Now That You Have an Agent…
Last Tuesday and Wednesday I wrote about what happens when I decide I want to represent a project. I told you about THE CALL the agent makes to the writer, and many of you left stories in the comments about when YOU got the call. I loved reading those! (Go HERE if you missed it.)
So let’s take the next step. Now that you’ve gotten the call and decided to say “yes,” well, you have an agent. Woohoo! The question is, now what?
That’s a question you should ask your agent first thing, and don’t be shy about it. You need to know: what happens next? Since each agent works differently, and everyone has their own timetable for doing things, the steps will vary from agent to agent. It’s only fair for you to know what to expect. Here are some things that might happen:
1) Contract. Your agent may send you an Agency Agreement to sign, which spells out the terms of your relationship. Or they may to prefer to work with a verbal agreement to start. (Tomorrow’s post will be devoted to Agency Contracts, so save your questions.)
2) Reading. Depending on how much of your work the agent has already seen, they may need time to read and digest the rest of it.
3) Editing & Rewriting. If you’re a new (unpublished) writer, your agent might be representing you based on her perception of your potential rather than where you are now. So there may still be a great deal of work to do on your manuscript. Even if you’re an experienced writer, there’s a good chance that some editing will improve your book to get it ready for publishers. If your agent feels you need some editing and rewriting, this phase could take anywhere from a few days to several months or even a year.
4) Synopsis and/or Proposal. Your agent may also help you get your proposal and/or synopsis ready for publishers, or at least give you tips for the final polish.
5) Shopping. While you’ve been getting your manuscript ready, your agent has been getting ready to shop it. She’s preparing the list of editors, and may also spend considerable time writing the perfect pitch letter. She may be talking to certain editors to get them excited about your book or get a read from them on what the response will likely be. As soon as your proposal and manuscript are ready, and your agent has the publisher list ready, she’ll take over and begin shopping it.
6) Waiting. Now that your book is being shopped, you’ll probably be on pins and needles wondering “What’s going on with my manuscript?” Don’t expect daily updates, but DO check in with your agent occasionally if you’re not hearing anything. You may want to talk with your agent at the time of submission about how often she sends updates; whether she forwards all pass letters or saves them up to update you occasionally; whether she wants you to check in and if so, how often. As always, it’s much better to simply ASK QUESTIONS than to sit in the dark and wonder.
One of the biggest problems I see in agent/author relationships is unmet expectations leading to frustration and anger. All of this can be avoided by COMMUNICATION. Remember, your agent can’t read your mind; she doesn’t have any idea what kind of expectations you have. She works with dozens of clients and they all have different expectations. So you’ve got to communicate yours, and if they’re unrealistic, give your agent a chance to straighten you out.
Q4U: What are YOUR expectations about this part of the process? If you’ve been through it, what has it been like?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.