As I’ve been looking for an agent with a good fit lately, I’ve enjoyed participating in agent panels. Here are the answers from the open Q&A at the 2011 DFW Writer’s Conference. Panelists include Louise Fury, agent at the L. Perkins Agency, Robert Brown, publisher with Ampichellis Ebooks, Jean Sagendorph, agent and owner of Mansion Street Literary Management, Dawn Frederick, agent and owner at Red Sofa Literary, Dr. Uwe Stender, agent and founder of TriadaUS Literary Agency, Faith Black, editor with The Berkley Publishing Group, and Elana Roth, agent at the Caren Johnson Literary Agency.
Should I self-publish a book or epublish a book or go through an agent?
It depends on your goals. Do you want to see your book on store shelves or sell it yourself? Figure out what you really want to do and go with that. That’s not saying a self-published book or ebook might not open doors, but that’s usually the exception, not the rule. Some publishers won’t even consider something that’s already been published. The odds are against you if you do it that way.
Should I send an agent more than what they ask for—such as a proposal when they simply ask for query letters?
No—respect the agent. Send an agent only what they request and stop there until you hear from them. You’ll save postage, time and stress.
I’m not looking at getting one book published—I want to have a career with an agent. How do I communicate that?
Unless you only want to be represented for one work, chances are most agents want to be with you for your entire career. The hope is that you’ll be successful together. Most agency agreements are open-ended. The idea is to “catch” an agent with one great work, then tie your careers together.
Once an agent requests your manuscript, how long do you wait before contacting them again if you haven’t heard back?
Understand that agents get behind quickly and receive thousands of queries each year. A nudge is fine though if the agent falls a few weeks behind on getting back to you. They won’t be offended so long as you’re respectful.
I have a book about a girl in college. Is this a young adult book or a woman’s fiction book?
Likely women’s fiction. Once the main character is older than 18, it’s really not YA anymore.
I’m writing a series, but only have the first book done. Should I start with book #2 or start another series until the first book sells?
Start a new book or new series. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try something new and see what sells. You’ll also have a better sense of clarity when you go to a new series that may often make your first series better. Finally, what if your first book has quite a few changes in the publishing process? Then you’d also have to change all your subsequent books. Wait before continuing your series.
Can I send out multiple submissions to agents?
Of course. Sure, agents would love exclusive access—but for a writer that’s insanity. Send it out to 10 or so at a time. See if there are common themes as to anything you need to change, but otherwise, send it out! You don’t even need to put in a letter that you’re sending your work out to multiple agents. That should be understood.
I have a YA novel with an 18-year-old and a 64-year old as main characters. Is this a YA book?
No. An adult character as the main character pushes it out of YA territory. If the adult character is minimized, it might work, but chances are you’re writing out of the YA genre.
I have a memoir. Is it fiction or non-fiction?
If it’s a memoir, it has to be non-fiction! That said, it should read like a fiction book to keep it exciting. Be clear when querying that it is a memoir though because that may affect whether an agent takes it or not.
I write in multiple genres, everything from comedy to scary books. Does this hurt my chances of getting an agent interested in working with me?
It depends on who you go to. Some agents can’t sell certain types of novels because that’s not their business. That said, if your agent is specialized, they’ll often refer you to other agents for books in other genres that you write. So you could end up with more than one agent, say one children’s agent, one adult fiction agent.
I have more than one book. Which should I send out?
Only your strongest one. Don’t send them both out, and certainly don’t send them both out the same agent. They don’t want to see multiple books from you—they want one book, your best one.
Once you get signed with an agent, what’s next?
Just be patient. Don’t worry. She’s working on your platform, your social marketing, looking for offers. You should hear regularly from your agent, so just wait for the next communication.