Myth Busting – Day 2

Myths About Agents

Myth: Agents don’t read submissions.
Truth: Most agents who are accepting queries actually read and consider them. If they don’t want to read queries and they don’t need new clients, they’ll usually close to queries (like I have).

Myth: Agents have reading software that scans query letters. If the query contains a tag word, then the software flags the query indicating it needs to be form rejected.
Truth: Honestly, I’ve never heard of this. I’ve heard that large companies use software to scan resumés in this way, but I can’t imagine agents doing it this way… except perhaps to automatically dispense with queries that are outside of the genre they represent. Of course, we could use Outlook to do this if we wanted. In any case, I don’t think it’s something to worry about. Agents will use whatever means they need to, in order to find the right books and clients.

Myth: Literary agents can’t be bribed by chocolate.

Truth: Chocolate works. So does a good bottle of wine.

Myth: “If you don’t follow this ONE piece of advice, we will immediately reject you, and you will never get published.”

Truth: Agents give a lot of tips and advice on their blogs and Twitter, but you don’t have to worry that we’re going to reject a great project if you don’t follow every last little tip we’ve ever given. Every piece of advice is simply that – a tip to help you become a better writer or create more powerful queries.

Myth: Most agents won’t consider any manuscript over 120k words in length.

Truth: NOT a myth – this one is true! Until you’ve proven yourself with a couple of books that sold well, you’re not likely to sell an epic or saga much over 100k. There are always exceptions, of course. But if you’re trying to break in, your 180k-opus is probably not the ticket.

Myth: Once you sign with an agent, the hard work is done.

Truth: The hard work is just beginning! Most agents will crack the whip—push you to make your manuscript the best it can be, encourage you to build your platform, etc. There will also be the “hard work” of waiting for the submission process to play out, and once you’re contracted you’ll be working harder than you ever imagined.
Myth: Getting an agent means you’ll get published.
Truth: Sadly, getting an agent is no guarantee of publication. Each agent has a different success rate but most probably don’t bat 1000.
Myth: Agents are snarky, scary, and mean, and love rejecting you.
Truth: This, of course, is true.

Myths About Self Publishing

Myth: Self publishing is easier than traditional publishing—after all, you don’t have to wait for the approval of that elusive agent or editor.

Truth: The self-pub route, if you are to be successful at it, is an incredible amount of work. You will have to do everything—you’re responsible for the editorial, the design, the marketing—and the distribution! To sell any books, you’ll be working so hard that you’ll hardly have time to write anymore. Amanda Hocking, who recently became a millionaire from self publishing, discussed this on her blog. She works really hard—and still, she has no idea why she has sold so many books when others haven’t.
Myth: Most self-published books are poorly written, badly edited, and have terrible design.
Truth: This one used to be true, and in many cases, it still is. (Latest numbers show 765,000 self-published titles in 2009, and with that many out there, you can bet many are still poorly done.) But as people become more savvy and have more resources at their disposal, there are now self-published books available that are well written and nicely produced. The problem will be for consumers, in figuring out which books pass their muster and which don’t.
Myth: Self-publishing can make you a millionaire.
Truth: Well, obviously this is true! Self publishing can make you a millionaire—just like traditional publishing can, or winning the lottery can, or investing wisely in real estate can. It takes a lot of work and a certain amount of serendipity. Here is the important point: It makes just as much sense to use self-pub phenoms JA Konrath and Amanda Hocking as your role models as it does to use Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling. Read Nathan Bransford’s blog—his March 7th and 8th posts cover it pretty well, and include links to some more good reading on self-publishing.
TOMORROW… one more day of myth busting!

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

36 Comments

  1. Snappoint on December 11, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    Skyzz…

    Great blog post, saw on…



  2. Deb on March 17, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    >These are very helpful. Thanks, Rachelle.



  3. Carol Riggs on March 16, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    >LOL–love this one: Agents are snarky, scary, and mean, and love rejecting you. (This being true) Thanks for the laugh as well as the rest of the info. 🙂



  4. Emily Wenstrom on March 16, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    >I’m enjoying this mythbusting a great deal. I hadn’t even heard of some of these. Thanks Rachelle. It’s always nice to be reminded that agents are decent, reasonable human beings just trying to do their jobs.



  5. Tamika: on March 15, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    >This is why agent blogs are such gems! You tackle all the talk around cybertown:)

    Thanks Rachelle!



  6. Kristin Laughtin on March 15, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    >It can be disheartening to think that once you get an agent, you still might not get published, but I think it's something more writers need to be prepared for, so thanks for addressing it. The hard work only just begins once you have an agent! That agent still has to sell your book and there's no guarantee of that, even if they're with a top agency. Then you have to promote the heck out of it in order to get people to buy it. And whether that agent can or can't sell your first book to a publisher, you've got to still write the second book…and the third…

    The work never ends, so be prepared for it.



  7. V.V. Denman on March 15, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    >What brand of chocolate??



  8. Christine on March 15, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    >This is a great list! Thank you for dispelling these myths.

    Myth – If you don't follow this ONE piece of advice, we will immediately reject you, and you will never get published.

    Sometimes this one feels true. After researching an agent's website and her submission guidelines, I painstakingly prepared then submitted everything she asked for. The next day I received an email that read "Please follow the submission guidelines on our website." It took me hours to prepare and another couple of hours to try to figure out what I thought might be wrong. The end result was still a rejection. A positive to all of it is that it helped me to focus on some aspects that I hadn't considered in the past. Every experience can be a learning experience!

    Thanks again for taking the time to put all of this together.



  9. goldhawk on March 15, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    >"Myth: Self-publishing can make you a millionaire."

    Buying a lottery ticket can make you a millionaire, and you have higher odds. 🙂



  10. patti.mallett_pp on March 15, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    >Thanks for adding the spoonful-of-sugar, Rachelle! (Your posts always go down well.) : >



  11. Jackie on March 15, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    >Thanks for the link to Amanda Hocking's blog – an interesting and challenging read.



  12. Ellen on March 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    >Really helpful for those of us planning to write a book! I look forward to more myth busting!



  13. Myne Whitman on March 15, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    >Informative busts too, like the ones on self publishing. It is a lot of work.



  14. Michelle DeRusha@Graceful on March 15, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    >I had to click over to read Amanda Hocking's post because I'd never heard of her until five minutes ago (which makes sense, now that I know her genre). I have to say, I appreciate how she tells it like it is. Kind of like you, Rachelle…and I mean that in the very best way!



  15. cynthiaherron on March 15, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    >Thank you, Rachelle, for great answers to myths that continue to persist. You've enlightened us on the very questions we can sometimes be too embarrassed to ask outloud…



  16. Eric von Mizener on March 15, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    >I once heard of a writer who had a graphic designer create a chocolate bar wrapper that pitched her book. She used the chocolate bar instead of a business card at a writers conference, with pleasant results!

    But seriously, Rachelle, have you really become snarky? I have my doubts.



  17. E. Elle on March 15, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    >You always give such excellent advice and information, Rachelle. Thank you for taking the time to help us lemmings out!



  18. Anonymous on March 15, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    >One more Q: Is a small press (with a small advance) only one step above self-publishing or are they considered legit stepping stones, perhaps to bigger pub houses?



  19. Jeigh on March 15, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    >Thanks, as always, for the great advice. I've never heard of agents scanning for tag words, but glad to hear it's not true! And if some chocolate has to be sacrificed along the way, well, that's just the way it has to be.



  20. Ben on March 15, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    >Always informative Rachelle, tnx!



  21. Sarah Thomas on March 15, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    >I love that you're giving us great info while having fun. Makes some of the hard truths more palatable!



  22. Rosslyn Elliott on March 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    >Your graphic made me smile! Wouldn't it be nice to be a dragon sometimes? 🙂



  23. Carrie Schmeck on March 15, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    >Love the sense of humor in this!



  24. Jaime Wright on March 15, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    >LOL Great last line on today's post! Nice to know what we writers are up against. 😉
    Btw, I love the word "snarky".



  25. Hilarey Johnson on March 15, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    >I knew agents were to be feared!
    Thanks–I always love the info you give.



  26. Katie Ganshert on March 15, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    >Almost spit out my water when I read your answer to the last myth about agents. This is just one of the many reasons why I love ya.



  27. Kristi on March 15, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    >Love the list…now where should I send the chocolate and wine? 😉

    On second thought, does that mean I have to sacrifice it? MAN, this business is ruthless!



  28. April on March 15, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    >Note to self: Send Godiva and a good bottle of red with my next query….

    Seriously, though, thanks for the list. These are always helpful and point me in the direction I should really be headed rather than wasting time where I shouldn't.



  29. Gwen Stewart on March 15, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    >Gaah! That picture! Is that an agent firebreathing a query for a 210K "guaranteed bestseller" where the writer promised you a 3% commission…which is a real bargain considering he's the next Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, and Mark Twain all in one?



  30. Sharon A. Lavy on March 15, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    >Myth: Literary agents can’t be bribed by chocolate.

    Truth: Chocolate works. So does a good bottle of wine.

    Interesting!



  31. Sharon A. Lavy on March 15, 2011 at 4:48 AM

    >This is the kind of agent I am searching for:

    Most agents will crack the whip—push you to make your manuscript the best it can be, encourage you to build your platform, etc. There will also be the “hard work” of waiting for the submission process to play out, and once you’re contracted you’ll be working harder than you ever imagined.



  32. Christine Tyler on March 15, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    >I like how well you answered the myth about self-publishing being easier. Sure, it's a form of *getting* published that takes less than traditional querying etc, but that's only the beginning to the story. The rest is hard, hard work.

    Loved the last true myth 🙂



  33. Josin L. McQuein on March 15, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    >I have yet to figure out how to properly format chocolate in Yahoo. It never comes out on the other end like it looks when I paste it into the email. I've tried stripping the formatting, but I usually end up with brussels sprouts or day old cabbage. I've thought of attempting an attachment, but most agents hate those, so I'll have to stick to sending plain old submissions for now.

    *dramatic sigh*



  34. Cheryl Barker on March 14, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    >Loved hearing that agents can be bribed by chocolate. Makes me wonder if maybe I missed my calling 🙂



  35. Alexis Grant on March 14, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    >Great series, Rachelle! This is why we always come back to your blog 🙂



  36. Joanne Bischof on March 14, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    >Thank you for shedding some light on what's fact and fiction in the world of publishing! I've been blessed to sign with an agent and agree that the hard work is far from over for any author. It's encouraging to know she's in my corner and that two heads are better than one! Thanks again! Oh and chocolate…good tip 🙂