Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April Offers--FAQs

Hi guys! No doubt you've noticed my absence all April long. And yes, I realize it's May. I'm going to answer all of your April Offer questions here in this post, then continue with my planned May Conference series. Also, I'm armed with books, and not afraid to use them. I will be doing Wednesday Reads again (maybe not weekly, but hopefully at the very least, bi-weekly).

  • What's it like from the agent's perspective? Do you get nervous when you make an offer or worry that they will choose not to go with you? 
    • Mostly I get excited. Because finding a project that I love enough to offer on is few and far between. Of course there's always the worry that the writer will choose someone else, but it's all part of the business. For every one writer who doesn't choose me, another writer will choose me over someone else. I used to obsess way more in the beginning, but it's a roll with the punches (and have a glass of wine) sort of thing now.
  • When an author gets an agent offer should they nudge everyone they have a query with or just the submissions?
    • This is up to you. Personally, I want to get nudged even if I've just received the query. There are times when queries sit for a few weeks before I can get to them, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read it. I hate getting to a query only to find out the writer has accepted rep without informing me, or at the very least withdrawing the query. (Here's a post of mine on the subject)
  • When an agent offers representation, what are the most common questions you get asked by your newly acquired clients? What do you feel are important and necessary questions that should be addressed during that initial phone call?  
  • I've heard that some agents still do verbal contracts (for the agent-author agreement) - is that true? 
    • If you come across an agent who does verbal contracts, run away. Far, far away. I don't know of any agents who would want to do verbal contracts--it's as much a risk to us as it is to you. 
  • When an agent offers rep, is it Standard Procedure to ask for a week's period to decide, during which you inform the other agents who have a) fulls/partials and/or b) queries? Is there a good protocol for requesting this period, or will an agent expect to hear it?
    • An agent expects that you will take a week or two to let other agents know there has been an offer. Unless that agent is your dream agent, in which case you can accept and withdraw queries/manuscripts from other agents.
  • If you offer revisions and the author writes you back with newly revised novel, how often is that you take that writer on as a client?
    • Maybe half. On second reading, I have to love the ms even more than I did the first time around (because I will have to read it again, and again). The revisions have to not only be spot on, but I like to see the writer going above and beyond, doing not just my literal revision suggestions, but doing it with their own style.
  • Is "The Call" really necessary if the author lives abroad? Is e-mail correspondence enough?
    • "The Call" is not a necessity. We will definitely do it over email if that works best.
  • What if an author's future works aren't part of an agent's preferred genre (e.g. author has a steampunk novel in the works besides the previous work s/he queried, but while agent likes the queried MS, s/he doesn't like steampunk)? Will agents still rep them for these works, or would another agent for those works be the better choice?
    • It varies by agent. If we've had success with your first novel, we'll probably stick in there with the second. Independent of genre, an agent should always know a good story and character, enough to fudge the rest. If the agent really doesn't want to rep that genre, or doesn't think it's right for your career (and if you disagree) you can find an entirely new agent or the agent may ask for help within the agency. Generally, you won't have an agent for say Women's Romance and another for SciFi, or one for YA and one for MG.
  •  I'd love to know how much time I can ask an agent offering representation for to make my decision. I've heard everything from a week to two weeks is acceptable to decide to accept an offer. I don't want any other agents still reading my manuscript to feel like I didn't give them enough time to make their own decisions, but I also don't want the offering agent to think I'm a flake! :)
    • Seven to ten days, even fourteen, is acceptable. The offering agent may offer their own time restraints, which should stay within that window. If the offering agent gives a time frame shorter than seven days, ask for more--you want enough time for yourself to be sure you're getting the right agent. If you give other agents too little time, they'll think you're not actually interested in them and back out immediately.
  • If you request a partial, and we give you the eight weeks wait, and then ping you with that reminder you've written about--how long after that until we write again/assume it's a no-go? 
    • If the agent is being flaky about it, taking eight weeks, and another eight weeks, and another eight weeks, you may just want to find another agent. Do you want to work with someone like that?
  • This is more about the lack of offers, but I'd love to hear any advise you might share on what to do when you're not receiving any offers or feedback from your agent submissions. I know conferences might be one way to go (not possible for me personally what with where I live), but are there any other ways? My current project might just not be marketable... but if there's some other more fixable problem with the book, I'd really like to know. If nothing else, so I can learn for the next novel. :-) I've already had the novel workshopped by an eclectic bunch of writers and readers that I trust--both in their judgement and their honesty--and the novel has greatly improved from their feedback. They like it, I like it--and I'd really like to pick an agent's brain to discover what they're seeing that I'm missing! But, since agents don't have time for that sort of thing, is there something else I might do?
    • You can hire a freelance editor. You can find an agency that has consulting or editing on the side (separate from the agenting side). You can enter online contests that give agent feedback as a prize. You can start your next project and revisit the first when you've had some space. (Here's a post of mine on the subject)
  • Could you give us an example of how we might word an email to an agent who's reading requested material to let them know we've had an offer?
    • Dear Agent, I've had an offer of representation from another agent. I'd love to know if you're still interested in my manuscript Title which you requested page number of on date / which I sent you the query of on date. I will make my decision by date. Please let me know if I can send you the full ms or any additional materials. Thank you, closing signature
  • Also, do agents generally ask to see an author's previous unpublished works when taking on a new client?
    • Maybe once in a while. Generally, the agent concentrates on the one ms before anything else.
  • Is there one resource you would recommend for authors on the basics of contracts? I'm looking for a place that outlines what is customary in a contract and what to watch out for. Great topic. Thanks!
    • I'm assuming you mean agency contracts, not publishing contracts (for which an agent is the best way to navigate that). For agency contracts, just start Googling it. Many agent blogs have question and answer posts for specific questions which may be a good place. #askagent on Twitter is limited in lengthy answers. Asking fellow writers always yields good results, especially the ones who have been there, done that. Query Tracker forums won't steer you wrong either. Thanks to Thea Harrison for this link to a sample Agency contract here.
  • I've sent my query letters but got only passes from agents. Now I've had some requests from small presses. If one should make an offer, should I go back to agents with an 'offer on the table' query or would it be a waste of time?
    • Only if an agent still hasn't responded to/rejected your query or ms.
  • (cont) I'd still like to get an agent and submit to the large publishers. Would a small press be enough enticement to get an agent's notice?
    • If you want an agent/big publisher, I'm not sure why you're querying small publishers when you don't plan to accept their offer (seems a waste of time for both of you). You can inform an agent of your offer, and they will look at it more quickly, but their answer will not change from a no to a yes just because you have an offer. And if you have an offer on the table, agents who might have given you helpful/constructive feedback or asked for a revision request, won't give it, so you're shooting yourself in the foot in that regard. (Here's a post of mine on the subject)
  •  If you are querying and you get no no requests/offers, does it help to get offers if you attain a publication deal? I mean, if you get a pub deal, but don't accept it, and then query. Do agents not offer representation for these people? Or do they offer rep, and then shop around the MS to other, bigger publishers?
    • I'm assuming you mean you've rejected an offer from a small/e publisher. Generally, an agent won't submit to these publishers, concentrating on the big six and medium presses, but always inform your agent of who you've submitted to. If you shop it around to the big/medium publishers and have been rejected, that leaves little options for the agent. The only thing submitting to and rejecting a small pub offer achieves is your own self satisfaction. An agent knowing you've rejected a pub deal won't make them want to work with you. It's still all about that ms and whether or not they like it (or want to work with you--and if you're playing games like this and the agent catches on, they may be wary).
  • Is there a time limit to respond to an editor's offer? Will they get offended and walk if they don't hear back right away?
    • Just like with an agent offer, there is always a window--a courtesy both parties adhere to. And, just like with an agent, if you string them along too long, they will doubt your seriousness and move on. I don't want to work with you, if you don't really want to work with me (and vice versa).
Questions added 5/9/12
  • If you got an offer from a medium to large publisher, is it worthwhile to approach an agent who has rejected, but with positive feedback? 
    • It wouldn't hurt and it'd probably make the agent's day. Make sure it's an agent you'd really want to work with, and you can probably conduct a few interviews to hire the agent you want. I've personally never heard of this actually happening, so if you do see another agent or author discuss the subject first hand, please let me know.
  • If someone wants to notifying an agent/publisher of another offer on the table, what kind of subject line will get their attention considering the volume of email they are already dealing with?
Happy writing!


Adam Gaylord said...

These are great! Thanks for all the good information.

Stephanie M. said...

Thanks so much! This is all so tricky if you're just starting out.

Julie DeGuia said...

First time visiting your blog - lots of great info. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Perfect timing! Thanks, Vickie :D

LynnRush said...

Great post. It's complicated out there and this helps.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

Thanks for clearing up a lot of confusion. Hopefully I'll need this information soon!

Cortney Pearson said...

Such a great post! So many of these I've wondered about--thanks for addressing them!!! :D

CJ said...

Thanks for this post. I hope to put all this great advise to use soon!

Mart Ramirez said...

Wow. Talk about good stuff! Thank you for taking the time to answer all these awesome questions, Vickie!


Hope you are having a blast!

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks for the FAQs, Vickie! :)

Krystal Shannan said...

Thanks for the advice!

Katie said...

Thanks for answering our questions! I really appreciate you taking the time to help us newbies out.

Nikki said...

Lots of great information. Thanks!

I did have two questions come up as I was reading. 1) If you got an offer from a medium to large publisher, is it worthwhile to approach an agent who has rejected, but with positive feedback? 2) If someone wants to notifying an agent/publisher of another offer on the table, what kind of subject line will get their attention considering the volume of email they are already dealing with?