Friday, October 19, 2007

Question #1

Lo and behold, the seas will rise up and the mountains roar and the earth will crack in two...

... I'm starting to answer the questions you guys asked me way back in August.

angelle trieste wrote:

"What should a writer do when he/she actually gets the call? (from an agent offering to rep) What questions should he/she ask?"

Well, the very first thing to remember is that breathing is good. Oxygen is good. Air intake of oxygen is even better. I've got a big thing about agents being human, and when we call you, even though you might think it's cool, remembering to breathe is a big thing. We can't talk to you, if you faint from excitement. =)

Secondly, after you remember to breathe, you should try and collect your thoughts. If you think that you're going to get offered representation, or even if you've sent off a full manuscript to an agent, it might be a useful idea to have a list of questions that you want to ask. That way, you've got it handy, and you're not struggling to remember every last detail that you wanted to know.

Each agent works differently; I assume not everyone calls and tells people the way I do, which is just rather bluntly, and then I explain how I work, etc.

Here are some basic points that you definitely want to cover:
  1. What is your agent/author contract like? What are the terms involved? Is the agent offering you representation for just one book or for all your future books? Are you going to get tied up legally? What sort of out does the contract have for you? What sort of out does it have for the agent? What commission does the agent take? Etc.
  2. How do you intend to market my book? This would include possible editors that the agent would pitch it to, as well as what category and such. You may think that you've written an urban fantasy, but if your agent-to-be tells you that you've really written a paranormal erotica, it might be best to trust their judgement.
  3. What revisions does the agent anticipate you having to make to your book?
  4. Timelines. What's the agent's typical timeline for sending out projects? How fast does the agent usually work? What can you expect once the agent has sent out your book?
  5. The agent's standard operating procedure. How often will you hear from the agent? Will they communicate with you mostly by phone or e-mail? Will they send you the text of your rejections verbatim? How much contact will you have with the agent in general? I think this is one of the most important things to discuss, since all agents work differently. There are some super-agents out there who get back to you immediately, overnight you every check, and read your manuscript in a day. They also have no lives (no offense intended to them.) Knowing that your agent will have a life is an important thing. Take into account the fact that some agents have assistants and some don't. Find out if you'll be hearing from the assistant more than the agent. If your agent is a single mom raising five children on her own... then you can pretty much bet that she will not be at your beck and call, every second of the day. This isn't a bad thing, either, as having a life and people to love and things to do outside of work is one of the ways that agents stay sane. Otherwise, we'd sit at our desks all day and slowly turn into piles of mush. =) Just make sure, from the beginning, that you know the particular circumstances of how your agent works, and that you're comfortable with them. For example, I am slow as anything else in the world; I know this; my clients know this; the world knows this. I still make a point of telling this to every prospective client because I don't want them to go into our relationship with incorrect assumptions.
  6. How are subsidiary rights handled? This isn't the most important thing, but knowing how your foreign, film, audio, etc. rights will eventually be sold is a nice piece of information to have.
  7. Anything else that you want to talk about, which will help you get to know your agent better as a person. This is someone that you're going to be working fairly closely with, and it's extremely important that you're comfortable with them as an individual. You don't have to love your agent; you don't have to be best friends with your agent; but you do have to get along with them.


Angelle Trieste said...

Thank you for your answer, Jenny! :)

Laura Kramarsky said...

To the questioner: there are additional things one might do when one gets "the call" over on the BookEnds blog...

Just in case you want a different look on what might happen when you get "the call."

(By the by, agent was blunt. I can't imagine any other way of offering...and I don't think it would make much difference because blunt or no blunt, I promise you the "offeree" doesn't care!)

Katrina Stonoff said...

Wow! This is great, Jenny. Thank you.