Aug 09 2010

Unless I’m missing something, this sounds bogus

Published by at 10:24 am under Blogging,I Call Shenanigans!,Literary Agents

According to the New York Times, one author got an extraordinarily fast response from agents after starting a blog.  “Within two posts on her blog, which now attracts 30,000 visitors a month, Ms. Dolgoff said, five agents got in touch, and a book idea was born.”  I find that hard to believe.  Interesting even one unsolicited agent is extraordinarily hard.  Five? With two posts?  Unless I’m missing something, that sounds wildly implausible.  For example, author Theodore Beale receives ~200,000 readers per month and has never had an agent solicitation.

I think the NYT should have dug harder here. For example…

  • Who are these agents?
  • Why were none of them interviewed in the article? If they’re real, their perspective on this apparent success story would be pretty interesting.
  • What impressed them about the first two blog posts enough to contact her?
  • Did the agents know her before she started blogging?
  • Did the agents find the website themselves?  If not, who pointed them to it?
  • I have not been able to find any indication that there was a publishers’ auction over her book, nor does the article mention an auction.  If there were five agents potentially interested in representing her after two blog posts, don’t you think it’s a bit strange that the book wouldn’t go to auction?  (Note: I’m assuming “five agents got in touch” means that there were five agents interested in representing her, although an agent could contact an author just to offer friendly advice or chat).

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Unless I’m missing something, this sounds bogus”

  1. Steton 09 Aug 2010 at 10:51 am

    She’s not just a New Yorker: “She was a born-and-bred New York cool girl: raised on the Upper West Side, high school at Bronx Science, college at Wesleyan, followed by glittery jobs at women’s magazines, including Self, Glamour and YM.”

    She emailed a dozen agents and said, ‘Hey, we haven’t spoken since we worked at Glamour together. I’ve got this blog now–let me know what you think!’

    And her subject sounds salable. Her blog -is- a book. ‘Adventures in Fantasy Literature,’ while it looks v. good, is not.

  2. B. Macon 09 Aug 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I’m assuming an audience would have to be pretty damn vast to include not just one, but five agents that are so short on exciting proposals that they’d cold-call someone. I could maybe see it happening with a HUGE phenomenon like LolCatz or Things White People Like (i.e. millions of readers), but 30,000 readers a month = pretty much no chance.

  3. Steton 09 Aug 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Well, what I mean is, she already knew all those agents, or knew people who did. She threw up a couple blog posts as a sort of ‘proof-of-concept’ then contacted her friends-of-friends.

    Five of them emailed back (which is what ‘got in touch’ means; five of them didn’t offer to rep her) and one agent offered to rep her college roommate’s sister or her husband’s cousin.

    Then the author’s turned that into a marketing hook. She got her story in the NYT: she knows people and she knows how to get attention.

    But I’m 90% sure that she -started- connected, in a way that you and I can’t really understand.

  4. B. Macon 09 Aug 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I suspect you are correct. If the agents already knew her, or were friends of friends, the NYT article needs to be updated because it’d be damn misleading as it is.

  5. joel wyatton 10 Aug 2010 at 9:34 am

    So, I’ve got a blog (as you know. And don’t mention it a lot, but it is (in PART) a parody of all the “My So-Called Urbane / Self-Obsessed Existence” blogs out there. And you should never hope (MUCH less EXPECT) this sort of thing to happen…

    …but, JEEZ. Seein’ as they’re just HANDING out book deals, now…

  6. B. Macon 10 Aug 2010 at 9:51 am

    Well, clearly you’re just a job at Glamour Magazine and five agent friends short of five book deals! 🙂

    I’m a fan of parodies of people that are obsessed about their own existence, by the way. Things White People Like, for example. And Captain Freedom: A Superhero’s Search for Truth, Justice and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves.

  7. ShakespeareThompsonon 11 Aug 2010 at 3:53 pm

    The article said she had worked for several magazines. I wonder how many of these agents were people she already knew. She sounds like an industry insider who really used connections she already had. I doubt that five agents were randomly surfing the web and came across her blog and contacted her.

  8. Dianneon 04 Sep 2010 at 6:59 am

    Another question one might ask while researching a story such as this is: How much money did she shell out to search engine promotion beforehand? If she’s paid a few thousand on google promotion than people would wonder why they keep seeing these ads whenever they visit the search engine or even while looking at emails via gmail. Also, was she a celebrity beforehand? If she was already famous, then it would help move things along as well.
    However, I have to agree that it seems very unlikely that she would get all of that extra traffic unless a bunch of the aforementioned parameters are met as well as a Satanic pact.

  9. B. Macon 04 Sep 2010 at 8:17 am

    For her sake, I hope she didn’t spend anything on ads. Advertising before you have a product ready to sell is not a profitable proposition for authors. Even after you have a product ready, I think it’s dubious, because a profit-per-sale of ~$1 does not leave much room for advertising expenses. (Whereas my brother could easily spend $5 attracting high-quality prospective customers to his software business because he generates something like $30 of profit on each sale).

    Authors may be able to come out ahead on advertising if they can identify an EXTREMELY narrow (read: cheap) set of searches*, or perhaps if they have such a vast catalog of works that a hooked customer might be worth a lot more than $1 in profit. However, generally I don’t think that advertising is logical for small-time authors.

    *For example, I’m writing a book about how to write graphic novels, comic books and superhero novels. Placing on [how to write a comic book] will cost at least $.18 per click. [How to write a graphic novel] –> $.20 per click. [How to write a superhero novel] –> $.05 per click. If I paid $1 to bring in 20 people looking for advice on [how to write a superhero novel], I think it’d be plausible to sell at least 1 copy and at least break even on the marketing expenses.

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