Sara Megibow is with us today to talk about the real lowdown on selling with an agent. Once again she shares her unique perspective and this is something you don’t want to miss.
It’s not a crap shoot… But it’s not a slam dunk either.
One of my favorite things about 2012 has been learning to enjoy twitter. If you
don’t follow me on twitter, come say hi – I’m @SaraMegibow
Last week I posted, “What’s the percentage chance of landing a book deal if you have an agent?” and I responded to myself saying, “my guess right now would be 60-90%.” Soooooo many people responded to this tweet that I decided to talk about it here at Romance University. Landing a book deal for an agent isn’t a crap shoot, but it’s not a slam dunk either.
When I sign a new client, I do so with utmost confidence that I can sell the book. I don’t offer for books that need work (some agents do and they have tremendous success with that model – it’s just not my style). I go in to each and every new relationship expecting success. I would never tell anyone that I guarantee a sale (no agent in their right mind would do that), but I do offer rep with lots of enthusiasm and confidence. And yet…does it always result in a book deal? Nope.
At the end of 2012, here are some stats:
– I represent 24 clients
– 7 of these clients signed with me in 2012
– Of those 7, three of them have already landed a book deal in 2012 and two of them signed with me within the past month
– Overall, of my 24 clients, 17 are signed with publishing houses (a 71% sell rate)
– Those 17 signed clients represent 54 books which hit the shelves in 2012, 2013 and 2014. That means that several of my clients have gone on to ink second and third book deals already
So, what happens if we don’t sell a book? First I would try a second and perhaps even a third round of submissions. Like I said, I expect success so it’s no skin off my back to simply try and try again. If those submissions end in passes, then the author and I talk about shelving the book. Typically, the longest I ever submit a book is 18 months. If we do agree to shelve the work, I typically recommend moving on to Book #2 and trying again. Each author is different – some want me to look at blurbs for potential ideas before starting Book #2 and some just dive in and keep writing. In any case, we go forth with a plan after we’ve had a good talk about options. A Book #2 success story is Marie Lu’s debut novel LEGEND – Marie and my boss ended up shelving her first book and then LEGEND sold at auction in a major deal. So, even a pass on Book #1 is not always the worst news.
When I posted this info on twitter, followers jumped on the suggestion “well, how about self publishing that first book?” As an agent, I tend to advise against this path. Please note that this reflects my own personal style and other agents would agree self-publishing is the way to go. My authors with traditionally published books are seeing tremendous artistic and commercial success so I am biased toward traditional publishing. Yes, I know this paragraph is likely to get me lynched. Please stop and re-read my comments before stabbing my avatar with an icepick. My opinion is based on my experience – other peoples’ experiences have been different and they are just as valid. Their opinions, therefore, are just as valid as mine (a good lesson in publishing is to seek out advice from sources with different biases). I tend to work with debut authors and self-publishing has proven (thus far) to be generally more commercially successful for authors with a previously developed platform. You see now why I wanted to write a whole blog post about this instead of trying to share my thoughts on twitter. ; )
Ok – back to the topic at hand. So, when I sign a new client I intend to sell her or his book. It doesn’t always work out that way and my process is to try and try again and then shelve that book and move on to Book #2. Why is this important to you? Well, whether you are currently with an agent or currently looking for an agent (or perhaps might be looking for one in the future) –the reality of submissions is good to know. I’m really good at my job – I believe wholeheartedly that traditional publishing is an excellent path for debut authors and I know I have a good track record getting authors to the career they want. Still – know the stats going in – have patience, don’t feel frustrated. If you are a new writer and you sign with an agent, I’d give it a 60-90% chance that you will get a book deal.
As a quick aside, it’s pretty easy to find out the sales record of any particular agent.
1) go to their website and find out what authors they represent – you are looking for an agent who has sold books in the genre you write (don’t worry about sub-genre – as long as the agent has sold a romance novel, then you’re ok whether you write paranormal romance or historical romance or whatever)
2) Check out the agent at publishersmarketplace.com
My link there is: http://publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/
3) Finally, if you are having second thoughts about an agent, feel free to cross-reference them on the Agents Beware list (irreputable agents and etc):
Be well, happy writing and for 2013 my wish for everyone is Expect Victory!
So . . . she’s here and she’s ready to take your questions.
On Friday, join us for a special post from one of our RU Founders!
Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC
Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.
Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http://http://www.nelsonagency.com/for submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow) is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow
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