View Full Version : Lesson 4: The Great Agent Search

March 12th, 2007, 09:05 AM
Lesson 4: What do I do now that I have an agent interested in me?

So now you've decided you want an agent, done your search and you have an agent who is interested in representing you (or maybe two or three). What do you do now? Well, first, jump for joy, yell and scream. There are so many disappointments in this business and very few big happy moments (until that one big moment of THE CALL and then you just start playing on a different field, same ballgame). This is a happy moment, because catching a good agent's interest is not easy. But after you've jumped and screamed, there are several things to think about, so here it goes.

1. What? When? Where? Why?
The first step when you get the call from an agent is to ask questions. Listen to what the agent says, and take copious notes. Then, when they've finished talking, ask your questions. Up until this very moment, YOU were the hopeful writer. Now they are the hopeful agent, hoping YOU'LL hire them. That's right. Your agent is your employee from the
moment you say "yes" to their offer of representation. And they should be treated as one from this point on. If you were going to hire someone to work for you in your home or office, you would interview them. Do the same for this agent. This is your career after all.

There are two kinds of questions you want to ask. Business practices questions and personality questions. You want an agent who will work in an upstanding fashion, and one who knows their stuff, but you're also going to want to know about the relationship you're going to share. Going into this relationship with your eyes wide open is a way to minimize disappointment and misunderstanding. If you think you're going to talk to your agent once
a week and their general practice is to contact clients once a month, you're going to be pretty upset after a couple of months of this. But if you lay out needs up front, you can negotiate a happy solution.

For a list of possible questions you'll want to ask, check out: http://www.passiona<WBR>tepen.com/<WBR>agenqandaarticle<WBR>.htm (http://www.passionatepen.com/agenqandaarticle.htm) Both personality and
business question are included on the list which I compiled from my own experiences, suggestions from many author friends, and the AAR website. Add your own!

2. Don't say yes or no just yet!
It's so tempting, especially if you're an unpublished author, to jump at the very first offer from an agent. After all, this is a big step in moving forward in a career. This is a professional who WANTS YOU and that is gratifying. But you may want to take a step back for a few days before you say yes (a caveat about this is at the end, so bear with me). It's ok to say, "Thank you so much, and I want to take a couple of days to consider your offer carefully. Can I call you on Friday and discuss this again?" An agent who has expressed an interest wants you to make the best business decision for yourself. They won't mind a small delay while you consider your options.

3. Kiss and Tell.
Now that you have a bit of a breather, this is the perfect time to notify any other agents with a full manuscript under consideration. Calling or emailing is perfectly acceptable. Just tell them you've had an offer from another agent and wanted to give them the chance to consider your work. Most will quickly read over your submission and be able to give you a
decision. You should notify agents with partials or queries, as well, but in all honesty, this is more out of professional courtesy so that they don't waste time reading a partial that is no longer available.

4. Oh man, More Homework???
Yes, Virginia, it's time to do some more homework. Now that you've had an offer of representation, you'll want to do a little more checking up on the agent in question. Go back to the email links if you haven't explored those avenues. Email or talk to other authors the agent represents and find out how they're doing, how they feel about the progress this agent is making on their behalf. Check warning sites. Because a bad agent can be much, much worse than no agent at all (as was discussed in the second lesson). You can lose money, time and even reputation with an agent who isn't acting on the up and up. So be smart and you'll end up a lot happier in the end.

5. Or Maybe Not.
The caveat to all this advice is my biggest suggestion. Go with your gut. You've done your homework before you submitted. You know which agents you want the most. If you get that call and you feel, beyond the euphoria, that this is the right decision for you, say yes.

That advice also has another side to the coin. If, while asking your very good questions, the agent says something that makes you uncomfortable, don't say yes. Your gut is telling you something and you shouldn't let desperation for an agent to rule your head.

The Next Lesson: What Do I Do Now That I've Hired An Agent?

Feel free to ask any questions about the first four lessons between now and Friday!

March 12th, 2007, 07:56 PM
Hi Jenna! Great lesson! I was wondering though, what should you do if say just by chance, you have two agents call you on the same day or week? Would it still be acceptable to ask for the breather and would you need to inform them both that you have had another agent contact you?

March 12th, 2007, 09:05 PM
Yes, I guess that's what I meant by not telling them yes right away and then contact other agents who are considering your work. That way you have a chance for those multiple offers. And yes, when you contact those other agents, you would want to tell them that you already have an offer and that you wanted to give them a chance to offer themselves.

March 12th, 2007, 11:32 PM
Thanks for the informative and helpful lesson, Jenna. It really is hard to come up with any questions because you've covered so much ground. But I did manage to come up with a little question.
You mentioned that an agent might call when she is interested. Does an agent ever contact authors by mail or email and if she did, is this acceptable? Or should any warning bells go off?
Also, a writing friend of mine had a very good agent, but after her book was accepted by an editor, the relationship between writer and agent began to fall apart. It turns out that they had very different personality styles and this seemed to be something they could not overcome. How important do you think this is and is this one of those things that we have to figure out by listening to our gut?

March 13th, 2007, 09:45 AM
I think most agents call when they offer representation (that's why it's called "The Call" LOL). As do most major houses (although if you have an agent, your agent will give you "The Call" that you've sold, too).

Would I automatically assume an agent was wonky if they did 'the email' instead of the 'the call'? No. Especially if there were good reasons. But I'd DEFINITELY make sure I asked all my very important questions via email and pay very close attention to the answers. It would probably be a mark in the 'weird' category, but not a deal breaker.

Also, a writing friend of mine had a very good agent, but after her book was accepted by an editor, the relationship between writer and agent began to fall apart. It turns out that they had very different personality styles and this seemed to be something they could not overcome. How important do you think this is and is this one of those things that we have to figure out by listening to our gut?

Well, that's why I mention having so many personality questions in the Very Important Question list at Passionate Pen. Personality and how an agent works is going to be VERY important in the interpersonal relationship.

One way to avoid this happening is to really think about what you need/want from an agent. Talk to other authors, read agent blogs, these things will help you determine if you're being reasonable in those expectations. Then, when you get "The Call", you can ask specific questions about what YOU want. Before you sell and after.

The problem is that sometimes authors get so wrapped up in the "Yes" that they don't realize it might not be the best thing for them. It's a hard business and there are so few yeses that it's an easy mistake to make. But this is a BUSINESS. And you have to look out for yourself. So be prepared to do so before you start looking for an agent and you'll do much better in the long run.