Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, November 23, 2009

What to do When the Answer is—Finally—Yes!


Most of us have had plenty of experience with what we do when an agent says no. We pout, cry, pound our fists, and after [choose one or more: __eating, __running, __screaming,__ stabbing stuffed animal repeatedly ], we get back to writing. (Side note: If you checked off number four, you are one sick puppy. Get help immediately and/or stop writing/submitting.)

But what do you do when an agent says yes? Or even tougher when more than one agent says yes? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun submitting proposals for my YA novel, with the working title of Demon Spawn. Here’s the “pitch” section of my query letter.

Blaze, a sixteen year old demon spawn, thinks her biggest worries this year will be fitting in at academy and getting used to guarding the humes damned to a lifetime of servitude in Hell. That’s before her close friend, Jazz, a third year, is involved in an attempted hijacking of the J-trans that bring new humes from Judgment every month, and an injured seraph shows up in the dorm room of Blaze and her best friend, Cinder, asking for help. In order to clear Jazz’s name, the three friends agree to help the Seraph return to his home before the atmosphere of Hell kills him. They are joined by a mute hume who seems to have memories of the outer circles of Hell and what dangers lie on the way to the mountains of Judgment, and the woman who translates for him.

On the journey, Blaze and the Seraph become attracted to each other—to the point that he lowers his blinding aura enough that they can touch and even kiss. When they finally manage to reach the city Blaze must decide whether to stay in Hell with her friends or live a life of hiding with the man she thinks she loves. But all of that is about to be turned on its head when she learns the real truth about Judgment, Hell, and the identity of the Seraphs.

Of course the day after I e-mailed out my query, I received two rejections. One was a form, the other said that the first chapter didn’t live up to her hopes. Form too? Maybe, it was hard to tell. Of course I immediately did one or more of the above listed actions and convinced myself that my story was lousy, my writing was lousy, and I’d be better off selling shoes in the mall. Then, an amazing thing happened. Several of the agents asked for the first fifty pages. And then, an even more amazing thing happened. A wonderful agent offered to represent me. Hurray! Right? So I let the other agents know I had an OOR. (Publishing speak for Offer of Representation—with caps and all!)

Then I got another OOR. And another. Wait, what? More than one agent is saying yes? Great news. But also kind of scary news. I know what to do if all the agents say no. Cry loudly. I know what to do if an agent says yes. Dance joyously. But what do you do when multiple agents says yes? I got on the phone, checked the Internet, talked to other published authors, and learned a few things. Now—assuming you kept reading after I told you about my great luck, as opposed to cursing me and punching the computer, because Savage of all people doesn’t deserve this good fortune—I will share my gained wisdom with you.

1) When you finally get an offer of representation, don’t immediately say yes. Talk to the agent and let them know you will consider their offer carefully while you let the other agents you have queried know that you have an offer. Ginger Clark, of Curtis Brown has a great post about this, here, http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/10/guest-blog-ginger-clark-on-how-to.html.

2) I assume if you are like me, you will want to know how many books each agent has sold, what type of books they have sold, and maybe even the range of the advances. You would then like to be able to compare one agent to another to see who might be the best match. There may be some magical free site to do this, but I couldn’t find it. However, there is a magical fee-based site which provides a ton of useful information. It is http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ and for the agent researching author, it is a godsend. Best twenty dollars a month I ever spent! You might be surprised at how some of the top selling agents in your genre are not with the agencies you’ve heard of the most.

3) With all your stats, comparisons, and research gathered, it’s time to talk to each of the agents who has offered to represent you. I know you are scared to death. These are conversations that could change your life. Believe me, I was pacing like a caged panther as I awaited the time for each call. What if I say something dumb? What if it’s a mistake and they think I am someone else? Please tell me they really like me, and, even more important, that they like my work. You need to set aside those fears, and remember, you are interviewing them. They are people like you. Write down all your questions so you don’t forget any. You’ll have your own questions, but here are a few I asked:


What about my work appealed to you?

Who do you see selling this to?

How do you handle foreign rights?

Can I speak to some of your other clients?

How will you communicate updates to me?

Do you feel this is ready to send out now or are there changes you think I should make?

What types of manuscripts like this have you sold lately?

Do you have other clients with this type of story?

How could that help or hurt me?

How can you help me shape my career?

4) Talk to other authors represented by this agent. Make sure you get their dislikes as well as the likes.

5) Remember that each agent has their own way of doing things. If you get conflicting ideas or proposals from one agent, contact the other agents and get their thoughts.

6) Be careful of being blinded by the bright lights. One of the agents I spoke to worked for an agency that has some extremely well known clients. But when I talked to her, I found that she had a way of doing business that I wasn’t comfortable with. Nothing unethical in any way, just an approach that felt less like a team approach to me, and more of being on trial. I want an agent who is with me 100% and will put in the time and commitment to provide me with the best chance of success.

7) Finally, give yourself the chance to think rationally and calmly before making a decision. It’s easy to get swayed by one conversation. But you have to weigh all of the pros and cons with no pressure from anyone else. Remember, you are tied to an agent for life contractually, but hopefully they will be with you for the rest of your career. So choose for the long term.

Tomorrow. Who I chose.


10 Comments:

At 11/23/2009 10:05 PM, Blogger Tamara Hart Heiner said...

what an excellent post. Food for thought. Thanks for sharing and congrats!

 
At 11/23/2009 10:23 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

CONGRATULATIONS, JEFF!! You DO deserve it and I'm so happy for you!

 
At 11/23/2009 10:33 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jeff, that is FANTASTIC! Congrats!

 
At 11/23/2009 11:05 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Great advice and absolutely FANTASTIC news! I love the idea and am excited for the next step: when the agents quit fighting over you and the publishers begin!

 
At 11/23/2009 11:18 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Way to go, Jeff! I'm thrilled for you.

 
At 11/24/2009 12:11 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Wow!! That is amazing! Congrats!

 
At 11/24/2009 8:12 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

And the ball is rolling! Grats!

 
At 11/24/2009 9:06 AM, Blogger Carolyn V. said...

Congrats Jeff! This is an excellent post. Thanks so much for the advice. (I'm totally saving this one!)

 
At 11/24/2009 10:47 AM, Blogger Rachel Andersen said...

This post is going to be copied and pasted into my file of things I need to know.
Congratulations. The query letter has my mouth watering for another good read.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the story.

 
At 11/24/2009 12:39 PM, Blogger Valerie Ipson said...

Really good advice that I hope I will need someday!

 

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