Well worth a read. Not least because you get a sense of why it tends to take a while for them to get to your submission...
Very interesting; thank you, Emma. Don't top agents work a lot with ghosts now? That's amazing - it wasn't like that in my day. I think perhaps there are more ghost writers than there used to be?
I think the stuff about the slush pile is deeply suspicious, though, although not suspicious in a bad way. I bet what he's done is taken all the daft and unlikely submissions from the last few years and written it up for comic effect as though they came in in one week. Nothing wrong with doing that - I can believe that all those submissions are real, and it's very funny. But I've worked in two literary agencies, one of them a very high-powered one, and the slush piles were much, much more boring than that.
I agree. I suspect he’s also done something similar with his daily actions. Reads like an extended humble brag. My previous agent’s week would take up a lot less space. Most days would have ‘Lunch’ running for a few hours in the middle of the day, followed by ‘Too pissed to remember’ for the afternoon. However, that was a few years back and I’m sure it’s nothing like that today . . .
On strange submissions, this is from Dave Farland’s blog of yesterday:
“Some authors put in a copyright notice, sometimes aimed directly at me, with words like, “If you steal any of my ideas, I will hunt you down and gouge out your eyes.” I kid you not. I’ve got written death threats as part of the front matter of a story on several occasions. I have a policy: Any time an author threatens me or my family, I immediately stop reading and reject the story. I just don’t want to risk that lawsuit, or dismemberment, or even a heated argument.”
Yes, I do friction. And I'll never go into Home Furnishing Store again.
Re the ghosts, Catkin, Andrew Lownie has always specialised in biography and memoir, and similar non-fic, so he'd be a natural agent to go to both for non-writers who want to sell their autobiographies, and the ghost writers who will write 'em. He does now have an associate who represents fiction, now.
That sounds like an agent you don't want to have, Terry!
I've done panels with Andrew at a couple of events, as well as talked and panelled and chaired a good few other agents from the new to the super-established, and that's a pretty average set of days for any agent, I'd say: the relative absence of champagne and the relatively constant presence of the slushpile. Although, yes, clearly he's taken the comical bits of the slushpile. But then he only mentions a few, which is fair enough. As you say, realistically it would go 25 okay submissions, 47 dire ones, 3 really interesting but I don't think I can sell them... Doesn't make for fascinating reading.
Edited by EmmaD at 14:12:00 on 30 May 2014
realistically it would go 25 okay submissions, 47 dire ones, 3 really interesting but I don't think I can sell them...
That's 75. How many before 1 - just 1, is feasible? Only feasible.
I think you might say 500. Or 1000.
And the publisher will accept - 1 in 10?
1 in 10 would be a very high rate. In the SF/Fantasy magazine worlds, top mags can receive up to 1000 submissions for each issue. If you check subs stats on Duotrope, you'll see that the acceptance rates for mags like Tor.Com and Clarkesworld are in the 0.00 - 0.09% range. I shouldn't think it's much different for book publishers.
In one of the agencies where I worked (a top, famous one) they accepted one in five thousand submissions, and their hit rate with publishers was 80 per cent. Mind you, that was years and years ago, and things might well have changed since then.
Edited by Catkin at 17:10:00 on 31 May 2014
they accepted one in five thousand submissions, and their hit rate with publishers was 80 per cent.
Both of those sound likely to me, from having asked around. On a panel I did recently, one of the agents said that these days he sells something like 70% of what he takes on.