Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
So, that glorious day has arrived. You got THE CALL, an agent has offered you representation, and you’ve decided to say “yes.” Congratulations! You’re on your way.
But you have a question: Now what?
That’s what you should ask your agent first thing, and don’t be shy about it. Since each agent works differently, and everyone has their own timetable for doing things, the steps will vary from agent to agent. It’s only fair for you to know what to expect, so here are some things that might happen:
Your agent may send you an Agency Agreement to sign, which spells out the terms of your relationship. Or they may to prefer to work with a verbal agreement to start.
Depending on how much of your work the agent has already seen, they may need time to read and digest more of your work.
3. Editing and Rewriting.
If you’re an unpublished author, your agent might be representing you based on her perception of your potential rather than where you are now. So there may still be a great deal of work to do on your manuscript. Even if you’re an experienced writer, there’s a good chance that some editing will improve your book to get it ready for publishers. If your agent feels you need some editing and rewriting, this phase could take anywhere from a few days to several months or even a year.
4. Synopsis and/or Proposal.
Your agent may also help you get your proposal and/or synopsis ready for publishers, or at least give you tips for the final polish.
While you’ve been getting your manuscript ready, your agent has been getting ready to shop it. She’s preparing the list of editors, and may also spend considerable time writing the perfect pitch letter. She may be talking to certain editors to get them excited about your book or get an idea from them on what the response will likely be. As soon as your proposal and manuscript are ready, and your agent has the publisher list ready, she’ll take over and begin shopping it.
Now that your book is being shopped, you’ll probably be on pins and needles wondering “What’s going on with my manuscript?” Don’t expect daily updates, but DO check in with your agent occasionally if you’re not hearing anything. You may want to talk with your agent at the time of submission about how often she sends updates; whether she forwards all pass letters or saves them up to update you occasionally; whether she wants you to check in and if so, how often. As always, it’s much better to simply ask questions than to sit in the dark and wonder.
One of the biggest problems I see in agent/author relationships is unmet expectations leading to frustration and anger. These problems can be mitigated by communication. Remember, your agent can’t read your mind; she doesn’t have any idea what kind of expectations you have. She works with dozens of clients and they all have different expectations. So communicate yours, and if they’re unrealistic, give your agent a chance to straighten you out.
What are YOUR expectations about this part of the process? If you’ve been through it, what has it been like?
Image copyright: leaf / 123RF Stock Photo
I don’t have any experience with this part of the process (yet), but your blog reminds me of what my husband always says: I can’t read your mind! So I think your advice about asking questions and communicating expectations applies to many areas of life, not just the agent-author relationship!
Couldn’t agree more with this! On a side note, communicating should come easy to us. We’re writers after all! But sometimes we’re such little hermits we only know how to carry conversations in our head and down on paper. Speaking is a whole other beast.
Samantha, I hear you! I was never good in one-on-one speaking even when I could think fast enough to carry on a conversation. There was a paradigm gap with most people that was hard to bridge.
* Public speaking was, exactly as you say, a whole other beast, and I loved it.
* Early on, I was given the classic advice to “imagine your audience naked” to quell stage fright. But who in their right mind would want to see 5-700 naked engineers? Even writing that makes a strong stomach quail.
* Instead, I imagined the entire audience outfitted in gorilla suits. That brought them down to my level,
Ha, you made me laugh, Andrew! Gorilla suits actually sound like the perfect solution. I’m filing that away for future reference. 🙂
So true, Katie. We all know the importance of communication, but somehow we seem to forget at the important moments!
Rachelle, you missed the most important part!
* After I get The Call, I will summon my best mates, we’ll get gloriously drunk, and I’ll ‘borrow’ a horse to ride into my very favourite five-star restaurant.
* And after that, I’ll be sitting on a beach in a country without an extradition treaty (see paragraph above) earning multiple fortunes off the hard work of my agent and her busy minions.
* But throughout all the “Life’s Been Good To Me So Far” stuff, I’ll observe one Golden Rule – the agent’s the expert. I’ll give her room to work, and do my best not to make her life difficult with my unschooled assumptions.
* And this – great post, Rachelle. I’m very much a believer in visualizing the positive, and having an idea of the concrete steps involved makes it more real, and thus more possible. Positive and informed belief draws success much better than vague inchoate wishes.
* (For those who may not remember, or have chosen to forget, “Life’s Been Good To Me So Far” is a 1978 song by Joe Walsh, gently parodying the rock star lifestyle. I, however, missed the satire and took the song as my Life Plan, with results that have sometimes been memorable.)
I like your style 🙂
*I personally don’t get drunk, but celebrations will still leave others having to scrape me off the ceiling!
*yep, also agree The Agent is The Expert. I do what she/he says!
I learned early that energetic celebrations are vital in letting off steam from the extreme restraint and decorousness required by the gentlemanly sport of rugby.
LOL, I love your Life Plan. Bottoms up!
And now I have that darn song in my head.
Fresh from the “Breathe Conference” this past weekend, I was struck by the emphasis put on hiring an editor before submitting to agents. The most common number floated out was $2000.
What is your take on having a MS edited before submission? If one has a critique partner, does that count for anything?
BTW – Conference was very good. My one-on-one was accidentally double booked and so I was asked if it was OK if I met with Lynn Austin (8 time Christy Award winner!) instead. I agreed, and tried to remain calm. Lynn was wonderful and gave me a LOT of direction on my MS.
AND I chatted with an attendee before the James Scott Bell keynote (!) and she said, “Well, my dream agent is Rachelle Gardner.” I thought, “Yup, you and everybody else.”
I think we all have mixed feelings about hiring an editor before submitting to agents. If you’ve used the editing process to learn more and become a better writer, that’s a good thing. And certainly, a more polished manuscript will give you a better chance of entering the publishing world. At the same time, an agent needs to know your real writing ability. Are you prepared to keep hiring editors before submitting work to publishers? It’s a bit of a conundrum.
Here’s an article I wrote on 5 Things to Do Before Hiring a Freelance Editor:
Also, Janet wrote a great post discussing the value of a good editor:
Haven’t had the pleasure yet, but definitely have some expectations. 1. The first week will be one of euphoria with me running and jumping in an imaginary field of flowers (anything but roses with thorns). 2. I sober and realize that the work has only just begun. 3. I settle down for the long haul, but at least know I’ve got someone on my side now. That would be such a blessing!
That sounds about right, Samantha!
Samantha, I love that plan! Tack it up on your wall so you’re ready. 🙂
Kristen Joy Wilks
I love the flower-leaping-field idea. We live on an alpine meadow in the mountains and so depending on the time of year, this is a real possibility for me! I would want to add my 90 pound dog, three boys, and husband to the frolic as well. The pup could chase everyone around and bite them on the bottom if they got too rambunctious and the boys would trip each other and wrestle and my husband could calm them down when someone drew blood, leaving me to happily frolic!
You can’t go wrong when you add a dog…or close family. 🙂
I’m a little jealous, because you could so easily sing a rendition of “The Sound of Music” too.
Shawn D Brink
Thanks for this info. I am currently marketing my Christian novel to agents and now have a better understanding of questions I should ask them when offered representation.
This is so incredibly encouraging. I’m a person who likes to plan ahead. Although I’m still working on my first manuscript, having a road map for the future is a valuable and calming tool. It also feels great to know that communication is an asset to both sides of the table. The comment on not sitting in the dark, is powerful to a person who hates to step on toes, and doesn’t want to be a bother. Having permission to speak up and ask questions is a gift to my worrier’s mind.
Rachelle, thanks for posting this. For those of us who managed to trap an agent before she discovered we really had no talent (the Imposter Syndrome strikes again), we tend to take what an agent does for us for granted…and we shouldn’t. Are they worth 15%? Probably much more than that, especially to writers in their early days. (But don’t take that as a promise of more–a deal’s a deal).
Thanks Richard! I knew you had talent from that very first line. 🙂
Kristen Joy Wilks
Hmmm…I would like to hear from my imaginary agent whenever something new happened. She sent out my ms. or got a reply or got an offer or had to hash out something in the contract. That sounds about right to me.
Thank you for this information. Always good to know what is appropriate and best. I think it would take me a day or two to come down off cloud nine!
I love your comment about how agents may represent a client based on future potential. That encourages me 🙂
I think 6 (a) should be:
Go on with your writing.
I’d also be hopping on a plane to take you out for lunch.