Adalyn Grace’s Pitch Wars Wishlist – 2019

Young Adult Mentor – Fantasy and Paranormal


Who Am I?

I’m Spider Man . . .

Okay, really though. I’m Adalyn, and this year I’m a YA mentor!!

mouth foaming man from avatar the last airbender

A little bit about me:

Cover for All the Stars and Teeth - blue cover with a ship, mermaid fin, daggers, spine border, skull, tentacles, and hands holding a crown of bones

I’m a YA author represented by Hillary Jacobson at ICM Partners. My debut novel, ALL THE STARS AND TEETH, is set to be released February 4, 2020. It’s a brutal and magical young adult fantasy, about a fierce vicious princess who must team up with a mysterious pirate in order to save her island kingdom from a vicious new threat. I’m very excited to share it with everyone! You can read more about it and get a small (very small) sense of my writing style here.

I’m a former literary agent intern at an established NY agency. I earned my BA in English Literature, and studied storytelling as an intern on a little show you’ve probably never heard of over at Nickelodeon Animation: The Legend of Korra. It’s the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Another super small show that, again, you’ve probably never heard of.

Korra smiling from The Legend of Korra

I worked as the managing editor for a nonprofit newspaper, have reviewed YA ARCs for Little, Brown. Two years ago I started freelance editing, and have worked on over 100 manuscripts since then. Several of my former clients have gone on to get agents, which I am VERY PROUD OF ❤ (you all are the best, seriously.)

I’m also just a huge nerd! I grew up on Pokemon, Sailor Moon, and Cardcaptors. My first job was as a techie at a live theater. In college, I took a Lord of The Rings course, a Harry Potter course where I got to have heated debates about the influence of Harry Potter in modern society and dress up as Bellatrix, and wrote numerous essays about Peter Pan and its spinoff stories, like Hook. I like to pretend I’m really good at Overwatch (I’m not) and Kingdom Hearts is one of my favorite things in the entire world. I also love Final Fantasy, Zelda, Fire Emblem, and Harvest Moon/Rune Factory games. Anime is  also one of the greatest mediums of storytelling, and you can fight me on that.

This is my third year mentoring in Pitch Wars. My first year, I co-mentored YA fantasy with Tomi Adeyemi, and for my second I went solo! I’ve also mentored with AMM and independently for freelance work. Several of my mentees have gone on to not only get agents, but book deals. One of those past mentees is a mentor this year, too! Hi, Ciannon!

Mentorship Style + Why You Should Choose Me:

I’m incredibly open and honest with my feedback, because I want your story to be as strong as we’re able to make it.

Ultimately though, this is your story, and only you can know what’s truly best for it. But for whoever I choose as my mentee, know that I’m going to push you. I’m going to provide raw and honest feedback, industry experience, and a critical eye. I’ll totally be a cheerleader, but I’m also going to be a bit tough on you, because I want you to succeed and want to help my mentee get their work into the best possible shape we can get it prior to the agent round and querying. Working under deadline for PW is also a great way to get a taste of what it’s like to work on deadline under a book contract.

I’m going to be critically analyzing your characters, world building, plot, pacing, writing, setting, etc etc. We’ll really be focusing on big picture developmental changes (Does the character need more of an arc? Does the magic make sense? How are the mc’s motivations? Is the story gripping and fast-paced? Why not? Would it be stronger if we cut this POV or changed the tense? Would it be stronger if you completely overhauled the second act?) When I read for a second time, hopefully this will be more finessing and editing on a micro level.

There’s a chance I’ll ask my mentee for quite a bit of work, but I’ll be there to offer feedback and advice by way of texts, email, whatever works. For communication, I do prefer email, but I try my best to make myself available for my mentee, and am open to other forms of communication as needed! Because my novel will also be coming out in February, I’m looking for a mentee who is confident in their writing and their ability to dive in and really get their hands dirty with work if it comes down to it. If you feel that you’re a writer who might need a bit more guidance and hand holding to ease into things more slowly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! But there will be other mentors whose approach is more fitting for that style 🙂 My style tends to be, “here’s a 10-15 page edit letter, let’s discuss, do you have questions? Feel good? Okay cool let me know if you get stuck or end up with more questions, here’s the deadline and I’ll check in on you in a few days!”

Back in 2016, I was a mentee myself (thanks, Brian!) So I know what this contest is like.  I understand the pressure and how big it can all feel, because I’ve been there. But I push because I know it can be done and that mentees can crush their manuscripts.

Some of my Favorites:

Books:  Leigh Bardugo, Children of Blood and Bone, Ember in the Ashes (those chapter ends, though! So good), Howl’s Moving Castle, Legendary, Red White and Royal Blue, Uprooted, Legendary

TV: Goblin (the K Drama. If you can comp this PLEASEEEEE send to ME.) Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Jane the Virgin, The 100, Sailor Moon, My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, She-ra, and obviously Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.

Shows: Phantom of The Opera, Footloose, Sweeney Todd, Next to Normal, Wicked, Les Mis.

Movies: Anything Miyazaki. Anything Disney, but especially Moana, Aladdin, Mulan, and Lion King. Hook. Avatar.

Games: Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Starcraft 2, Overwatch, Fire Emblem, Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Harvest Moon

Now about that wishlist…

Sokka raising his eyebrows suggestively from Avatar the Last Airbender

What I’m Mentoring:

  • YA Fantasy
  • Unique fairytale retellings (preferably retellings for fairytales that don’t already have a ton of adaptations, or have a unique twist!)
  • Vampire or unique paranormal stories

Some stuff I’d love to see (in no order):

  • Asian (or Asian inspired) fantasy (though I’m not the right mentor for Asian stories written by white authors and would prefer ownvoices)
  • Any fantasy in a non-western setting
  • Fantasy in a western setting
  • Stories that empower women (give me your feminist fantasy)
  • BROOOOMANCE. I would die for some bromance on par with the one between Goblin and Grim (in the show Goblin)
  • A whimsical fantasy with beautiful prose but a plot that bites
  • Stories that feel like a Miyazaki movie
  • Unique magic systems
  • A damn good vampire book (for me to pick a vamp book, the plot has to be truly unique. I’d also love for a non-white vamp book)
  • Elements of mystery
  • Dark witches
  • Ghosts
  • Tightly structured high fantasy
  • Ensemble casts
  • A story that reads like Full Metal Alchemist (specifically the sibling bonds, unique magic/science, and action scenes)
  • A world reminiscent of Baccano! or Amanda Foody’s ACE OF SHADES. Give me those fantasy mobster stories.
  •  Something dark and wicked and strange
  • Something light, whimsical, and magical
  • Strong and engaging characters
  • Stories that push boundaries
  • Unique settings that feel like they’re their own character. Atmospheric
  • Empowering female characters. (Note: This does NOT mean that they have to be a bad ass with a sword. They can be squeamish around blood and rather play with lipstick than a sword, and be just as empowering.)
  • Complex, morally gray female characters. GIVE ME AN AZULA. Give me the “unlikable” girls.
  • Boarding School
  • Powerful and diverse girl gangs!
  • Lovers to enemies
  • Something that makes me cry. Note that II would absolutely die for a story that can comp Goblin (whether in theme, characters, romance, bromance, etc. It doesn’t have to be a perfect match). Also would love a fantasy gang/mob story with magic.

What I’m not looking for:

  • Anything other than YA fantasy, retellings, or unique paranormal books.
  • Contemporary. Seriously, I only want YA Fantasy or Fairytale retellings. I will not even read the submissions of anything else, so please don’t waste your mentor pick on me!
  • Pirate stories.
  • Mermaid stories
  • Horror. Weirdness and darkness is fine. But I don’t want to have to sleep with my lights on at night.
  • Anything over 120k.
  • Dystopian
  • Body shaming
  • Stories with toxic relationships that are presented as romantic or sexy
  • Stories that pit female characters against each other
  • Stories with unchecked sexism
  • Books about race or oppressions from the perspective of the oppressor (even if they magically learn their thinking is flawed at the end).
  • I’m not the right mentor for lower YA; I gravitate toward the upper end of YA.
  • How your characters are represented is super important to me. I’m not the right mentor for “I’m not like other girls,” girls whose entire role is to antagonize another girl, or problematic leading male characters whose actions remained unchecked throughout the story.

Answers to Questions you Might Have:

  • Personally, I’m not asking for any trigger warnings to be noted, but thank you for asking.
  • Please don’t feel required to note #ownvoices on your work. If you’re not comfortable doing so, don’t.
  • Fantasy with light sci-fi elements is fine
  • I am definitely open to #OwnVoices stories, of course. I think every single one of us mentors are absolutely open to these stories!
  •  I feel great about dual/multiple POVs, so long as each one has a purpose in the story. And if they’re a POV character throughout basically the whole book, I’d like to see a full character arc. If the story could be told just as well without their perspective, then dual POV is probably unnecessary. But yes, I will take dual/multi POV manuscripts!
  • Yes, I feel fine about violence in YA, thank you for asking. And characters who are 18. And more mature language. My debut is upper YA, with an mc who is 18, and there’s . . . uh . . . quite a bit of violence. Also, that thing Kaz does in Six of Crows? I literally laughed out loud with gross delight when he did it. I’m not squeamish
  • That said, I’m also open to fantasy that’s light. Something magical and whimsical sounds so nice and refreshing.
  • Yes, I will consider stories told in unique formats.
  • Totally open to books with LGBTQ rep
  • Yes, I’m open to stories about fairies! SJM and Holly Black shouldn’t be the only ones who get to write them. BUT I personally would prefer fae stories that are very dark and mature, and skew on the upper end of YA. I’m not the right mentor for lower YA.

** Special note: **

I am accepting entries from past clients whose full manuscript I have not worked on. If I’ve worked with you on a query, synopsis, outline, partial, or literally anything other than the full manuscript, I will happily consider your entry. That said, those who were past clients or writing friends I’m familiar with will not receive any special treatment. You all are great, but the competition is fierce and I’m only able to take on the one manuscript that resonates with me the most.

Thank you for reading and considering me! I can’t wait to meet you, future mentee!

If you have any questions about my wishlist, please tweet me or keep an eye open for my occasional answer sessions on Instagram stories. I’m @AdalynGrace_ on twitter, and authoradalyngrace on insta, for anyone who has trouble with the links. I’d prefer you asking me questions publicly, so that others can see the answers. But my DMs are also open.

Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender smiling

Pitch Wars 2019 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

Aiden Thomas (Accepts NA)
Kelsey Rodkey and Rachel Lynn Solomon
Nancy Werlin
Olivia Hinebaugh
Abigail Johnson
Rebecca Schaeffer
Rebecca Coffindaffer (Accepts NA)
Laurie Dennison
Sam Taylor
ST Sterlings (Accepts NA)
Brenda Drake and Kyle T. Cowan (Accepts NA)
Carrie Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
J. Elle
Andrea Contos (Accepts NA)
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland and Sandra Proudman (Accepts NA)
Ayana Gray (Accepts NA)
Susan Lee and Auriane Desombre
Julia Ember (Accepts NA)
SA Patel
Kat Dunn (Accepts NA)
Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie
Jesse Q. Sutanto
Ray Stoeve
Aty S. Behsam and Kylie Schachte
Cole Nagamatsu
Rachel Griffin
Adalyn Grace
Adrienne Tooley and Kelly Quindlen (Accepts NA)
Ciannon Smart and Deborah Falaye
Kristin Lambert, Sasha Peyton Smith
Kimberly Gabriel and Dawn Ius
Lyndsay Ely
Jamie Howard
Jenna Lincoln (Accepts NA)
Jen Marie Hawkins and Anna Birch (Accepts NA)
Judy I. Lin
Leila Siddiqui
Zach Hines (Accepts NA)
Hoda Agharazi
Michaela Greer (Accepts NA)
Liz Lawson and Jeff Bishop (Accepts NA)
Lindsey Frydman (Accepts NA)
Chelsea Hensley (Accepts NA)
Isabel Ibañez

The Query That Got Me Into Pitch Wars + The Query That Got Me An Agent and Book Deal

Because I’ve seen a lot of Pitch Wars mentors sharing their queries, I thought it’d be helpful for me to jump in and share, as well. I’ve got two for ya!

First up, the query that got me into Pitch Wars in 2016. This query and manuscript had a very high success rate, but ultimately wasn’t ready for an agent. It’s a dual POV sci-fi.

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Analeigh Hampton would rather rip out her eyes than
visit the Donor Center, the corporation that implanted them. But when
she and her father are invited to stay at Donor as a publicity stunt
for his political campaign, there’s no way to escape. After all,
everyone wants to see America’s once-blind sweetheart support the
corporation that granted her vision.

B24301, more commonly known as Black, is a donor. As he and his twin
sister near their eighteenth birthday, they eagerly await their
Dismissal: the promised life outside the Donor Center they’ve been
prepping for since birth. They take classes to keep their minds
active, eat well to protect their body, and go about life with the
belief this will allow them to exist in the outside world. But
Dismissal is only an illusion to keep the donors obedient. When a
donor turns eighteen, their body is chopped up and harvested for the
next buyer. What no one on the Outside knows, however, is the donors
are not the lab-grown specimens they’ve been led to believe. They’re

As Analeigh and Black meet and realize the dark truths of the Donor
Center, Analeigh is left with a choice: ensure the Donor-dependent
society remains healthy and thriving by keeping her mouth shut, or
risk life as she knows it to protect her unsuspecting new friends.

Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND meets THE ISLAND in DONOR, a 77,000 word
young adult sci-fi.

I earned my BA in English Literature and studied storytelling as an
intern on The Legend of Korra at Nickelodeon Animation. I also worked
as the managing editor for a nonprofit newspaper while reviewing young
adult ARCs for Little, Brown.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,
Adalyn Grace

Next up is the query for the book that got me an offer of representation within 8 hours of querying, and 8 offers total. It’s for ALL THE STARS AND TEETH, my debut coming early 2020 from Macmillan/Imprint. I will say that this book has been through SO MANY EDITS since then, that I don’t think this query currently represents the story in its true form. But alas, here it is:

Dear Agent,

The adventure of MOANA meets the action of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN in ALL THE STARS AND TEETH, a 78,000 word Young Adult Fantasy.

The people of Amora’s home island worship strength. Every facet of the princess’ life, from who she’ll marry to how she trains, has been arranged to fortify her rule. To claim the title of heir, she must prove she’s mastered her island’s vicious soul magic in a bloody ritual demonstration before her people.

Though her father insists her ritual is the most important step to claiming her title, Amora yearns to know more about the magic and cultures of the kingdom’s other five islands before she ascends to the throne. For while her father claims otherwise, there are the rumors floating around that the kingdom is in a far worse state than she’s been led to believe. The king is hiding something, and Amora wants to find out what.

When Amora is consumed by magic and fails her demonstration, she flees her island to find answers and redemption. To do this, she must strike a deal with a cocky pirate named Bastian. He’ll help her explore the kingdom and its secrets, and in return she’ll help him regain his stolen magic. On their quest, the pair must face down legendary monsters, brutal mermaid enslavers, and Amora’s stow-away fiancé if they’re to reach the kingdom’s banished seventh island, where the king’s secrets await them.

I’m a literary agent intern at [Redacted] Agency. I earned my BA in English Literature, and studied storytelling as an intern on The Legend of Korra at Nickelodeon Animation. I worked as the managing editor for a nonprofit newspaper, have reviewed YA ARCs for Little, Brown, and was selected out of 1,800 of writers as 2016 Pitch Wars finalist.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,
Adalyn Grace

You can add ALL THE STARS AND TEETH on Goodreads, HERE.

For the Pitch Wars “Winners”

So I realize I may get some grief for writing something specifically for those of you who get selected for Pitch Wars, but I mean nothing offensive by it. There are dozens upon dozens of blog posts for those who weren’t selected, talking about how to make the most out of this experience and where to go from here. If you don’t get in, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or that you’ll never have an agent or be published. There are very few mentors, and a lot of applicants. That’s just the stats.

But with a week left until selections are made final, I want to congratulation those who get in to this contest. Prepare for the ride, because it’s highly possible your life might be about to change. Mine sure did, and it’s not because I got a million requests during the agent round and then got my agent right off the bat.

Hahah. Nope.

If you’re anything like I was, your main goal is to get an agent during the agent round, or through queries right afterward. You’ve read the dozens of blog posts that talk about how it may not happen for you right away, and you sort of snort to yourself, saying, “no way, it’s going to happen. I got into this contest, didn’t I? Surely I’m going to wind up with an agent.” That was my mindset. I was so, so hopeful. But then the agent round comes, and maybe you get no requests. Or maybe you get five, but can’t stop checking out the entries that have a new request every time you refresh their page. 10 requests. 20? The numbers just keep going up. And damn, was that your dream agent who requested a different manuscript, but skipped right over yours?

The day agent round closes, people already have offers. Two weeks later, many have their agents, and there’s even already an amazing book deal. Tensions are high, and it feels like everywhere you look someone else is living your dream. You’re happy for them, really. But for you, nothing has happened. And that’s hard.

Your emails are a barren wasteland and all that hope you had in the contest begins to dwindle. Others are signing with their dream agents, or maybe yours, and all you’re hearing is “sorry, but I’m not the right fit for this project.” That’s when you realize it might not happen for you. All that hope you had, and all those big dreams, crushed.

Look, I’m not here to be a pessimist. But this is what happened to me during the contest, and I’m here to be real, and to talk about what I wish I had realized going into this contest:

This is one of the best chances to build your community that you will possibly get. So don’t squander it by ignoring your fellow mentees and being so in your head about your manuscript during this time. It’s great to be focused because you obviously want as strong of a manuscript as you can get, of course, but talk to them. Reach out and get to know each other. Because TRUST ME, you are going to NEED these people. I know you’ve read the blogs about this already, and I know you might have snorted or rolled your eyes because, for you, you really think getting an agent is the best thing that can happen throughout this contest. And sure, that’s great, but I’m here to tell you how wrong you are.

I didn’t get my agent through PW. I got somewhere around 100 rejections on a book I spent years and years on. Did that suck? Hah, yup, it sure did. Did I feel like a failure? Sure, a bit. But was the contest still worth it?

Hell yeah.

Until you’re behind the scenes and talking to your fellow mentees, you really won’t understand just how beneficial this group will be to you. They will be your friends, your support system, your source of knowledge and information you never realized your needed, your new betas and critique partners. And did I say friends, already? You will learn SO much from them, and from your mentor(s). You will learn more about querying and agents than you ever knew before. These people are going to make you into a better writer, and better prepared to enter this business. Because it’s not all about writing, you know? This is a career, and the business side of it is just as important as the writing side.

And because of this new community you’ve had the AMAZING opportunity to enter into, then even if you don’t get your agent through the contest, you will have the tools to destroy your next book and crush the game. You will be a better writer. A better story teller. A more experienced querier with better sense about the publishing business. You’ll probably have formed some sort of relationship with agents, and they might recognize your name come your next book. You’ll get better feedback than you probably ever did before, from experienced, serious writers who have gone through the same stages and work that you did.

During Pitch Wars, I not only met amazing internet friends and an incredible support system, but I was also lucky enough to live in the same city as a few other mentees. From this contest I met two of my best friends, Tomi Adeyemi and Shea Standefer, and they will forever be my support system. They will be the people I can talk to about things no other friends get. These people you’ll meet will understand what you’re going through better than anyone else really can, and that kind of support and friendship is better than anything I really know how to describe. And hey, guess what, I get to keep them for years and years. Not just the few months of the contest.

Again, I didn’t get my agent through PW. But I turned those hundred or so rejections into my fuel. I turned my experience gained through this contest into new words, and used my new support system to find experienced critique partners to help me make my next book as good as possible. I used them to help me research and learn behind-the-scenes info on agents, to decide who might be a best fit. I crapped out my new in a month thanks to group sprints (sprantzzz!) and supportive friends, edited for another three weeks, and within 24 hours of querying I had multiple agent offers.

Is this scenario going to happen for everyone? No. But I can absolutely say that, had it not been for Pitch Wars, it wouldn’t have happened for me, either. I would probably not have a new book right now (let alone two). If I did have one, it wouldn’t be as strong as mine is now. I wouldn’t have had as good of a query, or knew which agents to query and which to maybe avoid. I would absolutely not be agented right now, I wouldn’t have my writing community, and I wouldn’t have my amazing friends and mentorships that I earned throughout this contest. Basically, I just wouldn’t have been as prepared to enter this career as I feel I am now.

Pitch Wars is a contest that only lasts a few months, but what you gain throughout it is what lasts a lifetime. So use this time wisely. Make your friends, build your community out of these other mentees who will be going through things the same time as you, and find who you mesh with. And then keep them close and keep them tight because, more than anything, that’s what you’re going to leave the contest with.

Will your agent come? Probably, eventually, so long as you keep pushing. But don’t let that be your only goal. Use this contest to learn about the business. Use it to become a stronger writer. And ultimately, use it to build up the friendships and community that will follow you throughout the entirety of your career.

As my good friend Elle Woods once said, You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself. Congratulations, class of 2017, YOU DID IT! 😉

Now go crush it.

Multiple Offers, What?

So here’s a post about something no one ever talks about: multiple offers of representation.

If you’re at this point, congratu-friggin-lations. Even if you have one offer, you’ve accomplished something very, very difficult. You are a CHAMPION.

But okay, serious talk, hardly anyone talks about what you’re supposed to do if you end up with multiple offer, and I don’t understand why. It’s like you’re supposed to feel weird or something about multiple people wanting your book? No way. You should feel friggin PROUD. You earned this.

But okay! Once the first offer comes, others can potentially come FAST, and it’s a whirlwind of, “omg what am I supposed to do? Is this real life?” Yes, it is real life, and you’re about to have a very important decision to make. You’re entering into a business partnership! Hopefully not just for this book, but for your career.

Once you have an offer, a day feels like a year, and yet a second at the same time. You just want to GO, but there are calls to be had and emails to be responded to, and sometimes it feels like there’s no time to get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

But there is time. BREATHE.

Tips for Handling Multiple Offers:

Have your deadline set. Once you’ve had your first call, you should have set an appropriate deadline to give all other agents an opportunity to consider your material. This should be at least a week (no more than two), and not fall on a weekend or holiday. Honestly, I told all other agents my deadline was a day before it actually was, so that I could have a free day to sit and think on everything in the event I needed the time.

Make your first call the one to beat . . . and then your next. What I mean by this is that, once you’ve had your second call, consider how you felt about it in comparison to the first. Did you guys vibe well? Did their editorial vision stand out more to you? Were you so excited talking to them about your book, and love their plans? Then great, maybe this second agent is the new one to beat! I liked to try to think about this in the moment, so I knew exactly how I felt once the call was over. However, all that said, the best call should not always mean that’s the agent for you. Because . . .

Make sure you compare contracts and agency agreements. Does the agency want a slice of your soul? Are you allowed to still use your project if you end up having a falling out with that agency? Are the terms something you’re comfortable with? When it comes to agency contracts, there’s really not much (if anything?) in terms of negotiating. So make sure you’re good with it.

Give them all a fair chance. Even if you think you know who you want to sign with early on, you’d be surprised. Ask them all the same questions. Talk to their clients.

Write down what they say during calls!! Seriously, do it. It helped me SO much to be able to look back and check out who had what ideas for my book, and who wanted to sub it to which house. I’ve known people to record the conversations, but if you do something like this, it’s best to ask agents first. Just writing down the important points worked for me, though.

Remember what’s important to you. Only you know this. Don’t be afraid to pass up your flashy dream agent if you feel like someone else better understands your work. Remember, you want to be working with this person throughout your career. It’s important for you guys to mesh.

Be aware of unique situations. Okay, so this is kind of a personal note, but I feel like maybe it’ll help someone (especially those of you in NY!) I had one offer from a pair of agents who operate in the same city I do. They were from a highly prominent agency with INCREDIBLE books, and we were able to meet up for three hours to discuss my book in detail. THREE HOURS of being told by two people how much they love my work and their plans for my career as a whole, while being surrounded by books slapped with all sorts of awards. They even fed me sweets. What a dream, right? They were incredible agents, and it was hard not to just accept the offer then and there. BUT, I had to remind myself that not everyone had the same opportunity. If I had the chance to meet with other agents in person for this long, face-to-face, any of them could seem super enthusiastic about my work. It’s SO much easier to see enthusiasm in person. And in the end, because I tried very hard to remember this, I ended up going with a different agent who I felt, if given the same opportunity, would have proved her enthusiasm even more.

Do not be bought! Haha, this is kind of silly but I think agents sent me approximately 30 books while I was trying to make my decision! This doesn’t happen often, and it can be beneficial so you better understand an agent’s taste, but it’s certainly easy to get swept away by pretty covers and autographed copies of books you love.

Remember, agents can be sneaky when they know they’re fighting for your work. They can get creative, and try to make you feel very wanted. There’s one agency in particular that, as soon as you hang up from a call with them, will have their entire team follow you on social media. All agents, the film rep, even some of their popular authors. A different agency had the head agent email me telling me about how the whole team had read my manuscript, then went on to misspell EVERY character name. They just wanted to try to make me feel good and wanted, you know? When they believe in your work and want to snatch it away from other agents, they will try very very hard to make you feel super amazing. But remember, this is a business contract. Try not to get swayed by this stuff, and trust your gut.

Trust your gut. I just said this, but I needed to say it, again.

Ask ALL the questions. If you forgot something on the phone, email it to them. If there’s a certain author of theirs you want to talk to (even if it’s a big name), just ask. This is an important decision for you, and don’t be afraid to ask what you want to know. I definitely asked what I think are some out-there questions, and was usually surprised by the answers!

Try to find past clients. Ones who were dropped, or left, whether on good terms or bad. I feel like a broken record, but this is a business partnership. You want to know all sides of what you could potentially be getting into.

Ask about some of their favorite books! Do these sounds like what else you write, or what you want to write in the future?

Think long term. Do you think this person can work with you for the long haul?

Side Thoughts:

I was hesitant of agents who were also writers. You don’t have to be. Maybe this is fine for you. But it’s always good to ask about their plans, and whether they intend to stick with agenting for the foreseeable future, even if they sell their own manuscript.

Be mindful where your agent is located. This isn’t always important, and I had offers from great agents outside of NY. Two of which, like I said, were very hard to pass up! But if they are outside of NY, it’s worth asking how they keep updated with what editors are looking for, and how they’re staying up-to-date with publishing.

Know what’s important to you, personally. It was VERY important for me to know revision plans (and this one should always be important, for anyone), and names of editors or houses they wanted to sub my book to. For you, maybe you want someone who is willing to help you with self publishing in the future. This is highly individual.

Make sure an agent isn’t interested just because they think your book is a hot commodity. Try to gauge how enthusiastic they seem. Do you want someone who is writing emails or dealing with a bunch of other things during your call? Probably not a good sign for what you can expect in the future.

I was concerned with how many clients an agent had, and how big those clients were. If the agent had a big name client, was I going to be as important to them as that big name?  To me, it was important not to fall to the wayside, because if the answer was no, I knew I would have felt like just an easy check for them. I wanted an agent who I felt was able to make me a focus even if they did have big name clients.

A little bit of “sneak” is okay. We’ve spent months/years being rejected, so of course it feels amazing if an agent is fighting for us. Just don’t let that be what sways you.

There’s no general right or wrong; only what’s right and wrong for you. Passing up flashy agencies or agents you’ve dreamed about offering for years is hard. But in the end, this is about what works best for you, and who you feel is going to be the best partner in not only jump starting, but also in continuing your career for the long haul.

I know it won’t feel like a lot of time if you end up here, but you do. Breathe. Don’t make a decision just because you don’t want to deal with this any more.

Publishers Marketplace is a great resource. If you’re in a situation where it’s possible, the $25 a month allows you to see agent sales in-depth, as well as editor sales. This is helpful if you’re anything like me and super nosy about where someone wants to sub you.

If an agent refuses to answer any questions, especially if they know it’s a multiple offer situation, this is a huge red flag. No one is big enough or amazing enough that you should sign with them based on faith alone.

Also Check Out:

Literaticat’s Offer Etiquette

Sample Agency Contract

Publishing Crawl On Finding the Right Agent

Susan Dennard’s When Multiple Agents Offer

Next up On The Blog: All About Critique Partners

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?