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  1. #1

    Default Lesson 5: The Great Agent Search

    [FONT='Times New Roman','serif']Part 5: What do I do now that I've hired an agent?

    Congratulations! You've hired an agent, which can be a big step toward
    publication and moving up in the publishing business. But perhaps you're
    still unsure about what you've gotten yourself into. Well, here are some
    tips about your agent and what kind of relationship you may or may not have with her:

    1. What DO agents do?
    Editing suggestions -- Now this one has a few caveats. First, not
    every agent will do editing on your manuscript. This is one of the
    questions you ought to be asking during your interview process. And not
    every author will want editorial input from her agent. As you grow as an
    author, this may also fade away. Or as you work with an editor, your agent may no longer need to put in her two cents. But your manuscript will pass your agent's eyes first, and she can be a great sounding board and have some good ideas as an industry insider about improving your work.
    [FONT='Times New Roman','serif']
    Pitching to editors -- Your editor will pick editors and publishing houses best suited to your voice, tone and type of romance. She may pitch your work over the phone and send full manuscripts. She may send partials. But she ought to sending out work on your behalf.

    Being a sounding board/support system -- Your agent is not at your
    beck and call, and you shouldn't trouble her with every writing hang nail,
    but when you are having problems, your agent can be a sounding board before and after publication.

    Negotiate your contracts and help mediate your problems if any
    should arrive with your publisher.
    As described earlier, your agent is a
    buffer between you and your editor. She's the one who calls to say you just can't accept a term, or to work out the differences between two different publishing houses you write for. She's the one who can mediate problems and help you get the very best deal you can get.

    2. What SHOULD agents do?

    Keep you informed on submissions. You should always know when your submissions have gone out and to whom. You should know when there's been follow-up, requests for more material and rejections.

    Giving you copies of rejections. You knew I'd say the "r" word eventually. Yes, you will get rejections, even with a great agent representing you. She should be telling you about them and sending you
    copies for your records.

    Keeping in touch with you. How often and how you talk to your agent is something you should lay out from the get-go, but you should hear from her on a semi-regular basis. Whether it's a weekly email or a monthly phone call, you want to know she's out there, working for you. And you want her to know that you're plugging away on your latest project, the revisions she requested or the synopsis you've been struggling with.

    3. What should an agent NEVER do?

    Charging fees before you sell. You shouldn't have to pay reading or editing fees to your agent. She shouldn't be recommending "editing services" to you. She shouldn't be charging you for information and feedback. Be wary of any fee you pay before contract. After the contract is when an agent should make her money.

    Bulk sending your work along with other people's. Your work should be going out all by itself. Your agent shouldn't be sending your work thrown into a box with ten other writers and sent out to some random
    editor. This is a sure-fire sign that you are getting ripped off.

    Give your ok on anything before you see it and sign off on it. Your agent is negotiating contracts ON YOUR BEHALF. You should always get
    the final say, the final sign off on everything. If she doesn't fill you in
    on something she's doing, run like the wind.

    The next lesson: What If I Need to Fire My Agent?

    Please feel free to ask any questions you may have so far.

    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007) -- Which Lady Spy Are You?
  2. Lorraine's Avatar
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    Again, Jenna, you cover so much and so well. I did have an agent a long time ago when I was writing children's books. After submitting and getting rejections, (maybe about ten editors) my agent sent my manuscript back to me. It seemed to me like I had another one out there, but either I kept lousy records or was so intimidated by the whole process that I took her word and figured everything had come back. Well, a year later, I got my last rejection from Scholastic or something. It was like reopening a healed wound. My agent apologized, but it made me feel double the loser.
    So, I agree. It's crucial to keep our own records and share the responsibility.
    Regarding your comment about your agent sending out your manuscript with other would you know that she is doing that?
    Also, maybe this is something that is covered in the interviewing process, but when do you ask about TV/movie rights (I know how rare an exception this is, but it is always possible)? Should you have asked your agent if she can handle or be willing to purse tv/movie avenues? Is this somethng that is covered in the contract with an editor?
  3. #3


    That's the tricky thing. It's very hard to tell if an agent is doing this. Sometimes you can tell from the rejection letters. So make sure you're getting copies.

    As for television or film rights, that is something you'll want to ask the agent about during Q&A. You don't want to leave those rights with the publisher. They don't harvest them. They'll often harvest foreign rights, audio rights, etc, but television or movie rights are very rare. So definitely ask your potential agents during Q&A if they have sub-agents or a department for film rights and if they are willing to pursue them for you (assuming you have a story that will translate into that medium).
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007) -- Which Lady Spy Are You?
  4. jennzilla
    jennzilla's Avatar


    I've queried a few agents, and gotten one rejection. The others I just got no answer. The rejection I did get was promising. She told me that while it was a good story, it just didn't fit what their offices handled. I submitted that story to a publisher and it's coming out this year.

    So, how do you know where to sub? I thought I'd did my homework and that my paranormal romantic comedy fit into their company very well. Do you look at their client list or what?
  5. #5


    Yup, definitely check out their client list and also what they're selling by checking out the Romance Deals at Deal Lunch (Karen Fox lists all the romance deals on her site:

    Sometimes as genres become more popular or less popular, agents also become more picky. So an agent may love Western Historicals, but they aren't selling well now and she's interested in acquiring fiction she really thinks she can sell. So she might look at Westerns, hoping to find that break out writer who can bring the subgenre back. And she might still represent a couple Western Historical authors who are still selling in the old markets. But she might not take a lot of Western Historical from new authors.

    It's just one of those things. You pick agents based on their history, their client list, their reputation... but in the end, getting an agent is very, very tough. So you can pick perfect agents and it still might not work out for so many reasons, none of which have to do with the agent not being good or even your story not being good. It can be frustrating, I know. Unfortunately, it's just a tough industry. It's rewarding, but tough.
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007) -- Which Lady Spy Are You?

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