Ask The Agent: Answers To Some of The Gritty Details of The Business
I received so many fantastic questions this week! I couldn’t decide on just a few, so I’ve decided to go ahead and answer several of them, given the answers are not as intensive as usual.
Question from Malina
Not too long ago, a friend of mine had asked me to help look at her work on www.wattpad.com and for a bit of fun, I started writing a book on there too.
I have over 2,300,000 reads and over 700 fans. My book is not available on search as it is an erotic thriller. I have completed the book but haven't uploaded it entirely. The story has been edited and revised, with over 94 000 words.
Am I allowed to approach agents, even if a portion of the book has been online?
Yes, absolutely. Web sites like Wattpad are a fantastic source of unbiased beta readers. If you are having a hard time finding people other than your family and friends to read and critique your manuscript, you may want to take advantage of these forums.
Pro tip: As usual, use full disclosure with agents, just in case they do take issue with it. But I can’t imagine you will run into such a problem.
Question from Rhiann
Let's say I am lucky enough that Agent X offers representation based on the novel I queried her about - but Agent X doesn't care for my other two completed novels. Am I at liberty to seek an Agent Y for my other work if I sign with Agent X?
This is a conversation for you and Agent X. It’s different for every agent and I can’t give you a blanket answer.
A few things to consider:
1.) If Agent X doesn’t like your other finished works, who is to say that Agent X will like anything you write other than the current project you are querying? My instinct is to tell you to search for a new agent who loves the majority of what you write.
2.) Agent X may allow you to seek other representation (it’s completely their call, once you sign with them) but you may not find another agent willing to work with you because you already have an agent. It can lead to some sticky competitive situations.
3.) Before you begin the query process, I suggest taking some time to reflect on and write down some of the qualities in an agent that are extremely important to you. One of those qualities might be that they ‘love your other works, or are willing to represent them’. Another quality might be that they are ‘willing to let you seek additional representation for your other projects’. ALWAYS, before you sign a contract, make sure that they possess the qualities you’ve listed. Because once you are offered representation, it’s hard to say ‘no’.
Pro tip: Don’t settle for less!
Question from Sadie
I researched an agent carefully and was excited to find they were the agent of my tutor at university. They gave me a recommendation and I sent off my query. At the ten week point, when their return time was 6-8 weeks, I called and spoke to the agent who confirmed they had received the query and she said she would dig it out and read it. It's been another three weeks without hearing anything. Can you advise me on what to do? Should I call again and risk falling into the pushy prospective author role, or do I wait and do nothing, or do I send a polite email stating the timescales so far and that if I don't hear by a certain date, I shall begin to send queries elsewhere?
You should avoid calling an agent who is considering your work. Unless the agent specifies that it is okay to call them (I’ve honestly never seen this before), don’t do it. When the time has exceeded their ‘response time’, it’s perfectly okay to send a very polite email asking whether or not they’ve received your query. If they continue to take a long time to respond, it may be time to give up on that agent.
Now, if they have your manuscript, that’s a little different. It’s okay to check up on the status of manuscripts a few times (only after they have exceeded the normal manuscript response time).
The thing you must always keep in mind is that you want an agent who is really excited about your work. Most of the time, if it takes months and months just for them to respond to a query… they may not be very interested. Find an agent who deserves you!
Pro tip: Agents may give response times, but that doesn’t mean they always follow through with them. We can’t predict how insane our jobs may get from week to week.
Question from Andrew
When receiving a query letter from a graphic novel writer, do you only consider their project if they have included some completed artwork?
I have taken on many graphic novel projects without artwork. Editors often like to choose their own graphic artists (many times in-house), and it can be quite the process. So frankly, it is easier for me to take on a script without artwork and pitch that to editors.
Pro tip: It may help to give the agent an idea of what kind of art you envision for the project.
Thank your for all the wonderful questions this week. "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch" -Garrison Keillor
Have a question about the publishing industry? I would love to discuss the specifics of researching and querying agents, finding the right agent, proper publishing etiquette, how to go from idea to completed manuscript, marketing yourself, social media for writers, and anything else you can think of! I am now taking questions for Issue 6 of Ask the Agent. Issue 7 answers will be posted Monday, October 1st.
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