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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: agent-author relationship, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 48
1. How A Publisher's Decision Impacts the Author/Agent Relationship

Recently you've spoken about the changes at Berkley and how that has impacted authors. I was wondering how that impacts the author/agent relationship? If an author has their series dropped does an agent drop them as well? Or do you work together to find a new direction for the author to take their writing? 

Thank you for your great question. As I've mentioned many times before, I love questions.

As you should all know by now each situation is different so while I will speak generally on this, I'm sure every author's experience is different, whether it pertains to Berkley or simply a career experience in general.

At BookEnds we like to say that we're in it for life. When we sign an author we believe strongly enough to really want to stay through the long haul; the good, the bad and the ugly. Selling a client's book is the easy part, maintaining and continuing to grow and build a career is where it can get tricky. 

Just because one publisher makes a decision doesn't mean every publisher will feel the same. A publisher choosing not to renew a contract, in my mind, isn't a good reason to simply drop the author. As long as the author is determined and continuing to write great (or better) books, I will stick by through whatever the publishing world throws at us. 

In a situation where a publisher doesn't renew, the author and I will have conversations about what's next, but as many of my authors can attest, we often have those conversations well before any decision is made by the publisher. I'm a strong believer that every author should always have something in her back pocket.

A good agent should see the writing on the wall. We see sales numbers and talk to the publisher enough to know what might be coming so, in truth, we're prepared and ready to go with that next thing well before an official decision by the publisher is made.

In short, one decision from a publisher will not impact how I work with an author.


0 Comments on How A Publisher's Decision Impacts the Author/Agent Relationship as of 1/1/1900
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2. Agent Contract Expiration

If you sign with a literary agent and have no success placing your novel over the course of a year, what are your options after the official contract runs out? Can you search for a different agent and try again after some serious re-writes and editing? Is self-publishing worth considering? Is it time to give up, even if you believe the novel has potential?

Well, that depends on the contract. We don't have a contract that automatically expires so I'm not sure I'm the best one to answer this question. Our contract, in all jest, is for the rest of your life. What I mean by that is while we have a very easy termination clause, we hope to take on a client for a career and we don't want to be limited by time, either on our behalf or yours.

So I guess what I would ask you is what does that contract say. Does the expiration date mean automatic cancellation or does the expiration date only mean that you are now allowed to terminate? Once a contract is terminated, however that happens, you are allowed to do whatever you want. You are allowed to search for another agent, self-publish, or even quit and do something different. You know, you are also allowed to take a new project to your agent and continue with that. Many of my clients were signed with one project and first sold with another. Just because you sign with a project doesn't mean that's the one you're going to sell. Signing that contract should be a commitment on both sides to venture forth and build a career together, not just sell a book.

What I would say is that if the book has already been around, and a year has passed, I would hope that you have something new and fresh to take back to your old agent or to new agents. It never does a writer any good to spend a career focusing on just one book.


9 Comments on Agent Contract Expiration, last added: 4/3/2012
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3. Not Right for My List

As an aspiring author, I will frequently hear "Not right for my list," or "the characters weren't compelling to me." What do you as an agent do if an author you've signed writes a second book that doesn't resonate with you? How do you pitch that book to publishers?

I think the important thing to remember is that these phrases you're hearing are form letter phrases. It's the wording agents have honed over the years because it's vague enough not to open ourselves to back-and-forth communication and yet truthful because there's something about this book that isn't right for our list. Maybe it was your voice, maybe it was the genre, maybe it was simply the story.

When an agent signs an author, usually there's a meeting of minds (doesn't that sound grand). In other words, usually the agent feels passionate enough about the author's voice and the general direction of the author's writing to want this author on her list and everything else this author might bring to the table. This is why it's so important that you sign with an agent who sees clients as a long-term endeavor and not just a book-by-book project.

I think the fear that authors have that an agent will love the first book but nothing after that is overblown. Sure it can happen, and I'm sure many have horror stories of it happening, but for the most part I think once an agent feels passion for an author's work, they feel passion about that author in general.


11 Comments on Not Right for My List, last added: 1/25/2012
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4. New Agents at BookEnds

When an author is considering Bookends LLC, should the disparity between levels of experience between the agents play a major part, or can she trust that even a new agent at your agency will have the support and expertise of the other more experienced agents behind her? Is it all right to query the new acquiring agents even if you have already queried other agents at Bookends LLC, since that agent was not available to query (or have the query referred to them) at the time of the original query?

As someone who, at one time, was just starting out, either as an editorial assistant or a new agent, I'm a strong believer in "new blood." In fact, even today I seek out smart new assistants to submit to. They are hungry, they have time on their hands, and they are excited to work with new authors and promote those new authors to the people who make the decisions. The same holds true of new agents. They are excited to build a list, hungry to add new authors to their list and, if I can be so bold as to speak for the "new" people at BookEnds, incredibly smart.

I think there's no doubt that experience can play a role in how an agent operates, but so can an agent's personality. When selecting an agent at any agency I think it's more important to look at how that agent works and how well you communicate. A new agent at any agency has the backing of the agency's name and the experience of the other agents to rely on. We work very closely at BookEnds. We discuss proposals, manuscripts, submission strategies, editors, authors, and even revision suggestions with each other. I have a ton of faith in the people I work with and each of them has their own set of strengths. It's amazing how the opinion of one, and the experiences of one, can help all of us.

When sending out your submission to any agent I wouldn't discount the new or the younger agents. In fact, I would look at them first. They are the people who have the time to take chances and are looking to grow a list. Agents who have been around for a long time tend to be pickier because they can be. They don't have as much time to take a rough project and spend time working to build on the potential they see. And yes, they will always have the support of the others within the agency.

And yes, feel free to query other agents within the agency even if you've already queried someone. The worst that can happen is a pass.


9 Comments on New Agents at BookEnds, last added: 3/13/2012
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5. Switching Agents within an Agency

What would happen if the author, after due time with one of the new agents, felt one of the other agents would be a better fit? Do authors ever move to a different agent at the same agency?

This question actually came as part of another question, but it's something I've often wondered about myself so I thought it deserved its own post. If you like the agency you're with, but over time maybe you or your agent has changed directions, would it make sense to request that you be transferred to a new agent within the agency. I guess it depends on the agency and how that agency operates, but I think it's a very reasonable request. After all, we've made the request on behalf of our authors that they switch editors within a publishing house, so why couldn't you ask the same of your agency?

We've never done this at BookEnds, unless of course an agent has left, but I know I'd be willing to do it if the author felt it was best for her. First of all, why would I want the agency to lose good talent, and secondly, I wouldn't necessarily see it as a slight against the agent. What if you've decided that you want to write mysteries instead of romance and the agent you're working with said that she has no real interest in mystery, but another within the agency does? Wouldn't it make sense for you to switch if that other agent would have you? I think it's worth asking.


3 Comments on Switching Agents within an Agency, last added: 3/13/2012
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6. Agent Shopping

I currently have an agent who has a good reputation and has a decent track record. I have done all the background checks I can and when I signed felt I would be well represented by this person. However, through a series of situations and over a six month period with 0 submissions to publishing houses despite a great deal of talk about multiple submissions, I am beginning to believe that this business relationship is not a good match.

What I would like to know from you is, is it bad protocol to start feeling out the waters with other agents (querying) while still under contract? I don't want to do anything unethical or something that would tarnish my reputation as a new author, however I also would like to have an agent that is doing their job asap. And if it is okay to start querying while under contract, do I mention that I am under contract and looking for a more suitable agent?

First let me congratulate you on making the decision early on that this might not be the right relationship. Too often I see authors flounder with an agent who they don't feel is a good fit, but out of fear they won't find another. Taking control of your career from the beginning is a smart move.

I'm going to assume that you've talked with your agent about your concerns. Often I find that assumptions are made about what others are doing without really knowing the facts. For example, I'm constantly shopping books, talking to editors about the work my clients do, hounding publishers for money and contracts, etc., but I'm not always filling my clients in on every step I'm taking for them. For all you know, the agent could be talking you up to editors.

Okay, on to your question. Yes, it's bad protocol to shop for an agent while you're under contract. Honestly, it's a breach of contract and puts all parties, including the agents you're talking to, in a very uncomfortable position. What if your agent happens to be best friends with one of the other agents you're talking to? How does it make you look to other agents if they know you're the kind of author who might go behind their backs when unhappy? That being said, it does happen all the time. While certainly some agents will feel "protocol be damned," others might tell you to get back in touch after your relationship has been dissolved.

The smart and easy thing to do is quit the relationship and then query. After all, what if you're querying at about the same time your agent decides to start talking to editors about your book? Suddenly you're not going to have much of a project to talk to agents about since by that time it will have been shopped.


10 Comments on Agent Shopping, last added: 3/29/2012
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7. An Unhappy Client

1) I have an agent
2) I'm published
3) I'm unhappy with my agent due to (a) lack of communication (b) she can't stay connected with the internet or phone service because she lives in the middle of somewhere (c) updates on the four (4) new proposals she has are being treated as non-existent (d) legal issues with my publisher have been neglected
I'm at a literary standstill.
Any ideas?
Am I wrong for being professionally needy but impatient?

First of all, it doesn’t sound like you are being needy or impatient, professionally or otherwise. The fact that you are still with this agent says to me that you have already shown a great deal of patience, and as for being needy, having expectations that your business partner will do her job is not needy.

I could be wrong, but unless your agent lives in a third world nation or maybe the Canadian Wilderness, it seems to me she should be able to stay connected with phone or Internet. Are you telling me that her services go down so frequently that she never has a chance to send an email or make a phone call? C’mon! I’m not buying that. On days when my Internet goes down I still have plenty of time to write emails. They’ll just have to wait to be sent until the Internet clicks back on.

The truth is, the only excuse your agent has is, maybe, laziness. Or I guess lack of interest. Whatever it is, she’s not doing her job. She’s not communicating with you, she’s not helping you with legal issues; let me repeat, she’s not doing her job.

It’s time to cut and run. Do whatever your contract requires to get out of this agent, take control of your literary career, and find a new agent.


9 Comments on An Unhappy Client, last added: 2/7/2011
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8. An Agent's Edits

I have a question. I submitted my full ms. to an agent approx 3 months ago, who wrote back that she loved it and would like to show it to a colleague of hers. I told her yes, as I was yet to sign with any other agents. Since this time she has spent significant time editing the ms. and we have spoken on the phone a couple of times. About a month into the process I asked her if she was planning to sign me as her client, and she replied that she would like to represent my ms. but she wanted to get the ms. to a point we were both happy with before signing anything.

Is this usual? I can't see that I have anything to lose, since I haven't had any other offers of representation. From her viewpoint though, it seems like an odd move. Technically I could sign with another agent and she will have wasted a lot of time and effort on her edits (I have no intention of doing so, but still). Can you advise the "normal" process of signing a client (if there is such thing as normal)?

I feel like I need to say this a thousand times over. There is no such thing as “normal” in this business. Each agent is an individual and works very differently. Is it possible that an agent will work with an author before signing. Absolutely. The agent will only offer representation on what she feels she can sell, and if she doesn’t feel she can sell this she won’t offer. That being said, she feels there’s real potential here and is seeing if, by working together, it’s something the two of you can make into a salable product.

Yes, technically you could sign with another agent, and I suspect every agent out there has a story of the author who thanked them profusely for their feedback or edits because it helped secure another agent. So unbelievably frustrating when this happens. Which is why we always ask that if an agent helps you out you consider giving her another look.

A lot of this business is based on faith and trust. We don’t always require you to sign something, we just hope and have faith that the work you’re doing will make you realize that she’s the right agent for you.


12 Comments on An Agent's Edits, last added: 2/22/2011
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9. Working with Your Editor

Many aspiring writers, myself included, spend months writing a manuscript, then spend many more months editing, polishing, and re-writing. We attend workshops, share with critique partners/groups, and force our significant others to read stories they likely are just as sick of as we are. By the time we’re ready to send our baby into the world, at least in my case, I have half the manuscript memorized from sheer repetition.

I was just curious, for published (fiction) authors working on their second, third, etc book, after any proposals have been sent and accepted; how rough are those first drafts they send to their editor and/or agent? Are the editors/agents involved at a much earlier stage (i.e. editor is reading chapters 1-5 while writer is still pounding out 6-10) or do they wait to send anything until the manuscript is “finished” to the best of their ability?

As with everything else in this business, it depends on how each individual agent and editor work.

The truth, though, is that everything you send your editor or agent should be as polished as possible. Yes, you know you’ll be doing revisions, but that doesn’t mean it should be rough in the first place. Typically, an author will work with her editor/agent to decide the idea. So yes, the editor will approve the idea the author is writing and sometimes make suggestions based on the proposal. At that point, the author writes until the book is done, final, polished, and as clean as possible and then sends the entire manuscript off to the editor.

Remember, editors and agents are looking for “dream authors” in the same way you’re all looking for a “dream agent” or “dream editor,” and no dream author submits what is essentially a rough draft. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it where authors submit books that still have their personal notes in them, things like “insert action scene here,” and are waiting for feedback from the editor. What it looks like is that you’re waiting for the editor to write the book for you because you’re either too lazy or insecure to really write. This means a lot of extra work and back-and-forth with the editor, and it usually means that your numbers better be fabulous for the editor to feel inspired to want to do more books with you.

My suggestion is that anytime you send anything off to your editor and agent, you better feel confident that it’s great and ready to go. The only exception to that is if the editor or agent tells you to send it knowing it’s still rough.


15 Comments on Working with Your Editor, last added: 4/8/2011
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10. It's How It's Interpreted

Email is a beautiful thing and has made life so much easier for so many of us. When I started as an agent email was still a little bit in its infancy—sure, people used it, but I’m not sure we relied on it in quite the same way we do now. I can’t imagine doing this job without email. Whether it’s the middle of the night or the middle of the weekend I’m able to email my clients and respond to their concerns, and I think, because of email, we probably have more frequent communication than we would if we relied on snail mail or phone.

That being said, our reliance on email can be a little bit dangerous. I think it allows us to become lazy and forget the importance of good communication. Because while email is fabulous, it isn’t for all situations. The one thing to remember when it comes to email is that how an email is read is entirely based on the interpretation of the reader and what sort of baggage the reader brings to the reading. For that reason there are times when email is not, in my mind, appropriate.

For example, let’s say I have a client who is upset with the way a publisher is handling something. Maybe she feels the publisher isn’t doing enough work for her or isn’t behind her enough. I, on the other hand, having years of experience in this business, know that not only is the publisher doing what the publisher normally does, but in this instance the publisher is doing a lot more. However, as we all know, sometimes knowledge alone doesn’t make us feel better. Sending an email explaining this to an already dissatisfied and upset client could easily backfire on me. Instead of taking my words as calming, she could just as easily feel like even her agent isn’t on her side. Or feel like I’m simply dismissing her feelings. Which is why, in a situation like this, I would probably call, so that we could have a real back-and-forth discussion, I could explain myself and she could hear the tone of my voice to understand that I am on her side, and part of being on her side is to explain the way things work. We could also easily move on from dissatisfaction to problem solving, something email would probably take longer to accomplish.

My point in all this is to remind you all that while email is usually our favorite form of communication, it isn’t always the best, and in instances where conflict is possible or in instances of confrontation, or involving emotion, sometimes the best way to communicate is the old-fashioned way.


25 Comments on It's How It's Interpreted, last added: 4/12/2011
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11. Feeling Powerless

Last year, I signed with an agent who is a great fit for me on paper: she has sold multiple book series in my genre to great editors for great deals. Very exciting. In the beginning, we spoke several times a week, and her rounds of feedback came quickly.

It’s been nine months, though, and we’ve gone through seven rounds of revisions on my MS. I’ve written two separate outlines and had her sign off on both of them… only to question things later. Since August, I’ve only heard from her a handful of times – always with a positive tone (i.e., “we’re almost there!”) but noticeably less frequently. The plan was for her to start submitting in September, but that clearly hasn’t happened.

I don’t know how many more rounds of edits I can quietly endure. It feels like she’s never going to submit my book. Every time she says “we’re almost there”, I get another six-page document of revisions. Am I just being impatient? How many rounds of edits do most writers go through pre-submission? When is it okay to say ‘enough’? I know she has a plan to pitch the book and editors ‘primed’ to read it… but the promise that is her ‘plan’ is starting to feel like a carrot to keep me revising endlessly.

Uff. This is frustrating. I think you are being very patient. Yes, it's quite possible for a manuscript to go many, many rounds of revisions. Ask some of my clients ;) so that's not my biggest concern. My concern is the fact that you had a target submission date of September, many months have passed and you're not hearing much. I think it's time for an in-depth conversation with your agent. You need to find out what her real concerns are, why it's not being submitted and ask point-blank if she's still as passionate about this book as she once was. Because it sounds to me like your real fear is that she just doesn't love it like she used to. Let's face it, that happens. It stinks, but it happens.

The truth is, it sounds to me like maybe you just don't love her like you used to either.

Here's the most important question, however: Do you love the book like you used to? I imagine you're a little tired of it, but do you still feel strongly about it? Actually, what I should be asking, is do you feel that this book is bigger and better from when you started? Seven rounds of revisions is a lot at this stage in the game, and at some point someone has to say: Enough. It's time to send it out, I can't do anything more. This is a great book. Someone has to put a foot down. It would be nice if it was both of you.

The good thing is that your agent clearly feels enough passion to go seven rounds. She's working hard to try to find you a publisher, and this is the first step in that process. I don't think this is a case of an agent not doing her job. I think it's a case of an agent and client who need to get on the phone together and really have a discussion to see where they are both at now. This is a discussion agent and client should have frequently throughout the years. How are you feeling about things right now and what is our plan? Let's make a plan and stick to it. I think that phone call will make all the difference.


18 Comments on Feeling Powerless, last added: 8/18/2011
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12. How Many Clients Do You Have

Anytime I offer representation I'm asked how many clients I have. It's a fair question and I get why authors ask. The problem is that there is no right answer. The other problem is that I refuse to count up my clients. I don't want to know. I don't need to know.

The problem with this question of how many is too many has so many variables that it really doesn't matter.

For example, what is the agent like? I've known some agents who are superagents. They can seemingly jump giant publishing conglomerates in a single bound while juggling hardcover tomes, reading a novel, and editing a masterpiece. I've known others who can barely get their pants on in the morning without help. How organized an agent is can make a big difference in how many clients she can handle.

What are the clients like? I have clients I literally haven't heard from in years. I still consider them clients, but at this point they are either busy with other things or quietly working on their next books. I have clients (especially nonfiction) who have written one or two books, and while they're still clients and we're still seeing money and working on foreign sales, I don't hear much from them either. I have clients who call or email almost daily. I have clients I edit for and those I don't. . . .

The answer to this question isn't about how many clients an agent has, it's about how the clients feel about the agent. Do the clients feel that the agent is too busy to answer emails or attend to their needs or do the clients consistently feel like they are the most important person on the agent's list (or up there anyway). Maybe this isn't a question you ask the agent, but instead you ask the client how the agent makes her feel and how well the agent attends to her needs.


16 Comments on How Many Clients Do You Have, last added: 8/22/2011
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13. Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips

Christie Craig
Don't Mess With Texas
Publisher: Forever Books
Pub date: August 2011
Agent: Kim Lionetti

(Click to Buy)

I get a lot of questions tossed my way. For today’s guest blog, I decided to answer three of them, along with three connecting snippets of writing advice.

Why do you set all your books in fictional Texas towns?

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a native Texan. However, I was only here a few weeks when I knew this was where I’d hang my hat. Texas and Texans are just . . . well, unique. I mean, where else is it illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow, shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel, or own more than six dildos? Yup, those are real laws in this fine state; I know because I checked when I decided to live here. (Not that I’m into graffitiing cows, shooting buffaloes, or stockpiling dildos. I just like to know the laws of the land, so I can poke fun at them in my books.) So I guess what drives me to base my books in Texas is that this place is one of a kind. And since I try to write one-of-a-kind books, it fits. And for what drives me to use fictional towns, that’s easy. I don’t want to worry about getting geographical facts incorrect. Okay, I’m lazy and hate research.

Writing tip #1: Using fictional towns equals less research and less hassle. You won’t get readers emailing you notes like: There isn’t a fifty-foot-high bridge in Spring, Texas, like you used in your book.

Why do you add suspense and humor to your romance novels?

Years ago, I published a sweet Silhouette Romance. Unable to sell a second book, I focused on my freelance career. I wrote words to feed knowledge-hungry individuals. I wrote about China, calligraphy, window fashions, tomato horn worms, and ugly shoes.

Basically, if an editor would pay for it, I wrote it. After an eight-year sabbatical from fiction, I was desperate to return to writing novels. I announced my intentions to my family, my friends, and to the innocent bystander at the post office: I, Christie Craig, was going to publish another book even if I had to kill somebody to accomplish it.

What I didn’t realize was that’s exactly what it would take. When I whacked my first person, guilt sat on my shoulders like a fat gorilla. But as soon as I washed the imaginary blood off my hands and reread my deadly scene, I had an epiphany: Nothing can liven up a party or a plot like a dead body.

Since then, mystery and murder are prevalent in my work. Yes, there’s other stuff like romance, but I’m not sure I can write a story without having one person kick the bucket. Or at least having someone try to kick someone else’s bucket. Death or someone facing death excites me, and that comes across in my writing.

As for the humor? A writer needs to stay true to their writing voice, and my voice is humorous. When I first started writing my funny suspense novels someone warned me that murder wasn’t funny. They’re right, but how people respond to it under duress can be a real belly-roller.

Take Nikki Hunt’s situation in Don’t Mess With Texas: Nikki thought her night couldn’t get worse when her no-good cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the expensive bill. Furious,

34 Comments on Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips, last added: 8/29/2011
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14. An Agent Leaves

I'm hoping you can help me understand something. I see mentioned occasionally that an agent is moving from one literary agency to another. From what I've been able to tell, this can mean transitioning their clients to someone else in the old agency and acquiring new ones with the new group.

Is that common? A writer spends so much time looking for the right literary agent; someone they click with and get along with who is passionate about their work. So is the writer signing with an agent or with the agency when they finally make that connection? I realize it's different when an agent just takes another career path, but while they're still in the business, how does the managing of clients work under these circumstances?

An agent leaving an agency can mean a ton of different things depending on the contract the agent has with the agency. The clients could go along for the ride or stay with the original agency. Sometimes the contracts the agent negotiated stay with the agency, but the clients themselves, and their new clients, would go along with the agent. I don't know that it's common for agents to leave agencies unless they are starting their own. I guess I've never thought about how often it does or does not happen.

The only way to know what would happen with you in that situation is to ask the agent when an offer of representation is received what would happen if that agent chooses to leave the agency.


6 Comments on An Agent Leaves, last added: 8/29/2011
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15. How Long Is Too Long to Wait

If I’ve learned anything from writing this blog it’s what an anxiety-inducing process getting published is, and while the unpublished think it gets easier once you have an agent, I think I’ll have to disagree. It seems to me that having an agent, but still seeking publication and, heck, even having a publishing contract can still be equally anxiety-producing.

An agented author recently got in touch to ask how long is too long to wait for minor revisions and does silence from an agent mean the agent has lost interest.

Sadly there’s absolutely no way to answer this question without holding a couples counseling session with the author and agent. How long is too long? Is it a proposal or a full manuscript? What is your definition of minor revisions? How many rounds of revisions have you already been through with the agent? What else does the agent have on her plate during that time and has the agent given you a due date? Without knowing at least some of that information I probably can’t answer your question as clearly and concisely as I should. That being said, let me give you some guidelines so you have a time frame in which you should feel comfortable checking in.

I think that if you have only a proposal you should hear within four weeks. I know that seems long, but I’m giving all agents the benefit here. One week is too short. If I don’t have advance notice that your material is coming I can’t promise a one-week turnaround because I might already have two proposals scheduled for revisions that week. Two weeks seems very reasonable to me, except that it could take me a week to even get to the proposal and another full week to get my feedback together (sometimes I will have to read the material a couple of times and frequently I have to sit on it and think about it). Three weeks probably makes the most sense, so four weeks gives everyone a safety net. If you haven’t heard within four weeks, definitely check in.

What about a full manuscript? Well, the same timeline holds true in terms of how long it might take an agent to actually get to the book, the difference is that it’s 400 pages versus 50. It takes a lot longer to read and put together notes on, and if any parts need to be reread, it’s going to take even longer. I still think however that it’s reasonable to check in after four weeks. That seems plenty long to me and at least by that point you should be able to get a time from your agent for when she will get back to you.

Minor revisions means the work you’re doing should be minor. It means that presumably you won’t be recreating characters or deleting entire plot points. It does not mean the work the agent is doing is any less than if you were getting major revisions. In fact, in my experience minor revisions often mean more work for the agent. While major revisions are often a short letter telling you to go back to the drawing board, a minor revision letter can go through the manuscript point by point and often end up being 15 to 20 pages in length.

As for whether an agent has lost interest. There’s absolutely no way to know unless I’m in that relationship, but waiting for revisions doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of interest, just not enough time.

My very best advice is get to work on your next book. Lose yourself in another project so those weeks fly by as quickly for you as they always do for the agent.


16 Comments on How Long Is Too Long to Wait, last added: 10/29/2009
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16. Respecting Each Other

There’s a delicate balancing act that needs to be played in the author-agent relationship, and while we’ve touched on it a few times I’m not sure we’ve addressed it in quite this way.

I’m often asked how I handle a situation when the author and I disagree on the merits of a proposal. If, for example, an author is hot on a new idea that I’m a little cold on, how should that be handled? Like everything else, of course there’s no answer to this question. Much would depend on the author and the agent and the relationship they have built, some of it would depend on the agent’s knowledge of that market, and of course a lot of it would really depend on the idea. If the book is a completely new direction for the author and an unfamiliar direction for the agent, maybe she’s not the right agent for it. If the idea or proposal is something the agent just feels isn’t the author’s best work, but the author is insistent it needs to go out, maybe she’ll give in and let editors make the decision. However it’s handled, I think that it’s important for both people to come to the situation with a mutual feeling of respect and trust for what the other has to offer.

There have been only a small handful of times in my career when I really felt I had to dig my heels in and tell an author that I would absolutely not submit the proposal or do whatever it was she wanted me to do. In all instances I really felt like the situation had gotten out of control, not because I was unwilling to compromise, but because there was a lack of respect. One thing I think authors need to remember is that agents are only as successful as their reputations. Editors depend on us to send them great projects, to negotiate respectfully, and to help them, as well as our authors, should problems arise. If I want to do the best job for my clients I need to maintain the reputation I’ve built, and of course I need to balance that with the work I’m doing for you.

I strongly believe that the only way I can be successful as an agent is to be as honest as possible with my clients. Typically I think this is appreciated. If you send me something that’s not your best work it’s my job to tell you and to give suggestions on what I think needs to be done to make it your best work. It’s also my job to tell you what I believe the market can and will support and whether or not what you’re writing might be a more difficult sell, or an impossible sell, than other ideas you have. Presumably when you’re hiring an agent you’re hiring someone for her expertise and knowledge of publishing and not simply a middleman who can shuffle papers on your behalf.

Let me tell you something that will not work for me and, if you really want the best representation, shouldn’t work for you either. It will not work if I send you a list of revision suggestions, edits, or concerns about your proposal and instead of looking carefully at what I’m saying, you respond with something along the lines of, “I disagree. Submit it anyway.” Nope. That won’t work with me. You might disagree and I can respect that. I even welcome a discussion on how we can make the proposal work, if possible. In fact, I think a number of my clients can tell stories of when we disagreed on something. I don’t expect to be blindly followed. I don’t want to be blindly followed. Selling a book takes teamwork and a good team listens to the ideas of all of its members. I also don’t expect to be ordered around. I’m not here at your beck and call. I don’t even get paid until something sells, so if I thought it would sell why wouldn’t I want to get paid?

I come to this job with experience, and while I don’t have a crystal ball any more than you do, I have to be honest with you and with myself about what my limitations are. If I really don’t think something can sell then there’s a pretty good possibility that I won’t be the agent to sell it. Most important, though, I’ve spent years working with authors, publishers, other a

17 Comments on Respecting Each Other, last added: 12/9/2009
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17. Sell Yourself

On a recent blog post one of the infamous anonymous comments accused me of being offended by an author’s belief that an agent does nothing more than submit material and negotiate the contract only because I didn’t want to actually have to sell myself or convince the author otherwise.

I know upon reading this I laughed out loud and I would imagine other agents did as well. The thought that we don’t sell ourselves to authors is ridiculous and only comes from someone who has never met with an agent at a conference or been offered representation. Every single time I make a call to offer representation I’m going into it with a sales pitch of sorts. I have never once called an author with the assumption that this was an easy “get.” Whether I’m the first agent offering or the fifth I know that my job is to convincingly tell that author that I’m the best agent for her.

The same holds true of any public interaction with authors. Sure, I write this blog and I try to remain as honest as possible, but if you don’t think I’m editing myself daily to ensure I don’t offend potential clients you’ve got to be kidding. And conferences? Conferences are all about looking my best, acting my best, and being “on” as much as possible. Every author I meet is a potential client, which means I need to show my best and most professional side. Have you ever sat in on a pitch session with me? One of the first things I ask authors is whether or not you have any questions for me. If you do, my goal is to sell myself.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’ll see posts I’ve done on how difficult it can be to lose out on an opportunity to win over a new client, and if you’ve ever read blog posts from other agents you’ll see similar posts. An agent’s job is to sell. We sell our clients and we sell ourselves. We sell ourselves to authors and we sell ourselves to editors. If I can’t convince editors that I’m a good agent I can’t convince them that I have good clients.

To assume that agents don’t have to sell themselves to potential clients is short-sighted, but also I think doing yourself a disservice. I’ve said it over and over and over on this blog: When you get an offer of representation the very first thing you need to do is leverage that offer as much as possible. Give yourself the chance to choose the agent you feel is best for you. Doesn’t that statement alone prove that I’m encouraging authors to ask agents to sell themselves?

And yes, this post is a bit of a rant, but after a while I get tired (as do many of the readers who honestly post, learn, and give constructive opinions) of the anonymous who feel they know so much more than the rest of us. I can understand where this business can get discouraging, but bitterness toward those who only want success for you is not going to help you succeed.


37 Comments on Sell Yourself, last added: 12/10/2009
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18. Paige Shelton on Getting Published

Paige Shelton
Farm Fresh Murder
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: April 2010
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

How to Do Almost Everything Wrong and Still Get Published . . . Someday

I think I still have the notebook with the psychedelic design on its cover. I pasted comical cigarette stickers all over the back of it. It was 1971 after all, and I was only seven years old. Inside, on the first page, I wrote a poem titled "My Kite." As I finished the four-line masterpiece, I realized that I was destined to be a writer. Surely, the magnificent feeling that creating the poem gave me meant destiny was speaking – determining my future.

If only it had spoken a little more clearly.

I continued to write for my own enjoyment, but between 1971 and 1997 lots of other great stuff happened, like friendships, school, marriage, motherhood, jobs that weren’t always soul-sucking. In 1997 I decided it was time to turn this writing dream into a reality. I decreed I would be published by 1999, just in case all that Y2K stuff came true.

Though I was an avid mystery reader, the only local writing group I could find was the Utah Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I should point out that I looked the number up in the phonebook – the Internet wasn’t as grown-up as it is now. Anyway, they were (and still are, by the way) a great group of women (and some men) who taught me so much, but it was a huge mistake for me to think that I could write romance when, at the time, I hadn’t read even one. I started reading and writing, but I reached December 31, 1999, with only a bunch of poorly written love scenes and way too many euphemisms for sex.

I’ll summarize the next number of years by saying they were full of rejection – some constructive, some downright vicious. Honestly, when I hear about writers who dream (while sleeping) something that they turn into an immediate bestseller, I want to beat my head against my desk. I don’t begrudge anyone their success; I just wish it was that easy for the rest of us. I still dream about missing the all-important Psychology 101 final. I never dream bestselling stories.

Then somewhere along the way, the Internet did grow up. Suddenly, information became so . . . available. There are some amazing editors and agents out there who were kind enough to start these things called “Blogs.” Suddenly, I learned so much. So, that’s what a query letter is supposed to sound like! I’m not supposed to call editors? I need an agent? Really? Well, okay then, let me work on that.

With a few more manuscripts under my belt, more rejection followed until one day an agent said she actually wanted to represent me. Of course, I was stunned and excited beyond belief – and believe it or not, this was another huge mistake. The entire time I talked to her during our first phone call, something in my gut told me that she and I wouldn’t be a good fit. Something told me that I should politely tell her that I didn’t think it would work, but I didn’t. Instead, I spent the next two years trying to reach her – by email, phone or snail mail. The only time she responded was when she was in a hurry to something else and didn’t have much time to talk. I have no idea if she submitted my manuscript to the people she said she submi

38 Comments on Paige Shelton on Getting Published, last added: 4/8/2010
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19. Author-Agent Agreements

What if a writer on her own gets offered a contract from a small or university press with little or no advance? And what if that writer wants to protect her rights by having an agent look over the contract? Would an agent then agree to taking a small fee from the writer (if the writer wasn't offered an advance)? Would an agent then also agree to represent that writer with any foreign/film/subsidiary rights?

Since there are no real “rules” when it comes to author representation, anything is possible. If you find yourself in this situation and would like an agent to represent you, I don’t think it would hurt to ask the agents you’re interested in, those who are presumably interested in your book along with the small press, if they would take a deal like this. That being said, I think you’re really selling yourself short, and your career short, by doing something like this.

This is one of those questions that reminds me how narrowly many authors see any agent’s job. When querying and submitting to agents it’s easy to focus on the next step (finding an agent so you can submit to publishers) and to forget the bigger picture. If you get an offer from a smaller press you have the opportunity to find an agent who can use that offer for bigger things. Why would you find an agent and pay a flat fee to negotiate a contract when you could offer a standard commission deal and have the agent submit that book to the major New York publishers, possibly turning that small press deal into a big press, bigger deal? Sure, it’s possible the agent won’t sell it to a bigger house, but remember, submitting your book is networking. Maybe an editor she sends it to will love your writing, and while she doesn’t feel she can offer on that book you’ve made a connection, she’s now watching your career, and, since you already have an agent, you’re ready to go with your next project, which you and your agent will already be working toward.

Getting an agent should be about a lot more than submitting your book or negotiating a contract. It should be one step toward building a career, and hopefully that’s the way you’ll want to treat it. Wouldn’t you rather sign an agent on commission to build a career than treat her like a one-book trick? By paying her a fee rather than commission you aren’t asking an agent to sign on for your career, you're simply asking her to do one task. I also think that by giving the agent an interest in your book and future sales you make her more invested in you as the author.

And last, if you’re trying to get off cheap and you’re getting little to no advance, you could actually pay the agent less by paying commission than you would by paying a “small fee.”


23 Comments on Author-Agent Agreements, last added: 4/30/2010
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20. Time for a New Agent

I’m a bestselling author with a very successful track record. I’ve enjoyed working with my current agent, and obviously we’ve been successful together, but find that we’re growing in different directions. When looking for a new agent, do I need to query traditionally by sending equeries and following agents’ guidelines, or can I simply call the agents I’m interested in and see if they’re interested in me?

While you probably could make phone calls, I do think your best course of action is to start the query process again. Of course, you’ll need to dissolve the relationship with your current agent first. I know that I feel strongly that before considering a new client I need to make sure I’m not poaching on someone else’s territory. I want to make sure all of you obligations (i.e., agent agreements) are wrapped up.

Agents have made it quite clear they do not like phone calls for queries, and I think that’s no different for published or unpublished authors. There are a lot of people out there seeking representation, some with experience and others without. If we spent all of our time fielding those kinds of calls we’d have no time for anything else. On top of that, agents work odd hours, and trying to catch one can be tricky. Just ask our clients.

I also think sending out queries will get you a faster response time. I would strongly suggest you note in your subject line that you are a bestselling author seeking new representation. This will make you stand out. If your name is recognizable, put that in the subject as well. The one advantage here is that you’ll probably have to worry less about how perfect your query is.

Are you seeking representation for a new project, or do you have a project in mind? I find that it’s a lot easier for me to seriously consider a new client if we’re going into a new project together. I also think it’s a better situation for you. Unless you’re looking for someone to simply take up on the same types of projects you’ve been working on, or the same series you’ve been writing, it’s going to be hard to know if this new agent is right for you unless you know if she’s enthusiastic about your next project. Therefore, pitch the new project. I like that better than someone who simply tells me that I’ll want her because of her previous successes. That’s not fair to you or me. Sure I will, but will I be the right agent for your future successes?

I also believe that a more traditional query process can help you. What if the agent from your first phone call offers? It’s going to make it harder for you to connect with other agents since you haven’t contacted them. Sending out five to ten queries to agents you are interested in puts you in the driver’s seat, allowing you to interview and really talk to all potential agents and choose the one that’s really right for you, hopefully the one you’ll be able to stick with for quite some time. I would also suggest that, for example, if three agents respond (and make offers), but you still haven’t heard from the one or two you’re really hoping for, follow up with those and let them know you have an offer (phone is okay for this). They simply might not have gotten to your query as quickly.

I suspect you’ll have no trouble getting the interest and attention of agents. The key is getting the interest and attention of the agents who really envision your future in the same way you do.


22 Comments on Time for a New Agent, last added: 5/25/2010
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21. Brainstorming

Once, long ago, a reader made a comment on my blog that agents should just stick to selling books, that she didn’t want an agent who would “tell her what to write” because that’s not an agent’s job. Obviously this comment has stuck with me, not because I was hurt by it in any way, but because it made me think about the different expectations writers have of their agents.

I never “tell” an author what to write, but I do spend a lot of time brainstorming with my clients, some more than others. With some of my clients we will spend hours, days, and weeks trying to come up with the perfect idea or even the best way to shape a book. Others, of course, do that all on their own and I don’t have much, if any, input at all. Either way works for me.

In my opinion, an agent’s job is to partner with an author to help build a writing career. However what works for the author is going to be up to the individual author. That being said, I absolutely love brainstorming. I remember the first time I learned the word “brainstorm.” I was in third grade and part of an academic decathlon type of group. Our instructor coached us in the freedom of brainstorming and I was hooked. I loved using my imagination to create ideas, no matter how crazy they might have seemed, and I love it to this day.

I often joke with my clients during these brainstorming sessions that I get the easy part. I throw ludicrous ideas their way and then leave it up to them to see if they can make it work. Sometimes they have come up with absolutely brilliant books and sometimes they’ve laughed in my face. Sometimes they’ve simply said no way and sometimes they too get excited after one of our sessions. I don’t brainstorm because I’m a frustrated writer, I don’t brainstorm because I think everyone needs to do things my way. I brainstorm because I have ideas, because we’re all working in a creative environment, and because I think success in all business means being open to new things.

I have to say, brainstorming is one of the best things about my job. I love working together, creatively, with others, and I can’t thank my authors enough for allowing their crazy agent to throw her wacky ideas their way. Hopefully it’s of some help.


32 Comments on Brainstorming, last added: 8/27/2010
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22. Am I More Important Than Twitter?

Q: As a potential client am I more important than an agent's twitter account? Should I be?

I'm talking about agents who've requested partials or fulls. I've got a ms with an agent right now. She said I'd get a response in X number of weeks. It's been way more than that. I've sent a polite heads up and still have no response. Yet this agent is on twitter. A lot. Sometimes every fifteen minutes, all day long. At this point even if she loved the book, I'd be skeptical of her work ethic.

I know social media is fun and relieves stress, but if I have something I've got to do, I turn off social media and do it, because work comes first. Am I wrong to place this bias on a potential agent?

Thanks for asking this question, because I think it’s an important issue for all of us, not just agents. All of us have some sort of digital life or, frankly, should. Whether we blog, Facebook, or Tweet, it’s important that we embrace this new world in some way. That being said, as someone with a very public digital life, I’ve often wondered how my clients or potential clients interpret what I’m doing.

Here’s the thing: No matter what I tell you about how little time it takes to Tweet or how I handle my digital life, you’re all going to interpret it in your own way. I’m not convinced that Tweeting is the problem with the agent who hasn’t gotten back to you. Many agents work from their homes or in very quiet offices with only one or two other people. That means that the time many office workers spend in what I call water cooler conversation is done publicly through Twitter or another forum. That being said, if you feel that this agent’s Twitter habits will infringe on the time she should be spending with you, then you’ll probably always feel that and it’s not a good fit.

One thing to keep in mind is that how an agent works with her clients can be very different from time she gives to submissions. For me, clients always come first, and if there’s any reason why submissions don’t get read it’s because I’m caught up in what my clients are sending me, not Twitter. Another thing to consider is that each of us has a very different working style. Every single client I have has a different writing process, just as all agents have a different working process, so while it’s important for you to turn off the computer and social networking to get work done, some use it as a way to step away, think through things, clear our heads, and then go back to what we were doing.

It’s a tricky thing, navigating social networking and keeping a public digital life while trying to build a career, but what I can tell you is that what you see publicly is never a complete picture. If that were the case, based on my Tweets and my blog you would think I do nothing else but read queries.


32 Comments on Am I More Important Than Twitter?, last added: 9/9/2010
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23. "You Say Pushy Like It's a Bad Thing," Janet Reid

I was recently pointed to a blog post that really has me irritated for a number of different reasons. Many of these reasons have already been articulated by Janet Reid perfectly, but since this is an issue I feel is important, I wanted to have my own say.

The blog in question was written by someone who calls herself (I assume it’s a her based on the picture) Agency Gatekeeper. In it the blogger suggests that any agent who wants to know who else has offered representation is “pushy, rude and breaching etiquette.” Which is wrong, completely wrong.

What concerns me most about this post is the sweeping generalization that one simple question from an agent means run. And I don’t get that. It’s a question and I think we are all smart enough to know the difference between someone asking a question and rudeness. Most certainly, asking a question about who else is offering representation is not a breach of etiquette.

When an author comes to me with an offer of representation already on the table, it’s only natural I would want to know who made that offer. It’s the same with a publisher; it’s only natural that a publisher is going to want to know who else is offering for a book. Whether or not you answer that is entirely up to you. When offering representation I’ve had authors who are completely up front in telling me every agent who is still interested, and others who won’t tell me even after a decision is made. That’s fine, it’s really up to the authors. And yes, I suppose there are agents out there who might use that information to present a pro/con list to the author of why she’s better than the other agents. Doesn’t that only give you more insight into how this agent works? If that sort of pitch makes you uncomfortable then you know she’s not the agent for you. On the other hand, it might also help you determine what other questions you might ask the other agents. Heck, you could even ask the other agents what they know of each other and how they differ if you really wanted to. Why not? You’re the one doing the hiring.

So why would an agent ask? Well certainly there’s simple curiosity. Wouldn’t you want to know? There’s also power in knowing who your competition is and what they bring to the table that you might want to highlight in your own sales pitch, because it’s true, when you’re offering representation to a potential new client you’re selling yourself.

One of the other things Agency Gatekeeper said was,

The minute an agent asks this question, he/she is placing you in the middle of what may be an ongoing debate/competition/industry question/drama--it's pulling you into a situation (perhaps a fight, if for some reason the agents don't get along) that just isn't fair. That's like two old friends bringing you into a generations-old battle--and you just met them. It'll cloud your judgment and make it all the more challenging to make this already difficult decision.

Which I don’t get at all. Placing you in the middle of what? I have friends who are agents and I suppose there are agents out there I don’t like very much, but we are not going to stand you in the middle of a room and start taunting you, and I don’t have a “generations-old battle” to fight out with anyone. In fact, I’m not old enough to have a generations-old battle, thank you very much.

What I really don’t like about this blog by Agency Gatekeeper is the sense that authors aren’t smart or savvy enough to think for themselves. Are you not able to tell when an agent is being rude or making you uncomfortable? I also don’t like this sense that authors are just a pawn in a giant agent game of tug-of-war. There’s no doubt that when I make an offer of representation I want to be the one the author

36 Comments on "You Say Pushy Like It's a Bad Thing," Janet Reid, last added: 11/3/2010
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24. Performance Reviews

A friend of mine emailed to tell me she had just gotten out of her performance review. She was relieved it was over and heading to Starbucks for a coffee. As the owner of BookEnds, I don’t have performance reviews anymore, and, frankly, in publishing I only had a few. That being said, I kind of wish I still did.

I’ve learned a lot from my blog readers about what you’re looking for in an agent and a lot about ways I can change my processes to make things easier for authors. Because of you I’ve added an auto-response to all queries I receive and I have altered my rejection letter. Because of my clients and their needs I work hard to update myself monthly on where each of my clients is at, and if I haven’t talked with someone in a while I check in just to see how things are going.

Wouldn’t it be nice though to sit with each client once a year, not just to talk about the client’s plans and goals, but to learn more about what is needed from me, what I can do to help achieve those goals. I have had wonderfully communicative clients who are good at telling me what they need, but with others I’m not always so sure.

So, authors, even though you don’t have set performance reviews with your agents, I think it can be truly beneficial to both of you to include those sorts of discussions when you meet up at conferences or talk over the phone. Now that I don’t officially have performance reviews I can see how truly beneficial they can be to helping me become a better agent.


10 Comments on Performance Reviews, last added: 1/20/2011
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25. More on Author-Agent Relationship

Recently I worked with an agent who loved my book, until he finally read a chapter near the end. Apparently he agreed to work with me after only reading the first half of the book. The offensive chapter was about the heroine who dies on the operating table and has an out-of-body experience that ultimately allows her to save someone's life. This wasn't about believability, since similar events are well-documented. His objection was this event was not "fore-shadowed." My instinct was to say yes, but that's how it happens in real life. Death sometimes happens without warning. I should add that while frozen she has a supernatural dream that foreshadows an important plot point. That might have been the problem.

That ended the relationship. I started over with another agent who wanted to rewrite the plot, except I'm an expert in the field I was writing about [subject redacted to protect author’s identity]. He seemed to resent my fame (there's a book written about me) and instead of helping me he seemed to compete with me, always talking about what a great agent he was and how lucky I was to have him while criticizing me (but not my writing) in trivial and obnoxious ways.

It's my conception that the agent supports the author, and does not compete with him. Am I being naive? In the first case, I suspected the agent was trying to steer me away from any themes that contradicted his religious beliefs. In the second, the agent's ego seemed to be more important than my success.

Frankly, at this point agents seem more of an impediment than anything else. Is this typical? Perhaps the real secret here is don't bother with an agent until you have a track record that establishes your credibility.

A lot of different thoughts ran through my head while reading about this situation, the first being that I think there’s a lot to both of these stories that is not being said. In other words, I have a feeling these situations are being spun to make the agents look bad. I just find it hard to believe that one author had similar problems with two different agents and yet the author is totally blameless.

Let me break this down a little further.

Situation #1: It sounds to me like the agent’s critique was a perfect and valid revision suggestion. Sure, in real life things like death or life after death are not necessarily foreshadowed, but books are not real life. There’s a reason they’re called fiction, and for fiction to work we need to, as readers, have some sense that either something is going to happen or even what might happen. Your trick/talent as the writer is to lead us through the story to that point, giving us clues along the way, without revealing what’s really going to happen or making us feel manipulated.

What I read from this, though, what stood out to me the most, is that the agent’s request for revisions ended the relationship. Instead of working with the agent to learn why it wasn’t working for him, you simply ended things. Now granted, I could be wrong, but I’ve been in this business long enough, met enough authors, to suspect that I’m pretty close to the truth. I’m sure my authors will happily tell you the many times I told them something wasn’t working in their books. Thank goodness they don’t fire me every time. Instead we work together to find a solution or uncover why it might not have worked for me. I think that 90% of the time they’ll agree the book is stronger in the end.

Situation #2: Now you’ve found another agent for the book, one who also sees that there are problems with the book and, again, instead of working with this agent you have decided that he’s resentful of who you are and working for his own ego instead of what’s best for the book. While I don’t doubt there are agents out there who are egotistical, I have a hard time believing that this agent read the book, worked to write up a revision letter, and discussed his concerns with you just to prove to you that he was better.

33 Comments on More on Author-Agent Relationship, last added: 1/28/2011
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