Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance

by Steve Laube

Arrow with word  Fact breaks word Myth. Concept 3D illustration.

You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched it just right and the literary agent has called you saying they want to represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or myths about what happens next.

1.  Your Book Will Soon Be Published

Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.

In addition the acquisitions process at a publisher is very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor we tried to have a monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight titles at that meeting. Thus beforehand we had to decide which titles were going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because another one took its place. For the author and the agent this means waiting and waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course there are exceptions, but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now been bumped to the next pub board meeting.

2.  You Will Soon Be Rich

A common myth about writers. That they live on easy street and vacation in the Caribbean. Few writers are able to generate enough income on their books alone to make a full time living. You read about them because they are the exceptions and are thus newsworthy. Of course a full-time salary is defined differently by each person because needs vary.

One author I know signed with an agent and then immediately quit their job because they knew that the dough was going to flow. A couple months later that author was in serious financial straits. Be wise with your finances. And read an earlier blog called “Author Accounting 101.”

3.  You Never Have to Pitch a Book to an Editor Ever Again

While your agent has a critical role in shaping your proposals and putting them in the hands of the right editor and publisher…there is no one who can sell your idea better than you. We agents encourage writers to keep in touch with their editor and even brainstorm new ideas. That is a natural part of the editor/author relationship…if you are already published.

If you are attending a writers conference, talk to the editors. Get to know them, some are actually nice people! Editors like the world of ideas and when they hear your passion and read your brilliant writing, they can become enamored with your project. The agent can become the “closer” in a situation like that. If in doubt, talk to your agent prior to that conference and strategize who would be the best editors to meet with. We do this all the time with our clients. I have talked with and encouraged dozens upon dozens of now published writers at these conferences.

11 Responses to Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance

  1. Gay N. Lewis December 9, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    Thanks. Good information.

  2. Ron Jones December 9, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Thanks Steve. I am glad to have you and your agency to school me on the “business” of writing. I actually have begun to understand it and how it differs from the art/craft of writing, and it is interesting.

    • Steve Laube December 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Appreciate the compliment. Each of us toils at creating something worthwhile each week.

  3. Catherine Hackman December 9, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    I am learning that it is a long, slow road.

  4. Ron Estrada December 9, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Good post, Steve. I’ve always wondered about #3. I’d assumed that the agent acts as the go-between from writer to editor. I’ll be sure to chat up more publishers at my next conference!

    • Steve Laube December 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Ron,

      The agent does act as the go-between from writer to editor…especially in the beginning. But once you have a relationship with an editor or two there is not reason for the agent to prevent that from flourishing. The best way I can describe it is that …at that time…the creative side is with the editor and the business side is with the agent. But with the caveat that the agent often is also involved in the creative side.

      Many times I’ve helped an author brainstorm a scene for their novel, which is under contract, or help with the structure of a non-fiction book. Even this morning helped a client with brainstorming the title of the next book we are pitching to her publisher.

      So don’t think of this as a line of demarcation. Instead as a different way of thinking, i.e. the myth of number three above.

  5. Jaime Wright December 9, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Dagnabbit! My balloon has been popped. ;) Kidding. But great points to remember. The waiting game is the best part. It allows time for me to write in the silence. :)

  6. Pat Lee December 9, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I had to chuckle at your comment about editors being nice people. Some of the nicest people I’ve met in this business are the editors. They have a tough job telling hopeful authors their manuscript isn’t right for the editor’s publishing house. Imagine saying no to people over and over and watching them deflate before your eyes. Not an easy task for anyone.

    • Steve Laube December 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Pat,
      It is very hard. Especially during a one-on-one meeting at a writers conference.

      It is also why I try to avoid, when possible, sending rejection notices out during the Christmas Season. “Merry Christmas, we hate your manuscript!”

      Sort of loses something in the translation.

      Steve

  7. Jeanne Takenaka December 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this, Steve. It’s good to gain a little insight into the publishing process form someone who’s worked in multiple facets of it. Thanks!

  8. Martha Rogers December 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Editors are wonderful people, or least the ones I’ve met are. I always enjoy talking with them at conferences except in a one on one, then I become tongue-tied even now. The third point is important, and it’s one I forget about. Thanks for the reminder.

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