Blogger: Mary Keeley
“We’d like to extend an offer on your book.” I don’t think those words will ever cease to thrill you, whether you are multi-published or this is your debut. Being prepared for what comes next will give your book its best chance of success. It’s what you don’t know that can hurt you.
Have you seen the commercial with the mom who appears to have eyes in the back of her head as she responds to what her son is doing behind her? If it were only possible. But alas, agents are only human. We can’t monitor that which we aren’t aware is or should be happening.
Here are examples in two areas of the production process.
Marketing and Promotion. I can’t speak for other agents, but my preference is to be in on the planning conversation with the marketing manager and my client. A client recently told me about the scheduled meeting and asked if I would like to participate in the conference call with the acquisitions editor, marketing manager, and publicist. My client is marketing and promotions savvy extraordinaire. You might wonder then why I felt I needed to take time for this call. In her case the conversation was going to focus on blending her own multifaceted efforts with what the publisher plans to do, making each initiative that much stronger. Because my client understood the value of my knowing the plan first-hand, I’m in a better position to do my job monitoring follow-thru.
Since the marketing manager assigned to your book will contact you, the author, to schedule this meeting, it’s up to you to request that your agent be invited to participate in the call. If he or she isn’t available at the time, ask that the written summary of the meeting be sent to her too. And then contact your agent any time during the production and launch process if you sense a problem arising. As busy as your agent is with many clients, your communication at the earliest sign of a problem will help her to negotiate a solution for a small issue before time passes and it becomes a bigger one.
Conversely, you need to fulfill all the items in your proposal’s personal marketing plan, and also continue to find additional opportunities to promote your book. Email your marketing manager once a month with updates and results of your promotional efforts. It will help them to maintain a high level of enthusiasm for your book. And don’t forget to keep your agent up to date too.
Cover and Interior Design. The publisher has the final say in the design cover, and for the most part, you need to trust their judgment because those professionals know what sells books. However, there are circumstances when the direction the designer has chosen clearly isn’t right for the book. In a busy production season, your team might not have time to read your whole book, or perhaps the designer, who has multiple books to work on simultaneously, missed something significant in yours that you feel should be captured on the cover.
Covers sell books; they’re that important. Talk to your agent right away and let her be the bad guy. Agents are experienced at negotiating issues like these while you maintain your good working relationship with your team. Of course the best procedure is for you to ask the acquisitions editor to send your agent a copy of the cover at the same time yours is sent. That’s the type of request you never should feel reluctant to make.
Keep your agent informed during each step of the production process. You might assume I’m speaking only to debut authors, but previously published clients forget to do this more often than you might think. Your agent can explain the how’s and why’s of what your publisher is doing, advise you on the best way to respond, and intervene if necessary.
There is no need to feel you are being a pest. I prefer a quick email to say, “My editor marked changes on the page proofs that I don’t want to accept,” or “Here is a jpeg of my cover, and it isn’t at all what I hoped for.” That is enough to alert me there is a problem and what is involved. Believe me, I would rather be over-informed than under-informed. The goal is to make your book a financial success, because superb sales numbers of your current book make the strongest case for a publisher to offer you the next contract.
What additional circumstances would prompt you to seek your agent’s advice or intervention? Have you been under the impression that you are on your own with the publisher after your contract is signed? Do you feel prepared for what comes next after you have a signed contract?
Authors, don’t try to tread the production waters alone after your book contract is signed. Click to Tweet.
Be prepared to navigate the book production process with your agent’s advice. Click to Tweet.
Inform your agent at the first sign of a problem during your book’s production process. Click to Tweet.