Super Happy Fun Guide: The Agent Call

You’ve been querying for what seems like forever. Your rejections are plastered on your wall like bible pages in the bedroom of the crazy priest who got impaled in THE OMEN. The Book of Grudges is filled with the names of those agents who have wronged you. They do not see your talent. But they will pay. One day soon. They will rue the day they scorned you. Oh, yes. Precioussssssss.
But at last, the heavens open and the angels sing and OMFG an agent has emailed you the magic words “I like your book, we should talk”. Your shriek of joy still echoes in neighbouring suburbs. You’ve finished dancing around the kitchen in your jammies and bunny slippers. And now you realize that you have NO idea what to say.
So I present this Super Fun Happy Guide on that most dreaded of phonecalls in the hopes it will balance the karmic scales for all that gansta-rap I listened to in my early 20’s.
The most important thing to remember throughout this process is to stay calm. Just pretend like you’re Amanda Plummer in Pulp Fiction, all standing there while Samuel L Jackson points a gun at your boyfriend’s face and yells “COME ON YOLANDA, WHAT’S FONZIE LIKE?!” at the top of his lungs. That’ll calm you right the fuck down, no doubt.
Things to do before the Call:

  1. Use the bathroom. A good agent call will take an hour.
  2. Lock kids in basement/send to the neighbours/sell into white slavery.
  3. Walk/tranquilize the dog.
  4. Charge your phone.
  5. Make sure a roadcrew isn’t about to commence drilling the street outside. (Don’t laugh)
  6. Find a picture of some adorable creature looking miserable. A crying child. A weeping clown. I recommend “Sad Kitteh” pictured above. Print it out. (This one is important, see below)

Questions to ask during the Call:

  1. Is this a one-book offer, or a career-type deal?
  2. Do you use a contract/written agreement?
  3. Where are you planning to send my book?
  4. Are you proposing any changes to my book? (How DARE you)
  5. What if my book doesn’t sell?
  6. How would you feel about me switching genres down the track? (because I’ve got this awesome idea for a YA GLBT Dystopian Space Opera with Vampire Zombie Ninja Assassins).
  7. How do you prefer to communicate? Email? Phone? Telepathy?
  8. What’s your cut? (standard is 15%)
  9. What fees do you charge? (photocopies/phonecalls/massage parlour w/”Happy Ending”?)
  10. How do we terminate this agreement, and if we do, what happens to my unsold manuscripts? (don’t open with this one)
  11. Can I have the contact details of some of your clients, so I can chat to them? (this one is REALLY important)

Things you should ALREADY KNOW, but if you don’t you should ask now:

  1. Are you a member of AAR (or the appropriate Agent body in their country)?
  2. How long have you been an agent?
  3. What were your last couple of sales?
  4. Are you on Publishers Marketplace?
  5. Do you handle foreign rights sales? Audio rights? Film rights?

Things to remember during the Call:

  1. Breathe. Breathing is good. It helps you live. And stuff.
  2. If you find yourself wandering off script, this is all good. Natural conversation won’t follow a set pattern. This means you’re talking like human beings. But at some point, the above questions should be asked. They matter.
  3. This is not necessarily a done deal. “We should talk” doesn’t mean “I want to represent you”. It means “I like your book and want to ascertain whether you’re the kind of writer who plasters rejections on your bedroom wall like the impaled priest in the Omen.”
  4. You should avoid acting like a crazy person, if at all possible. If you find yourself giggling uncontrollably at any point in the conversation LOOK AT THE PICTURE OF SAD KITTEH. It will stop you laughing. Unless you are some kind of monster. How could you laugh at Sad Kitteh? HE LOOKS SO SAD.
  5. Above all, you need to pay attention to the vibe between the two of you. Picking an agent is like picking the person you’re going to marry. It will have a profound effect on your career as a writer. You need to “click”. This needs to be a person you can imagine working with for the next 20 years, ideally.
  6. Don’t accept the offer. You may be tempted to. Don’t. Say “Thank you very much, I’ll go away and sleep on it. Can I get back to you next week?” You are not being rude. Only suckers buy the first house they lay eyes upon. Good agents expect you to do this.

After the Call (presuming Sad Kitteh worked and you got offered representation – HAI FAAIVEZ??!):

  1. Tell all other agents who have your fulls/partials that an offer has been made. Politely request that they get back to you within seven days about whether or not they wish to pursue representation with you. (Seven days is standard here, again, you are not being rude)
  2. Grab those contact details of the Agent’s existing clients that you asked for. Contact them. Ask them what the Agent is like. Whether there have been problems. (Note that few authors are going to actually bad-mouth their agent here, but there’s a huge difference between “She’s okay” and “Were it not illegal in 49 states, I would make this woman my wife”)
  3. Compile. Collate. Choose wisely. And above all, remember the words of the immortal Mr Jules Winfield.

COME ON YOLANDA, WHAT’S FONZIE LIKE?!?
I leave you this day with wisdom from the ‘Hood.
?ssa kcalb ruoy pleh os ,hturt eht tub gnihton dna ,hturt elohw eht ,hturt eht llet ot raews uoy oD


11 Responses to “Super Happy Fun Guide: The Agent Call”

  1. JaimeLoren says:

    Wow! Great post! I plan to start querying in a couple of months, and I really, REALLY hope I get the chance to refer back to this (instead of plastering the rejections on my wall). 🙂

  2. I agree with all of this, especially using the bathroom. I remember the night I waited for The Call (dum, dum, dum), I washed the plates, took a walk, read a couple of chapters, memorized my questions, used the bathroom. That was almost a year ago. Gosh!

    • I waited for the call and it never came. Agent couldn’t get through to stupid Australian cell phone, and in the end i had to call him. (I still think this was a scam to save SJGA a massive phone bill)

  3. Bwahaha laughing so hard at sad kitteh advice and (How DARE you). Great list, thank you.

  4. Zoraida says:

    you’re so funny 🙂

  5. Kristen Simmons says:

    1. Is sad kitteh sad because his face has been smashed in? Just wondering…
    2. This is solid advice. Included in acting like a crazy person: weeping uncontrollably (“OMG I’VE WAITED FOR THIS CALL MY WHOLE LIFE”)
    3. How dare you.

    • 1. Do not be mean to sad kitteh. He is already very sad.
      2. If you are the kind to weep uncontrollably, maybe sad kitteh is not such a hot idea…
      3. That’s what *I* said.

  6. […] information for first time writers from  what to do  on your first phone call to agent (now with sad kitten photo!) to his on-going series of posts on the history of […]

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