Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Agent contact

Six months ago I signed with an agent, and he wanted to pitch my mystery as the first of a series. At the time I wrote it, I thought it was a standalone book, but he's absolutely right that it needs to be book one of many. I sent him a synopsis for a second book, which he was pleased with. He asked if he could show it to some editors(1), but that's the only hint he's shopping either book.

Fast-forward to this week. I've emailed him I'm done with the rough draft of the sequel and am ready to polish it and pass it along to my betas. No reply. Granted, he's a busy man, and technically we don't need any action on his end. However, since the future of this book hinges on the future of a book he's already signed, I'd like to know his current level of enthusiasm.

How do I go about reading the tea leaves here? Do I email and ask how things are looking on his end? Or should I leave it alone, soldier on, and not bother him until I have a finished draft?

First and foremost you should be able to pick up the phone and speak directly to your agent any time you want. Granted when you get her on the phone she may say "I need to call you back" or "I need to schedule a time to talk with you" but you are client not some sort of riff-raff off the street asking for a loosie and a light.

If you feel like you can't do that, you need to figure out why. Are you hesitant? Suck it up and go for it. Does your agent make you feel like an intrusion on their day? Not your problem. Call her anyway.

All these blog posts about 'Don't Call' 'Don't Bug Me' etc are for people at the query stage. That is Not You. You are a client. Your creative work is the starting point for our income stream. You get to talk to your agent without being made to feel you're a nuisance. Even if you are. (and it doesn't sound like you are at all)

However.

Note where I marked the (1).  This puzzles me.  He asked permission to show it to some editors?  I'm trying to think of when I've ever done that and I'm coming up blank.  My JOB is to show stuff to editors.  Manuscripts, synopses, sad puppies if they are so foolish as to reject anything.  I expect my clients to expect me to do that.

It's time for a call to your agent.  Ask for a submission list.   If you can't get one pretty promptly, you've got a different problem than what you've outlined here. Discuss his/her enthusiasm level. It may very well be that s/he is getting nowhere on the submissions, and that's always discouraging for both of us. 

9 comments:

Colin Smith said...

It sounds like Janet's comment about writers not being the beggars at the publishing banquet applies here. As a writer about to enter the query trenches, I understand the feeling that my future is in the hands of others (agents, editors, etc), and I need to play nice and not make waves otherwise I could be shut out of a career.

But years of reading this blog--I mean, studying the industry--have taught me that while we need to be professional and respectful, we need to remember that agents and publishers need us as much as we need them. This is a mutually beneficial relationship. A symbiosis. And the relationship works best when the professionalism and respect runs both ways.

No-one's immune from feeling like this. J K Rowling has said that she only agreed to the US edition of book one being called THE SORCERER'S STONE because she was happy, naive, and not feeling in a position to push for keeping the UK title. In hindsight, she believes she should have insisted. I agree. :)

Judy Walters said...

So glad you posted this. I have several friends who are afraid to contact their agents. I've emphasized to them that the agent works for them, and it is perfectly reasonable to call or email their agents, but they're afraid. I struggled with this with my ex-agent. Once I realized that I shoudn't be afraid, I contacted her when I needed to, and ultimately, was able to see she wasn't the right fit for me. Agent/author relationships are about collaboration. If you don't feel collaborative, this might not be the right relationship for you.

donnaeverhart.com said...

I too, am glad you posted this...b/c shame on me, I fall into that area of being "afraid," to call my agent. I know for a fact he wouldn't mind, and would probably appreciate the occasional update - especially considering his enthusiasm for the latest WIP. I have no idea where that feeling of not being worthy enough (until he sells a book) comes from. It's certainly not from him. He's always supportive and complimentary about my work.

Ardenwolfe said...

Very sound advice as always.

D. B. Sundstrom said...

I may be out in left field here, but it sounds to me like there isn't a question for him to respond to. It may be more helpful for you to be more direct, as in, ask him what you want to know. I wouldn't be able to intuit from your email that you want to know how the current progress of book one is going. While you have him, it might also be wise to ask what the boundaries are. And let him know your expectations. If you want a timely response to an update email, you definitely should get one. If you want to know the status of a book he has, you should ask. You are working for and with each other.

DLM said...

Sad puppies!? Noooooo, there is no withstanding the sad puppy.

I am so glad I am not an editor - who could possibly try to make a living ever saying no to Le Shark?

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BCyM3hyCcAE0TzM.jpg (Aww)

Fatboy said...

What's a loosie? Sounds...interesting

Jenz said...

One loose cigarette. Probably not what you were imagining. ;)

riparian said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been with an agent who has told me a few times he'll send me a submission list, but hasn't and is vague on other points. It's a case of the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. Really, the process of getting an agent is hell and I don't want to go through it again. But, alas, a bad marriage is a bad marriage.