Behind the Scenes… "The Call"
New Author: Speaking.
Me: Hi, this is Rachelle Gardner. How are you today?
NA: I’m fine…wait…did you say Rachelle Gardner?
NA: This is Kelly, isn’t it. Ha ha, very funny, Kelly.
Me: Um, no. It’s Rachelle. Would you rather speak with Kelly?
NA: No! Uh-oh. Not Kelly? Um…oops?
Me: No worries. I get that a lot. I’m calling because I really like your book and wanted to discuss representation.
NA: Of me? I mean my book?
Me: Yes, and yes.
NA: Wow. This is so cool. I loved all the nice things you said in your email, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Me: I take it that means you’re open to talking about representation?
Me: Great! First, I’d like to make sure I’m clear on the status of the manuscript. It’s not been represented by another agent?
NA: No, I’ve never had an agent.
Me: And it’s not been shown to any publishers?
NA: Not yet, although there was this one editor I met at a conference who said he’d like to see it. I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to send it to him. Would that have been a problem?
Me: No. But if it had already been seen and rejected by a dozen publishers, that would affect my ability to represent it in the market. I assume you’ve shown this to other agents. Have you received other requests for manuscripts or offers of representation?
NA: No offers yet, but two other agents requested partials. I sent them a few weeks ago but haven’t heard back.
Me: Okay, good, thanks. Let’s talk about your goals for a moment. Beyond this first book, how do you see your career progressing?
NA: Well, I have another novel in the works that’s a lot like the one I sent to you. I like the women’s fiction genre a lot, but I also have ideas for a thriller and a young adult fantasy. Oh, and I’ve written two paranormal romances, though I’m sure they’d need lots of editing. I wrote them a long time ago.
Me: My approach would be to start with the book you submitted, see if we can find a home for that. It’s usually best to stick to one genre at least until you get established. Then we can look at expanding into other areas. And if we do that, it might be best to use a pseudonym anyway – to keep your readers from getting genre whiplash.
NA: That makes sense. But I thought you didn’t rep fantasy or young adult novels.
Me: You’re right; I’m not actively seeking those kinds of novels. But when I choose to rep authors, I make a commitment to their whole body of work, unless that includes books I just don’t have the right contacts and expertise to handle.
NA: Like scrapbooking?
Me: I see you read my blog.
NA: Every day. So… what’s next for my book? Will you start submitting it right away if I agree to representation?
Me: I’d like to give it a line edit and make some suggestions to polish it, but I think that can be handled in the next few weeks. Once we’re both satisfied that it’s ready, we’d start submitting.
NA: Do you know who you’d submit it to?
Me: I have some ideas, but I’d need a little time to carefully consider which houses, imprints and editors are the best match. For a novel like yours, I’d probably submit to about eight editors to start with. I’d send you the list after I’ve submitted.
NA: Um…can I ask you something a little off-topic?
NA: Is it normal for authors to sweat profusely when they get “the call”?
Me: Ha, I don’t know. No one has ever mentioned that.
NA: Based on personal experience, I think it might be. Oh, and I have more real questions, too.
Me: Fire away.
NA: I’m wondering how you usually communicate with your authors. And how often.
Me: I try to keep my clients informed whenever there’s anything happening. So you’ll know when I’ve submitted your project and I’ll update you when responses are coming back from editors. If there’s a lot of activity on your book, I’d do my best to email updates every couple of days.
NA: So mostly you use email?
Me: With day-to-day stuff, yeah. It’s just easier. But I like to keep in voice contact with my clients too. So whenever we need to talk something out, I’ll schedule a phone call. Scheduling calls helps me manage my workload, but as my client, you’re also welcome to call whenever you need to.
NA: Even if it’s just because I’m freaking out?
Me: Especially then.
NA: So if I say “yes,” what would happen next?
Me: I’ll send you our Agency Agreement to sign and return, and we’ll take care of administrative stuff like getting your contact information. Then I’ll get to work on your manuscript. After editing it, I’d send it back to you to review. And then it’s just a matter of passing it back and forth until we both think it’s ready to go. Meanwhile I’ll be working on my editor list. When all that’s done, I’ll submit it to publishers.
NA: “Submit it to publishers.” I like the way that sounds.
Me: Okay, what else do you want to know?
[New Author asks questions she found on this post. I answer them.]
Me: Does that help?
ME: Good. But if you have any more questions as you’re making your decision, just send me an email.
NA: I will. Have I mentioned how cool this is?
Me: I’d really like to represent you, New Author. Take some time to think about your decision, talk to the other agents, and then get back to me.
NA: Is there a certain time you need to hear back?
Me: Not really, but if you’re going to take more than a week or so, I’d appreciate you keeping me updated.
NA: I can do that.
Me: Well, it’s been great talking with you. Good luck with your decision. I look forward to hearing back from you.
NA: You’ll hear from me soon.
Me: Thank you! Bye…
NA: Bye. [Shuffling sound.] OH! MY! GOSH! [More shuffling.] Honey! An agent wants to rep me! She likes my book! She really likes…oops. [Still more shuffling.] Oomph. Pfft. Shoot! I forgot to hang up! [Shuffling. CLICK.]
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent