After The Call: When an agent offers you representation...

I'm starting a new feature on my blog! "After the Call" will chronicle 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.

I've noticed that a lot of blogs focus on how to gain representation, but there seems to be a lack of information on what happens after you sign on the dotted line. So...hopefully I can help fill this void a little bit!

Today, I thought I'd write about what happens right after an agent offers you representation. You might be tempted at first to scream "YES!" to the first agent who offers you a contract, but it's important to take a step back and set up a phone call. After all, this is a professional relationship--you are hiring this agent to represent your work. Would you hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen without talking to him first? No! Then why would you sign an agency contract without talking to the agent?

Here's a brief timeline of what happened to me when I was trying to choose the right agent. 

1.) April 25, 2010. Received an offer of rep via email! Proceeded to celebrate with Nutella and jumped with joy. Then fainted.

2.) April 26, 2010. Alerted all of the agents who had my full/partial/or even a query about my offer. Let them know that I needed to get back to the first agent by May 4. Most writers ask for seven days to make a decision, but I asked for ten since I was a blubbery mess. Agents are flexible!

3.) April 26 - 30, 2010. Some of the agents bowed out of the race. Some of the agents requested to read the full. And another offer! *Dies*

4.) April 26 - 30, 2010. Set up times to speak to each offering agent on the phone. Before each call, I wrote a list of questions I wanted to ask so I wouldn't forget anything. During the conversations, I would scribble down notes. Some of the questions I asked:
  • What made you want to represent my novel? (It's fun to see why an agent wants to represent you. Plus, this question can gauge how enthusiastic he/she is about your work.)
  • If we decide to work together, do you want me to revise the book before going on submission? What sort of revisions do you have in mind? (It's important to see if an agent's revision ideas mesh with your view of your novel.)
  • How many clients do you currently represent?
  • Do you prefer to communicate via email or phone? (Some agents still prefer to speak via phone when it comes to revision notes.)
  • How often do you stay in contact with your clients when their books are on sub?
  • What happens if my book doesn't sell?
  • Does your agency provide a contract that I will need to sign? Can I take a look at the contract? 
  • Do you take on clients on a project-by-project basis or do you sign them for their long-term career?
  • Would you be willing to refer me to a couple of your clients? (Definitely ask this! When I spoke with a couple of Jim's clients, they simply RAVED about him. It totally cemented my decision.)
5.) May 1 - 2, 2010. Chewed my fingernails, pulled out my hair, and stopped eating as I tried to choose between Agent #1 and Agent #2. I also sent both agents a few follow-up questions (ie, Do you charge any copying fees? What do you think about my WIPs?) 

6.) May 3, 2010. Received rejections from a few more agents. an offer from Jim! The first two agents offered rep via email, but Jim called out of the blue. I was wholly unprepared and I stammered through our conversation. 

7.) May 4, 2010. Let Jim know that I wanted to sign with him! Once he sent me the contract, I sent emails to the other agents. *Cringe* That was very awkward! 

8.) May 5, 2010. Signed and sent off my contract! Proceeded to eat nutella and jumped for joy! 

At the end of the day, I was impressed by all three agents. Agent #1 was very enthusiastic about my book and Agent #2 was lovely to talk to on the phone, but I ended up going with Jim due to his sales record, his client referrals, and his friendliness during our call. If he had been aggressive or dismissive during our chat, I probably would have gone with someone else. So...I really do think it's VITAL to speak to each agent before signing anything. 

If you find yourself in the position of choosing an agent, definitely feel free to email me! I'd be more than happy to answer any of your questions and to cheer you on!