Thursday, April 15, 2010

So what is it you do, exactly?

I've been asked to detail the process of what I do from the moment an author accepts me for representation (yes, we sweat bullets thinking we'll be rejected just as much as the author does when he/she submits their query) to the moment the pub contract is signed... and beyond. Well... here it is in a nutshell... perhaps a walnut shell but a shell nonetheless!

  1. Query Received - It really does start with the query! Authors need to make sure the query letter is not just eye-grabbing but stellar in the information it provides. My decision to open attachments (which should include your manuscript) is based solely on the query letter. If I don't like your query, you will receive a rejection e-mail from me. I try to detail why the query is being rejected but as the query pile grows, form letters become the norm. But we're talking about those that I accept, so let's continue, shall we?
  2. Read Attachments - I was going to include this as a subtopic to the first step, but in reality, if the query grabs me, then this is the next logical step. I open the attachments and dive into the synopsis for the novel first. Is the synopsis detailed enough to give me a good idea of what this novel is about? Are the characters introduced in the first page of the synopsis? If I get to the bottom of the first page and I don't know the name of your main character (nevermind that it should also be included in the query letter) we have a serious problem and it will likely lead me to sending a rejection letter. With the queries I've received lately, I've actually gone ahead and read the novel attached as well even if the synopsis is weak. Some authors have trouble simplifying their scenes in their synopses and I could miss out on a great opportunity if I stopped there. So, I push myself to read the novel and if it "wows" me in the first few pages, I'll send an e-mail with offer to represent the author.
  3. Offer Representation - Sending out these e-mails are the highlight of my day (and unfortunately they're not a daily occurrence). I try to make these personal and not a form letter. I try to give each of my clients a little information about myself and try to include some accolades on their work and why I want to represent their work. Most times, it's because what they've pitched is ready for me to send directly to a publisher and while I was reading I could think of three or four publishers I could send the manuscript to. This is usually where e-mail tag comes into play.
  4. Pray - Seriously. I send a quick prayer for guidance with... and FOR my clients that they pick me to represent them and that we are well-suited to each other. Like a marriage, our relationship has to work well and we have to be able to still respect each other in the morning or we're never going to be a successful team.
  5. Prepare Documents for Pitch - One very large difference in the digital market to the print, is the inability to just call an editor up, invite them to lunch and casually drop into the conversation that I have an amazing manuscript I want them to look over. I'm an ePub Agent because I work and represent work in the virtual and/or digital world. This means, I have to send my pitch letter to the submissions e-mail address that thousands of other authors are sending their queries to. What sets me apart, is that my query is marked "Agented Query" and I send out an email to the editors I know at the digital pub letting them know that I'm sending something for them to look over. Getting the manuscripts ready though, takes a few days for me and this is why:
    • Edit the manuscript. While I'm not an Editor by trade, I do catch the inevitable typo, misspelling and stray comma splice here and there. I clean up the manuscript as best as possible and return it to my client for review and discussion. While I don't like to make recommendations for revisions unless warranted, my clients can expect to see comments in the margins ranging from "SQUEE" to "I can't believe I didn't see this coming!" I will also make suggestions to my clients about blurbs (though I must admit to not being as good at writing these) syntax and even chapter breaks if necessary.
    • Save the manuscript, query letter and synopses in the formats the various digital presses want them in. Some want them in .rtf others in .doc. Some want only Times New Roman - 12 pt type to be used while others will only accept Courier - 12 pt. This translates into my having several "versions" of the manuscripts saved on my computer for my clients (thank God for external hard drives) ready for my cover letter (aka, the pitch letter).
    • Send e-mails out with manuscripts, synopses and query letters attached to the various digital pubs.
  6. Notify Clients - I let my clients know when I've sent out pitch letters and to which pubs via e-mail. I use this time to also encourage my clients to get started on their next novel. I may ask about what they're working on or mention submission calls that have been posted by the various pubs.
  7. Negotiate Contracts - This is actually the fun part for me. While every publisher says their contract is "standard" many will allow and expect you to make contract revisions. This varies from publisher to publisher and author to author. Each publisher has a different risk factor in their business and when dealing with new, previously unpublished authors, they are more conservative with their risks. Simple law of averages, here folks. If they don't see a possibility to make money, the publisher will not contract the work. Once they do, however there is always room for improvement on the contract. Everything from royalty schedule to advances can be negotiated and based on the contract as well as the relationship the editor and the author can have, I make my recommendations to my clients. We are all in this to make money and in order to do that, the relationship between the author and the editor needs to be a good one. If the editor doesn't understand where the author is coming from and vice versa, the relationship will start off on the wrong foot and end on that same foot.
  8. Party Hardy - Okay, so it's not really party time yet, but once the contracts are signed and the editor and author get working on edits, galley proof and cover designs, I'm pretty much out of the picture for this book until the publisher decides that a major revision needs to occur which could set the pub date back if the author doesn't comply right away.
  9. Advocate, Advisor, Confidante - When authors panic, agents provide the valium. We talk them off the ledge and remind them that they're about to see their book published for the first time and yes, everything will be fine. We encourage them when they feel sales are not going to be what they expected, we provide a shoulder to cry on when a favorite scene is cut for length and pimp the hell out of them on Twitter, Facebook, and every social networking site we can get our little hands on.
We start all over again! :)