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Agent Advice

In our Agent Advice feature, some of the best literary agents in the country answer the questions most frequently asked by writers about how to get published.

posted 11.27.12

What kind of publicity is a publisher apt to offer a midlist author? Can this be negotiated, or is the author still going to pay out of pocket for a ten-date tour in key cities?

It varies widely, but most midlist fiction authors won’t be sent on ten-date tours. They’ll be encouraged to give readings in cities where they live or where they can guarantee a substantial audience. It’s become more cost effective for the author to reach out via the Internet. Moreover, it’s a recipe for depression to take an author far from home and have him read his novel to the events coordinator and the ubiquitous crazy guy. If you want to help make tours viable again, start by attending a local reading by an author you haven’t heard of, and buy her book.

posted 11.26.12

About three months ago, I sent a synopsis of my novel as well as a cover letter to six literary agents whom I researched and found to be interested in the kind of fiction I write. I haven’t heard from any of them and I’m wondering when I should follow up with queries about my proposal. I don’t want to be pushy, but at the same time, life’s short.

It’s fair to follow up with them if you haven’t heard back after six weeks; it’s likely an oversight. Send an e-mail that says you are checking in to see if they had a chance to consider your query and that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Be emotionally detached, and don’t take it personally. If you don’t hear from them, move on to other agents. Your letter may be in a pile on an overwhelmed assistant’s desk, or stuck in his e-mail inbox or in his desk drawer. Or it’s in a stack the agent intends to get to, and feels guilty about not addressing more quickly. Unfortunately, most...

posted 10.19.12

With the help of my agent, I published my first novel with a respectable press two years ago. I’m writing my second novel now, but I also have some short stories that I’d like to submit to literary magazines. Should I bother my agent with these submissions or just send them myself?

It really depends on the agent. The best thing to do is simply ask your agent how she would like to handle it. If the work in question is a story that has been excerpted or adapted from a forthcoming book under contract with a publisher, you definitely want to consult your agent, since it would be considered a first serial submission. With my own clients, I determine who will handle a story submission on a case-by-case basis. I mainly submit short fiction only to bigger magazines such as the Atlantic, the Paris Review, and Esquire. If the piece isn’t appropriate...

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