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The Call

That’s right! This blog post is all about . . . THE CALL (dun dun dunnnnn)!

I want to preface this post by saying that everyone’s journey is very different and highly personal. The things important to one author might not be the most important to you. Maybe they want a highly editorial agent, and maybe you don’t. Or they want to sub to some smaller presses, and you’re only looking at the Big 5. None of these things are better than the other; this is your process. If you’re preparing to have a call with an agent, I urge you to think about the traits that are important to you in your agent beforehand.

I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I wanted an agent who was very well connected, and an agency with certain perks. I also really wanted someone who understood my editorial vision! I had 8 offers, and of those offers there were only 3 agents who I felt understood my vision. We as authors like to think of agents as magical unicorns, but here’s the catch–it would have been far worse for me to sign with an agent who didn’t understand my vision for this book than to continue to keep querying. I’ll talk about this further in my Multiple Offers post, but my biggest suggestion is to go into the call knowing what you’re looking for, and see what they say. Usually agents will steer the beginning of the call to tell you everything they loved about your book. If you get to this point, CONGRATULATIONS! Someone fell in love with your words and wants to represent you. But before you straight up agree to that, you should ask some questions.

Now, again, your questions will depend on what you’re looking for, but here are some examples.

Potential Questions to Ask an Offering Agent:

Why do you love my book, and what editorial suggestions do you have? (Some agents don’t like to go into full detail here, but if you’re in a multiple offer situation, it’s silly if they don’t. How can you sign with someone who won’t explain their vision to you?

Where do you see my book? Do you have certain publishing houses or editors in mind for when it comes time to sub? (6/8 agents answered this for me.)

What is your submission strategy?

What does your agency offer that others don’t? (IMPORTANT! I didn’t think about this before I started getting calls, but some agencies have many more resources than others.)

Is your foreign and film department in-house? Who do you use for that? (Again, these sales are important. Don’t think your book is too small or quiet to be concerned with this stuff. This is your career.)

How many clients do you represent?

What does your agency agreement look like? (Ask ALL OFFERING AGENTS. I saw contracts that ranged from 2 years with automatic renewal, to ones that didn’t give you back full use of your manuscript. To me, having my freedom was important. I want to be with my agent because we work well together and I trust them, not because a contract keeps me locked to them. Also, ensure they only take the industry standard of 15%, and 20% for foreign)

Ask to speak to the foreign and film reps if they’re available.

What happens if this book doesn’t sell? Or you don’t like my next book? (Basically, are they a career agent or is this book-by-book? I’ve seen both. There are many agents who, unfortunately, will drop a client if their book doesn’t sell. It’s horrible, but I’ve seen it happen, which leads to my next point . . .)

Ask to talk to their client, and also look for past clients. This is super helpful, and you can ask them different sorts of questions.

Questions to ask an Agent’s Clients:

How long does it usually take for your agent to respond to your questions?

How did your agent go about your edits? What was their process like?

Did they keep you updated during submission?

How do they like to communicate?

What is the agent’s reading response time like?

I find it helpful to ask clients these questions rather than agents, because of course an agent is going to want to put their best foot forward. You might be able to get a more accurate answer for these questions from the actual clients. If you can, it’s also helpful to reach out to past clients to ask why they terminated their contract with that agent. It could be for all sorts of reasons, and doesn’t automatically mean the client thought their old agent was lousy at their job. But reaching out to past clients can definitely help with getting a well-rounded perspective!

What If I Get a Cold Call?

It happens. I received my first offer by way of cold call within 24 hours of querying my manuscript. Some agents can be a little sneaky when they really want your book! When you get an offer, you’re technically not allowed to query any more agents. So, sometimes, an agent will be quick to do a cold call, which stops you from getting your query to too many more agents. I got through less than half of my “To-Query” list before I received my cold call. So on one hand, I guess I would suggest to be prepared. If you’re confident in your manuscript, query the agents you really want. But, on another hand, know that this is rare. Most of the time, an agent will email you to set up a call. And hey, you could always ignore calls from NY if you’re really paranoid. 😉

If you do receive and answer a cold call, just remember to try and breathe. They’re calling because they love your book and really want to represent it, not because they expect you to have your questions ready and be super calm and professional. I literally paced around my neighborhood saying, “Oh my gosh, really!?” the ENTIRE phone call. I hardly remember a thing the agent said. If this is your first call, don’t feel bad if this is your response. You’ve fought to be in this position! Just let the agent talk, and let them know that you’d like some time to gather your questions and schedule another phone call (for when you’re able to think straight. Lol).

What to Do After the Offer:

Set a deadline with the offering agents.

Kindly notify ALL agents who have your material (query, partial, full, anything) of your offer, and give them your deadline. Some agents will ask who your offer was from. You don’t HAVE to answer if you don’t want to, but it’s a fair question. Many use it to make sure a writer isn’t lying about their offer, which happens a LOT. (Note: don’t feel bad for doing this. I had one agent try to bully me into explaining why I didn’t take the 1st offering agent’s offer right away. DO NOT let yourself be bullied or think you’re doing something wrong. This is your career, and you are not expected to give an immediate yes.)

Wait for agents to further request other material, and potentially schedule more calls.

Come the day of your deadline, you will decide whose offer you want to accept! But before you can announce, most agencies like the contract to be signed!

Final Tips:

They’re going to want to set a deadline. DON’T agree to a deadline that’s on a weekend or holiday.

Don’t let them talk you into a deadline that’s just a couple of days. Take at least a week, because you need to let all other agents (whether they have your manuscript, or even just a query) know that someone has offered.

Even if it’s a dream agent, don’t accept right away. Talk to clients. Look at their contract. It’s easy to get starry eyed when you see a big name.

Have a notebook around to write notes during calls. I can’t tell you how helpful this was for me. You won’t remember everything an agent says!

Remember that you are allowed to say no. This is your career, and you have to do what’s best for you. No agent is better than an agent who doesn’t understand your vision, and who tries to overlord you or take you in a direction other than where you want to go.

CELEBRATE! But do it privately, and stay quiet on social media until the contract is signed 🙂

Also check out:

Susan Dennard’s How I got my Agent (Part 4: The Calls)
Questions Literary Agents Might Ask You

Next up on the blog: Multiple Offers, What?

All About Queries!

Hi, everyone!

Today I’m going to talk about queries. I feel like this is probably one of the most discussed step of the publishing process, with plenty of information out there. Because of that, I’m not going to go too in-depth. To learn more, I highly suggest you check out Query Shark, and Susan Dennard’s website. 

What is a query?

A query is a one-page summary of your manuscript.

What do I include in a query?

In a query, it’s important to list the title of your book, the word count (rounded to the nearest thousand), genre and category, a brief summary of your book (aim for about 250-300 words), and a a very brief bio if you have one. A bio is only necessary if you having writing related credits. If you don’t, this is fine to skip!

The advice I find myself offering the most in queries is that you need to make sure the stakes are very, very clear. Remember, this isn’t a summary of your book, and agents are only looking for a few specific things. Here’s what they want to know:

Who is your character(s)?
What do they want?
Who/what is stopping them from getting that?
What happens if they don’t get it (STAKES!)
Why are you the one to write this? (if necessary, in the brief bio)

What don’t I include in a query?

You don’t want to tell the agent what happens in the entire book. You don’t want to include every step of the plot and every twist. Save this for the synopsis. You also want to restrict your bio to relevant information only. If you’re writing a book for kids and your kids read and loved your book, congratulations, pat yourself on the back. But don’t put that in your query! Save your bio for writing credits, or anything related specifically to your manuscript (like if your main character is a scientist and you have a degree in science. That stuff is fine!)

I think I’m done with my query. How do I know if it’s ready to send?

So here’s the thing: it’s hard to know. Really, it is, and it never gets any easier. The only advice I have is that you need to follow your gut. But here’s a little checklist to help you decide whether or not you might be ready:

Have you read your ms and query a million times?
Have you enlisted beta readers or CPs to read it and tell your their thoughts?
Have you checked out sites like Query Shark?
Is your formatting correct?
Do we understand your character, their desire, and what’s at stake for them?
Have you proofread your manuscript multiple times, and hopefully found
critique partners to read it, as well?
Are you confident that your manuscript is in the best possible shape you can
make it?
Have you done appropriate research on agents who are looking for your genre?

If you can answer yes to all this, then congratulations, you’re ready to query!

Do you have any advice?

Why yes, yes I sure do.

Make sure you’ve done your research on agents. Many agencies only let you query one agent at the agency, so make sure you’ve done your research to determine who is a best fit for your book. Agents often have bios on their agency site, but also check out their Twitter account and MSWL.

Do NOT send batch queries. Send them individually, one at a time. Does this take more time?  Yes. Querying is a grueling process. But you can’t take shortcuts with this, because if you do your query will be deleted immediately.

Be professional! Lightly personalize the query if you can, but always be profession, even if the agent seems like someone you could kick back and have beers with.

Get others to look at your query. I like to get 3-5 people to look at mine and tell me what does or doesn’t make sense.

Remember, even if your manuscript snags you an agent, it is not their job to polish your book. You do not write an “okay” book, and then assume an agent will take it to the next level. Yes, many agents work with their authors to polish the manuscript and whip it into shape, but they’re not going to take the time to make an “okay” story “good.” They’re going to want an amazing, polished story, and might take the time to shine it up into something even more spectacular. But do not assume it’s their responsibility to make your book better. Most agents, in my experience, prefer books that are just about ready (if not ready!) for submission. It’s your responsibility to get it into the best shape you possibly can, not theirs.

Not all agent offers are equal. This really deserves it’s own blog post, but for now I’ll say this: ignore the “it only takes one yes” crap. No. It takes a GOOD yes. It takes a yes from someone you can trust with your career, and whose editorial vision aligns with yours. A bad agent is worse than no agent. Repeat after me, a bad agent is worse than no agent.

I’ll share my query in the future, once I’m able to, but in the meantime you should check out the hundreds of sample queries on Query Shark!

Be patient. Querying sucks, but it works.

Thank you guys so much for reading! I know this stage of the process is tough, but remember that everyone goes through it, and just keep going!

Next up on the blog: The Call

Welcome!

Hey, everyone!

I’m super stoked and kind of nervous to be launching a new blog and website! I’ve never had one before, so it may be a bit of a learning curve, but I’m excited! The goal of this site is to not only give you information and keep you up to date on my books, but I also wanted to create the kind of website I wish I had when I was a new writer, or while I was still querying. I do believe there are several great sites out there (which you can see under my “For Writers” tab, but I’m super nosy and wanted to see more of the inside scoop. What happens when you’re ready to query? What is sub? What happens after you sell a book? And, my favorite, what’s a day in the life of a writer look like?

Over time, I hope to answer these questions and take readers on this journey with me! Hopefully this information will be useful to some of you; I want to write blog posts about what you guys want to know. So always feel free to ask questions.

With that said, here’s what you can do if you’re interested in following my career and learning more about my books!

1. Subscribe to this blog. You’ll get to see everything I post! Awesome, right? 😉

2. Sign up for my newsletter. I’ll include news, contests and giveaways, sneak peaks, etc.  This is the easiest way to keep up to date on events and happenings.

3. Find me on social media. Twitter is my go-to, but I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. I’ll take up Instagram videos soon, so be sure to follow me on there!

4. Ask me questions! I can’t give you the information you’re dying to know if I don’t know what you want, so definitely feel free to use my contact form to ask me questions. I’ll try to answer them in blog format, or perhaps by Instagram videos! So be sure to follow me there!

Ahhhh, I can’t wait to get started with everything! Thanks for checking this out!