Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You Have an Agent...So What's the Big Deal?

 I've heard many questions and comments about getting an agent, and I wanted to take a moment to address them and why landing an agent is actually a pretty huge deal.

  What does an agent do?
  To be short and simple, an agent gets your work through the door of the major/traditional publishing houses (what we call the Big Five: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster). These houses will only look at manuscripts that come to them via an agent, whereas smaller houses and some imprints will directly accept author submissions.
  Agents know the right editors. They've built relationships and rapport with numerous editors and know what their tastes are, what they're looking for, how to pitch to them, etc.
  Agents know the market. They know what will sell and where it will sell best. They can guide their clients toward those projects when clients pitch ideas to them.
  An agent will help polish your ms before prospective editors ever see it, giving it the best chance at being acquired.
  Contract negotiations, because most authors don't know the legalese or how to negotiate well, and agents can negotiate the best deal possible, including ancillary subsidiary rights such as foreign, film/TV, electronic, etc.
  Agents are pillars of support. Don't whine and continuously cry on their shoulder for everything, but they support you from initial idea to fleshed out manuscripts to deal signings to whatever issues you may face afterward with your publisher. And they do it professionally and effectively. They are your go-to person.

  Do you really need an agent?
  No. There are many successful authors who make it on their own through smaller publishers/imprints and self-publishing, but most who go that route do not make it "big" (not that having an agent means you'll make it "big"). It's up to every author for what fits them and where they want to take their career. However, if you want a professional in your corner who knows the market, can get you into the major houses, and do all the things mentioned above, then yes, you should look for an agent.

  Do you pay agents?
  Nope. A legit agent makes a small percentage off their client's work. Hence why they work so hard at getting your work into the biggest houses with the best deals possible.

  How do you get an agent?
  With a lot of hard work, research, help, and humility. The hard work is actually writing and polishing your manuscript, synopsis, and query. The research is learning how to write those things as well as researching each and every agent for your genre(s), and there are hundreds. I went through Query Tracker, a reputable database, forum, and supportive community. As well, QT cross-references agents with Predators and EditorsAgentQueryAAR, and Publishers Marketplace to name a few. SFWA is also a good source, but with research, you'll find lots of resources. You will also want to look at each agent and who they represent and who they have sold to, and if those things mesh with your goals. Reading their website is a must, and it helps if you can find them on interviews, panels, and social media sites where they toss out what they're looking for. Help is finding critique partners to tear apart your ms, synopsis, and query with constructive feedback, as well as other authors. Humility because your ms will get doused in red marks, but take it with a grain of salt, apply if you see its worth, and be grateful that someone is taking time out to help you. You obviously believe your book is amazing, so it may be hard to handle if someone tells you otherwise. You will get lots of rejections from agents before/if anyone says 'yes'. Furthermore, you will get rejections from editors and some negative reviews from readers, but it's part of the business and by the time you have a book out there, if you've done all these things, then you won't curl up in a corner and cry...as much...because your skin will have thickened over time.

  How long does it take to get an agent?
  As mentioned in my previous post, it took me three months to find my new agent, but it generally takes anywhere from a month (rarely) to several years. On average for one book is 6-12 months if that book lands an agent. It may take several books to get an agent if at all. Agents are busy with their own clients, they get tons of queries to sort through (which may take three months), partials and fulls to read (which may take an additional 6 months). Each agent is different in their response times.

  How hard can it be to get an agent?
  This depends on your craft, the market, and which agents you're submitting to. There are no hard and fast rules and numbers. Some authors need a lot of work on their writing skills and will go years of querying a dozen books to land an agent, some have great craft and timing and will land an agent within a few months.
  Agents receive a ton of queries, and only a small percentage of those turn into requested material, and only a fraction of those will turn into an offer. Take for example my agent. She receives tens of thousands of queries a year. And she signs 0-3 new clients a year. That's less than 0.00015% chances of signing with her.
  So...yeah...getting an agent is a pretty big deal, to me anyway. It was facing the odds and winning after a long, long road.
  But it's not the end. It's just the beginning.
 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How I Got My (New) Agent!


This is a super long post, as you can tell, because…I HAVE AN AGENT!!!

You’re probably thinking, yeah, I know.












But you don't. I had an agent...

The succinct story:

I had an agent. We split. The ms we split over received 25 requests in 3 months (and more that still keep trickling in) and multiple offers of rep.


Breaking up—

Former agent and I split in the fall of 2014, just a year after I signed. It didn’t work out and I flew through all the hard-hitting emotions. 
 





But know this…breaking up is OKAY. It needs to be done sometimes, and it will lead the way for bigger and better things. It does not mean you’re a failure. Case in point: ME. It’s just like how you thought your boss was the bomb diggity when you signed on but it didn’t work out. 











Splitting happens for various reasons, and often times it is not a reflection of either party. Wallow in your misery for a little bit if you must. For the love of your sanity, find some support.










Keep your chin up, keep writing, move on, and rock it elsewhere. 










Never let one agent, one editor, one reviewer, one naysayer knock you so flat on your back that you never get back up.

Querying—

When we split, my ms was ready to go. I loved it and there wasn’t a single thing I changed. There was no time to be mad or sad or anything in between.









I moved full speed ahead, because for the love of Twinkies, I have goals to meet and books to write, and ain’t nobody got time for this.


Did I have my depressing moments when I swore off writing forever because I couldn’t handle the heartache?

Ya betcha. But, I kept going because if you never try, if you give up today, you’ll never know what might’ve happened tomorrow. More importantly, I didn’t give up because I AM A WRITER. I can’t stop writing. No one can make me stop writing.

After the offer—

After the first offer, we set up THE CALL, which was amazing and I was thrilled to hear someone gush over my work and get it











She said she even teared up reading the ms. Bonus points! As soon as I notified all the agents still considering my work, more requests popped up within the hour and other offers rolled in within days.








But let me tell you how my new agent won me over…

The (direct) call—

She’d only had my ms for a few days, and while I expected her to reject me, she completely threw me for a loop. I usually don’t hear my cell ring, but it just happened to be in my hand. I usually don’t answer unknown numbers, but I saw that it was from NY. And it was her…Holy crap!! 










I’ve never had the “direct call”, and I was unprepared.







She is a dream agent and VP of a dream agency. She’s been on my radar for years, so my heart was palpitating a little bit. I might’ve been jumping up and down. 











We clicked, and then she said she only offers to authors she fangirls over. Um…what?? Someone FANGIRLED over me? 

A prospective, successful, offering agent fangirled over me?? SQUEE!! 










Of course, this is what you want to hear, that passion for the client and their work, it’s what drives the agent/author relationship, but fangirling just took this offer up a notch.

The decision—

The week I had to make such an important decision was a roller coaster of emotions, emails, phone calls, questions, offers, and of course lots of research. I was going mad. I was practically rocking myself in a corner with a bottle of bourbon.
As an author, I go through rejections, but for the first time, it was my turn to reject agents. 









And that was not as fun, haughty, or power-drunk as you think it is, although it’s great to have amazing options. 










I only had a few days to make a decision that could effect the rest of my life and make or break my career. 











No pressure.



And my rockstar agent is—








So, without further babbling, I’m so thrilled to announce that I’ve signed with the wonderful, renowned, driven Miriam Kriss from the exceptional Irene Goodman Literary Agency!!

Join me in a little dance.