Thursday, March 03, 2005

Agent FAQ

I figure once in a while this blog should have some useful info in addition to my ramblings. So today I present you with my agent FAQ.

If you're not interested in getting an agent and/or don't care how I got mine, I invite you to go blog hop over to one of my favorite blog sites EVER. Conversations with Famous People. It's written by a pre-pubbed chick lit writer named Cindy Smith who goes under the guise Distressed Jeans. She is SOO FUNNY. I can't wait til someone buys her book 'cause if she's half as funny at fiction then it's bound to be a bestseller.

Okay if anyone is left now..

People ask me all the time about my agent. Who she is, what she's like, how I got her, do I like her, etc. etc. And as much as I love to refer people, typing all the answers out from scratch every single time I'm asked is hard on the fingers. So from now on I can refer you here.

Who is your agent?
Paige Wheeler at Creative Media Agency. She is an RWA approved agent from NYC who represents romance, mystery and nonfiction. Another agent at CMA, Nadia Cornier, agents my Young Adult deals.

How did you get your agent?
I had almost finished my book and was going to the New Jersey RWA conference. (Great conference, btw!) I selected Paige Wheeler as first choice of agent appointment. However, when I got to the conference, I'd been given two editors and no agent choices. And one of the editors was the senior editor of Harlequin Silouhette - not my target market, me being a snarky chick lit author! So I went up to the table and asked to trade. They said they didn't have anyone. At that very moment, the heavens opened up and an angel approached the table with a piece of paper in her hand. It was her appointment with Paige Wheeler's then assistant Lisa Hanes. This angel wanted an appointment with Harlequin and was willing to make the trade. I have no idea who she was, but she definitely changed my life!!

I met with Lisa and she requested a partial which I sent in. A few weeks later, she requested a full. A couple days after that I received another offer of representation from an agency I'd mailed the manuscript to. So I called up CMA and asked if they'd like to make an offer as well. Lisa said, "Give me the weekend to read your book." At the time, clueless me thought, "Oh poor thing I'm making her work on the weekend!" Anyway - on Monday they came back with an offer of representation. I actually had three offers when all was said and done. I interviewed all three and made an agonizing decision. But I'm very happy with my choice!

How does your agent feel about revisions?
She loves them. She's very hands-on in the editing department and won't send out your work until she thinks it's perfect. Some authors would prefer their agents to just send out their work and not be editors for them. But for me, I like having the input, though at times it can be a bit frustrating cause it means extra work. But I'd rather fix problems in the agent stage than have a manuscript rejected in the editor stage. CMA helped me make CT Fashionista one million times better before sending it out.

How is she about communication?
When I emailed her yesterday she didn't write me back, which actually surprised me. She's very communicative normally. Answers my emails right away. Calls me when the checks and contracts come in and gets them out immediately. Reads my work in a timely fashion. Even though she has tons of clients, she always makes me feel like I'm important. Of course I am always bugging her, asking questions and checking in. But hey, I'm a journalist. It's my job to get answers.

Can I email my query?
No. You can't email your query. Snail mail the query. However, unlike some writers were moaning about on one of the loops, just because an agent doesn't take an email query, doesn't mean she's stuck in the dark ages and doesn't use email! Once you're her client, you can definitely chat over cyberspace. But before that, put a stamp on it. Actually I think Nadia may take email queries... not sure. But for Paige: mail, mail, mail.

How does she go about submitting work?
I am assuming this varies depending on the book and situation so I am only answering about how she sent out my work personally. She wrote up a pitch letter (based on my original query) and made seven copies of my manuscript. Then she called seven editors from the major houses (after consulting with me about where we were going to send it) and asked them if they'd be interested in reading it. They all said yes, so she sent out the manuscripts to each. Then, after a certain amount of time passed, she'd call and follow-up.

How was she when "The Call" came?
She was great! Very happy for me and supportive and explained my options and what everything meant. She got the publisher to agree to contract terms on her boilerplate that were more in my favor. I was so excited I couldn't think of all the details, but she took care of everything. I could have never done the contract stuff myself.

Anything else I should know?
Finding an agent is a very personal thing. It's almost like finding a date. One size does not fit all. Paige is a great agent for me, but may not be for everyone. So if you get an offer from any agent, interview him or her extensively. Find out how they conduct business. Cause once you sign, you're making a long term commitment. So make sure you're sure.

If you have any questions, feel free to post comments. :-)


Robin Gorrell said...

Great advice/information (though, I'm fine with ramblings as well :). Just about to amble into the literary agent safari again myself.


Tisha from Texas said...

I liked your advice and totally agree about it being a personal decision. Agents are like part-time spouses but your children are the books your write and they sell. That doesn't sound right, does it?
Anyway, I am enviably happy for you and your publishing success. My novel is a southern fiction piece, kind of Ya Ya and Peyton Place all wrapped together. Two official rejections under my belt now from NY publishers so I guess I'm coming into my own. Great blog.