If you didn’t see that coming, you just don’t know me.
People are different–I know that comes as a complete shock to all of you writers. (<—SARCASM) And when The Call comes, we dream that on the other end of our tired little flip phone is our knight in shining armor, come to rescue us from the drudgery of querying.
But after you’re done jumping up and down and screaming like a little girl, think–Are we a match?
Sometimes you can’t tell if you and the agent will have a good working relationship until you give it a try. But sometimes, the warning signs for disaster are obvious. In this six-part series, we’ll consider some aspects of the author-agent relationship to talk over before you accept that offer of representation: communication, submissions, scope of representation, revisions, partnership–and one more thing that I hope will point you to your gut feeling.
Without further ado…
AGENT COMMUNICATION–4 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU ACCEPT REPRESENTATION
SPEED OF RESPONSE–Are you a person who checks her email twice a day? Or do you suddenly remember on Easter Sunday night–“Hey. Haven’t checked my Gmail since September, perhaps I should take a look.” Ask your potential agent how she handles client questions and such. If you want to hear back from her the same day and her answer is, “I wait until you ask the same question fourteen times, because then I’m sure you really want an answer.” That. Does not sound like a match.
But if you are both equally loquacious or equally reticent, then GAME ON.
CHECK-INS–Does your potential agent only want to hear from you when there’s a completed manuscript in your hot little hand, or does he want to keep abreast of your ideas and progress? If you want to dash off an email every time you solve a plot problem, and the agent sees that as hand-holding, then…does not sound like a match.
But if the agent enjoys cheering you on and that makes you thrive–or if you want to crawl into a hole and emerge like a groundhog in the spring of your writing and the agent doesn’t want to remember that you’re alive until you do, then GO FOR IT.
SUBMISSIONS–If you want to be in on drawing up the publisher/editor submission list and the agent wants to keep it a big fat secret like he’s in the dang CIA or something, could be a problem. Or maybe that makes you nervouser than all heck, and you’d rather not know. But the agent wants to hash over his global submission strategy. Might not be the best working relationship.
But if you and the agent want to compile the submission list together, check if you have any “ins” that would make the editor consider you more favorably, or if the agent likes to work in the dark and you appreciate the distance from the submission process, then SHAKE HANDS.
FEEDBACK–If you don’t want to know about misses, near-misses or downright squeakers, and you can’t take criticism, (though why you’d choose writing as a career is beyond me) think twice about the agent who DMs you over every hiccup. But perhaps you’re the kind who wants to ride out every bump in the process, read rejection letters for yourself, know if you came within a camel hair of selling your manuscript–you won’t be happy with an agent who guards that information like a Winkie guards the Wicked Witch of the West.
But if you want to know the whole dirty truth and the agent forwards you all her correspondence, or if you need to be shielded from the awful ways of publishing and the agent has big shoulders, then SIGN THE CONTRACT.
When an agent wants you, it’s a dream come true. Believe me, I don’t want to rain on your parade, but a frank conversation before accepting representation can prevent a whole lot of heartache down the road. And move you toward your goals a lot faster.