Big Books and the Midlist

New UK agent Rebecca Carter was recently quoted in Publishing Perspectives saying: ‘she will “have to get good at making great deals for authors. Advances are going down — the mid-list doesn’t really exist anymore, there’s not much middle ground.”’

This is something that is echoing across the industry. Midlist books are not something that agents are looking for because they are increasingly difficult to sell and while they help develop authors’ careers, agents don’t have the time to wait for midlist authors to become hits. The authors we take on have strong books out of the gate and while no agent sells every book they take on we do it with the hopes that the writer’s quality writing will hold up year after year, book after book, and in fact get better year on year.

Editors are looking for big books, so guess what? Agents are looking for big books too. The industry is extremely symbiotic. Each piece of the publishing puzzle needs each other. Editors don’t have books without agents and agents don’t have authors without publishers.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate: think big, write well, and know your audience. I heard a great quote on Twitter today: “Write for your reader self, not your writer self.” If you want to be traditionally published you have to play the game.

The deals agents make have to be increasingly strategic and thoroughly planned, weighing all the outcomes. We have to be smarter, more prepared and more resourceful than ever to make ‘great’ deals and need authors that understand the changing nature of the business.

Image: Priscilla Nielson NPR

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

2 thoughts on “Big Books and the Midlist

  1. I read an article, not long ago, that stated writers need to think in terms of big screen adaption when writing novels nowadays. Quite commercial a viewpoint, but it goes hand-in-hand with what you are saying,




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