Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I Have an Agent--Why am I submitting?


I’ve been asked this questions until my head spins, but I’ve brought it on myself. Once again, my writing group peers have asked for an answer, including publishers that don’t feel like working with agents. 

I expect that there are a lot more publishers out there that want to avoid agents. Most publishers will straight up tell you that they'll deal with agents or un-agented authors--that's the majority. The gun-shy publishers will often not put that kind of information in their guidelines--I didn't see both options with this one publisher who offered me a contract until after I re-visited their site. That was an "Aha" moment. There was little or no mention of agents. Note: This is a pink or full-on red flag that the publisher really doesn’t have the advance money for the author, nor do they want their boilerplate contract shredded by a literary contract professional.

My Double Tap Procedure:
When any of my books start to wind down with my agent's submissions, I have permission to get proactive and query the smaller presses and independents. Primarily, I go after those who offer a token or small advance. This takes the workload off my agent. But I must swap info with her and give her my list so we don't have any head-on crashes (double submissions). If I make a sale--she gets notified and then examines the contract. If she can work/mold it for us, and we are down to the dregs as far as publishers, she'll make contact with them. On the other hand, if she advises against it, we both strike them from our list and politely decline. Then the search continues.


In some cases we find we're on the fence with a potential publisher, and we ask them to be put on their back-burner for future consideration on down the road--this tactic has worked remarkably well--we're not promising, but we're not declining either and it doesn't tie up the publisher. I'm on a few back-burners right now. So I know this book will be published no matter what. It’s just that I’m not signing a contract that I'm really searching for—mostly an advance in the $300 and up range.

Again, this only works well when the sub trail begins to dry up for the agent. I call it a "double tap" when I jump in to help out. I've got a blog post about this back in my archives and it explains the theory and process more thoroughly. It worked out well with my last book--I found a potentially good publisher and then my agent came in and doctored the contact and garnered a nice advance.

I can’t say that I recommend doing this. It's a fine balancing act that requires calm under fire and tactical negotiation. Try it out if you like, but get permission from your agent and hammer out the logistics first. All three of my past agents since 1989 have enthusiastically agreed and welcomed my participation. All you have to do is ask them. Even if you’ve just acquired an agent, bring the topic up and see what the agent’s opinion is on the matter.

Write on...and don't stop....