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.
I’m really lapping up this week’s blog posts. It’s been so very informative about the inside track for us unpubbed writers.
It seems that keeping an agent in the loop also avoids the author safeguarded from something they don’t know, especially a debut author.
I think the most uncertain things of signing a first contract would be the amount of weekly time required to hold up the author’s end of the marketing contract, in addition to just writing. Working full-time, knowing I won’t quit my day job, the additional time requirements are what seem the most daunting.
Perhaps experienced authors can share a bit about that here also, or in another post. I’d love to hear more about that from others. Certainly launch week sounds exciting and demanding, but I’m sure the entire marketing plan isn’t done in one week. Though looking at it on paper it seems it could feel overwhelming at the start.
Anne, you’re correct that there is much ongoing marketing work to be done beyond the launch week. But there are things you can be doing now to get started. Continue to grow your social media followers. Introduce yourself and your WIP to local radio and media and request their willingness to interview you when your book releases. Submit articles related to your book to magazines. These pre-pub efforts will save you time after your book’s release.
Susi Robinson Rutz
Wow, Mary, just your comment here includes power-packed instruction for those preparing to market a book. Once again, thank you for sharing what you know. So appreciated!
Mary: Excellent and informative blog. Thanks in particular for the info about the cover interaction, which is critical to me. I’m glad (but unsurprised) to read you’ll walk this part of the publishing path with me when my time comes.
Thanks, Norma. The cover will be all-important to your books.
Good morning Mary. I agree with Anne, this week’s posts have been quite informative!
The more I read on this blog about publishing, the more I realize most of what I’ve learned about the industry ins and outs, I have learned from Books and Such.
And no, I am not schmoozing! It’s too early to schmooze, I do that *after* lunch and at least one Diet Coke.
Another thing I have noticed is that a good agent wants and expects to be peppered with questions. For those of us holed up in our little make believe worlds, and Canada, knowing it’s acceptable to not know everything is quite refreshing.
I do have another question-is it acceptable to have a secular author or public figure endorse a CBA book? Such as a leader or chief of a Native American tribe or a celebrity? Not that I think it will happen, but one never knows.
And yes, I do dream big.
Jennifer, yes it’s acceptable to have a well-known secular leader or celebrity endorse your book, the qualifier being that this person is respected and admired by your book’s audience. A chief of a Native American tribe would be appropriate, even desirable, for your WIP because it could enhance credibility to your book.
Lisa Van Engen
Thank you for this information. I don’t have an agent yet, but I would probably tend toward the not wanting to bother an agent side. This helps me know that you would rather be over-informed than under. I’m so glad I’m getting prepped now. Thank you for continually sharing great content with us.
You’re welcome, Lisa. I’m glad it’s helpful. That is our goal here.
Today’s blog fits perfectly with Wendy’s post yesterday, giving us more insight on when to communicate. Love it.
Years ago the impression I had was that the agent was just the go-between to sell the book. And I know there are agents who still work that way only. But I wouldn’t want that. I love the idea that the agent is there to work with you on your career, that they’re taking that trip with you, not just dropping you off at the airport, so to speak.
Sally, Books & Such is a full-service literary agency. We agents are invested in strategically planning for a client’s long-term publishing career. We get right on the plane with each of our clients–for every flight.
Love that, Mary!
I’ve had one of those experiences where I had to go back to the publisher and ask them to change a cover that didn’t work for the story. I don’t have an agent, and I was nervous to have the conversation. Luckily, the publisher agreed, and they were able to give me a wonderful cover that fit the book. I can definitely see how helpful it would be to have someone to help with those kinds of issues.
I understand your pain, Julie. The illustrator for my first contracted book didn’t capture the vision for my characters and story. Not wanting to seem like a difficult author, contacting the publisher about it left me with stubs for fingernails.
I’m glad you made your feelings known.
I love that agents are so involved even after the contract is signed. It is great to know writers have someone in their corner working for what is best for them and their career. I’m not saying that publishers are greedy or anything like that, but they have their own interests and this is a business. It’s nice to know writers have a partner in their agents.
So true, Lindsay!
I agree with you, Lindsay!
Communication is so crucial to every relationship. Thank you for all these posts, Mary and Books & Such. I’m feeling more and more prepared for That Moment with each post.
Meghan, thanks for your positive feedback. It’s good to know our posts are helpful. I know I can speak for all the Books & Such agents that our goal here is to come alongside the Christian writing community.
It’s been said–a lot–but I’ve loved these posts. Understanding how a good agent sees her side in a relationship with a writer is so encouraging! I’ve had a friend have to work through a book cover issue, and I know her agent was very helpful.
Thanks for this post, Mary!
You’re welcome, Jeanne.
Thank you, Mary, for being your authors’ biggest encourager and working tirelessly on our behalf.
P.S. …What’s your favorite chocolate?? 🙂
Great question Cynthia (seriously).
You’re so welcome, Cynthia. Chocolate is always best when enjoyed with our clients and blog community 🙂
She was very polite about that answer, huh? *I* would have said “The kind that comes in a box.”
This is wonderful information – thank you so much!
You’re welcome, Christina. I’m glad it is helpful to you.
Thank you for the excellent information, Mary. I’ve worked with many editors and several agents, but always have felt apologetic about “pestering” my agent with concerns like these. It’s great to know what the boundaries encompass. I love having an agent as partner, which is what you are describing!
That’s exactly it, Sue. At Books & Such we view our author-agent relationships as long-term partnerships.
Heather Day Gilbert
Wow, such a helpful post, Mary! I like the idea of getting the written summary of the author/marketing conversation if the agent can’t listen in.
Heather, the marketing discussion often happens early in the production process, and if I’m not available for the call, a written summary is definitely valuable. It’s valuable, too, for those who were in the call as a statement and reminder of what everyone agreed to do.
Thanks for the post! I will soon be working with a publicist and the marketing person. I’ll be sure to keep the agent in the loop.
My agent has been proactive in working with the publisher, for which I’m grateful.
Bonnie, it sounds like you are in a good place.
Mary, because of the Books & Such agents I feel better prepared to wade into the sometimes tumultuous waters of publishing. We’re so blessed by each of you. Your willingness to teach and shepherd us is a gift.
Thank you, Jenni.
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Mary, thank you so much for this post and for all the information that you and the other Books and Such agents share so freely with us. It is a generous gift. Many blessings!
You’re welcome, Christine.
Wonderful look at how the author-agent relationship works to communicate with the publisher, and that writers’ shouldn’t be afraid to be willing to discuss things with their agent.
After all, if a writer cannot even discuss things with the one representing their book, how could they expect their feelings on how best to have the book represented be heard by the publisher?
Larry, yes, your agent will listen to your feelings about your book and then advise you how best to present it to publishers. As professionals, it’s our job to know the market, what is selling, and the most advantageous positioning for your book.
Roger H Panton
I went self-publishing because I couldn’t get an agent to accept my book. I got the impression that the agents I contacted were more interested in me joining their writing clubs and spending money with them prior to considering me – a debut author.
I am heartened by what I have been reading from you and other agents.
Roger, your previous experience with agents is unfortunate. I’m glad you have been encouraged by what you’ve learned here on the Books & Such blog.
I feel like I have a good idea of what to expect after the contract is signed, and I know I have an agent who is prepared to walk through the process with me. Blog posts like this are always helpful, and I learn something new every time I read them. Thank you for giving us another glimpse into the post-contract era. 🙂
You’re welcome, Gabrielle.
When I was working with the marketing department I was sure to cc my agent on every email I sent. Just when I thought it might be annoying her she’d jump into the conversation with something I didn’t know needed attention. What I didn’t know could’ve hurt me indeed. But I had someone watching my back. So grateful.
Mary, thanks for the valuable insight. The market is constantly changing and although I try to keep up with trends and changes, these pieces of contract are things I’m not as familiar with. I’m so grateful to have an agent to help me navigate these areas of my career.
Thank you Mary for such relevant advice! Maybe you could help me. I just met with the editor/publishing team regarding the cover design of my book. My book is humorous but the proposed cover is of a black and white house (typical here in Singapore). It’s a very classy cover and I love it. They want to change it because it doesn’t convey the humor inside…I understand their point but I love the classy cover. What to do? Thanks for your time, Jennifer from Singapore
I wouldn’t presume for a second that I DON’T need my agent involved at every level. If I didn’t need her I’d self publish. Been there, done that, the t-shirt didn’t fit.
There was a cover of a novel that totally mystified me. I almost didn’t check it out to review because it didn’t appear to have anything to do with the novel. I was glad I did read it because it was beautiful, but again, the cover was a painting of a flower. Kind of odd. I usually look to the cover first, back cover copy next, and author last. This is a good blog post though and good to know about including the agent in the conversations.