of fees are frowned upon in our industry. If your contract includes any
provision where you may incur a fee of any kind, have an honest and
open discussion with the agent so you can decide if and when incurring
additional expenses may be appropriate.
A good agency contract includes
provisions regarding what will happen if both parties decide to
discontinue their professional relationship. It will also explain what
the agent will do for the author.
Bottom line: A good agency
contract protects both the agent and the author, and puts in writing an
understanding as to what both can expect from each another. If you
don’t understand a contract provision, ask the agent before signing.
Mutual respect and understanding are keys to an excellent relationship.
are so many changes now; where is publishing headed?
Wow, my crystal ball is a bit
fuzzy. If I could definitively answer this question, I could be the
most successful agent ever. I’m sure different agents see it
differently, so I can speak only for me.
made a shift in how I was
doing submissions over a year ago to include more small publishers in
my efforts. It has resulted in helping a number of debut authors get
their careers underway.
done that, I listened
with great interest as the “Future of Publishing” panel at the Colorado
Christian Writers Conference focused on the emergence of small
publishers. Jeff Gerke was just featured on Chip MacGreaor’s blog
talking about this. You can read it athttp://bit.ly/c51tK5.
The panel said that the
publishing world is transforming into a two-sided spectrum, big and
little, with the mid-size house rapidly disappearing or morphing into
one or the other. If this is true, two major differences exist between
the two: sales and distribution, and the target market. The traditional
publishers concentrate on and virtually own the brick-and-mortar
channels, and have the distribution and the sales staff to get books
into the marketplace. The small publishers concentrate on the online
sales and distribution that is growing rapidly.
But the market they target may
be the biggest difference. Large publishers have long rejected books
for being “too much of a niche market.” Small publishers seek out and
try to serve these niche markets with new publishing models that
produce a larger-per-book profit margin.
What is the future of
publishing? It’s changing, that’s for sure, and the authors and the
smaller publishers are the ones that can make adjustments and turn on a
dime to take advantage of changes. I believe there will be some strong
opportunities for those who can find the opportunities and react to
them. The role of the agent is being affected too as more and more
having a finger on the pulse of publishing to guide clients is critical
to reacting to market changes.
It’s an interesting time.
Why should I
attend a writer’s conference? Is it worth the cost and my time?
I often recommend my authors
attend a writer’s conference near them. There are many benefits to
justify the expense. Owning a great set of resource books on writing is
a good thing, but a conference where like-minded individual’s
gather—well, there is nothing like it.
For serious writers who want to
go somewhere with their writing, writer’s conferences offer workshops
on specific subjects to aid them in honing their skills: Learn how to
realistically advance the plot. Weave into the story believable
characters. Learn what Not to Do as well as what Can
Be Done. At a writer’s conference you will rub shoulders with
others who are just as crazy about words as you are.
A writer’s conference is where
you will lunch with newly published authors, share their joy, and hear
their personal stories of twenty-three rejections and four years of
nail biting, waiting till they “Got the call.” Stand in the cafeteria
line and have a just-contracted, wet-behind-the-ears author hand you a
bookmark and ask you to please read her book when it comes out;
exchange names and later watch her career take off like a shot and be
able to say, “I know her and she is the nicest person.” Or sit at
dinner and hear the insecurities of an author writing her second book,
wondering if she can do it again, and you note later as she proceeds to
do it well many years on. Friendships born and kinships established.
They all are just humans like you are, and if they can do it, well,
maybe you will as well. Wonderful heady stuff!
Another important aspect of a
writer’s conference are the Agent/Editor appointments. Keep in mind,
they are just people who love words like you, and have traveled to a
conference for your benefit. Meeting agents face-to-face is a good way
to know if you would like to work with them, if they are a good fit for
what you write. Read over the list of editors that are listed under
faculty and choose to meet ones who acquire and publish your genre of
books. Commit to the guidelines and go with a well prepared one-sheet
and pitch. During your fifteen-minute appointment, you will receive
advice, praise, and maybe a request to submit a full proposal.
You will leave the conference
with new friends, new skills, and a much better chance of making it to
your goal of being published.