Monday, April 23, 2018

Tip Time

It's Tip Time!

This month I wanted to talk about how you should interact with agents.  Ninety percent of the time, I'm impressed with how professionally and positively authors communicate with my and my colleagues.  But there is that other 10% of the time that makes me sit back and tilt my head in confusion.

I think that 10% stems from the fact that many people (even clients sometimes!) don't fully understand all the work an agent does.  Not only do agents read manuscripts, they also put a lot of time and effort into editing, researching editors, submitting projects, following up, negotiating contracts, monitoring royalties, handling certain sub rights, and so much more!

So when you're talking with an agent, it is important to be sure not to come across as demanding or argumentative.  This obviously doesn't mean you can't stand your ground or have critical conversations or a back-and-forth (although these things are more for clients to do--if you're just querying and get back thoughts you don't agree with, I suggest thinking them over seriously and then taking or leaving them), but it does mean you have to be polite and aware.  If an agent gives you advice or says that they don't think something works, they are talking from a place of knowledge and experience, and it can come off as insulting if you are dismissive or shoot off an email telling them how wrong they are.

I'm also surprised when I reject a submission and don't offer an R&R only to have that author constantly email me asking for specific information and thoughts about how to make the manuscript better.  I understand why this is done, but doing so without an invitation can feel like a bit of an overstep.  If you'd like an agent's thoughts on something, please ask them first!  And don't ask to set up a call or meet in person.  Because of how busy we are, that is much less convenient for most of us than just replying to an email.

Finally, if an agent does invite you to ask questions or is willing to speak, I strongly suggest drafting what you want to talk about so that you can make sure your thoughts are to the point, concise, and clear.  Every so often, I get stream-of-consciousness emails from authors that are so long and confusing, I give up before reading all the way through because it's too hard and I have too much to do.