It’s Just Business Tuesday!

September 16, 2008 | Karin's Blog | 10 comments

Dear Karin,

I’m going nuts and hope you can help me! I have a book that’s currently out on submission – with some partials and a full out. That’s great, but the submission process for that book took so long that I’m almost finished with my next book. I don’t want to start sending out new queries for a different book and maybe catch the eye of one agent with one book and another agent with a different book. (Especially since the books would hit different markets.)

Should I just stop obsessing and start querying? Or should I wait?

Signed, Obsessed.

Dear Obsessed,

You have me obsessed! What are you waiting for?? Get that story out there!!! And here’s why, the process, as you have already experienced, can take freakin’ forever and who is to say you will snag an agent with the book that’s already out there? And even though the work may be different markets, a well-rounded agent reps all of an author’s work. And for the sake of argument, let’s just say two different agents do ask to rep each book, in that case you need to explain the situation to both, get their feedback, or do some more research (and as an aside and this goes out to everyone: Always research an agent before you query them) and pick one for the full scope of your career. Chop, chop, Obsessed, get that work out there!


Okay I want to stress the do your research first thing (and Obsessed I’m not implying you didn’t but as I answered your question it made me think of many who do not).
So, why on earth would you submit work to an agent you did not research? I mean this is your career! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this in a subject line: Need Agent Help Now! Then to open the email and read: Agent So and So requested a full of my romantic suspense, does anyone know anything about her???

Signed, Desperate for information!

That, my friends is just really bad business. And there is no excuse for it. Do. Your. Research! Look at an agent’s author list, contact their authors. Check PM for deals. Check Predators and Editors for black marks. Ask questions. Lot’s and lot’s of questions. And when an agent offers, ask more questions. Ask for their author list and their author’s emails to contact them. If they will not give them to you, walk away. They are hiding something. Also agency contracts? They are not written in stone. If there is something you don’t like strike it. It’s your career, and you have the right to be comfortable with your agent.

Okay, ‘nough said.

Ciao for now,



  1. B.E. Sanderson

    Great advice, Karin. They always say that while you’re waiting for responses on one book, write the next, but they never tell you what to do when you’ve got the next ready for submission and the first is still out there. Heck, I’ve got one book I never got around to submitting because I was too busy writing the next. LOL

    And the advice on doing your homework always needs repeating. Research, research, research. And when you think you’re done, research some more. Because the one time you think you’ve done enough is the one where they reject you because you followed old guidelines. (Been there, done that.)

  2. Edie

    Karin, great advice!!! I echo your advice about emailing clients. I had a situation like you mentioned and emailed a client listed on the agent’s website. Turned out she was no longer a client and hadn’t been for awhile. With good reason. I didn’t rely on just one account either. A couple other red flags came up. So no matter how wonderful the agent seems, checking further is a smart thing to do.

  3. Edie

    Karin, every once in awhile I see the same question on the Pro-Org loop. An agent asked to see a ms., but wants an exclusive. What would you advise the writer?

  4. Buffie

    Wow, what an insight into the biz. Being a green person, I would not have even guessed to research agents. Not that I am an inspiring romance writer. But I do have a few childrens books in my head. I assume the same would apply to agents for childrens books. Thanks Karin!

  5. Karin

    Beth any agent who rejects a project because the writer did not follow current guidelines IMHO is someone you don’t want. It’s all about the story. Now they could make the argument that, “Well, if the author can’t bother to follow simple directions then I don’t want to work with them,” again pfft. Oversights happen. Other shit happens, and *gasp*, we are not perfect. I bet that agent isn’t either.

    Case in point: A few years ago we had an agent come speak at our chapter meeting. She was adamant that if she read a query with typos she would toss it. She went on and on about how unprofessional typos were and that if an author could not bother to send a clean query then she did not want to rep them. So I pick up the handout she passed around with the agency guidelines and guess what? Typos! Several of them. I so wanted to raise my hand and ask her, “Um, Ms I-Can’t-Stand-Typos-Agent, does this go both ways?”

    If I seem a bit terse here regarding agents and their rules, I am. There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Hard core letter of the law folks need to loosen up. This business is so subjective and so many things factor in, that folks who refuse to bend are brittle and have only a small perimeter in which to work, whereas an agent who lives by the spirit of the law is much more flexible and far more likely to get your work sold. And spirit of the law agents are not scary. Being intimidated by your agent is not a good work environment. Okay, I really went off there but, I think it’s important to realize that agents are human and they make mistakes just as we authors do, and it’s important to understand that just because there is a shingle hanging outside the door that says Literary Agent Works Here, doesn’t mean we have to bend to them. The right fit on both sides is the best scenario for both the agent and the author. Bottom line, being reasonable on both sides goes a long way.

    Edie, it’s amazing what one can discover with a little digging. And I should add to this that while one agent may be bad for some writers they might not be bad for you. Many times the chemistry just isn’t there. But when there is a pattern, that agent needs to go into the ‘No Way!’ pile. The old adage no agent is better then a bad agent is true. And if any agents are reading this and getting all puckered up, chill. It goes both ways. There are crappy unprofessional writers who make your lives miserable. How you put up with them I don’t know. I wouldn’t want your job for all of the co op in the world. Writers can be a gigantic PIA. You have my condolences. 🙂

  6. Karin

    Ah, the exclusive. Hmm, personally? I wouldn’t give one. Here’s why: First of all it ties up your work. This business has two speeds. Fast and turtle slow. Most of us can relate to the turtle slow aspect. Don’t tie up your work any longer then you have to. And, if an agent is that excited about a project, then read it!
    Remember, this is a business, and the agent who hesitates loses. If one agent is that excited, others will be as well.

    Buffie regardless of genre, always do your homework when looking for an agent. Always.

  7. Karin

    And ladies and gents, remember, what I write here is my opinion, and it may not be shared by others, which is cool, differing opinions make the world go round. Feel free to counter with your opinion.

  8. HollyD


    Thanks as always for the great advice. This is the first time I’ve been on the computer in a week. First our computer crashed taking all of my books with it. Then on Sunday Ohio was hit w/ the remnants of Ike. We lost power, the kids are out of school, and the top half of one of our trees landed on the neighbors fence crushing it. Our Governor announced we are in a State of Emergency. No Shit! We already knew that. We still have outages that could take weeks to repair. The state is a mess. Thankfully there hasn’t been any rain. Many roofs were damaged.

    Sorry for the long off topic post. I’ve been computer deprived.

  9. B.E. Sanderson

    Ack, Holly! :hugs: My family up in Michigan just got tons of rain. I hope everything straightens out for you soon.

    Great answer, Karin. Maybe I should’ve made that a question to ask. It’s a great post topic. The one agent who pointed out that I submitted wrong, also seemed to have not read my query very well, so that person is no longer in my list for any future books anyway. (And considering several other agents got the point of the query and requested pages, I don’t think it was me this time.) But you’re right. This business has enough involved already without worrying over every little thing. Do the best you can and hope for the best.

    BTW, your reaction to that hypocritical agent gave me a real chuckle. I would’ve paid money to see you tell her off. ;o)

  10. Marcia

    I’m about to be in the same boat as Obsessed where I have one manuscript on submission and another about to go. Well…there’s a third one, too, but I don’t think it’ll sell to NY. Plus, I see much bigger potential with the other two.

    The way I look at it, if someone asks to see a sample of something else, then there’s plenty ready to go. Otherwise, everything goes into submission row.

    Businesses, both small and large, don’t hold up their work based on one investor. I don’t understand why we should do the same for one agent. If it’s an exclusive, then I don’t mind granting thirty days as long as they understand that others are looking at partial and fulls of my manuscript before they ever made their request. If those prior requests aren’t okay with them, then already our relationship is off on a bad note. That’s when I move to the next person on my list. It’s a necessary evil, but then again, this is a business.

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