Tag Archives: literary agents

GUEST POST: 10 Questions To Ask An Agent When You Get The Call

Some thoughtful questions from client Lesley Cheah, who last year asked me these very questions (+ some!) herself…imgres

  1. Do you work on a book-by-book basis or do you sign a client for the duration of their career?
  2. How editorial of an agent are you? What revision suggestions do you have for this manuscript?
  3. The manuscript you’re signing me with is a YA contemporary. What if my next manuscript is a post-apocalyptic picture book featuring killer robots?
  4. What do you think your strengths are as an agent?
  5. What are some of the titles you sold last year? Which publishers did you sell them to?
  6. What is your submission strategy for this manuscript and how much information will you share during the submission process?
  7. What is your usual response time when I have a question or when I submit new material?
  8. What are some of your standard agency terms e.g. commission, policy on termination, fees charged, etc?
  9. What happens if you leave your current agency or if you quit agenting altogether?
  10. May I contact some of your clients?

What other questions do you think should be included on the list?

Lesley’s life choices revolve around storytelling in one form or other. This was evident when she was a copywriter, a contributor to a local daily and now, as a mother (“If you finish all your carrots, you can see in the dark! I swear!”). Armed with perhaps the most legitimate storytelling license of all – a law degree – Lesley writes stories from her corner in sunny Singapore while waiting for the latest seasons of Dr. Who, Once Upon A Time and The Big Bang Theory.

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GUEST POST: On the verge of a first manuscript submission

Some thoughts from client R.L. Saunders…RL Saunders

My first presentable manuscript is going out on submission very soon. Finally. I’m telling you, my agent is so damn picky. It’s almost like she doesn’t want to send out manuscripts until she feels they’ll sell.

I hope this isn’t the end, of course. But just getting to this point feels like something. So, between anxiety-related physiological reactions, some unspeakable, I’m feeling really reflective about the whole weird journey that got us to this point.

What’s funny is that some parts of what I’m feeling, like the nervous waves of nausea, are basically the same as when I began querying. I checked my email every hour. Still do. I can’t stop. The habit will be further reinforced while I’m waiting for news about subs. (And those of you who have been there, or are there now, know that’s a fat lie. It’s more like every 45 seconds.)

There was a period during which I checked my inbox all through the night. Because prospective agents probably pull all-nighters reading enthralling queries, and will want to request fulls at 3 a.m. I know we live in the same time zone, but maybe she’s travelling, and she’s reading and responding to queries right now. No email at 3 a.m.? Time to check twitter, real quick, to see if she tweeted anything about international travel this week. Shit, nothing. I’ll give it some time. Like until 3:15.

As a premature querier, this went on for a long time. I had a story with decent voice but no real plot to speak of. Do you like the sound of my voice, prospective agent? ME, TOO! Here are tens of thousands of words of my ultra captivating voice for your reading pleasure! Prospective agent say what? Readers like some kind of narrative arc to follow?  Something to compel them to finish the page and possibly even turn it? FINE.

I’d always been a reader, but I started reading more through writer eyes. I paid closer attention to the stuff that made me pay attention, you know? I shaped up my manuscript some more, queried some more (still too soon) and found The One I wanted to work with!

Just two small problems, though. One, she wasn’t an agent yet. Two, she didn’t love my manuscript yet. Details.

Very, very long story short (oh my god, it’s such a long story that includes scrapping the first MS and a lot of twitter stalking), here we are, sending my baby out into the world. Maybe he’ll get slapped around a little before the right person finds him, and that might be good for him. But I know he’ll make it somewhere, someday. He’ll be okay and so will I. I have to believe that.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, it’s that nothing’s ever for nothing. All I’ve done, including the moronic stuff—oh so much moronic stuff—has brought me to the place that’s right for me, at the time that’s right for me to be here.  Does that make any sense?

Several years ago, R.L. Saunders  quit her job as an English teacher, sold her house, dropped out of her Ph.D. program, and moved to an island. In Key West, she spent a couple of years teaching, then had a boatload of fun as associate editor and columnist for an island newspaper. Now she writes full-time under a palm tree, sipping rum from a coconut. Living real life in the middle of everybody else’s vacation is a constant challenge.

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Writing Conferences: What’s in it for an Agent?

urlGoing to writing conferences and teaching workshops is something that many agents do. I like doing conferences for a few reasons. Of course, I’m always looking to find my next amazing client, another writer who will knock my socks off. That goes without saying. But for me, I also like doing conferences because it keeps me on my toes. The more I talk to people about what it is that I’m looking for, what makes a good query, what makes a good pitch or hook, how to improve your craft, the more clear that becomes for me. And my “what I’m looking for” keeps changing, too. Not the part about the excellent writing, of course, but what I’m currently interested in reading and what the market can bear. Putting myself in a situation where I have to speak (repeatedly) about that is a good way to keep it all fresh in my own mind.

There’s also the networking aspect of conferences. An important part of being a literary agent is forging connections with editors. Getting to know editors a little bit more personally allows me to really focus on which editors will like the work that my clients are writing. There’s nothing worse than pitching my client’s work to the wrong people (well, there’s plenty worse, but you know what I mean). I love when I am reading client work and I start building a submission list in my head, knowing exactly which editors will love it.

Then, for me there’s also the “wanting to make a difference” piece of going to conferences and teaching workshops. Just as a human being on this planet, I like to know that I’m making a difference for other people. It gives me great pleasure if I can say even one thing that will help an author with their manuscript, with their query letter, with their elevator pitch. Sometimes it’s just a kind word of encouragement. Other times it’s a harsher word of critique that (hopefully) will help kick a manuscript up to the next level or re-focus an author on a more productive track toward publication. This is extremely satisfying.

So, here are 6 places you’ll be able to find me this year. This list is not complete, because I’m still being offered conference opportunities for fall and winter 2013. I’m also putting together a writing retreat/workshops with a colleague of mine, that will run either this summer or in the fall (we’re still working out the venue details). For more information about that, click here.

1. “Writing a Top Notch Query” workshop at Hofstra University this Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30pm in Hempstead (Long Island), NY

2. “Query Roulette” through the Women’s National Book Association, like speed dating with agents, next Thursday, March 21 at 6:30pm in New York City

3. Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, Saturday, April 6 in New York City

4. “The Art of Craft,” New England SCBWI Conference, Friday & Saturday, May 3 & 4 in Springfield, Massachusetts

5. Backspace Writer’s Conference, May 23, 24, 25 in New York City

6. Willamette Writer’s Conference, August 2, 3, 4 in Portland, Oregon

If your writing group or association is interested in having me attend a conference or give a workshop, please email me and we’ll work something out. I haven’t done Skype visits yet, but I’m open to that, too!

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