In a lovely example of cosmic irony, I have some recent emails with examples of questions you really shouldn't ask, particularly at the query stage:
1. Please let me know what you charge.
If you don't know the standard commission rates for a literary agent, you're too green to be querying.
2. Why should I hire a literary agent?
For starters, you don't hire me, you retain my services, and if you don't know the difference, the NYS Department of Labor does. If you want to hire me, feel free to offer a starting salary. You can see how I negotiate first hand!
3. What can you do for me?
I'm not going to pitch you. I'll discuss your book, answer your questions, tell you how I operate, and why I think I'm a good agent, and let you decide if you want to move forward, but that's it. Some of this is ego of course but I don't want a client who isn't eager to BE a client.
4. I have no idea how to do this, so could you help me?
I'm really ok with how brusque or rude that sounds because I no longer care about offending people who don't or can't grasp that I am not the public library information desk. It's really easy to get caught in the trap of not wanting to offend people such that you end up spending valuable time doing things that do not earn money or move your agenda forward (my agenda is world domination of course.)
And if you think "oh but it could earn money" let me just say this: so can the six other projects I have right now. Given there are MORE salable projects than I have room to take on, my FIRST selection criteria is "has the writer prepared for this new career?"
And by prepared I don't mean you know everything about publishing, because none of us do. But you know the basic terminology, you know the difference between trade publishing and self-publishing. You know what an agent's commission is. You've been in a bookstore; you have been in a library.
Think of it this way: if you want to dance with the Rockettes (and who wouldn't!) you don't show up at auditions asking how to do a high kick. Yes, the choreographer will teach you the steps but when she says "stage left" and "step, ball change" you know what she means.
Or: when Vince Papale went to walk-on tryouts for the Phildelphia Eagles, they gave him a playbook yes, but he already knew the rules of the game.
And I can hear all you woodland creatures, particularly new ones and lurkers, having a blistering moment of panic that You Are Not Prepared. Well, rest easy. If you're reading this blog, and generally following the guidelines set down here, you're going to be just fine. No question about it.
|1964 Rockettes at the Macys Parade!