Friday, June 20, 2008

Ask The Agent- Why don't cha?


What's Jack up to? He's happy it's Friday and he's not a stinky dog anymore since he's bath yesterday. Yay!


Welcome to another Ask The Agent with fab agent Elaine Spencer form The Knight Agency. This week' s question is a great. Props to Elaine for taking it on. Let's just get right into it.
I'm wondering when an author should start looking for a new agent. Is two months too long to wait for a read-through of minor rewrites?


I think that you probably know in your heart what the answer to this question is, and really this is something that only *you* can have the definite answer on because you are the only one that really knows all the important info. If you really don’t know what you should be considering the best I can do is offer some pointers that might show you the light. And here’s my disclaimer, I’m an agent, I’m going to automatically give yours the benefit of the doubt, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I would love to say be super-agent and jump in and say “Its taken them TWO WHOLE MONTHS??!?! That’s ridiculous, you deserve a read within the week, that’s what I promise all of my clients!!!”. However, and Kwana can vouch for me, that would be a total lie. When I receive client material what I do try to do is immediately give them an estimate of how long it might take me to take a look at their work. Sometimes I’m able to stick to that deadline, and sometimes life happens and what once seemed very possible becomes utterly impossible.

Two months does seem a little bit lengthy but in the defense of the agent here are the things that I would consider “get out of jail” tickets that you should cut them a break. Is this your spotlight project or is it just something minor you’ve been stewing up in the back of your mind, a “pet project”, which is in addition to other work you have submitted. How many times has the agent seen this material? Is this your first set of rewrites or your 3rd. Have you heard from your agent during those two months with an update on where you are in their reading pile and what might be the hold-up? Does your agent want to shop this project or have they already told you that deep in their heart they don’t feel like this is “the one”. Is there a market for this project or is it something that is going to be a REALLY tough sell? How much of the manuscript are they having to re-read and with how watchful of an eye? Did the agent receive 15 full manuscripts the week before you sent yours in (and yes that happens, when it rains, it pours!)?

If the agent is unresponsive and takes two months to respond to you on anything, always, regardless of circumstances, well yes, I think its time you look around. It is important that you have someone in your corner who is going to be respectful of your time and your goals for progressing forward.

I’m going to add my own little disclaimer in here, just because I think *good* agents often can catch a bad rep for things that are really outside of their control. As I mentioned above, life happens, and we have learned to always expect the unexpected. This past spring my career has been on a whirlwind ride. Its been fun and exciting and promising for the future, but for a brief time my clients have had to bear with me while I’ve just been treading water and trying to squeeze it all done into a day (and night’s) work.

Times like this ebb and flow. At the end of the day even if my responses haven’t been quite as quick or quite as detailed as they typically are, my clients know that I totally adore each of them and their writing. If not, I would have cut them loose when the going got tough. They also know that while I may temporarily be in a position where I can’t get them an instantaneous answer on anything they send material or question wise, I without a doubt would drop anything in a second if anything really important would come up.

It is an agent’s job to be available for anything at anytime, it comes with the territory and we all know it. And deep down, whether we will all admit it or not, everyone of us loves that about the job, or we wouldn’t be in agents. Still, at the end of the day we are all people, and sometimes we deserve a break just like everyone else. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew, sometimes we find ourselves in time crunches, and sometimes we just can’t do it all.

There have to be cut-backs somewhere, sometimes we just have to put one thing aside, ask yourself, has your agent sacrificed your best interest or is this issue really insignificant in the grand scheme of your career.

The ultimate answer to your question lies in whether you have tried talking to your agent about what the hold-up is. Have you voiced your concerns that you aren’t getting the attention that you feel you deserve? If not, let them know you feel like you’ve been abandoned, that you are concerned about their dedication. Talk it out and see if their response is something you think is fair and justifiable. If it is, stick with them, give them one more chance, if they tell you “they’re just too busy, maybe they’ll be able to get to it next month” then perhaps you consider your other options.

And on second thought. I hope I didn’t interpret that question wrong. It just dawned on me and I thought in my own head, “maybe they were referring specifically to the submission process, as in the agent isn’t really “theirs” just one they have submitted to and the agent requested rewrites.”

If that’s the case, well shoot, lets make this short and sweet. After two months? Yes, move on. Don’t count the agent out yet, because sometimes as I said, things come up and we can’t move as quickly on non-client material as we wish we could (and sometimes we consequently miss out when the author does in fact go wider).

If the agent thinks they have it on exclusive shoot them an email and let them know you are going to submit to others and let them know when you receive alternative offers. Regardless, keep your options open!
How often do you update your clients on the submission process? Do you prefer email or phone for doing so? Just curious....

This one is easy. I update my clients on the submission process the instant that I have anything to report. If we are at the beginning of the submission, just preparing to send out, I will let them know who I’m planning to target. I usually ask if they have anything big to add, sometimes if they have some valid point I’ll take their suggestions and other times I follow what I know is best and stick with my selection.

After the send-out I let them know who accepts and who declines (hopefully no one to the latter!). I then update them when I’m doing follow-ups and as soon as I hear from anyone. If its an offer, well then obviously, we discuss pros/cons (if any) and move forward). If it’s a pass I forward the response word for word on directly.

Sometimes this is via the phone sometimes via email sometimes via snail mail. That varies depending on circumstance.

Told you it was a good one. Don't forget to post your questions in the comments section.
Thanks Elaine!
best,
Kwana

8 comments:

Kristen Painter said...

Once again, great answers! And despite your crazy schedule, I've always felt like you've gotten back to me in a timely manner.

Louisa Edwards said...

Elaine, you need an assistant! Very good advice, though. I think it's easy to be unrealistic about the agent/author relationship, because it's so easy to forget that the agent has other clients and other demands on her time.

Amanda Brice said...

Great answers, Elaine! It's always so interesting. Thanks for the insight!

Kim said...

Thanks, Elaine.
It's always nice having a peek at what really goes on inside the agency.

Natalie Hatch said...

Thanks Elaine, I appreciate your candidness on the agenting process.

Cindy Procter-King said...

More great answers, Elaine. Thanks!

kymbrunner said...

I enjoyed reading this ~ thanks! It's always helpful to get an insider's view of things.

Melissa Walker said...

Thoughtful and wise, Elaine. Thanks!

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