If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

What’s in a name—the agent version



On Wednesday, superstar mystery writer Jenny Milchman came through Lawrence and had lunch with seven local writers, including me. We had a delicious and wonderful meal full of interesting conversation, stories tall and small, and lots of yam fries (because who doesn’t love yam fries?).

The group was full of variety—three traditionally pubbed Big Five writers; two querying writers; a self-pubbed author; an agented author (me) and a reader.

Before our meals (and yam fries!) arrived, Jenny posed a question to the group. And this is basically it but I’m paraphrasing because we discussed it in different facets: Is it necessary in today’s publishing industry to have a big-shot agent?

While it’s true that you need an agent to get a traditional deal with the Big Five, do you need a “name” agent to be effective? When looking for an agent, is it best to focus on the names you see repeatedly in Publisher’s Marketplace? (Sorry, Jenny, had to paraphrase here.)

My answer was this: you need the agent for you. If that’s the big-deal agent, it’s the big-deal agent. If it’s a freshman agent you really connected with, it’s that excited newbie.

The four of us that are agented agreed, though two of us have agents who aren’t big and two have agents who are huge names in their categories. Our experiences have been vastly different, but we agreed that for an author-agent relationship to be effective:
  1. You need an agent who gets you as an artist and a person
  2. You need an agent who knows the industry and your category
  3. You need an agent who knows how to negotiate
It’s funny because before I was agented I would’ve been happy just to have ANY agent say yes to me. But now I understand the “behind the scenes” part of things and that’s definitely changed my opinion. I feel very happy with my agent and my experience, but I know several people who have run from their agents in tears because things didn’t work out for each of those three reasons above.

And when it doesn’t work out, often your confidence takes a hit, you must query again, AND any book the agent has shopped that didn’t sell isn’t something that another agent would likely make the rounds with again.

I thought Jenny’s question was very important, especially given the negative experiences of people I know. And given that many writers want representation very badly so that they can have a “traditional” career.

For those of you who have queried, what stands out to you about the agents you most hope to connect to?

7 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I am now writing book four of the Seamus McCree series and have been told by everyone that no agents are interested in picking up a series, unless it is already a blockbuster (which mine is not).

Thus I am faced with either starting something new or continuing to slog along with a series that people who read it like, but that garners little attention and few sales.

Should I start something new, I would look for an agent who (1) really believed in my manuscript and (2) who had a history of making sales to in the subgenre of that series -- or who was being mentored in an agency with a long history of big sales in my subgenre.

With publishing options so wide currently, an agent must bring specific skills to the table to justify taking 15% of my revenue.

And all that said, if I met an agent and we really clicked and she really wanted to represent me AND she knew my subgenre as a reader or from working in the industry, I'd probably go with my gut.

But with all that said, it is a business decision as well, said by a guy who turned down representation by a (now famous but then just starting out) agent because her contract was flawed. My thinking was that if someone cannot get their own contract correct, why would I want them to negotiate a contract with a publisher?

So I am happy (and frankly a bit jealous when I think of it) of those authors who do have agents and secretly hope some well-known author will like my stuff so much they recommend their agent talks to me. And with that I should go back to bed to the sounds of the Everly Brothers singing the chorus of "All I Have to Do is Dream"

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

I am in the no agent and small publisher category. I would like to have an agent with information and contacts with big publishers to see what that is like. I don't think I write blockbuster novels and I'm not sure i would represent me If I were an agent.

Shari Randall said...

I think your three criteria are perfect! I am in the "I'll take any agent, please" phase but the more horror stories I hear, the more research I do before I query.

Kara Cerise said...

What an interesting lunchtime conversation that must have been! I would have enjoyed the yam fries too.

Gloria Alden said...

It's been years since I queried. I think the thing that stands out most is the form letter rejections or even worse, no response at all. One agent called me asking for the whole ms of my middle-grade book. She was quite excited about it, but later she emailed me and said she didn't believe the third grade girl who is the narrator would sound that intelligent. Little did she know that the girl who was my student who became the narrator in the book eventually won a scholarship to a prodigious high school and was a offered a four year scholarship to Vassar. I self-published the book, Otto Penzler read it and wanted four copies to sell in his bookstore.

Sarah Henning said...

Jim, I do think that there are agents out there savvy enough to look at your series and definitely be interested in selling something else you've written. You're right that agents won't put self-pubbed books on sub unless they've made enough money that it makes sense for a traditional publisher to repackage it and sell it on its own. Business, as you said. Boo.

Warren, while it is a money-making partnership, I don't think every agent is looking for a blockbuster. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. You should want to represent you, you already do when you market! :)

Shari, go with your gut!

Kara, speaking of guts—yes, YUM. The yam fries were delicious, as was the conversation!

Gloria, good for you! What's funny is middle grade is super "hot" right now, so I'm wondering if you would have had the same response these days! Especially with the real-life piece!

KM Rockwood said...

I'm in the same place as Jim. I'm working on what I hope are the final edits of the 6th Jesse Damon crime novel. It's one of those doesn't-rally-fit-a-recognized sub genre series. It's published by Wildside Press, which picked it up when Musa Publishing went out of business. While I'm happy with my small press, I think my next project may go in another direction, and I may try the whole query the agents thing again.

Meanwhile, I have written a number of short stories and seen them published. They don't pay all that well--in fact, some not at all--but I have fun with them.