The Process of Getting an Agent
Several people have asked me lately how the process of getting an agent works. Not from the writer perspective, but from my perspective. It varies from agent to agent, but here’s an approximation of how it looks if you submit to me.
You send a query. It sits in my inbox until I get to it.
Eventually I read it and make a decision as to whether I think it might be right for me to represent. If not, I send a “thanks but no thanks” letter. If I’m interested, I send a request for a proposal and/or a partial.
You send your requested materials, and again it sits in my inbox until it gets to the top of the queue. Sometimes this takes awhile. Finally I read your partial. Again I make a decision.
If I don’t think it’s going to work, I send a pass letter. If it shows potential, I request the entire manuscript (if it’s fiction) and possibly more information about you so I can get a good handle on platform. Since reading a manuscript is a serious investment in time, I only request more if the potential is very strong.
I’ll read and evaluate the manuscript and additional information. Is your writing professional level? I’ll study the marketplace and try to ascertain where your projects fits. I’ll determine if it fills a need, or if the market is already saturated with the topic. I’ll decide if I personally can get behind it; I’ll evaluate whether I think I have the right publishing contacts to get this book sold.
This is the hardest part of the process for me, because if I say “yes” and offer representation, it will be a big commitment on both our parts. It takes time to make this decision; usually much longer than is comfortable for you. You’re getting impatient by now.
Eventually I’ll put you out of your misery (or add more, depending). I’ll either send you a very apologetic pass letter (obviously I liked your project and I’m probably disappointed that it’s not going to be a good fit for me) or I’m going to call you and offer representation.
During that phone call (or email exchange), we’ll discuss the project, the submission process and publishing process, and our ideas for moving forward. You’ll have the opportunity to ask all the questions you want. Then it will be YOUR turn to make a decision.
You’ll hang up the phone and think about it. Pray about it. Talk with your spouse or best friend about it. You want to make an informed and wise decision.
If you’ve sent your project to other agents, at this point you’ll want to let them know you have an offer of representation and ask if they’d like a chance to respond before you make a decision.
After all of this, OF COURSE you’ll call me and accept my offer of representation. (wink) We’ll talk about the Agency Agreement, and exchange contact information.
The next step will be editing and revisions to the proposal and manuscript. I’ll guide you through this process until I believe your materials are ready for submission. Meanwhile, I’ll be putting together the list of editors I plan to submit to, and I’ll be composing a killer pitch letter introducing your project.
When everything is ready, I may make some phone calls to editors, depending on the project. I’ll tell them about you and convey my excitement for the book. The next step is sending your proposal and manuscript to the editors I’ve targeted (via email). That’s the first-round submission process.
With hot projects, I might hear back from editors right away. Others will take longer. (Since the recession, this process has gotten even slower than usual.) How things progress from here varies depending on how much excitement your book is generating. A sale could happen within a few weeks (although this is less likely) or could take a few months or more.
Once we agree to accept an offer from a publisher, the work of negotiating your contract begins. I’ll do that… you can sit back and enjoy your glass of bubbly. For a little while anyway. Life’s going to get busier once you have that contract!