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
tepen.com/Both personality and agenqandaarticle .htm
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It's so tempting, especially if you're an unpublished author, to jump at the very first offer from an agent.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!