Friday, September 5, 2008

When to Change Tactics

When do you decide something just isn’t working and change course?

For years, I’ve dreamed of NY publishing houses and getting that dream agent who will automatically make sales and open doors for you. Hasn’t everyone? Considering 90% of NY publishing houses only accept agented submissions, I always thought that getting an agent first was the way to go.

Sure, we’ve all heard it’s harder to get an agent than an editor. But that was the way of things and so that was the direction I took.

I got my agent. She made my submissions. And I waited for the sales to come in.

One year and two different book submissions later, and still no sales. In fact, the editors’ responses (and response times) left much to desired. Alright, so there was a lot of things that happened in between as well, but we won’t get into that.

Needless to say, I left my agent and took a year off when it seemed my writing career was just about to peak. I was so close – I already had my foot in the door and my manuscripts sitting on some top editors’ desks.

Now that I’ve picked myself up and decided to give it another shot, I thought, “You know what, I’ve chased getting an agent for four years and have nothing to show for it, nor have I made any progress.”

This time, I decided to change tactics. Instead of going the traditional route of getting the agent before the editor, I’ve decided I’ll try to get the editor before the agent.

I just finished polishing up a book that has made the rounds yet to any agents or editors. Last night, I sent out two query letters to two EDITORS. And wonder of wonders, I get an email this morning – only 13 hours later! – that says, “Please send the complete manuscript via snail mail. My response time is 12-16 weeks.”

That’s the fastest response time I’ve had ever!

I won’t give any details yet. Without a doubt, I’ll be spending this weekend going over that manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and shipping it out Monday.

12-16 weeks! I’m already starting to count the days. =)

Looks like I’m liking this changing tactic stuff.

Have a great weekend!!


Evonne Wareham said...


I know exactly what you mean. It seems to be the same on this side of the Atlantic too. I have had a lot more interest and some really brilliant feedback when I've managed to get my work in front of editors rather than agents. But I haven't given up hope. There has to be one out there with my name on. And yours too.

Mel Hiers said...

Mai, congrats on the manuscript request! That's awesome!

I've always heard that the definition of crazy was to repeat the same behavior over and over again expecting different results. I say if something isn't working for you, trying it a different way is the only sane thing to do. You go, girl! :-)

Savanna Kougar said...

Mai, that's awesome! You go! From all I've come across, so far, agents might be the most helpful when it comes to a contract. However, if you're dealing with NY it's best to get a lawyer that specializes in those kinds of contracts.
I know the RWA has had lots of articles on contracts. And currently over at Passionate Ink, Raelene of Ellora's Cave, is answering questions about contracts, NY and the small publishers. And she is good!

Edie said...

Mai, lately I've heard a few stories about people who sold first and got an agent second. I might try that route too.

I hope the editor loves, loves, loves it!

Terry Odell said...

I had a contract before I got an agent (who had rejected my manuscript first time around). But since there's no single 'way it works' in this business, yes, change is good. And I haven't been agented long enough to know whether things will get better. So far, we haven't sold. But the rejections are faster and much nicer.

Savanna Kougar said...

Terry, that's interesting about the faster and nicer response. I have heard of a couple of cases where a manuscript had sat for several years. Then when the writer had an agent, the mss was either accepted or quickly turned loose.
From what I'm hearing the NY publishers are much tighter on what they can spend on new authors now, because of the economy. So, it stands to reason it will be more difficult to catch a break. Unless, you're the extra talented lucky one.
Good luck!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Savannah. I'm shooting for 'lucky' since all the editors have said I have talent. Just not the right manuscript on the right desk at the right time. What else is new?

Given my track record, I could probably bring the entire publishing industry to its demise simply by becoming a part of it.