What the Agents said at Sleuthfest
The Sleuthfest Agents
First – roll call:
Kim Lionetti, BookEnds, LLC; Jill Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Literacy Agency; Nicole Resciniti, the Seymour Agency
The agents started off with a broad brushstroke on the state of publishing. Specifically the problem that editors are getting fired and not being replaced, so the editors are more over-worked than ever. This slows down the process of submissions dramatically. Patience was mentioned a lot.
They mentioned some changes; most of them are familiar to all of us.
- No one is buying on spec (outline or outline with chapters). You need a completed manuscript if you are at the dawn of your career or even if you’ve already published one book. This also holds true to some extent if you’re changing genres.
- The query system is unique at every agency, so follow the guidelines as set forth. The use of email has sped this process up, but many of the agents said they were receiving one hundred or more queries a week.
- Auctions are almost a thing of the past. For those of you who don’t know what an auction is . . . an agent has a project and sets a minimum price and then publishers vie for the rights in a bidding situation. That isn’t happening all that often anymore.
- Advances are dropping due to the near demise of mass market.
- If an editor asks for a revamp or a revision on a manuscript – do it! Because now editors are reluctant to take on projects that will require a ton of editing, they are just spread too thin.
- Authors are encouraged to create an online presence once they have a contract. This means activity on facebook, twitter, etc. Goodreads is considered a bit of a waste of time.
- Editors and agents are paying attention to eBooks with staggeringly high sales figures. However, they use the NYT eBook best-seller list and not the daily numbers because Amazon doesn’t report numbers.
- More and more publishers want to see series rather than stand-alones.
- Authors need to accept that a lower advance is a better career move than a high advance that isn’t earned out. Better to get the money on the back end rather than on the front end.
- A lot of upfront advances are around $5,000.00 for new authors.
- Thrillers have the highest advances and they also have high sales figures.
- If you get a lower advance, you can ask for more perks, negotiate royalty rates and options.
- The foreign markets have all but dried up.
- Hard Covers and mass markets are being hurt by eBook sales while trade is the strongest paper version.
- More people buy established authors in eBook format than in unknown or new authors.
- The royalty rates from traditional publishers are a problem and in flux right now.
- They encourage cross-promotion. For example, I have a book coming out and another one coming out in October, so it would behoove me to do an e-original in between those two books to keep readers interested.
- Too many authors are skimping on covers for the eBooks. That should be an expense not to be overlooked when going the e-route.
So there was a lot of information in that 50-minute workshop. Hats off to the agents for sharing their experience and expertise.