How I Got My Agent (Part 4: The Calls)
I realize that I’m not the norm — that I was incredibly blessed to have 4 agents want to represent me.*
BUT, I also feel most of my luck can be attributed to the fact that I
- Worked my butt off to have a Perfect Product.
- Did my homework before querying.
- DREAMED REALLY BIG AND BELIEVED IN MY DREAMS! (I can’t overemphasize the importance of this!!)
Ever since I first started this novel last year, I’ve been dreaming HUGE. I want the stars, you know? And so I dreamed about the stars, worked hard to reach them, and then one day I did.**
What to Ask During the Call
Over the course of my Decision Week (recall, I gave the agents with the manuscript 1 week to decide whether or not they wanted to make an offer), I ended up with 3 offers.
Thank heavens I live in Germany, so no one surprised me with a call! They all set up times, and so I had time to prepare. These are the questions I asked, and I suggest you ask them too:
- How did you get to be an agent?
- How many clients do you have now?
- What professional organizations are you a part of?
- Do you handle film rights? Foreign rights? Audio rights?
- Are you a hands on agent? Or do you prefer to leave all that to the writer alone?
- In what “state” do you think my book is? In other words, how much editing do feel it still needs?
- What would be your timeline for submitting?
- How often do you like to check in with your clients?
- Do you charge any fees? And what is your percentage?
- What would you expect from me as a client?
- If I sign with you, what will happen next?
Keep in mind that many of these questions were answerable based on interviews or agency websites. If I already knew an answer, I didn’t bother asking.
One thing I URGE you to do when you’re faced with an offering agent is to ask for a generic copy of their agency agreement. The agency agreement is the contract you will sign if you agree to work with the offering agent. You can compare the agreement with standard agency agreements (like those found in How to Get a Literary Agent by Michael Larsen). If you need to, take the document to a contract lawyer. And, if you have any questions about the agreement, ASK THE AGENT!!
I definitely had questions for the agents I spoke with, and they were all very gracious about answering and very willing to explain any term I didn’t understand.
The Prettiest Girl at the Ball, and Feeling Guilty
Once I’d spoken with every agent, I sat down and started thinking. There was no clear winner because I loved everyone I spoke with. They were all sooooo enthusiastic about The Spirit-Hunters and my career. AND, worst of all, I just didn’t now know how to turn someone down. All my years of tiptoeing around feelings suddenly exploded in my face…
Not that I ever had this problem (seriously, I was the Most Uncool Dork at my school), but I felt like I had too many boys asking me to the Homecoming Dance. I didn’t want to hurt any of their feelings. Er… at least, that’s what I imagine having multiple suitors would feel. (Someone who was actually Popular will have to let me know on that…)
Finally, I had to stop thinking about it emotionally and just go with a straight numbers thing (I know, it sounds WEIRD). I made a list of things that I considered important for my agent to have, and awarded points if the agent did, in fact, have this quality.
- Strong agency agreement
- Hands-on editorially
- Close to my age (either in spirit or reality)
- Few clients (or at least not too many that the agent was hampered)
- Editorial vision for The Spirit-Hunters
- Career vision for my future books
- Submission plan for this book (what houses did the agent have in mind?)
- Phone conversation (too friendly? too cold? not professional enough?)
- Professional organizations (how many and which ones?)
- Predators & Editors or Writers Beware (you’ve got to be sure this agent hasn’t been in trouble or marked as “bad”)
The numbers added up clearly in favor of one agency — Nancy Coffey Literary. Especially because Sara and Joanna gave me a revision plan that gave them extra points in the Editorial Vision category. In fact, they sent me this revision letter before I even spoke with them on the phone.
Their ideas for the book were minimal but INCREDIBLE. In their collective opinion, only a few things needed tweaking…and I FULLY agreed. That was the deal-closer for me — they really understood what my story and characters were about. The suggestions they gave to solve the “problems” proved to me that I could work with them — that The Spirit-Hunters couldn’t be the best without their input.
So I told the other agents “no”, and they were COMPLETELY NICE about it. Disappointed, but nice. I don’t know why I was so scared…
And so there you have it. That’s the story… 😀
I’m sooooooo grateful to be working with Sara and Jo, and I can’t recommend Nancy Coffey agency enough. I owe them so many cupcakes, and it will never be enough to show how happy I am to be represented by them.
BOTTOM LINE: The right agent and agency is out there. You might find them quickly or it might go slowly, but either way, you’ll find The One.
DREAM BIG, then DREAM EVEN BIGGER, and DON’T EVER GIVE UP!!!
*Please remember most agents still rejected me. Not everyone loved my book (or probably even liked it). 🙂
**I’m not saying that people who don’t get an agent/book deal are automatically not dreaming big enough or not working hard enough. No, no, no. A lot of success is based on timing or agent/editor work-loads or books they’ve already signed or the alignment of Jupiter and Mars. What I wanted to write and when I happened to query just happened to coincide with agents’ desires at the PERFECT TIME.
←Part 1: Parts of a Good Query
December 2, 2010 @ 2:37 pm
These are great questions! I’m going to bookmark this and hopefully come back to it one day. 🙂
December 2, 2010 @ 3:05 pm
gives me chills! so nice to see this, and even better to understand how much homework you did, and how well it paid off!
December 2, 2010 @ 3:41 pm
Joanna and I just had a collective, “aww, yay!” moment here. We’re so thrilled to be working with you! And I have a feeling there are many, many cupcakes in our future.
December 2, 2010 @ 3:48 pm
Meredith: You better bookmark this! 😉 I think you’ll be needing it soon. DREAM BIG, right?
Katharine: Homework definitely pays, and it’s fun homework! I loved doing all that research, and of course, I loved all the revising. 😀
Sara: AWWW YAY here too. And I can’t wait for all the cupcakes.
December 2, 2010 @ 4:00 pm
Make sure you use the chocolate buttercream icing on those cupcakes! 😉 lol
December 2, 2010 @ 4:02 pm
OMG, chocolate buttercream icing… NOMNOMNOM.
December 4, 2010 @ 4:09 am
Congratulations Susan! I’m so proud of you and how far you’ve come. Sending all my love and best wishes from Canada
August 1, 2012 @ 8:02 pm
(Oops, accidentally posted twice and don’t know how to delete this one. Sorry :-/)
November 22, 2013 @ 6:41 am
Recently I was extremely low on cash and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money.. on the internet! I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad, I did this.. – 45jc
March 13, 2014 @ 4:35 am
Thank you sooooooo much for the inspiration. Am I correct that I can use these techniques for my screenplay? Thank you – Steve
March 13, 2014 @ 6:46 pm
I honestly have no idea if it’s the same. 😛 Sorry! I would assume so, but you might want to ask someone who writes or reps screenplays.
Corinne Van Houten
June 29, 2014 @ 8:32 pm
A friend shared these blog posts with me. This is very helpful! Thank you so much for sharing your dreams, your hard work and your success 🙂
February 2, 2018 @ 11:25 pm
Thank you so much for writing this incredibly thorough and constructive 4-part series. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but only now feel like I have a manuscript worthy of querying, so I’ve been madly researching any and all information about what the process is like. Yours is really the first I’ve found that offers a comprehensive look at the whole enchilada, so thank you so, so much for all the wonderful advise and helpful tips!! Now, back to researching!
December 1, 2020 @ 10:27 pm
This was awesome and very helpful, thanks heaps!