Does the Agent HAVE to Sell Your Book?
Kristi asked: How often do you turn down projects from your clients because you don’t think you can sell them? If you have a client who’s written a good book, will you submit the book even if you think it might not sell? If you won’t submit it, is the client free to sell it on her own then (and keep her 15%)? I think there is a misconception that if you have an agent, then you can write whatever you please and the agent has to sell it.
Interesting questions. I don’t have a heckuva lot of experience with this yet, but I do have some, and what I lack in experience I certainly can make up as I go along. Here are my thoughts.
Whether I submit my client’s project is a decision we’d have to make together. If I don’t think it will sell, there’s a reason for that. Is it a bad book? Badly written? Unoriginal or derivative? Boring? IF I think it will reflect badly on either the author or me, I won’t submit it. No need to tarnish both our reputations.
If I think it’s brilliant but there are other reasons it may not sell, I’ll probably go ahead and submit, carefully choosing the houses and editors as usual. One of the fun things about being an agent is being able to take chances on things I love. As long as I don’t become known among the editors as “that crackpot who sends us all the totally whacked proposals,” I’ll go ahead and keep taking calculated risks.
As far as whether the writer is “free to go sell it themselves and save the 15%”… that’s another issue. It kind of reminds me of leaving the hospital AMA (against medical advice). If your agent has given you reasons it shouldn’t be submitted, then (1) What makes you think you can sell it when they can’t? and (2) Why would you want to put less-than-stellar work out there with your name on it?
Of course, if it’s just unsaleable because it’s a niche market (like homeschooling) but it’s a good product, then I’d give my blessing for my client to try and sell it to a specialty publisher. If my client sells it and then wants my help with contracts and other business dealings, I’d do it for a reduced commission.
As for the “misconception that if you have an agent, then you can write whatever you please and the agent has to sell it…” umm, it’s a bit funny, actually. Part of the reason you have an agent is to have an objective person helping you make important decisions… not, unfortunately, to have a hired lackey to do your bidding! If you’re my client and you write a good book, I’ll try to sell it. If you write one that’s NOT so good, I’ll send you back to the drawing board.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.