Pub Rants

Hot Commodity

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STATUS: This week is all about royalty statements reviews. Getting reconciliation to prints, following up with questions, fixing errors spotted. The usual.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? OPPORTUNITIES by Pet Shop Boys

I’m sure that those of you who have struggled to find an agent as of late won’t believe me but writers are a hot commodity at the moment.

More so then I’ve seen in my whole career.

For the last six months, any project Sara or I have wanted, we’ve had to fight for. In other words, when we offered rep, the author already had, bare minimum, five other agent offers on the table in addition to ours.

Ack. What is up? Talk about stiff competition. Every time I see the sale on Deal Lunch for one of those projects we wanted, I can’t help but groan aloud. Grin.

I thought it was just me but then an agent friend emailed me this morning to literally to say the same thing and had I noticed the increased competition for any project. We ended up in round robin email groan fest on the topic with another agent for most of the morning.

But seriously, I’ve noticed it. In 8 years it hasn’t been as tough as I’ve seen these last 6 months.

32 Responses

  1. Sandy Shin said:

    If a manuscript catches the interest of one agent, it likely will garner interests of several other agents, too. I think the rise in multiple offers is due to writers being able to query many agents simultaneously. It also helps that writers can notify agents with partials and fulls of any offer of representation. 🙂

  2. Debbie Maxwell Allen said:

    Possibly it’s because writers are taking their cue from the publishers, who are influenced by the economy. Knowing that the publishers are taking on fewer projects, means our writing has to be better than ever to get noticed.

    To me, it’s a win-win situation. Better books to read. And huge motivation to become the best writer I can be.

  3. Charity Bradford said:

    Well then. When I’m ready to query (hopefully by summer)I’ll include you in my list. I can only hope I’m lucky enough to have agents fighting over me. 🙂

    On the other side of this, it makes me want to take that little bit of extra time to make sure I’m ready. I’m sure the lack of authors is not due to a lack of queries on your table.

  4. Hektor Karl said:

    Makes sense. My theory: As things tighten, everyone focuses on the “sure things.” There is much more agreement about this group, since its members probably have stronger objective credentials (platform, track record, recommendations, etc).

    At the same time, writers now know more about the industry. They know to query widely. And they know that weighing options is acceptable.

    Top universities face this same issue every April – they go from big-bad rejecter to heavy recruiter once the acceptance letters are mailed.

  5. Walt M said:

    That’s good to know. If only your agency took inspirational, I would have queried you by now.

    I do agree with the person above who belives writers are striving more to give agents a better product. A better product generates more interest.

  6. therese said:

    Gee, I haven’t sent any queries out yet, but I am on the market for an agent. Feel free to contact me with an offer of representation before I’m off the market too. LOL!

  7. Joseph L. Selby said:

    It’s posts like this that make me wish I was an optimist. If I were an optimist, I’d think, look at that. You see? It’s possible. But I’m not an optimist. I’m a pessimist, and the post is absolutely crushing. Maybe they (the abstract they) are hot commodities, but the form rejections haven’t slowed down in my inbox.

    Some days are just harder than others.

  8. Ian said:

    I was actually being poached at this year’s PPWC (and it was nice to see you there!). I’m not going to say who because that’s not really polite, but it’s nice to see authors being fought over. Now if the editors will just start fighting over our projects, we’ll ALL be much happier. 🙂

  9. Cynthia Reese said:

    I lay all the credit at early blogging agents like you and at the stiletto heels of the Late Great Miss Snark … she started off the move to educate us idiots about how to write a great query … and it taught us a lot about writing in general.

    Aren’t you proud?? We listened!

  10. Kaitlyne said:

    Five? Five? Seriously? Now I’m kind of depressed. I’ve been hoping to get just one person interested. If the people getting picked up are getting that kind of interest, it makes me wonder if I’m just nowhere near good enough. :/ I mean, I’ve had a little interest, but nowhere even close to having five offers.

  11. Anonymous said:

    An arguement could be made that this simply shows the lack of diversity in what the industry is looking to publish.

  12. KFran said:

    Is it because there are less quality submissions that the same amount of agents are fighting over, or are there the same amount of quality submissions that more agents are fighting over?

    It seems that there are more and more agents these days, with writers becoming part time agents and editors leaving their desks to become agents.

    I follow Publishers Lunch deals, and it seems like there are more deals lately too, which is a good sign. So maybe there are more quality books and more agents and more interest from publishing companies? One can only hope…


  13. Chris said:

    I’m betting it’s the same reason most agents say they are seeing so many more queries than in the past: the majority are now on the web and accept queries via email.

    Querying used to be a tedious and somewhat expensive process of researching submission guidelines, printing various components, assembling contents, and mailing packets. I’m betting the average writer did their querying in quantities of five or ten at a time, and waited for responses before going through the process again.

    Now we have web sites like QueryTracker and Publishers Marketplace that aggregate current submission guidelines and web site URLs to make research easy, and a query letter is often just a matter of copy-pasting the right ingredients. It wouldn’t surprise me if many writers send out queries in batches of 20-30 at a time, or even more.

    So while the bad part is that you’re all buried under piles of electronic slush, when that one needle does show up in your haystack the odds are good that it’s in all the other haystacks as well.

    As a writer, as much as I appreciate the ease and affordability of e-queries and QueryTracker, in some ways I miss the old days. Sure, it was a pain to put together query packets, but it meant that a query represented a real commitment to writing and getting published. Nowadays I suspect a lot of queries are from folks who are out of work and figure, “Hey, what the hell, I’ll write a book and see if someone wants to buy!”

    I suspect this also explains why several agents have mentioned the recent frequency of partial- and full-requests that go unanswered for months or years at a time. It’s so easy to send a query now, I bet a lot more people do it before they’ve finished (or maybe even started) the book itself.

  14. csyelle said:

    I feel this states that agents have narrowed what they will accept due to the overwhelming amount of queries they receive as compared to a few years ago.

    This has caused a higher demand for work that fits into a set of standards. It requires everyone writing to raise the bar higher to become one of the few writers who is going to be sought after by numerous agents.

    This may have always been the case, but it is being magnified now as all agents are looking for more ‘sure’ things.

  15. Anonymous said:

    Call me a skeptic, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the writing or book. I think that it’s the “grass is always greener on the other side” thing. If one agent likes something and makes an offer, then the others are suddenly alerted, thinking they are going to be left out, and they scramble to read that ms, but they are reading with rose colored glasses, knowing it might be out of their reach. Nobody wants to be the one person missing out.

    I had an agent who’d only read a partial of my book offer to rep it thirty seconds after I notified him of another agent offer. I thought it was unprofessinal and bizaare.

    (The agent that “won”, btw, never sold the book.)

  16. Nicole Chardenet said:

    Question: How many of these “hot properties” are *new*, unpublished writers, *without* “previously established platform” (i.e., popular blogs, millions of Twitter followers, etc.?)

    This is heartening news only if it’s *new* writers and not less risky, “proven” writers who are getting all the attention.

  17. Anonymous said:

    I think we can all agree that taste is subjective. And I believe most agents are good at what they do, or else they’d be in another line of work. Since agents are receiving thousands upon thousands of queries, and they obviously must have different subjective tastes, why are they all fighting for the same books? I just can’t accept the “needle in the haystack” theory. Because accounting for taste, everyone’s needles would be different. It has to come from what the publishing houses are buying. So to rise from slush, it seems that you must write a book that publishing is already looking for. I don’t see this as particularly encouraging as a writer, nor does it excite or stimulate me as a reader. Maybe I’m being too cynical or too sour-grapey for this generally upbeat blog, but it seems a logical conclusion based on the facts at hand. Maybe Kristin or some other insiders can refute this and cheer us up!

  18. John Austin said:

    Hummmm…I imagine the YA, fantasy, romance genre is hotter than usual. This is good news for one slice of the giant writer-hood pie out there.

    Kristen, I received your April newsletter today and read about your participation on an “ebook panel” and the many resulting changes in publishing business models, etc because of the new technology…

    You mentioned to your readers about four or so excellent resourcces (PW, PM & Shelf Awareness, etc) to become informed RE the latest happenings in the tumultuous publishing industry..

    I would like to mention two other excellent free resources…

    I find this industry fascinating and full of intrigue (especially now) and, If I may, I would like to mention my two writers blogs that search & research the entire trade resources for the latest happenings:

    Writers Welcome Blog (est Oct,2008)

    Writers Thought for Today Blog (est Nov, 2009)

    Please take a look at some of the posts and I think you will agree…

    Thanks for any time you give me,

    John R. Austin

  19. Kelly said:

    Wow… I had no idea things had become THAT competitive. Is it just in the genres, though? Or do you think it’s that way for literary and mainstream fiction, too?

  20. Mandy Hubbard said:

    I lost the first project I offered on to another agent, and the next two I offered on both had other offers as well (but the authors picked me…)

    I do wonder if it has to do with the fact that there are simply MORE agents around these days. A lot of editors put on agent caps when they were laid off. And there are plenty of brand new agents (like myself) in the waters now too.

    Just a thought?