Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Query Question: Now that I have an agent, what mistakes can I avoid?

What the most common mistake debut authors make when they sign with an agent? (Yes, I'm asking for myself *throws confetti*) I've read every QueryShark blog post on catching the eye of an agent, but now that I'm signed, I couldn't find much info (other than not being rude to support staff) on How Not To Screw It Up. 

 Yay for you *plucks confetti from gills*!  Congrats and huzzahs.  There's not just one thing to remember there are nine:

1. Surrender the idea that things get done on a schedule or to deadline. I think this is the number one thing that bugs my clients. It bugs me too, but it's just a fact of life.  If I tell a client I plan to read a manuscript over the weekend, I do plan to do it. Many times, I don't get it done. One thing or another happens to keep me from it.  Sometimes it's just I'm really tired and cranky and that's NOT when you want to be reading your stuff. (Trust me on this.)

A lot of times manuscript reading is delayed for weeks. Sometimes longer. That's no one's preference but the world operating system does not run on Janet Reid Preferences. Would that it did.

2. Do Not Assume/Fear casual comments made on Twitter or Facebook about the job are about you. They never are. Never. They're always about That Other Client.

3. Support the other clients.  Retweet their book news, good reviews, awards and accolades.  Follow them on Twitter; like them on Facebook.  Several of my clients have build lasting friendships after meeting across my bar.  Of course, you don't have to be a slave about this. Follow your gut on this. Not all my clients appeal to each other.  Some agents have lists where not all clients appeal to each other.

4. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.  If I can do it, I will. If I can't, at least I'll know and we'll avoid misunderstandings.

5. Don't suffer in silence. If somethings wrong, tell me. I am a mind reader but only if you're within a certain number of feet of my desk.

6. Ask when you don't understand something. You're not stupid. Royalty statements and contracts aren't pleasure reading, and my job is to make sure you understand them.

7. Never, ever, ever be dismissive of the support staff.  I've fired clients for that. I have no trouble doing it again if the need arises.  Support staff here are called godsends and there's a reason for that.   IF you have a problem with the people who work for or with me, you will tell ME. 

8. Don't worry about calling or emailing me.  I'd rather hear from you than not if you've got something on your mind.  

9. Never EVER send an email to your editor, or anyone at your publisher that is less than polite. EVER. My job is to run interference for you.  If you've got a problem with your editor or publisher, we'll figure out how to deal with it together.  Or I'll tell you you're all wet. Or you'll fire me.  

Most of this is second nature to the civilized among us. If you're thinking about this, you're going to be ok. It's the people who make assumptions that will go astray.



french sojourn said...

To sleep, perchance to dream.

congrats on the signing.

Basic darwinism:

"never dis the staff", as we are all at one point in life...staff.

And Karma is outfitted with a Barrett .50 cal single shot. She takes her time, and she's a good shot.

Unknown said...

Submission angst, client angst, published author angst, next book angst.

Oh my God, we're not writers, we're chipmunks.

Susan Bonifant said...

Punctuation angst. That sentence needed a period after "writers."

Kitty said...

I'm bookmarking this post. If I ever find myself in that glorious position of needing an agent, I'll be prepared. Thank you for this absolutely EXCELLENT post!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the newly signed author! *pause for little party shimmy*

All nine of these smell like dreams in the making, right???

As a signed, but, no sales as of yet writer, I can personally say that Numero Uno is the one to keep in the back pocket at all times. Because..., let's say you give a new book to your agent to read. You hope this one might be THE ONE that will get THE CALL.

A week passes, but you know the ropes by now, and this is really only the beginning of THE WAIT. Besides, you've only chewed your nails down half-way.

Another week or two goes by and your nails are nubs, but you've discovered cleaning gutters is a soothing chore.

You're into a month now. Who knew one's mind could be so pre-occupied by playing hide and seek with squirrels, while in the attic which is now being cleaned out.

Another week, and dear God. This can't. Be. Good.

What if lovely agent is trying to figure out how to tell new writer they are going to drop the contract?

What if lovely agent simply hates it?

Maybe lovely agent thinks it sux.

Reach into the back pocket (known as the Sharkly Archives) Read Numero Uno. Read. Read. Read. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat the words to self. Make it a new mantra as you now dangle from your second floor window sill, reaching for the elusive spot on that one furthest away pane that won't come clean.

The bottom line is..., you only have the one agent to fret over, and one book at a time. Lovely agent has many many clients, with many books, in many phases of the process, and many editors they work with, and minions all coming with questions, and, book fairs and conferences, and Tweets/FB/Blog and... a cat to worry over.

It seems like it's you.

This is where Number Two could/should be read over and over.

And then find something else to do. How 'bout that cellar that needs straightening up?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am immersed up to my eyeballs in #1 right now. I mean really, right now, this minute.

#1 is like waiting for a diagnosis. I feel like I am sitting in a standing-room-only waiting room, reading magazines backwards, grateful that I got an appointment, resentful that I am not being called into the office and terrified that I will.

Yes, to Donna’s tasks as diversion. My task? I’m here, commenting. I am convinced (#2) that this entire post today, all the way to #9, is about me, for me.
Yes to all of what QOTKU says because Hank’s Karma truck is parked in my yard and idling. I think I’ll offer the driver a cup of Breakfast Blend; want to stay on his good side.

Off to check my email again. Maybe I should vacuum, do laundry, empty the dish washer, milk the cows and shear the sheep first. Oops, no to the sheep, winter is coming. I'll trim the dog’s nails first. I hate doing that.

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations! And thanks for asking this question. Hopefully, one day I'll be reviewing the answer for myself. :)

Dena Pawling said...

I am responsible for hiring contract attorneys for my firm. My assistant is too nice for her own good. I once terminated a contract because the attorney treated my assistant badly. You don't like something, you yell at ME, not my assistant who was just doing her job, at my direction.

I have also been known to not take the calls of opposing counsel, and require them to send me emails, if they don't treat my assistant with respect.

There is a reason lawyers are called sharks, but don't chomp on the staff. There is a reason they are not lawyers -- they are nice people and pleasant to work with, unlike the lawyers. They make my job easier. A good assistant or paralegal is worth more than the lawyer s/he works for.

It sounds like this same philosophy works well in publishing, or at least in agenting. That's nice to know. Thanks

LynnRodz said...

Another excellent post to squirrel away with the hope that one day I will need this list. (I've said it before, Janet, and I'll say it again) the advice and words of wisdom you give us here would/could be a bestseller if you ever decide to put them into book form.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congratulations to you, champagne and confetti. I love confetti.

The Shark has such solid advice. Be patient, be ready, be nice.

Thanks to the answer she gave to my question published on this awesome blog, today I recieved an immediate response from an agent. It was punctuated with an exclamation mark.

What do sharks feast on for Thanksgiving? I want to give hommage.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I was remiss.
Congrats to the confetti tossing writer. May all your writing days ahead be filled with SUCCESS in caps.

BTW I did trim the dog's nails, vacuumed, sweep, even cleaned the bathroom before I checked my email. It was there.
I am having a good day.

Janet, from the bottom of this writer's heart, thank you for this wonderful place to gather, share, unload and learn. I hope you realize just how important you are to all of us.

Unknown said...

Amen to all of the above! It's good to know that generally-understood polite behavior is all that's required (along with an ability to withstand time-torture ;-)

I'm sure you hear it a lot, but you're a real gift to the profession. Thank You.

MNye said...

Now you tell me.
And who you calling civilized?

Amy Schaefer said...

Breaking news: being polite, kind and patient is a good thing.

(And hooray and congratulations to the newly-signed. Go forth and be great!)

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

Fully HALF--four of five (I was no math major) of these, 4, 5, 6, and 8, are about the writer being brave enough to initiate communication, and yet. And yet, what about arriving at that point when one has shamed oneself beyond repair with the not-so-infrequent drunk-tweet, panic-email, grief-begotten moans of FAR Too Much Information and pleas for bail money and legal diversion and shovels (agents always have great shovels) and you feel you have hopelessly overstayed whatever welcome was due the single unsold ms you signed for? Is the party then over? I am saying this as one who cannot, in the WILDEST of dreams, imagine #2 ever ever being a problem--what if rather, one feels the unsettling ennui of old compatriots entropically drifted apart? And it's hypothetically, you know, totally MY fault? Asking for a friend.