RSS Feed Print
Book Country Ask an Agent Blog Series 2015
Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 10:16 AM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 142

Hi everyone!


Post any question you would like to ask a literary agent here. Four agents will answer questions on the Book Country blog in May. 






--edited by Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant on 4/1/2015, 10:18 AM--

Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 12:09 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

I have a question for the agents!


What do you do if one of your clients' books gets a cover that you find really ugly, but the publisher and the author love it? Do you hold your tongue or do you put in your 2 cents?

Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 3:59 PM
Joined: 4/24/2014
Posts: 29

I was recently at a Pitch-o-Rama in SF and pitched my book to three agents.  All of them were interested in the book, a cozy mystery and first in a series, until I told them I'd self-published it.  At which point the agents said the same thing:  No way! That they simply couldn't sell a book to a publisher that had already been self published, and that publishing houses do not want to pick up the second book in a series. 


One of the agents said to come back and see her when I'd sold 50,000 of the first book.  If I could sell that many self-published books, I probably would't be looking for an agent.


As you can imagine, I am disappointed.  My book has sold reasonably well, but I would like to increase its reach and readership. Based on what those agents told me, if want an agent, I'll have to abandon my current series and start a new one in order to find an agent.


Now for the questions:  What options that are available to me given my situation?  And, is this a universal sentiment among agents/publishers, that once a novel has been self-published, it can't/won't be picked up by an agent or publisher?





--edited by JanPeac on 4/1/2015, 4:00 PM--

Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 11:43 PM
Joined: 11/13/2012
Posts: 13

Thanks for this opportunity! In fact, I was just mulling over this question a couple days ago when RT Convention posted time slots to speak with agents one-on-one.


If a self-published author isn't actively looking for a publisher now or in the near future, what would the benefits be of having an agent? What are some other reasons to explore that relationship?




GD Deckard
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 8:49 AM
Joined: 7/23/2014
Posts: 159

You've worked with successful writers. Is there one thing they had in common that made them successful?
Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:37 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

These are fantastic questions!


I just thought of another one that I am curious about:


What's a normal workday in the life of an agent?




Follow up question: How much time do you spend on Twitter?

Jaycee Ford
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 12:20 PM
Joined: 4/25/2013
Posts: 17

My question seems to be similar to everyone else's ... self-published author trying to gain more readership. 


It was recommended to me to self-publish first, mainly because of having control, but with all of the self-published titles in competition, how do we stand above, and also, how do we compete with traditionally published authors?


I prefer the quality over quantity approach, but I don't know of any other options.


So, essentially, would an agent take a gamble on a self-published author/book?

Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 1:30 PM
Joined: 9/7/2013
Posts: 24

If you feel that a novel from a first-time author is strong (style, voice, premise, etc) -- but, could use some changes (more than simple tweaking) -- are you likely to say to the author, Make these changes and then send it back to me? 


And what does the author do if confronted with responses by more than one agent - some (okay, most) reject the book out of hand; maybe if the writer is super lucky, one agent likes the book as is; and yet another agent thinks changes are needed too, but changes different from what the other agent was looking for? I realize this is a highly unlikely scenario for a first-time author unless he/she is the next Jonathan Franzen, but I'm just wondering how the author would reconcile conflicting reactions and figure out what the right course of action is.


Thanks - this is a great opportunity!

Rob Emery
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 1:31 PM
Joined: 3/4/2014
Posts: 18

This particular question has been tumbling about in my mind for a while.  As a member of the book country community of writers, I have a manuscript (Historical Fiction/Personage) that lately has been giving me five stars on my reviews. The book is virtually finished, but I am in a quandary as whether to seek an agent or self publish. I have worked on this story for many years, and it is the advice of other writers that has helped me bring the novel to this point.

Rob Emery

Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 2:26 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

I plan to self-publish, but I don't want to close the door to other possibilities. If I post excerpts to a web site, possibly even a few teaser chapters, does that destroy any chance of being traditionally published?
Audrey Greathouse
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 2:45 PM
Joined: 2/17/2015
Posts: 2

Let's say dreams really do come true and I land an agent. What would be the most productive use of my time while you're trying to sell my book to a publisher? Also, how long would you try to get a book published before you would feel that it just isn't going to work out? Thanks!

Leslie J Portu
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 2:55 PM
Joined: 9/8/2013
Posts: 7

On the heels of Fifty Shades of Grey, where does erotica stand in the current market? Is it moving more mainstream, or was that just a one hit wonder? More specifically, might agents be on the lookout for a well-written erotic novel?


Thanks! I eagerly await your reply.


Leslie J Portu

Violet M
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 3:46 PM
Joined: 2/26/2015
Posts: 6

I have a non-fiction book that I wrote about Christianity and how suffering has a purpose for those of faith. My questions are:


  1. Do I have to seek out agents who only handle books on Christianity or will any agent consider the job?
  2. If I have to seek out agents who specifically handle Christian literature where do I find them? 



Alex Rosa
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 6:35 PM
Joined: 4/25/2013
Posts: 14

For an author who's new to the traditional publishing game, sometimes it can be overwhelming navigating the world. I have an agent, an editor, a publisher, and even a publicist.


How do you define these roles? What are things agents do specifically, then let's say, an editor wouldn't? Would I send my agent an unedited manuscript, and do we run through edits together? Is this just a story edit? Should I have an editor I use separately? Or do I just run the MS through my agent, and then if/when a publisher picks it up, it'll go through an edit then? (sorry for the twenty questions).


What would the break down of the role of an agent be, so the expectations and lines don't get blurred through all the people an author might work with?


Thanks so much. Hopefully I make sense. haha.



--edited by Alex Rosa on 4/2/2015, 6:37 PM--

D J Lutz
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 8:44 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 130

When some agents speak of wanting to build the brand, they say they are looking specifically for authors who are in it for the long haul. In other words, agents seem to want writers with decades of available book writing ahead of them. All of this makes good business sense. No complaints; I'd be doing the same thing. So, any suggestions for those of us over 50 who plan on a mere 30 or so more years of writing? Is there age bias from agents and publishers, and if so, how can we mitigate it? Or does a great book trump a hand full of AARP cards?
Amber Wolfe
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:49 PM
Joined: 7/24/2014
Posts: 539



My question is: Is it acceptable to query more than one agent about a manuscript at a time? Unless an agency specifically requests otherwise, is it all right to query other agents? And if so, what's the etiquette involved? In the query, should the author mention they've contacted other agents and are waiting for their replies?


Or is it better to query only one agent and wait for them to either reject or accept you before moving on?


Also, if a debut author approached you about representing a series, would you automatically reject them? Should a debut author focus on querying standalone titles and having them published before looking into approaching an agent about representing a series? Is a debut author seeking representation for a series a turn-off for agents?


Thanks for taking the time to read this!


Newbie Writer, Amber

--edited by Amber Wolfe on 4/10/2015, 8:03 AM--

Josh Vitalie
Posted: Friday, April 3, 2015 3:56 AM
Joined: 4/25/2013
Posts: 1

My question concerns content. 


How receptive are agents to receiving manuscripts of a controversial nature? Is there a "keep a wide berth" agenda due to the potential backlash of such manuscripts, or is there a willing reception in the publishing world for more raw and challenging material? Does this even factor into the decision-making process? 



Stephanie Blackburn
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2015 12:31 PM
Joined: 12/23/2014
Posts: 1


Fantastic question! I'll be interested to see what the agent has to say as I'm in a similar situation. 


Posted: Monday, April 6, 2015 3:28 PM
Joined: 6/21/2014
Posts: 1

How about an example of a compelling query letter that you would actually read?
Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015 3:30 PM
Joined: 6/27/2014
Posts: 2

Do you participate in social medial pitch campaigns like PitMad on Twitter?  If so, what can you share from your experience for those of us who might be thinking about participating in the future?
Eric Bratcher
Posted: Friday, April 10, 2015 2:47 AM
Joined: 2/23/2015
Posts: 3

I have a manuscript written as a single volume, but that could be split into two, possibly even three smaller books (I've always envisioned it as the first in a series anyhow). Would it have a better chance of getting picked up if I pitch it as a single volume with series potential, or as a series right from the get-go?  


As a follow-up, would your thoughts change upon learning that I'm a first-time author or that the manuscript is targeted for 10- to 14-year-old readers? 



Vanessa Silva
Posted: Friday, April 10, 2015 3:45 PM
Joined: 2/22/2015
Posts: 3

If you're reading a query letter for a work of fiction (esp. fantasy/sci fi), I know that having both strong characters and a strong plot are important, but which will make you more likely to keep reading and why?
Claire Count
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 12:03 AM
Joined: 4/28/2015
Posts: 2

When do you need an agent?  How do you know when you are ready as a writer to take this step? 



What should an agent expect from you as a client? What should you expect from an agent? ( An what should you not expect?) 



Thanks  for considering these questions for the panel, 


Claire Count 


Claire Count
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 12:05 AM
Joined: 4/28/2015
Posts: 2

Very good question Alex. Love to have this one answered. 


Claire Count 

Lucy Basey
Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 4:23 PM
Joined: 4/23/2015
Posts: 38

I hope I'm not too late. I've been looking for somewhere to post this question and being new to book country I'm finding it a bit confusing.


My question is, when a writer is looking for an agent, should they hope to find an agent who will represent them in only one genre? Or will most agents be happy to represent the author in a mix of genres. For instance, I write mostly YA fiction, but have been working on a chick lit too.

Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 4:35 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 142

Literary agent Carly Watters answers a few questions on the Book Country blog! #AskaLitAgent
Allen Curtis Meissner
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 12:27 PM
Joined: 9/2/2014
Posts: 20

To date I have published nine eBooks , six are from The Terasrael Chronicles series which will soon be joined by a seventh . The biggest success I've had so far is that it peaks enough interest that those I tell about this too jot down the info I supply after having decided to go and check it out . What more can I do than that ?
Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 12:34 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 142

Nephele Tempest shared awesome insights about querying last week! #AskaLitAgent
Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Monday, July 13, 2015 11:01 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

@Allen, @Lucy, and @Claire-- agent Amy Cloughley answered your questions on the blog this morning. Her answers were very informative, with lots of specific examples. Check it out!

Jump to different Forum...