Thursday, January 24, 2013

You liked my book? by Terry Burns

You said you liked my manuscript, so why did you decline to represent it?

Good question.

I read a lot of projects that I enjoy the read but just don't have any place I can go with it. Has nothing to do with how good a story is or the quality of the writing, it has to do with being fair with the author.

All agents have different sets of contacts. Sure, we overlap a great deal, work with the same houses, but there are editors that are good friends of mine but they seldom acquire anything from me. Why? Because our tastes are very dissimilar and they tend to not like projects that I am drawn to. Other editors have much more similar tastes and as a result are much more favorable to the things that I've chosen to represent.

I work for my clients, but in initial contacts it is much more like I am working for the editors. I'm trying to establish those relationships, trying to understand what they are looking for, and work at helping them find it. But once I establish interest in a project then I am strictly representing my client. This task is much easier if we tend to like the same type of project.

I come from the writing side of the industry rather than the publishing side. I'm very sensitive to tying a project up and then finding I have no place to go with it. If that happens I have it tied up with little chance of success so for all practical purposes it is off the market. I wouldn't want anybody doing that to me and I don't want to do it to anybody else.

For that reason part of my process in evaluating a submission is to not only decide if I like the book and like the writing, but do I see a clear path for it? Not that I guarantee to sell one, just do I see some people in my contact list that I'm sure are a possibility for it. If I don't then another agent with a different set of contacts might be a much better match for it.

It's all about being positioned to effectively represent it.


Tessa said...

Thanks for giving some background information into how things work Terry. Very informative!

Shanna Groves said...

Terry - As a writer who waited eight years for a manuscript to be published, I know of what you speak. My editor/agent knew there would be a market for the book before I signed the contract. Thank you for sharing this necessary nugget of information.

Shanna Groves

Rick Barry said...

Sounds like a fair and logical approach, Terry. No point in taking on an author if you don't have the contacts to market that person's story. I'd much rather receive a decline rather than a contract from someone who doesn't normally handle my type of work.

Jennifer Major said...

This was quite enlightening.
It's like, even if the opera was fantastic, the heavy metal band still wouldn't record it.

Audrey said...

I really appreciate you sharing this information with us. It helps pull aside the curtain that hides the inner workings of both the publisher and the editor!
Again, thanks!