pandora/ipod: “boys don’t cry” by the cure
I want there to be a soundtrack playing right now as you read this. The recapitulation of the main theme from the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th would be appropriate. The low brass tease with a hint of that famous theme, diminish, then swell again before the full choir erupts into the “Ode to Joy.”
Oh look! (6:15 on this recording…)
Getting a call from an agent who says “I love your book and would like to offer you representation” is sort of completely like that. Without the orchestra and chorus.
You’ve honed your query, you’ve hit a site like Querytracker or Agent Query to research perfect agents for your novel. You’ve taken the plunge and now, finally, you’ve gotten THE CALL. You think, “This is it! Everything I’ve worked for – it’s all paying off!”
Well not quite. You’re getting an agent, not a book deal. And those to things are mutually exclusive, trust me.
But getting THE CALL is a magical moment – magical in that suddenly your brain stops working, lost in an endless “Ode to Joy” loop of Potential Agent’s words (“I’d like to offer you representation. I’d like to offer you representation. I’d like to offer…”) When the Rockstar called me out of the blue I must have sounded like a lobotomy patient on the other end of the line I was so dumbstruck. Unfortunately, you can’t just nod and smile and be done with it. There’s still work to be done, people!
1. Once you’ve shaken the stupor from your brain, there are some questions you need to ask. Fundamental questions about how Potential Agent interacts with his/her clients, about where he sees your career going, about whether she wants to represent you for just this book or for future projects as well. What’s the contract like? Who sells foreign rights? And my most important question – what is your communication style like?
It sounds a little bit like jumping the gun, but you should have a list of Potential Agent Questions prepared when you start querying. You never know when you’re going to get THE CALL. I got my first one exactly one week after I sent out my first query. I was totally unprepared.
2. Unless Potential Agent is the only agent you queried (ballsy move!) it’s more than likely that you have other agents with requested material from your now in demand manuscript. Instead of accepting Potential Agent’s offer on the spot, basically telling everyone else to F OFF, it’s professional to offer other reading agents a window in which to get back to you. Hey, you never know when you’ll get a second, a third, a fourth Potential Agent knocking on your door. Why deny yourself a little variety? Agents, in their turn, appreciate the professional courtesy. The first one to offer won’t hate you forever/retract their offer/secretly plot your demise even if you sign with them just because you’ve asked for a week to make your decision. Trust me. It’s expected.
3. What is it that you want from an agent? A BFF? A hand-holder? A Yes Man? An advocate? A partner? An editor? Agent-Author relationships come in all shapes and sizes from the uber formal to the utterly casual, and everything in between. It’s really important for you to know what it is you, personally, expect from the relationship. Posted sales are a great way to get to know an agent’s resume, but don’t be afraid to ask for some referrals from current clients. That’s how you get to know what working with Potential Agent on a day-to-day basis is really like.
4. If you get multiple offers of representation DON’T PANIC! Yeah, that’s totally hypocritical of me. I basically didn’t eat for three days and by the end was convinced they would ALL turn me down at the last minute becasuse my writing was a steaming pile of crap.
That didn’t happen. In fact, the agents who I had to decline were all very gracious, all wished me luck, and all said that if I ever found myself seeking representation in the future, to let them know. See? NO REASON TO PANIC!!!!
At this point, you’re golden. You have a decision to make but its the good kind, the kind that has no “wrong” answer. And remember this about your new agent – they love you as much as you love them. Right now. Try and keep it that way. 🙂