Getting THE CALL

It’s the moment every writer dreams of: the day an agent emails or calls to say, “I’d like to discuss representation.” How does that work, anyway?

Keeping in mind that each agent has their own style of doing business, and also that no two situations are exactly the same, here’s what happens.

First, let’s back up to where we were yesterday: I was beginning to read the full manuscript I’d requested from a query I’d loved. I’m still reading it, and as I do, I’m constantly asking myself questions. Is the writing publication-quality? Do I want to keep reading? Am I finding value in what I’m reading? Is it entertaining, compelling, meaningful? Is there an audience for it? Do I know of any specific editors who would love it? Is it something with which I’d like to be associated? I’ll also be assessing whether I think it will need much editing before sending it to a publishing house.

Unfortunately, this is often where the process ends. I’ll be reading along, and it’s not what I expected, doesn’t live up to the query, or simply isn’t compelling enough. Or maybe the writing is still a few notches away from being ready. Sometimes people have terrific concepts that they’re able to pitch beautifully, but the execution isn’t quite there.

At this point, sometimes agents take the time to write an explanation of why they’re rejecting the manuscript. But sometimes writers get back brief responses to their requested fulls, with no real explanation. “Sorry, this just isn’t for me.” You may be upset—you sent an entire manuscript and you expect at least a reason the agent isn’t going to say yes! But the agent has already spent considerable time, hours probably, on a project they’re not going to pick up. They may not feel like they can justify the extra time it will take to write up a detailed explanation. Plus, the reasons may be too difficult to explain or identify. There’s a good chance the writer wouldn’t understand, and there’s also a chance another agent might think the book is terrific, so why go into detail? A no is a no. Anyway, you may or may not receive a helpful explanation of why the agent is passing.

But what if this manuscript turns out to meet or exceed my expectations? What if I totally want to represent it?

Normally I’ll email the author and ask them if it’s still available for representation, and ask if there’s a good time for us to have a phone chat. We’ll set up a time to talk. Sometimes instead of emailing at this stage, I just go ahead and call. Writers always seem surprised to hear from me!

On THE CALL, I’ll start by saying something like, “I’m really interested in representing you, so I thought we could chat a bit, learn more about each other, and determine if we’re a good fit.” I’ll ask the author a bunch questions, and I’ll expect them to have questions for me, too. I’ll make sure I’m clear on the status of the manuscript in terms of who’s seen it, especially if it’s been shown to any publishers. (I desperately hope not.) I find out if they’re in conversations with any other agents. I ask them about their future plans… more books? I’ll find out how savvy they are about marketing.

I’ll also tell them a little about me, and let them know they’re free to check with my clients if they want to learn more. Then I’ll let them ask me as many questions as they want. We might talk about which publishers I think I’d approach, and we’ll definitely talk about what will happen over the next few days/weeks if we decide to work together.

When it seems like the conversation has run its course, I usually say something like, “Well, I definitely want to offer you representation. I’d like for you to take as much time as you need to think about this, and then get back to me with your answer.” I usually remind them that this is a decision that should be made carefully, and I don’t want them to respond in haste.

After the phone call, the writer should notify any other agents who have the project. It’s a good idea to let them know there’s an offer of representation on the table, and ask if they’d like a chance to respond.

Then the writer thinks about it, Googles me, emails some of my clients… and after all of this, OF COURSE they call me and accept my offer of representation. (wink)

It’s a straightforward process… but let me tell you, when an agent has found a writer they believe in, it’s pretty darn exciting. And I imagine it’s exciting on the writer’s end, too.

Q4U:
If you’ve been through this, tell us your story. How did it happen for you? Did you get The Call?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

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  • Kim Kasch

    >I sent out my query, checking my email—constantly—and when I opened the response to read, “I’d like to set up a time to talk about representation,” I was thrilled, excited and nervous—all at the same time.

    “What if I say something stupid?” I asked my husband.

    He just laughed, “She might as well get to know the real you, from the very beginning.”

    So, I wrote back asking if we could talk after 5:00 p.m., when I’d be home from work—no need to embarrass myself in front of my co-workers.

    “The Call” was exhilarating, frightening, and rewarding all rolled into one and afterward, I felt like a “real” writer. That alone is some sort of prize but to top it off, I now have a wonderful agent!

  • Jody Hedlund

    >I haven’t ever gotten “the call” but it sounds like a wonderful dream! I got excited just reading through your scenario. I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to actually have it happen!

  • Katie

    >This was one of my most favorite posts so far. Just reading it made me nervous and excited all at the same time! I imagine I would be doing some sort of happy dance while working extremely hard to keep my voice calm. :)

  • Karen

    >I didn’t get “the call.” But I did get a contract emailed to me from an agent. I thought I had asked all the right questions and he seemed very excited about my book but after a little over a year together, we parted ways. You are so right in saying to take your time and not make a decision in haste.

    Some of the important things I will look for now: Will the agent read my whole ms? Will we discuss exactly how the book will be marketed (genre, etc.)? What kind of communication (record keeping) is forthcoming as the bp is sent out to publishers?

    Rachelle, your posts are so good. Thanks!

  • Gwen

    >I was on vacation when “the call” came. Halfway through our trip I dialed our home answering machine to check messages. Not ten minutes prior to my call, Agent of Excellence left a message. First thought: “nowaynowaynoway”. Second thought: “She has a California accent!” (Sorry–this musician notices sounds. I have a Michigan twang. I hear it even in myself *sigh*.)

    I yelped. My husband convinced me to wait an hour before returning the call. I was still nearly incoherent with shock, nerves, etc, etc, etc. Thank God she didn’t turn me down based on my rambling, but agreed to represent me.

    Here’s to hoping there are more positive calls in my future! Blessings to all.

  • Jill

    >This is a great post. I haven’t gotten the call yet, but it’s exciting to look forward to it. Great post! Thanks for giving us a peek at the process.

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >Another great post for those of us “waiting” for the call.

    Thank you for your blog it is beyond helpful.

  • Jason Crawford

    >We spend so much time preparing for failure, it’s good to stop and think about how we would respond to success.

    I had actually never thought that an agent would expect me to ask questions about her. I guess I better start thinking up some for when (if) that time comes…

    thanks for the post Rachelle…

  • Anonymous

    >Rachelle,

    I don’t know if you have time to answer questions on this topic, but here are mine just in case…

    Yes, several months ago I got the Call. Mr. Agent (a real agent and probably someone you know) read my manuscript and told me he wanted to represent me. We had what I thought was a good conversation. I told him about another completed manuscript I had (of a different genre) and he asked to see it. He mentioned that he doesn’t usually use written contracts. Instead, he has an understanding with his authors–if either side is unhappy with how things are going, let the other know and that is that.

    A couple of months after this conversation I e-mailed to find out whether he had any nibbles on my manuscript and whether he had any interest in representing the second manuscript I’d sent. No reply.

    A couple of months later, another quick e-mail…no reply.

    Now it has been nearly eight months since that phone call, but I’ve had no response or contact from him.

    My questions:

    1) Is it common for an agent to have an “understanding” rather than a written contract when accepting representation?

    2) How long before I give up on the guy and move on to seek representation from someone else? I don’t want to be an impatient first-timer…but, gee whiz, all I want is a quick “working on it; no news yet,” or even a “moving on to other projects; good luck.” Is that asking too much?

  • Jason Crawford

    >Oh yeah, also wanted to say I GREATLY appreciate all positive attitude. I think you said it in another post that often it’s easier for agents to tell writers what NOT to do.

    But it’s easier for us writers to hit the mark when we’re told exactly what we’re shooting for…thanks for your help with that.

  • Marla Taviano

    >This made my stomach churn–in a good way. You didn’t tell us if you liked the manuscript!!

    I already had 2 books published before I hooked up with an agent, so I missed all the drama. :( The publisher called me though about my first book, and for the first 30 seconds, I was sure she was setting me up for a no. But it was a yes! I about died.

    The day I get a contract for my Zoo Book is going to be the best day of my life. :)

  • WendyCinNYC

    >My call came out of the blue, two days after I sent the full. Now, I’m a fairly zen and roll-with-it person, but when I saw the agency name flash across my caller ID, my mind switched to OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD, so the conversation was kind of a blur.

    I remember her asking if it was still available and comparing my MS to a book that happens to be my favorite in the whole wide world, so it was the perfect thing to say to me. She discussed what she envisioned for my book and told me about her background and recent sales. She asked if I was up for some revisions (yes!) and talked about those in detail. She also gave me time to decide.

    I tried to be all calm and cool, but rattled on about TOTALLY STUPID THINGS, like I do when I get nervous. At this point, she was probably silently reconsidering. Thank goodness she liked the MS enough to overlook all that.

  • Krista Phillips

    >I think every unagented writer out there, including myself, is salivating right now! Just the thought is making my heart race, LOL!

    Question though: On the point that you hope no other publisher has seen it… for the unagented/unpublished novelist who has decided that yes, they do want to go the agent route, do you suggest that they NOT query publishing houses so we don’t potentially burn a bridge? I’ve only queried two myself, one I don’t even think they got (it’s a long story) and the other was at a conference where I got a response of “I like the idea and this is something I’d look at but we don’t really accept projects without agent representation.” So, I don’t think I’ve burned a bridge, but want to keep it in mind for future conferences and the like.

    THANKS for this great post this morning!

  • Melinda Walker

    >You are so right, Krista–as I read Rachelle’s post, I had to tell myself “move away from the computer, move away from the computer.” (I understand drool gums up the keys.)

    It’s fun and inspiring to hear success stories. Thanks, Rachelle!!

  • Rachelle

    >Anon 6:21 and Krista, those are good questions and I’ll answer them in future posts.

    Marla, I’m still reading that manuscript and haven’t made a decision yet.

    Jason, I’ll do a post soon on “questions to ask a prospective agent.”

  • Sarah Mullen Gilbert

    >I’m looking forward to the opportunity of having a blurry, rambling, nervous call of my own, but until then, I couldn’t help flashing back to “Sister Act.” “You don’t know how hard it is to get a call until you’ve worked in Reno.” Thanks for another wonderful post Rachelle!

  • Richard Mabry

    >Then there’s the “let’s not do this the conventional way” approach. Get to know the agent by interacting with her at a conference when she is still an acquisitions editor. Submit your nonfiction to her with no success. Stay in contact for about four years via emails and after she becomes an agent, her blog. Show her your fiction by submitting to a blog contest, and receive positive feedback. Send her, with a great deal of fear and trembling, a query about representation. Receive an email back within minutes: “Of course I’ll represent you.” Thrilling, but certainly atypical.

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >But, Richard, you still got the “CALL”!!!!

  • beth amos

    >I got the call, on a Sunday of all days, and it came while I was vacuuming. I was stupid enough to try to answer with the vacuum still on and after some awkward, “I can’t hear you, hold on,” moments, I finally turned the vacuum off. I was convinced it was a joke perpetrated by one of my friends since I’m a notorious practical joker and always have a few folks gunning for revenge.

    Fortunately the agent was a patient and understanding woman who overlooked my foibles and suspicions. After some good give and take questions and some revisions to the work I queried her with, we signed a contract. She sold that work a couple of weeks later.

    We had a wonderful relationship during which she sold three of my novels. Sadly, she then retired. But that day of the call remains as one of my all-time best memories…a definite high.

  • PurpleClover

    >I wish this could be a possibility for me right NOW. But alas, my MS isn’t finished yet so I must wait. Thanks for the useful info! I love reading about stories like this. Makes a girl dream!

  • Catherine West

    >Richard, my ‘call’ was atypical like yours. Like you I had stalked my agent for about a year on the internet before she was an agent – okay so I didn’t stalk her (did I, R?) at least I don’t think I did. This is what we mean when we say networking is SO important, it really is. You never know where the friendships you’re making will lead. Maybe it was easier for us both to know we wanted to work together since we already had a pretty good idea about personalities etc… and that we might be a good fit, even though we hadn’t met in person. Because I already knew Rachelle’s background in editing, I knew she would make a great agent and I was thrilled to hear she was stepping into that role, and obviously ecstatic that she would consider me as a potential client. This is what I think can be hard sometimes when you’re querying agents you haven’t met in person or don’t know that much about. (Conferences, people, go to conferences, meet them if you can before you send that query out. I KNOW getting an agent is a big deal, but if you end up with a bad fit, it’s no good for anybody. I’ve heard enough horror stories about this, trust me). Of course I still had to prove I could actually write something that would sell – so do you – and I’m still working on that, the selling part, but thankfully my great agent believes I can do it, and that’s the kind of agent you need! I still grin when I think of how God worked this part of the journey out for me, as sappy as that may sound, I do believe He did. So although my call wasn’t an out of the blue result of a query sent in fear and trembling, it was still awesome to get to talk to my future agent, and yes, we finally did meet in person last September!

  • Brian

    >I actually said “thanks, but no thanks”. I’ve been through like 3 screenwriting agents, the first two of which taught me a lot of red flags to look for. (I assume the flags are the same for both!)

    It was a credible agency, but I just didn’t like the vibe off the agent.

    Perhaps I am a dummy – I dunno.

  • Teri D. Smith

    >Inspiring, Rachelle! I’ve read of the process from author’s point of views, but never heard it from the agent’s.

    Thanks for the insight.

  • -Kelly Meding

    >I was lucky enough to find my agent through a referral. Another agent had requested the full and (even though she was rejecting) was kind enough to email and ask if she could pass it along to a colleague. I hadn’t yet queried this agent, so I jumped at the opportunity. She passed it along on a Friday.

    That Tuesday, I got “the email.” In it was an offer of representation, as well as his thoughts on revisions. I nearly fell out of my chair and screamed for my roommate to please read the email and confirm it said what I thought it said. After much hugging and bouncing, I emailed back. We set up a time for a phone chat the next day, and then I emailed the other agents who had material.

    Most of the conversation is a blur, but I recall discussing the book, the revision ideas, other things I’d written, my career plans. The thing that really sold me, though, was his excitement for the book. You really do want an agent who loves your work, not just someone who thinks they can sell it.

  • Susan Elliott

    >Love love love this post.

    I did not know how the process worked so even though I started to get “strongly interested” emails from agents, I was quite surprised to get a phone call request. I was thrilled but at the same time hoping I wouldn’t say anything to blow it.

    I was really excited. Like Kelly said it was a blur but it was pretty clear we were a match. She did ask about platform and marketing (two things that are very important for non-fiction). I have a smallish platform but it was enough and I’m more than willing to market my work.

    Once represented, it was hard to find out any information about how the process goes after that. I did not realize there are some agents who help you refine the proposal (as mine did) and others who will not touch it.

    I didn’t know that I would fall off my agent’s radar screen when another writer was on a deadline or that I had to wait my turn during some of the process. I found that a lot of the process, from “after the call” to when a book is sold to a publisher, was very mysterious to me. I’ve asked agents to write about that (hint hint Rachelle). But haven’t seen much on it.

    I also didn’t expect that the editor who bought the book would ALSO want to talk on the phone before offering to buy the book.
    That was also an incredible day.

    I do have to say that my life has changed since “the call.”

  • lynnrush

    >Awesome post. And thanks for those commenting on their stories as well. This is great stuff to read.

    Write on!

  • R. K. Mortenson

    >Kelly said- “The thing that really sold me, though, was his excitement for the book. You really do want an agent who loves your work, not just someone who thinks they can sell it.”

    Amen, sister. I did not receive the call; I made the call to my (now) agent only 3 1/2 weeks ago after he sent me an email saying, “Okay, I’ve started reading [your novel], and I think this is amazing. Let’s talk.” In a subsequent email he gave me his cell number, and I called him at a designated time while he was on a train from NY to DC.

    It still doesn’t seem totally real. But it is awesome. :-) My agent doesn’t even accept queries! I had queried an associate agent at his agency, who forwarded my email on to him. I’ve spoken to him on the phone twice now. The third time may be this week, as he’s waiting to hear back from an editor on an offer for my novel. When he hears back, he wants to discuss the offer with me. There’s more I’d like to share here, but I won’t, since this process is going on right now.

    It is cool. I love saying “my agent” and knowing that he thinks my writing is amazing. And that he’s talking to an editor about an offer on the table. And…and…

    Yep. It’s cool.

    Thanks, Rachelle, for another great post. As you and Kelly have said, the synergy of a good author-agent relationship–where you both are excited about the project and have healthy respect for each other and each other’s role in the process–is invaluable.

  • Judy Schneider

    >I DID get the call! It was so exhilarating I can’t remember a thing about it. I saw the New York number pop up on the screen, so I grabbed the phone and ran. I had young (loud) children at the time and I remember taking the steps two at a time, locking myself in the bedroom, and then double-locking myself in the master closet (the only quiet place in the home). As an aside, don’t worry about the safety of the kids because the conversation didn’t last very long. I guess that’s what happens when one party is offering nothing but excited eeks and obsequious “sure”s and “absolutely”s. (After that, I kept a notebook and pen in my closet, just for those exciting agent-author conversations!) Between heart palpitations and a few deep breathing techniques, I realized she wanted to represent me. Yay!

    That euphoric feeling doesn’t go away, even after you sign with an agent and sell to an editor. One day, recently I received a call from my editor. Once again, the words “New York” appeared on the screen and I panicked and freaked and tried to find a safe place to talk. (I’m guessing such excitement doesn’t dissipate until you have 30 or 40 books under your belt?!) This time it was my editor who asked me how my recent vacation had been. I was so nervous and excited that I told her Hawaii was bliss and my mother-in-law was gravely ill and we had such a great time, all in one breath, in one run-on ramble, in that exact order. The editor stopped short and said, “Well, I guess…if it wasn’t your own mother.” I don’t even know what I said after that.

    Live conversations with agents and editors are like a pot of strong coffee: They’ll jump-start your heart and keep you buzzing for hours!

    Thanks for a fun post!

  • Adrienne

    >I got the call definitely. But it was a call without once mentioning the word “representation”. She invited me to meet her at a pub (this was in the UK) on a Saturday – Easter long weekend – to chat.

    We met up, ordered a bottle of wine. And chatted.

    About everything BUT the book.

    Finally I was starting to feel a little bit light headed from the libations, and we started to discuss the work. She had more editorial suggestions, and I was trying to remain all professional when we ordered more wine.

    Still no mention of the word “representation”. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I had to ask: “After I do all these edits and stuff . . .um . . .then what? Are you going to be my agent . . .”

    She replied that yes, she was interested in offering representation and that she enjoys waiting to see how long it takes for the author to ask that questions.

    Oh those wacky agents.

    We wound up hanging out for 5 hours, and both being quite tipsy by the end of the night. It was totally awesome.

    The only one bad thing was that I’d told my parents I was meeting with the agent at 6pm, and they were waiting in Canada desperate for some news. They had to wait around for those 5 hours just dying. But I called them right away after and had an uber long chat about it, they were SO excited . . .

    Man. That was a really good day.

  • Jessica

    >OH my gosh!! I love reading about all these calls. Thank you so much, everyone! It really is inspiring and heartbeat-jumping info. It’s wonderful!
    Sometimes I daydream about a Call from an editor or agent (either one, it’s a dream, lol) and I really hope I don’t say anything stupid. *sheepish grin*

  • Rebecca Knight

    >Thank you for this awesome post, Rachelle, and for opening it up for “the call” stories :D! Thanks to everyone who shared–this is fascintating stuff!

    I personally subscribe to the girl scout “always be prepared” mentality, so I literally have a list of questions for a potential agent stuffed into my purse at all times.

    You never know, right? ;) I’m sure if I didn’t have the list all the agent would hear is “SQUEEEE!”

  • Linda Covella

    >My agent responded to my query, then asked for a partial, then the entire manuscript, all via email. It was a buildup of hope and excitement. She asked for some minor revisions, and then offered representation. I’d been waiting and working for that day for a LONG time. I was thrilled–and very nervous of course when we finally spoke. Before the appointed time, I sat at my desk, watching the phone and the clock, phone clock, phone clock…

    I felt she had the necessary industry contacts, but what really iced the cake was the kindness that came through her voice and emails, and her incredible enthusiasm for my story. I feel very lucky.

  • Merc

    >Wonderful post, Rachelle, and I’m loving the comment thread about Calls.

    Of course, I already loathe phones and phone calls of any sort with the deepest depths of my being :P so that might complicate it someday… ;)

    ~Merc

  • Chatty Kelly

    >You forgot to end your post with “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” LOL!

    I have a strong desire to send you my phone number…you know, just in case!

  • Dara

    >I daydream about the day too. Of course, I need to finish the manuscript first :P

    I loved reading this–it makes me excited and hopeful :)

  • Caroline

    >Thanks for this post! My heart is going pitter-patter reading all of these happy stories. I’ll have to come back to this post some day when I need a smile. :)

  • Kathi Lipp

    >It was so fun to read all of those CALL postings.

    I was sitting in a coffee shop with my favorite writting buddy when I got an e-mail saying, “We should talk.” I had never queried this agent so this was way out of the blue. After doing numberous Google searches and asking all of my writer friends for all the gossip about the two agents who offered me representation, I called Rachelle and said “Yes” but silently screamed inside “Please – Pick Me – Pick Me!! Please Tell Me You Have Not Changed Your Mind!” I guess you never get over the fear of rejection…

  • quixotic

    >What a great post! Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about the submissions process. =)

    I’m still in the “daydreaming for an agent,” stage. I can only hope one day to get that call.

  • Crystal

    >Rachelle,

    Thanks for this GREAT post! It was very INSPIRING reading about all these thrilling CALLS!

  • Anonymous

    >First time poster…but I just got THE CALL recently, and have to share! Like any author, I had dreamed of/fantasized about that moment for as long as I can remember. I just started querying agents a few months ago, had gotten requests for four fulls, and was of the mindset that this book very well might not make it into publication, because that’s how things go.

    But the agent emailed to set up a time to talk, offered representation right away, and showed a passion for my work that I had started to doubt even I had anymore. It was a defining moment in my life. The only downside was that I wanted to go out and celebrate, and instead I was stuck at an out-of-town work event with hundreds of non-writer, science types in the middle of nowhere. Room service wouldn’t even deliver me a glass of wine :(

    However, many kudos to Rachelle for doing this and the forthcoming posts, because when I DID get that call, I had no clue what to do. I had spent so much time researching how to query, etc. and working on not getting my hopes up that I was wholly unprepared about what questions to ask and how to proceed. Invaluable info here!

  • Hillary

    >I love these stories! It would be great to hear your impressions of the authors you call to represent, Rachelle! Do you ever get annoyed with the breathless incoherency, or do you get an “agent high” off them as well?

  • Mary Lindsey

    >This was a helpful post, thanks. I received two “calls” in the last 24 hours. Fortunately, the agents guided the conversation so I didn’t sound like a total moron.

  • Anonymous

    >I’ve had The Call three times.

    The first when an agent wanted to rep my MG novel if I was willing to make my MC gay. I wasn’t willing.

    The second call was from an agent who enthusiastically loved my picture books. She emailed a contract immediately, though I told her I would need some time to consider. Two days later she emailed to let me know she had changed her mind, that after some research my material wasn’t original enough.

    The third call came when an agent loved my picture books, wanted to offer representation, but asked to read any other material first. I sent my MG stuff. A few weeks later he emailed to say he didn’t care for the MG material and I deserved an agent willing to rep all my stuff, so he was going to pass.

    I’m very disheartened and have quit querying all together. Obviously I am doing something very wrong. Any feedback you can offer would be much appreciated. Also, isn’t it normal for an agent to schedule a call? All of these agents called out of the blue.

  • T. Anne

    >I was at work and my husband called and let me listen to the answering machine. It was beyond exhilarating! Unfortunately that relationship did not work out in the end. But still a fond memory!

  • Krista Phillips

    >Rarely do I comment more than once in a day, but I just have to say I’m loving everyone’s “Call” stories! It’s such an encouragement and… even though I’m telling myself that I SHOULD be jealous/envious and the like, I’m truly excited for everyone! My time will come, but it’s so much fun to listen..er read, everyone else’s wins!

    I do have to say, if I had a preference (which I know I don’t!) I’d rather an out of the blue call. Sure, I’d probably choke and hyperventilate for a moment before being able to confirm that yes, I understand who’s calling, but I know myself. If I had a *scheduled* call I’d be on my knees getting all too familiar with the toilet for about an hour before. (slight exaggeration… but you get the point!)

    Disclaimer: Agents out there, I’d STILL glady suffer through and schedule a call with you!

  • Ken

    >For me, it was a long build-up to the call. The agent — who was my top pick — had requested a partial based on my query, then requested the full a few weeks later. Months went by. I got a very detailed rejection by email, but he said that he’d be glad to take a look at the manuscript again if I could address some of his concerns — foremost of which was the length. He recommended that it be cut in HALF. Well, he was right, I dug in and did it, and sent it back to him four months later. A few more months went by. He was pleased with the changes, but had a few more suggestions. I did them, more convinced than ever that he was the agent for me. Sent it to him again. He had one more round of very specific suggestions. I did them.

    Then I got the email.

    It said “You’ve done an excellent job with this. When could we talk in the next day or two about representation?”

    I sat at my desk, at work, and burst into tears of joy. It’d been a long road, not only with him, but the years of writing leading up to it. I’ll never forget that moment.

    We talked the next day, had a great call, both felt good, and he sent over his agency agreement.

    Two other agents had the full, so I emailed them to politely let them know that I’d accepted an offer of representation.

    Whole process with him was about 16 months, query to phone call. The manuscript is making the rounds currently.

    Now, I’m waiting for that next call. The BIG one.

    Great topic, Rachelle!
    Ken

  • Janet

    >I got the email. I yelped. I was totally shocked because he had told me it would take him a month to get to it, but he came back after just a day or two to offer representation. The only other person in the house was my son, who was vaguely pleased for me. He’s a musician, so he did have some concept of how important it was, but he’d already heard me whooping about being asked for the full, so he was rather blasé about the whole thing. Oh well.

  • christa

    >First there was the email asking for the full. Then the email asking if we could set a time to talk. Then the email confirming the time to talk. Then the interminable waiting because that particular day, I’m quite certain, there were eighty seconds in every minute. Then the school day finally ended. I set the ring volume on my cell phone to the highest possible bar. The seconds in every minute had increased to ninety.

    And then the dreams, and hopes, and prayers of years rang, and finally I could answer.

    I couldn’t hush the five-year-old in my head jumping up and down shouting, “You’re talking to an agent! You’re talking to an agent!” I only hoped Rachelle couldn’t hear her.

    It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to be physically sitting at a desk and emotionally doing the happy dance in the clouds. In that one phone call, I realized whatever it had taken to get there was worth it. And when I woke up the next day, I remember how goofy and giddy I felt driving to work and hearing myself say, “I have an agent!”

    And I’m still doing the happy dance. Thanks to Rachelle.

  • Anonymous

    >At my first writing conference I hit it off with an editor who had previously been an agent.

    Two months after the conference I was in the extremely surreal position of having three agents interested in repping me. So I called my editor friend for advice.

    During the weeks I pondered his counsel, he left his pub house and got back into agenting. As word got out, published authors were calling him asking him to be their agent.

    We were talking on the phone one day about his agency when it slowly dawned on me … he was asking about representing me. I was stunned. He rarely works with new authors and I couldn’t believe he was interested in me. The conversation ended with him asking me to send him my novel.

    Ten days later I got an e-mail saying, “This is GREAT! I’d love to represent you!”

    My wife and I freaked out for about two weeks.

  • Gordon Carroll

    >The Phone Call

    I was cooking dinner with my wife when the phone rang. A week before I had gone to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference where I pitched to an agent that I had researched and attended her class and agents panel. While attending the class I decided she was THE AGENT for me—but how to convince her of that? The next day I pitched to her. She was gracious, kind and professional, and after the pitch she said what I have heard agents say time and again on panels and workshops—that with her it was really all about the writing. Luckily I had brought the first page of my manuscript with me. She read the first line and laughed. Whew! She said I could send her the first 50 pages. I was stoked… but scared too. I immediately started going through the first 50 pages. For the next three days I poured over it again and again, then sent it off.

    Briiiiiing! “Dad, it’s for you.” I took the phone from my daughter, expecting it to be my brother in law—but no—it was THE AGENT! My mouth went dry, tongue swelling to twice its size, lips cold and numb. A silvery strand of drool stretched from numb lip to wife’s coffee table (dangerous—my wife hates drool spots on her coffee table).

    THE AGENT started saying nice things about my manuscript. I just kept saying “Uh-huh—Uh-huh—Uh-huh, the only sound my useless lips and tongue could pronounce.

    THE AGENT—said she was reading my manuscript while getting her car washed. She said she wanted the rest of the manuscript, but she that she definitely wanted to offer me representation. She said she’d like for me to take as much time as I needed to think about this, and then get back to her with my answer. I said, “Uh-huh.” She asked if I had any questions I’d like to ask her. I said “Uh-uh.” There was a pause then she said, “Well… okay… I’ll wait to see to rest of the manuscript.” I could tell she was about to hang up—this was my last chance—she had to think I was a buffoon—somehow I had to make my mouth work! And then…just as she was saying good by—the words seemed to be coming out in slow motion—I slammed both my feet against the sides of the slide—turned my face to her and said—“No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!” I grinned into the phone.

    Rachelle said, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

    Anyway, that’s pretty much how it all felt. Except I really said I didn’t need any time and thanked her for taking me on as a client.

    Now if I can just keep from shooting my eye out.

  • Yunaleska

    >I’m grinning away as I read everyone’s response to the call. I’m not even out there in query land (yet! Just give me 6 months or so) and I’m glad how I think I’ll react is similar to how most do react. Thoughts of ‘ohwowohwowohwow’ come to mind.

    Definitely interested on the post about questions to ask an agent. My mind would be a total blank (apart from the phrase written above). At least agents understand we can be awestricken at The Call.

  • Amber Lynn Argyle

    >Instead of “the call,” I got “the email.”
    I had four agents interested. Two immediately offered representation. The other two were wishywashy.
    In the end, two backed out and I had to chose between the other two. It was very stressful, but I can’t complain. ;)

  • giddymomof6

    >I had made a vow that if I didn’t get an agent by the 5th of August, then I knew it was a sign to go ahead and move to another overseas location. My family is in the US Air Force and Aug. 5th was when the list of overseas assignments were to come out. I figured that if I was meant to head home (since we lived in England) and promote my books then I’d get an agent before that list came out.

    I had 6 agents reading. 2 partials, 4 fulls, when my agent emailed me to set up an appointment. Her email came Aug. 5th. I was floored. She called about 2 hours later and we had an amazing talk. she loved my book so much, she said she felt moved to offer representation even though usually she waited a week after reading a book before offering. It had been less than 24hrs. She said she didn’t know why she felt so strongly to ask me that day but she did. I was so stunned. I remember talking to her, but not sure what to do. I knew then that I was going to be heading back to the states, but I wanted to pray and see if she was the one. So I told her I’d get back to her in 24 hours and I’d tell her my decision.

    24 hrs later, I had already emailed the other agents, 2 were dissapointed, but it didn’t matter. I had found my agent and I knew it! When I called her back, she just let out this huge sigh of relief and said, “I don’t know what I would’ve done if you had told me no.”

    Then I knew I had the most perfect one for me. LOL! Of course, her nice words helped me a lot during the days following when I went through her edits for my MS (FYI: Agent edits HURT!!!) but it’s so much stronger now, so it was worth it.

    Jenni James

  • Michelle

    >Thanks for posting such an inspiring entry. It helps me envision the day I get the “call”.

    I posted a link from my blog to this entry to allow my readers to share the inspiration too (http://michellereynoso.blogspot.com/2009/04/representation-call-from-agent.html).

    Thanks for all the great information.

  • Heather Long

    >I haven't gotten the call yet. I know I was thrilled when I got my novella accepted by a publisher and when an agent asked to see the full synopsis and three chapters. So I'm waiting for "The Call" — I'll prolly do cartwheels.

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  • edentylerwriter.com

    >I can't even imagine receiving *the call* — OK, yes I can can.
    But I'm still at the point where submission requests have me jumping up and down and bouncing on the bed like I'm 12 again!
    I just hope to act as professionally as I possibly can when it happens (yes–confidence. it Will happen! :))

    I love reading these stories. Just can't get enough of them and they make me so excited for everyone!

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  • http://www.thesecret2lifeisme.com Dorcas Wood

    How inspirational! Because of this article I have begun to compile the list of questions I will ask potential agents, will carry that list on my person and be prepared for “The Call”, and breathe a sigh of relief knowing I am emotionally prepared when I get “the Call”. I’m also going to incorporate “The Call” to my daily visualization time. Excellent article Rachelle and thanks to everyone for posting their experiences. I plan to add mine in the near future as well :)

  • Larinna Chandler

    I know the day I get the call, I will have had some great intelligent questions all planned out in my head. I know that I will answer the phone professionally…and then…I will draw a complete blank. I will stutter and stammer. I hope they smile on the other end and laugh when they hang up the ‘speaker phone’ and say, “that never gets old, does it?”

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  • http://toryminus.blogspot.com Tera Armstrong

    Is this a dealbreaker for you: “I’ll make sure I’m clear on the status of the manuscript in terms of who’s seen it, especially if it’s been shown to any publishers. (I desperately hope not.)”

    My friend has recently terminated her author / agent agreement (along with half of Mr. Agent’s client list – #agentbeware!), and is hopeful to gain represenation for her non-fiction project.

    Should she mention her previous agreement in the initial query?

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    It’s always exciting to read your posts and the real world comments from other would-be authors…

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  • H.V. Purvis

    Thanks for the information. I am a new author with a small traditional publishing company. Of the four books i have written, one book, Extinction, is already in publication (October, 2013) and two others are under contract. The fourth book, a Vampire/western, I sent to one agency.
    The agency was one of those big agencies, with a film department. Doesn’t everyone want a movie deal for their book as well as publication? Their submission information said something like, Do this, this and this. If you don’t hear from us in four weeks, we are not interested. Do NOT try to contact us. Of course, as a new author, this would be the agency i could grow old and die with.
    Needless to say, I did not receive a call. i was disappointed, but i am also a realist. I sent it to the next agency on my list. I have queried only one agency at a time. I am new to this and have a lot to learn. Good article.

    H.V. Purvis author of Extinction, soon to be released: Survival and Death in a Small Town.
    http://www.hvpurvis.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/HV-Purvis/383626835091562, Twitter @hvpurvis

  • skydoc

    Hi Rachelle,

    This just happened to me:

    Over the past couple of years I’ve taken several writer’s boot camps from Writer’s Digest with this agent as the primary instructor.

    Of course I tried to get her to represent my work. She has been instrumental in helping me mature as a writer but in spite of her laudatory praise of my work, she has never offered to represent me.

    I’ve unable to obtain representation for any of my first three novels, so I ended up buying a publishing package in order to get my books out there.

    This past Sunday, I sent her an email just to say hi and happy new year. I also sent her the first two chapters of my forth novel that I’ve just started.

    I know how many emails you agents must have when you get to the office on Monday, and I honestly didn’t think I’d hear from her. Like you, she has a killer schedule.

    To my joy and great surprise, at 9:15 Monday morning, I received an email from her that said, “We should talk. Would around the 17th of the month be good for you?”

    Well heck yes. We’ve set up a phone meeting for 3 PM on the 20th.

    Here’s the opening of my novel that apparently hooked her:

    “The fact that every individual
    has his breaking point has been known and, in a crude, unscientific way,
    exploited from time immemorial. In some cases, man’s dreadful inhumanity to man
    has been inspired by the love of cruelty for its own horrible and fascinating
    sake.”


    Aldous Huxley

    CHAPTER
    ONE

    At first it was just
    the symptoms of heroin withdrawal: Tremors, shaking-chills, nausea, vomiting,
    severe abdominal cramps, and panic, all of which left Dagineau terrified that
    he would die a horrible death before they injected him again with the warm,
    brown, nauseating concoction that would bless him with what is known in the
    drug world as the Angel’s Kiss — once
    more sending him aloft on a tranquil gossamer cloud. Hardcore heroin addicts
    refer to this feeling as the Nod.

    Then the beatings began — pushing him to the limits
    of his endurance. Time lost all meaning, and he descended into the depths of
    his very soul — somehow finding the strength to endure.

    He turned inward for solace and stumbled to the
    brink of the abyss. Here, it seemed as though he could hear beautiful melodies:
    A symphony of lyre, flute, and sweet song — the Sirens of Circe’s warning,
    calling to him from deep within that black hole, offering a promise of mantic
    truths as well as the gilded — fool’s gold — false promise of survival. He
    heard, Surrender. Surrender. You’ll be
    warm and safe here — no more pain, no more worries. The beautiful refrain
    cajoled, caressed, and enveloped him, like his mother’s womb.

    Like his namesake, Jason, captain of the Argonauts,
    he would not give in to the lure of the Sirens’ songs — mythical beings,
    half-woman, half-bird, smashers of ships and murderers of mariners. Fittingly,
    their control of the passage through the rocks of Anthemoessa ended in their
    own drowning, the Argonauts safe, for now.

    “Never.” he shouted, from somewhere deep within his
    primal core, clawing his way back from the precipice, surviving, buying another
    minute, another hour, one more day — and losing a part of himself — with each
    tick of the clock.

    Finally he was subjected to the infamous French
    telephone method of interrogation developed by the French Foreign Legion. As a
    soldier in the Legion’s 1st Parachute Regiment in Algeria, Dagineau
    had seen the technique used many times to extract information from rebel
    prisoners.

    It is an unimaginative — but brutally effective —
    means of obtaining information if you don’t care whether the object of the
    exercise lives or dies and involves the use of a TP 3-12 field telephone with
    its wires attached to the prisoner’s ears, ankles, and testicles. By cranking
    the handle of the telephone’s dynamo, a high-voltage shock is supplied to all
    points of attachment.

    Since there is little amperage but high voltage, it
    was unlikely that Dagineau would die as a result. Nevertheless, each shock was
    exquisitely painful. His screams — there were many — sounding more animal than
    human, were ignored by his tormentors.

    One drawback to the technique is that the amount of
    voltage received cannot be controlled. If the voltage was too high, Dagineau
    would, more often than not, become unconscious — frustrating his inquisitors,
    forcing them to interrupt the “interrogation” until he could be revived and the
    torture could be continued, until blessed unconsciousness claimed him again.
    The pain and the relief from pain became blurred — so much so that his brain
    could no longer differentiate one from the other.

    In establishing the scientific basis for
    brainwashing, Pavlov coined the term Trans-marginal
    Inhibition. This is the body’s natural tendency to shut down thought and
    action completely when subjected to overwhelming stress. Or, put more simply:
    Everyone has a breaking point.

    Pavlov also theorized that different individuals
    have innate neurological defense mechanisms that determine when or if this
    breaking point is reached. Strong emotions — such as fear and helplessness —
    tend to push some individuals to this point sooner, rather than later, but,
    eventually, everyone arrives there.

    There is always an exception to every theory, and a
    select few individuals possess the inherent ability to retreat so far into the
    depths of their own subconscious mind that they, in effect, journey back in
    time to a safer place. These rare individuals will die before they break.

    Sergeant Jason Dagineau, formerly of the French
    Foreign Legion’s 1st Parachute Regiment and, now, newly enlisted in
    the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, was such a man.

    Go figure.

    Jim

  • Hastings Mysteries

    I’ve just read this post about getting the call, Rachelle. Hope it’s not too late to reply.
    What happened to me was that a few years ago I sent the editor of exercises I was writing for German learners of English a copy of The Smugglers’ Caves, a mystery novel I’d self-published. It was just a Christmas present to him. But he emailed me and said his company (Cornelsen Schulverlage) would like me to simplify it so that they could publish it for German readers. Simplifying it was great, as it used the skills I’ve learned over 34 years of EFL teaching: I had to stick to certain verb tenses, shorten sentences and work within a given range of vocabulary. And then they asked me to write exercises based on the novel.
    The only question I had was whether Hastings tourist attractions could continue to sell the original, unsimplified version. The reply was that they could, as long as it wasn’t sold anywhere but Hastings.
    The whole experience was great. It brought together my day job (EFL teaching) and my free-time occupation (writing).

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