Month: August 2014

An Agent Requested Your Material! Now what?

1) Email them back

Copy their tone. If they’re “so totally excited to read it!”, start with something like “Thank you so much for your interest!”. If they’re more ‘interested in reading further’, say “thank you for your interest.”

Usually for requested material agents want everything attached in .doc format but make sure they don’t specify otherwise. To be super careful, if you’re feeling paranoid, check out their webpage to see if they have specified anything there. 

Specify a specific day you will follow up with them, about a week away. So, it’s Wednesday today, maybe I’d say “I’ll follow up with you on Thursday of next week to ensure everything is in order”. 

2) Follow up with them

Keeping it fairly brief, you’re calling and saying something like “Hello, my name is NameName, I’m the author of TitleTitle, a manuscript under your consideration right now…” And if its the agent speaking, ask if it’s a good time, and if its not, ask to speak with the agent you submitted to. 

*Note: It’s often an agent or agency’s assistant that emailed you requesting more material. In that case, I always still asked to speak to the agent I submitted to but sometimes ended up speaking to assistants anyway. That’s fine, they’re often working very collaboratively, so you’re still talking to a good contact.

So, you’re on the phone with an agent or an agent’s voicemail. Oh sweet mercy, now what? Keep it brief. Say you’re calling to ensure the documents open properly and when that’s done, ask for an estimated response time (unless they already told you). 

The point? 

You’re suddenly the author that actually called. You care. They said the manuscript’s name out loud, they found it on their computer. They said your name out loud. 

The first time I did this, I had further requested material the next day, when I hadn’t heard from the agency in weeks. Phones are terrifying but they’re magic. Do it. 

*Note: Keep in mind, you should probably only call agents who have requested more material after your initial query. It’s not cold calling, it’s following up.

3) Get rejected anyway

Yup.

Here’s an awesome thing about getting to this step though: they usually give feedback. What they liked that got them to request more material and what they didn’t that got them to reject it. 

Thank them for their interest and their time. An email is sufficient for this. Agents’ phones are ringing off the hook and there’s no reason to call them now, but if they put in the time to read your work, thank them for it. You’ll notice they’ll thank you for the chance to read it.

4) Consider making edits based on the agent’s feedback

I didn’t at this step, but I’m thinking I should have. When an agent did call me interested in representing me and requesting some revisions, they were all very much in line with what I’d already heard. Maybe that call could have been an offer, if I’d moved faster on the advice I’d been given. 

5) Sent out the next round of queries and find other ways to pitch to agents. 

This process takes a remarkably long time.  Be patient and keep in mind that if you’re looking to be a professional writer, an agent might very well be a long term career decision. It’s about more than getting that one finished book published, its about getting your career started. Of course that takes a long time. That doesn’t mean your career stays stagnant while you wait. Check back on Monday for ‘Waiting for an Agent to Call. Now what?” 

 

Your Manuscript is Finished. Now what?

I finished my first manuscript in the middle of Hong Kong in March. I decided to go the traditional publishing route. Let’s assume we’re together on that one and I’ll write more on that later. So:

The Story is Finished. Now what? 

1) Hand it to a friend.

I had ‘stubble’ written into a sex scene, implying that the 19th century duke shaved his pubes on a semi regular basis. This created much hilarity between my sister and me, but suffice it to say: hand it to a friend.

I had friends love every word on the novel, friends who made suggestions I didn’t agree with at all, friends that found very important mistakes. Turn circles around the room flapping your hands in the air to dispel anxiety if need be – keep in mind that I got kicked out of the hotel room for it – but hand it to your friends. It needs to be done, so oh well.

2) Check your genre specs – especially for word count.

I wrote a regency romance and discovered that every publisher had a requirement for the word count. The most common was between 75,000 – 85,000 words for me, so I edited until that was done. 

3) Make the changes you agree with

And maybe some that you don’t, just to see what it looks like.

4) Hand it to another friend.

Hope that you have lots of friends that read your genre. I ran out and had to have my friend KK re-read it after an agent requested some edits. Lord, but she must have been cross-eyed reading it a second time. Ask anyway. People can be amazing.

5) Continuity check

Aka the worst thing ever. Get out a pad of paper and a load of chocolate and start at page 1. For every character write down details as you receive them. Blue eyes, tall, brown hair, left-handed. And go through checking every detail against that sheet, all the way through, until nobody changes lip size halfway through a sex scene. It’s off-putting. 

Also look for what people are wearing/drinking/holding. If it’s day or night, what month is it/what day is it. I had bourbon change to sherry, canes disappear, February stay February for at least seven weeks, etc. 

6) Make a list of agents to submit to

I did this based on my preferences from the top down. My thought was, you can usually only submit a manuscript to any agent once and only really resubmit it to an agency once after a long wait period. So, make sure you’re submitting to people you like who’re a good match for you or you’ll burn out an agency without ever contacting the agent best for you. 

So, research this. I’d recommend AgentQuery as a good place to get started learning about this. They have a good intro article about agents here.

Poets and Writers has a very good basic guide on choosing agents. Click Here for that. 

Tethered by Letters is more in depth. Click Here for that.

7) Write a query letter and a synopsis

Advice on this is online everywhere. Agent Query has a really extensive article on this here .I found reading examples with criticism to be the best way to learn it, so here is a link for that. 

I also found working with friends to be enormously helpful. 

Also, like the manuscript, edit, get a friend to read it, edit, rinse and repeat. This one’s easier ’cause a query is only one page long and should answer everyone’s pesky ‘what’s your novel about?’ questions.

8) Start submitting query letters/synopsis/material based on agency submission guidelines

 Not all at once. They say you should do 3-5 at a time but I couldn’t see how that’s good for the author. For an agent it means if they like it they’re not waiting for you to hear from other agents and competing with them. And given, if its too many agents that could be a real problem and super rude so I figure don’t do All at once. But 3-5 sounded slow to me. As an author, I wanted agents to have to compete. I wanted the chance to choose if multiple agents were actually going to be interested in me, and I wanted the process to go faster. I went with 10 at a time. Maybe that was rude – I really hope not. But I also didn’t want agents telling me what was best for them to make up all of my decision. So make your own call on that and submit. 

A note though – the slower you go, the more chances you’ll have to take feedback from one run of agents and use it to edit the manuscript before submitting to the next round. That’s a business decision based on your own needs/time. 

9) Get a ton of rejections

Yup.

10) Get an agent to ask for more material.

This one is easy. They email you. You match the tone of their email (first name/mrs.___, equal emoticon type excitement or business professionalism, and attach your stuff as a .doc. Then, promise to follow up with them about a week later. Specify a day. “I will follow up with you on Wednesday of next week”. That’ll be super handy the next week when you, you know, follow up with them.

Alright! That was exhausting and horrid, right? On to the fun part! For Wednesday: what happens next?