Monday, April 28, 2008

Ask The Agent- Round 1

What's Jack up to? Wild child is romping around underfoot like a toddler today. I have work to do, Jack. No time to play with you, Love. Ok, maybe just a minute. Sigh.

Today My Fab Agent, Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency is back with the first round of questions answered from Ask The Agent.

Did your question make the cut? Check it out.

But please keep tuning in. There will be more questions answered next week. Major thanks to Elaine for taking the time to answer these in between her hectic travel schedule.

Here goes:

1.What do you look for in query letters when selecting writers to work with?

The number one thing that I look for in query letters is a professional product. I look for someone who has obviously done their homework on the querying process and on our agency. We hope to see that the potential client has a basic understanding of the business and what is expected of them as a potential client.

The query letter acts as a general introduction, think of it as a first interview. If an author can’t follow directions at this preliminary step it sets off warning signs for difficulties that we may encounter at every step down the line.

There is a plethora of information available not only on the internet but at every imaginable writing event across the country on how to write a great query letter. It is really a pretty straight forward piece of the puzzle. We hope to gain a clear idea of the project being presented and of the author who is presenting it. We aren’t looking for bells, whistles or confetti, just the bare-bones facts about the project at hand and a high-concept pitch!

It sounds too good to be true, I know, but really this is a tough business, we need to see in a very simple way that the project has what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

2. What's the best part of your job?

There are a million great things about my job! I can go on for days and days here. I think that this speaks directly to the favorite part of my: Variety. There is SO MUCH variety. Not only am I working with very wonderful and very different people and projects on a daily basis but I’m working with them in a variety of ways. Some days I’m inquisitively reading, some days I’m evoking my creative muse, some days I am the hard-nosed negotiator, and then others I’m the compassionate shoulder to lean on.

Our job is a million things all rolled into one. Agents act as educators, entrepreneurs, promoters, counselors, planners, you name it, and we do it in some capacity or another.

3.What’s The Knight Agency’s normal response time? How Many queries do you normally get?

The Knight Agency’s typical response time to queries is on average two weeks. Some times (as in right now!) we get a little behind and can lag up to a month, and then sometimes we respond every 2-3 days. This flex’s depending on a variety of things including project loads, travel, etc.

For partial submissions this is more based agent to agent. On average for the agency we are between 3-6 months.

In both of these cases, if it seems that it has been an absurd amount of time more than that between the time when you sent your email off to us and hearing a response SEND A FOLLOW UP!

I can’t tell you how many times messages are blocked by spam filters and such, this sounds like an excuse, but really when our email server is handling as much mail as we receive its unfortunately pretty common. We have tried to combat it but without making ourselves completely susceptible to all spam it seems there is little else we can do to ensure delivery either on our end or yours.

We receive about 300 queries a week and read several hundred partial submissions a year. That makes for a lot of mail.

4.What is the single most important thing an agent and a writer need in order to work well with one another.
Is the answer sand-paper?

Sand Paper? I’m not quite sure I’m following there. The number one thing that an agent and client need to work well together is clear lines of communication. Simple as that. If both parties are communicating what their wants and needs are there shouldn’t be any grey area here.

Now within certain relationships at some point in time it might become apparent that despite clear communication the client/agent just aren’t a good business match. That’s unavoidable due to the ever changing nature that applies to all parts of this business. There is not a one-size fits all agent out there. The best way to find your perfect fit again goes back to communicating clearly up front exactly what you want out of the relationship.

5. Are you still able to read for pleasure? What non-cliented reads have you read lately? And who would you love to represent (besides your current roster, of course)?

Of Course I still read for pleasure. Reading is my passion. Not only is it something that I love in my job, but also its one of the things I love in my life. Sometimes with all of the “work” reading it’s hard to remember what it feels like to just get lost in a great book simply for the joy of it. I try to avoid that though, because at the end of the day there still is nothing better than curling up with a captivating story. The longer I’m in the business the more I realize how important it is to take the time out to remember that feeling.

As a professional it keeps us fresh and reminds us of the most basic purpose of our job, to bring people stories that will have an impact on their life.

Some great reads of late, The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff, The Pact by Jodi Picoult, Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Rites of Spring by Diana Peterfreund, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – These are all totally random selections that I have loved, as you can see I’m really I’m all across the board.

6. I have a question for you. How do you feel about sharing a client with another agent--i.e., if the other agent only reps one genre of writing, but the client wants to write in another, too, and needs/wants representation for it. Do you or your agency ever run into this situation? Do you think it can work out okay? If so, any tips on how to make it work and how someone in this situation would go about it?

I think its possible, but not ideal, we try to avoid it at all costs. Here within TKA we share certain clients within the agency, but that’s a whole different topic I suspect. I do know situations where an author has needed separate agents, so again I’m not saying it is impossible, but its just not that common.

Since I’ve never been involved in a situation such as this I really can’t offer much advice on it beyond the obvious. I think it is most important that all involved parties are offering full disclosure up front regarding all business matters. It is going to be important that each agent is aware of the scheduling restrictions and deadlines that are involved with each other.

My advice would be to TRY to find an agent or agency that handles all the genres you are working on. Not only will your agent/s be able to better plan and prepare for your future but this should help prevent confusion on what you heard from one agent in comparison to the other.

7. I realize that you as an agent may handle this in a specific way that renders my question completely irrelevant at your agency, but *in general,* say an agent reads a full, writes a nice long letter about revisions, and tosses the ball back to the author with the option of viewing it again after a revision if the suggestions make sense to the author. All of this is rather open-ended (ie, I don't know if we're even as far as if-then statements--just "ifs."). What, in general, do you and your cohorts view as a reasonable time to do these open-ended revisions in? A few weeks? A few months? Any idea of a generally reasonable timeline would be appreciated. Thanks!

Hmm. Anything that shows you have put detailed thought and consideration into revising the manuscript as a whole. If someone sends the manuscript back to me within 24 hours (don’t laugh, it happens!) or even within the week, I’m going to assume they breezed through these and didn’t REALLY put a lot of thought into making the manuscript stronger.

I would say that it should take a few weeks to make the changes, depending on how detailed the letter is. Its hard to generalize because editorial suggestions can really be across the board in scope. Obviously it will take less time if they are just asking you to bulk some stuff up versus a request to revisit an entire storyline.

I would suggest that you sit on the edits for a few days after receiving the letter to really let the ideas and suggestions sink in. Let them roll around in your end and really form into a fuller picture. Typically an agent isn’t asking for an easy fix, in most instances the suggestions are things that are really making or breaking the story. They shouldn’t be easy, and they should take a bit to come to fruition.

Plus, remember, this is most likely your last shot, you want to make sure you get it right! I would suggest when you respond to the agent that you outline their suggestions in your email/letter and let them know how you tackled them. This in itself can save both parties some time, it can help identify if the edits are heading in the envisioned direction.


Wow! That's it for round one. Great questions folks and Great answers, Elaine. Don't forget to tune back in for the next round. Thanks again to, Elaine and thank to all of you for stopping by.

Best,
Kwana



12 comments:

pve design said...

Who would have thought so much work would go into being an agent! I love that she is passionate about reading and how fortunate that she does this for a living! Wonderful interview and I shall remember the key here is "communication!" Great round 1~
Ding!

keri mikulski :) said...

Very informative! Great interview!

Carleen Brice said...

What a great interview!

BTW, I'm tagging you for a meme!

Kristen Painter said...

Good stuff! And I'm not just saying that because Elaine is my agent. =0)

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

Thanks Kwana for relaying my question to Elaine!! She answered it so thoroughly!! Great interview.

:-)

Cote de Texas said...

Great interview!!!!

Thanks for your comment - I really appreciate it!!!!!!!!


Joni

Wendy Toliver said...

Great interview! And Elaine is such a cute gal! :)

Cindy Procter-King said...

Great questions and answers. And that's a great photo of you, Elaine.

Kwana said...

Thanks for the kind comments. Elaine has been so ksweet to do this.

Santa said...

Hello all. I'm new here having just joined Kwana's local chapter last month. I have really gotten quite a bit out of this posting today. Thanks so much for sharing your agent with us all and thanks to Elaine for giving such clear answers to those questions.

Santa
smbslt

Kwana said...

You're very welcome Santa! More questions and answers to come soon.

Ms.Erika said...

Thanks! I learned quite a bit from that. Can't wait for the next round.

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