Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Last week I picked up the phone and made an offer of representation to an author. I won’t tell you who it is because she is a regular member of our blog community, and it’s up to her how and when she shares this news, but I thought I’d write a little bit about the process.
Step One: This author first came to my attention through her Books & Such blog comments. I began to recognize her name and I liked her from the start.
Step Two–9/19/2012: She sent an outstanding query to the correct email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line: “Query for Wendy”– how we love writers who follow our guidelines. Yes, there is always room for grace, but this query was perfect. It made me want to read the book, and it gave me all the important information. Plus it was sent through our regular query system. Note: Following directions always endears you to an agent.
Step Three–9/20/2012: Our beloved first readers forwarded the email on to me. Note: It doesn’t always happen this quickly. It can take a week or more for the first readers to process a query.
Step Four— 9/20/2012: I opened the email, read the query and knew I wanted to see more. I sent a one-line email saying: “I’d like to take a look at your book. Can you send the proposal and three chapters to me (as attachments) at this address?” Note: It almost never happens this quickly. I had a segment of time open up right then to read, get excited and reply.
Step Five— 9/20/2012: The author sent the proposal and first three chapters immediately. Note: We do not expect authors to be sitting by the computer waiting to send the proposal. It almost never happens this quickly.
Step Six— 9/20/2012: Still working within that open block of time–which almost never happens–I read the proposal and chapters and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the manuscript. I wrote: “So far, so very enchanting. I love the promise of a miracle–the magical realism. Plus the characters are well drawn. Will you send me the whole manuscript?”
Step Seven— 9/20/2012: Author sends whole manuscript.
Step Eight–Six weeks later: Author sends a nudge: “I have my calendar marked to check in with you on my manuscript this week. I hope you’ve had a chance to give it a look, but thanks to Facebook and your blog I understand if you haven’t! <snip details> I’ll look forward to hearing from you when the time is right.” Note: A nudge is always appropriate. Things get crazy and though I was dying to read this manuscript, pressing things edged in ahead of it. This nudge reminded me how much I wanted to read the rest of the story. I made a reminder to myself to get to this manuscript.
Step Nine— 11/18/2012: Halfway through the book I stopped to drop the author a note: “I started reading your manuscript this weekend. I’m more than halfway through. I should have waited until I’m completely done, but I love this book. It reminds me of [book name] and [book name]— two of my favorites. Since I’m having trouble putting it down, I’ll probably be back to you in a few days, but I just had to stop and tell you how much I am enjoying your work.”
Step Ten— 11/20/2012: I tried to call the writer, but she was not at home. (Who calls during Thanksgiving Week?) I sent an email: “I called but missed you. I finished reading the book. What a beautiful story. I laughed and I cried. I feel so blessed by your writing and for getting to see the world through your eyes. I’d like very much to offer representation if you are still open to it. As I was reading, I kept thinking of editors I wanted to share this with–a sure sign for me that I want to represent you.”
The writer called back a few hours later, just before she was to head out for Thanksgiving. She had a number of questions for me. (She was prepared.) I must have answered them correctly because she accepted my offer.
Note: It never happens the same way twice. As you can see from the timing, much of this had to do with my receiving the query on a day that had unexpectedly offered an open block of time. (Makes you wonder who orchestrates these happenstances.) I know I have some proposals and manuscripts that have been languishing longer than this but discovering treasure often occurs out of order.
We talk so much about the tough odds, I just thought it might be fun to highlight the up side for a change. Does this raise any questions about the process for you? Ask away!