Old Ask Nathan Thread

Questions for the resident (former) agent
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MosesSiregar
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by MosesSiregar » December 9th, 2009, 2:51 pm

Wow, thanks again for being so generous with your time; we all really appreciate you for that. If I may, now I'm curious about roughly what percentage of your new clients will already have a publisher interested in their book before they contact you? In other words, how many will already have a publisher ready to do business and are looking for an agent to help with the contract.
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Demosthenes
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Demosthenes » December 9th, 2009, 3:42 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
MosesSiregar wrote:A follow-up to the above, if it's not too nosy. If it is, please feel free to ignore it. If you were to take on five new clients in a year, roughly how many more do you think you might offer to represent that, for whatever reason, would chose not to become clients of yours?
I'm tempting the gods by saying this, but I haven't been turned down yet.
Everyone gets at least one rejection in life, so:

"No, you can't have my business. I'm turning you down."

There, don't you feel better getting that out of the way.

Now go forth, and prosper. [waving hands in an indecisive, flighty manner]

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 9th, 2009, 4:08 pm

onefinemess wrote: Would you consider further characterizing those numbers in any sort of (haphazard even) manner?
Like, is 82.098884% just raw, shouldn't-even-query-their-mother, type drek? 9% has potential, 2% good, but not my thing, .07% revise & resubmit?

If this is already a blog post somewhere that I missed - apologies - if not, it could be a good one.
I've actually been thinking about doing query stats along these lines, but I'm always daunted by the time it would take to separate them into categories: I picture myself thinking, "Is this best categorized as 'shouldn't even query their mother' or is it simply 'dreck'?"

But if I had to guess, using your categories I think it would break down as:

50% raw, shouldn't even query their mother-type dreck
25% good effort, but still dreck
20% has potential
4% good enough that I request a partial
0.90% request a full
0.07% revise & resubmit
0.03% offer of representation

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 9th, 2009, 4:10 pm

MosesSiregar wrote:Wow, thanks again for being so generous with your time; we all really appreciate you for that. If I may, now I'm curious about roughly what percentage of your new clients will already have a publisher interested in their book before they contact you? In other words, how many will already have a publisher ready to do business and are looking for an agent to help with the contract.
It's rare, but it happens.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 9th, 2009, 4:11 pm

Demosthenes wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
MosesSiregar wrote:A follow-up to the above, if it's not too nosy. If it is, please feel free to ignore it. If you were to take on five new clients in a year, roughly how many more do you think you might offer to represent that, for whatever reason, would chose not to become clients of yours?
I'm tempting the gods by saying this, but I haven't been turned down yet.
Everyone gets at least one rejection in life, so:

"No, you can't have my business. I'm turning you down."

There, don't you feel better getting that out of the way.

Now go forth, and prosper. [waving hands in an indecisive, flighty manner]
Whew! Now I can stop ducking lightning bolts.

onefinemess
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by onefinemess » December 9th, 2009, 4:26 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
onefinemess wrote: Would you consider further characterizing those numbers in any sort of (haphazard even) manner?
Like, is 82.098884% just raw, shouldn't-even-query-their-mother, type drek? 9% has potential, 2% good, but not my thing, .07% revise & resubmit?

If this is already a blog post somewhere that I missed - apologies - if not, it could be a good one.
I've actually been thinking about doing query stats along these lines, but I'm always daunted by the time it would take to separate them into categories: I picture myself thinking, "Is this best categorized as 'shouldn't even query their mother' or is it simply 'dreck'?"

But if I had to guess, using your categories I think it would break down as:

50% raw, shouldn't even query their mother-type dreck
25% good effort, but still dreck
20% has potential
4% good enough that I request a partial
0.90% request a full
0.07% revise & resubmit
0.03% offer of representation
Awesome, and thank you. And excellent choice of category labels. The #'s are slightly better than I was expecting.

I am continually amazed (in the positive sense) and impressed at the number of people that can finish writing a book (draft), even a poor one. Also at the stamina and dedication of agents & editors who dig through it all to find the gems. I envy that thrill you must feel when you find something beautiful in all that.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 9th, 2009, 7:16 pm

onefinemess wrote: I am continually amazed (in the positive sense) and impressed at the number of people that can finish writing a book (draft), even a poor one. Also at the stamina and dedication of agents & editors who dig through it all to find the gems. I envy that thrill you must feel when you find something beautiful in all that.
That feeling makes it all worth it!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by commando8 » December 10th, 2009, 11:13 am

Maybe I shouldn't ask this, but how many clients do you lose a year to other agencies? I've heard that a lot of mid-list novelists have been jumping ship lately...

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 10th, 2009, 11:59 am

commando8 wrote:Maybe I shouldn't ask this, but how many clients do you lose a year to other agencies? I've heard that a lot of mid-list novelists have been jumping ship lately...
I've amicably parted ways with a few clients, but (knock on wood) it hasn't happened in a long time and not usually to jump straight to someone else.

commando8
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by commando8 » December 10th, 2009, 2:57 pm

Another quick one:

I'm not as well read as some and don't recognize many names on your client list. Which of your clients has been the biggest success from a publishing standpoint?

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 10th, 2009, 4:27 pm

commando8 wrote:Another quick one:

I'm not as well read as some and don't recognize many names on your client list. Which of your clients has been the biggest success from a publishing standpoint?
I can't really share information about sales, even relative sales. I definitely recommend getting to know my clients' work though, they're all amazing writers.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by commando8 » December 10th, 2009, 5:26 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
commando8 wrote:Another quick one:

I'm not as well read as some and don't recognize many names on your client list. Which of your clients has been the biggest success from a publishing standpoint?
I can't really share information about sales, even relative sales. I definitely recommend getting to know my clients' work though, they're all amazing writers.
I'm planning on it!

I guess one of the lessons here is that amazing writing does not always equal amazing sales.

ChrisisAlwaysRight
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by ChrisisAlwaysRight » December 10th, 2009, 5:29 pm

I'm wondering if authors get to keep merchandising rights. For instance, when I finally have a pubbed novel, and I want to sell t-shirts with my title or something on it, do I need to go through the publisher? Also, the imaging rights for the characters (what they look like). Surely publishers will only take rights relating to the words in the novel?

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 10th, 2009, 6:10 pm

ChrisisAlwaysRight wrote:I'm wondering if authors get to keep merchandising rights. For instance, when I finally have a pubbed novel, and I want to sell t-shirts with my title or something on it, do I need to go through the publisher? Also, the imaging rights for the characters (what they look like). Surely publishers will only take rights relating to the words in the novel?
It depends on the contract, but often authors retain merchandising rights. Also bear in mind that whether or not authors have merchandising rights, publishers usually own the cover image so if the author wanted to use the cover they would need their approval/participation.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by jayinhouston » December 10th, 2009, 6:35 pm

Hey Nathan, I'm working on a comedic memoir/collection of essays. So in other words, they're common stories told through the eyes of an uncommonly handsome man. I'm almost finished and hope to query you soon. I'm currently working on a story that covers all the lowlights of my unheralded football career. I had a few coaches who make for high comedy, but I'm not sure how much care needs to be put into maintaining their anonymity. Is it enough to change their names?

If it helps, I have no intention of using a pen name.

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