April 12, 2011

After The Call: How Often Do You Talk to Your Agent?

"After the Call" is a new feature on my blog! It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, how to communicate with your new agent, what the revision process is like, etc. For previous posts in this series, please see the "After The Call" sidebar to the right.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a fantastic lunch with an old college roommate of mine. We hadn't seen in each other in five years (!!!) and so we literally spent hours catching up on everything: marriage, kids, grad school, etc. At one point of our conversation, my friend asked me about my writing and she said, "So how often do you talk to your agent?"

I kind of froze up a little, unsure how to answer. "Hmm, it kind of depends?" I managed to say.

I know that's kind of a lame answer, but the answer to this question really does depend! Sometimes Agent Jim and I exchange multiple emails in a day. Other times I shoot him a quick note every month or so. It really all depends on what stage I'm currently at in my writing process.

Revising
From my own experiences, I've found that I talk to my agent most frequently when I first receive my revision notes. We would trade multiple emails daily, figuring out character arcs and world building. I'd also ask him questions like, "How many more words can I add to this manuscript?" and "When should I finish all of the revisions?"

But then our correspondence tapered down once I dove head-first into revisions. For one thing, the revision letter itself was very clear and organized so I didn't need to ask for clarifications. And for another, I tend to retreat into a revision cave when I'm editing and I didn't want any feedback until I felt satisfied with the revamped manuscript.

Submitting
Right before you go out on submission, your communication with your agent will definitely ratchet up. You may talk about specific publishing houses. You may talk about rejections (Do you want to read all of the rejections? Or just the more helpful ones?) And you may even talk about the submission letter itself. For instance, I know of one agent who asks her writers to compose the book summary portion of the submission letter. 

Then, if your book garners interest from editors, communication will speed up even more. That's when the phone calls start: "Editor Awesome loves your book and wants to make an offer!" "Editor Coolness wants to make a counter-offer!" Your agent will keep you abreast about everything that's going on and will make sure you haven't fainted on the other end of the line.

Drafting
Sometimes you won't talk to your agent for month-long stretches at a time. This usually happens when you're working on a new manuscript because your first book didn't sell or if you're still waiting to hear the editors' responses. Don't worry, this is normal! The publishing industry can be infinitely slow so sometimes there simply isn't any news to share. Just keep plugging away on your new WIP and try not to stare too wistfully at your phone. :)

But if a month goes by and you haven't heard from your agent, you can always send a short-but-sweet email. That's what I do. I'll tell Jim how my new manuscript is coming along and then I'll ask him for a quick update from submission-land. Easy as pie!

Anyway, if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments! And definitely feel free to ask any questions you may have!

3 comments:

  1. Great post! I think we have a similar relationship with our agents. I may shoot her an email to ask her about a new story idea, and she'll send me updates on the submission process. I thought this was pretty normal, but thanks for confirming it. :)

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  2. I agree that it completely depends on where you are in the process. I talked with my agent a lot as I began revising for her (getting clarification on her requests, using her as a sounding board for ideas, etc). We also talked a lot just before I went on submission, and again when there was some interest (I had to write up synopses and such). And of course we talked a ton during the few days surrounding when my deal came in.

    But otherwise, it's pretty quiet. I know she is busy, and so I let her work. I know I need to focus on my writing, and so I do. Unless I have a question or need to check in on something specific, we can go weeks without chatting.

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  3. Thanks for this post - has confirmed that I'm doing things more or less right! It's often difficult to convince friends and family that things going quiet is normal and that editors actually need time to read your work, on top of their other commitments.

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