letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 209
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 3
genres of partials/manuscripts requested: heroic fantasy (1), historical urban fantasy (1), historical/paranormal YA (1)

A few days ago, over on BookEnds, agent Jessica Faust “shockingly” posted that agents want to represent books that make money. She noted that some people use this as grounds for criticism.

Now this same agent has previously waxed enthusiastic about her clients’ books, so obviously money isn’t all there is to it. As she said in this same entry agenting “has the added bonus of being something I love.”

As Lucienne Diver put it, when she added a client to her rather full and busy client list: when we really love something, there’s just no talking ourselves out of it. To which I respond, that’s how we roll.

This week I signed a new client too! To some extent, the reasons were fairly simple: There’s talent. I love the story. I want to read the sequel. And, oh yeah, what would be the point of having an agent take an author on as a client if they didn’t think they could sell the book?

Then the Call would sound like: “Good afternoon — Agent Jennifer here. I’ve read your manuscript and I think it’s halfway decent even though I’ve read so many books that are ever so much better. I doubt I can sell it. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s no chance at all. But what the heck – I need to pad out my client list.”

12 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. I know of someone who basically had an agent do that, actually. Apparently the agent kept the manuscript in a desk drawer for years, and barely bothered to shop it around (if that; when asked, the agent didn’t have any good records of who s/he’d sent it to), and basically… didn’t really care about the book. At the time, it’d had an editor nibbling, but the editor left or something, the “guaranteed sale” fell through, and it pretty well soured the author on agents at all.
    Which I think is a pity, and a lesson. If an agent isn’t really interested in the work, then geeze, I can keep my manuscript in my desk drawer myself, with less uncertainty, y’know? O:> I want an agent who says, “Right! I want to rep this book, and I want to read everything else you write, too. There’d better be a sequel!” Or, well, words to that effect.
    Congrats to you and your new client!

  2. Awesome news! Always great to find someone to fits with what you are looking for.

  3. Congrats on signing a client, Jennifer! I’m always glad to see agents signing new clients. It gives hope to us aspirin’ kids out there. 🙂

  4. Hey, agents have to eat as well. Ground-breaking prose and sharply defined characters are nice, but you can’t always pay rent with them.

  5. This post is very encouraging. Congrats on signing a new client!

  6. To me at least, the idea seems like an integral part of the business model. I find good stuff, I represent the good stuff, I get paid when I help the author sell good stuff. I have money to support my continued personal existence.
    Was I missing something in all of that? Dunno. I always thought it was simple.
    I suppose there might be a few agents who thrive on the idea of having a big client list, knowing full well that they can’t do justice to all of them. I would guess that’s true in any “representational occupation.”

  7. Hehe, I can’t help thinking there may have been a tinge of sarcasm in that last paragraph 🙂

  8. Yeah, that’s the thing. “I don’t think I can make us any money with this,” is a perfectly legitimate rejection. I mean, even if you liked a book, you wouldn’t take it if you couldn’t sell it, right?

  9. Just about the worst complement I could imagine, would be “Look, I really cant stand your manuscript, but I’m sure it’ll sell like gang busters to your target audience.”
    I mean… if you know what sells, dammit, you gotta LIKE what sells too, or you wouldn’t be doing this as a career (I’d hope, anyway).
    why would an agent represent a particular genre, if they didn’t have their finger to the pulse of that demographic?
    I doubt I could trust an agent to promote my work, if they didn’t love it on some level… the character, the style, the ‘something’, ya know?
    …I was always under the impression that love and money when hand in hand, when it came to good Agents.

  10. I used to have an agent. He was unable to sell the book I’d written, and gave up after a little over a year.
    It felt good having an agent, of course. But he told me it simply wasn’t possible for new authors to break in to my genre at that time. I have no idea if that’s true. I believe in his sincerity, though, surely if he were a charlatan he would have asked me to pay him at some point . . .
    Maybe he was just trying to get as many clients as possible, at the cost of dealing with genres he didn’t know that well.

  11. Of Agents and Querys
    I think selling a book (and life for that matter) is a lot like a poker game. In order to have even the chance of “winning” you have to be at the table, make sure you get dealt a hand, and then play that hand as well as is possible. If the you have a decent hand and you do everything right, you might get to stay in the game.
    But you might do everything right and still lose. Maybe the other players hands are better that day, or you were too obvious in your bluff. Maybe you just had a bad hand and didn’t realize it. Or maybe you annoyed the dealer. Sometimes stuff happens beyond your ability to affect them. So good luck to all and try to play the next hand better! cheers M. Scott

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