Behind the Scenes… "The Call"

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TJlUvhsmoNI/AAAAAAAAEF0/YNmNTH9SxW0/s200/phone-ringing.jpg Me: Hello, may I speak with New Author? New Author: Speaking. Me: Hi, this is Rachelle Gardner. How are you today? NA: I’m fine…wait…did you say Rachelle Gardner? Me: Yep. NA: This is Kelly, isn’t it. Ha ha, very funny, Kelly. Me: Um, no. It’s Rachelle. Would you rather speak with Kelly? NA: No! Uh-oh. Not Kelly? Um…oops? Me: No worries. I get that a lot. I’m calling because I really like your book and wanted to discuss representation. NA: Of me? I mean my book? Me: Yes, and yes. NA: Wow. This is so cool. I loved all the nice things you said in your email, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Me: I take it that means you’re open to talking about representation? NA: Absolutely. Me: Great! First, I’d like to make sure I’m clear on the status of the manuscript. It’s...
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In Search of Specific Information

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TI0ApfenHII/AAAAAAAAEEU/pe_QoH5BW54/s320/magnifying+glass.jpg Lately I’ve been hearing complaints from writers that agents are not specific enough in telling writers what kinds of projects they’re looking for. On my post “Too Much Information?” I received several comments that echoed this opinion from A3Writer: Agents are sometimes a little closed-mouthed about what they are looking for. I love the agents that are highly specific on their detailed pages, but others simply put out “looking for commercial fiction” or “most genre fiction.” I believe I can speak for the majority of agents when I say this: You are simply not going to get more specific information. To give more specific lists of “what I’m looking for” would be to defeat the whole purpose of my job. Let’s get this...
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Differing Advice on Signing with an Agent

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TBVbFRYGjgI/AAAAAAAAD5s/7YmkHIVaoKc/s320/stop+no+stopping.bmp Yesterday we started our week of discussing mixed messages, so today I want to continue by addressing some contradictory advice on signing with an agent. With so many agents and others writing blogs, it’s natural that many of us are saying things in opposition to one another. As a writer, it must be hard for you to know what to do sometimes. Case in point: I often tell people that I like to represent a writer, not just a book. To me, this feels like the right way to run my agenting business. I believe I can serve people better if I’m thinking of them as people, not just products; and I also think it’s important for me to keep in mind each writer’s long-term goals so that I can guide them in a way that will help get them there. Well. I just read an article about...
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What if My Agent Doesn’t Like My Next Book?

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S_B4l089OKI/AAAAAAAAD0M/2HNLH_iWRuI/s200/pulling-out-hair.jpg As if it’s not stressful enough getting an agent based on that first book, it seems everyone wonders the same thing. What if they love my first book but hate my second one? I’ve had a few of my authors ask me this about their publishers – the ones that signed them to multi-book deals. “I know they like the first book, but I’m already halfway finished with the second one. What if they don’t like it?” All valid questions, of course. So first I’m going to ease your mind; then we’ll cut to the chase. Here’s the easing-your-mind part: you can relax. The agent or publishing house signed you because they like you, they really like you. There were forty thousand other authors they could have signed, and they signed you. Yay. When an...
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A Splash of Cold Water

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S93XnanJCsI/AAAAAAAADws/KZAApTghyNY/s320/drinking-from-garden-hose.jpg Some of you may have read the post from agent Kristin Nelson last week about agents fighting over writers. She wrote that every single time she offers a writer representation lately, she ends up competing with several other agents who want the same client. You can go read her post now: Hot Commodity In response to her post there was quite a bit of talk on Twitter, with writers saying, “I better get my query out there soon because agents are fighting over writers!” But I think the excitement may be based on a misunderstanding of what Kristin wrote. Time for a reality check. Kristin’s post is absolutely spot-on about agent competition, and I’ve seen the same dynamic lately. I’m typically competing with several other agents for the clients I really want....
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Does Your Agent Have to Love Your Book?

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S9WQU5sDPQI/AAAAAAAADvU/PtQrA3zJk5A/s320/hearts.jpg Lately I’ve gotten some remarks from people, both in blog comments and in response to pass letters, complaining that “agents are only looking for what they’re personally interested in.” And some have called into question whether that’s a legitimate way to do business. So is it true? Are we just looking for what we like? Well… yes and no. Yes, it’s best if I enjoy reading your manuscript, because I’m going to read it once, twice, or multiple times especially if we’re doing one or more editorial passes. That’s awfully hard if I merely tolerate your work rather than enjoying it. More importantly, as an author you probably want an agent who completely believes in you and your work. There may be times your agent has to really push...
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It’s a Relationship

Last month I wrote a post on the Top Ten Query Mistakes. The first two points were all about personalizing your query to the agents. They were: #1. Not making me special, and #2. Not caring who I am. Now if you didn’t know me, those might seem like kind of narcisistic statements, and believe me, I did receive some flak for them. But I hope most people who read my blog know that I have a sense of humor, I don’t take all of this so deadly seriously, and I say things like “Not making me feel special” with a big grin. It’s kind of a joke, you know? Just a silly way to make my point. But the point remains that there is value in personalizing your query. It’s not a must, just a suggestion. I realize you’re trying to get an agent, and it behooves you to...
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Reasons for Submission Guidelines

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S4F9PgqcdXI/AAAAAAAADmM/EQNgnF59hJ0/s200/rules.jpg As you know, almost all agents have Submission Guidelines posted on their websites and/or blogs. Agents who blog and Twitter always remind writers to follow guidelines, and some agents reject without responding if you don’t follow them. But why are the guidelines so important? Are we just picky and anal people, obsessed with power and intoxicated by the ability to control people? Obviously my answer to that is “no.” It’s simply a numbers game. It’s all about the high volume of submissions we receive, and the need to get through them as quickly as possible, while making smart yes and no decisions. Our guidelines specify the exact information we need in order to make the best decision possible, in the shortest amount of time. Our guidelines tell you what to...
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A Day in the Life

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S3rb-3HwnZI/AAAAAAAADlU/NEOY0IoUM44/s320/circus.jpg People are always telling me they’d like to hear about a typical day for an agent. But I have yet to experience a typical day. When you have a large number of clients, working on a wide variety of projects, which are all in various stages of writing or publication, the days provide endlessly changing entertainment. Of course, I’m sure there are many agents who aren’t as A.D.D. as I am, and some of them probably have routines to which they adhere. However “they” are not “me.” I organize my days according to my priority list. My tasks for the day depend on what needs to be done, and I stay very clear on what’s important, what’s urgent, what’s both and what’s neither. I also (very Jerry-Maguire or Ari-Gold-like) have a...
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Saying No After I’ve Requested Your Manuscript

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S3gkHYnygzI/AAAAAAAADks/Ut47yzzcs8I/s200/say+no.jpg We spend a lot of time on these blogs discussing what makes an agent say “yes, I want to see more” or “no thanks” after reading a query. And last week I tried to give you some idea of the things I’m looking for in a manuscript, things that make me want to keep reading your partial or full. Today I’m going to approach it from the opposite angle. I want to address the question of what makes me say “no” after I’ve requested your manuscript. Of course, there could be any number of problems that make me stop reading and/or say no. I just want to mention two major things I’ve been noticing lately. 1. The story falls apart after the first 2-3 chapters. With a surprising number of manuscripts, the first two or three chapters are polished...
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Q4U: Should Agents Edit?

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S3SzmH3Z3KI/AAAAAAAADkc/hpts0EPt-B4/s200/red-pen1.jpg Most of you know that I came from an editorial background before I was an agent. I love working with authors on their books, and over the years I’ve developed the skills to help writers improve their writing, or present a more saleable book or proposal to editors. As a result, I sometimes have significant editorial input on my clients’ projects. (I blogged in more detail about my approach to editing clients’ work here.) I don’t always do this. I try to take on books that are nearly ready for submission. But it doesn’t always work out that way, and sometimes I offer representation based on the potential I see in them, even if the manuscript still needs work. Occasionally even when I think the original manuscript or proposal is good enough to submit without...
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We’re Taking a Query Hiatus

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/Sx8g4si9gKI/AAAAAAAADSc/y1sDayNGSdQ/s200/closed-sign-smer.jpg Our agency is doing something we’ve never done before: we’re closing to queries for a month. From December 15 to January 14, WordServe Literary won’t accept queries. We’ll accept them again January 15th. This has been a difficult decision but I finally decided this is the way to be most fair to everyone – our current clients, as well as those querying us and hoping for a response. It will give us time to catch up on the things that are already on our plate before trying to take on more. I have three main reasons for the query hiatus: 1. I’ll be taking some time off from work during the holidays, and I don’t want queries to pile up during that time. I don’t like being in “catch up” mode and trying to zoom through hundreds of...
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The Process of Getting an Agent

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SuYw8y7dChI/AAAAAAAADMs/RTnHohNTG2I/s320/Lucy+Chocolate.jpg Several people have asked me lately how the process of getting an agent works. Not from the writer perspective, but from my perspective. It varies from agent to agent, but here’s an approximation of how it looks if you submit to me. You send a query. It sits in my inbox until I get to it. Eventually I read it and make a decision as to whether I think it might be right for me to represent. If not, I send a “thanks but no thanks” letter. If I’m interested, I send a request for a proposal and/or a partial. You send your requested materials, and again it sits in my inbox until it gets to the top of the queue. Sometimes this takes awhile. Finally I read your partial. Again I make a decision. If I don’t think it’s going to work, I send a pass letter. If it...
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Help! An Agent Relationship Gone Bad!

Anonymous wrote: I recently fired my book agent for a number of valid reasons and her response was to say that I OWE HER thousands of dollars because she spent time on my project (never submitted it to publishers because we kept rewriting the book proposal because she kept changing her mind about what she thought it needed to look like in order for her to submit it), and she now sent me a bill!! We never had a written agreement, and our verbal agreement was very clear that I could terminate her at any time. There was never any mention of an hourly fee if I terminated, nor can I imagine that she would still be entitled to her agency fee if we go and get another agent and get the book published. Can somebody please confirm I’m not crazy and this is not normal? My answer: I guess I...
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