When I read my rejection letters the other day, I think it was pure stubbornness and a sense of entitlement that kept me going. And anger. What really pushed me up against the wall was a rejection letter from an agent who had me rewrite my book two times before deciding it wasn’t good enough for her sell. If that agent hadn’t pissed me off, I never would have found the courage to ask the Avon Romance editors if they were looking for a book like mine. I might not be here today dishing out this advice.
But here’s the funny thing about maturity: three years later, I’m grateful to all of those agents who passed on that early version of Hot Tamara, especially the one who made me so mad. They eventually led to me to my agent, my editors, my fabulous publishing house and all the people who got behind my book and promoted the heck out of it. So I guess my point can be summed up by Mr. Miyagi who told Daniel Russo in Karate Kid, “Okay to lose to opponent. Must not lose to fear!”
Now where were we? You sent out your queries to your top ten agents.
- The response has arrived and she wants a partial or a full. Oh my God! She likes me! Hurray!
But what if she wants an exclusive and you still have nine other agents with your query?
Now focus, Daniel-san. Most agents ask for exclusives because they operate on limited time; in fact, they do most of their reading on the weekends at home. So why should an agent bother to read your work if you have other agents reading it and then you decide – before she can make an offer – to go with another agent?
Your response should work for your business and her business. Admit that you have queries with other agents and you would be happy to grant her an exclusive read on the partial for three weeks. (If it’s a full, I’d give her six.) Most agents are happy to go along with that as long as you honor that agreement.
- But then another agent responds after you have sent off the partial to the first agent. Now what?
Again, focus Daniel-san.
Respond that you have granted Agent-A a three-week exclusive read on the partial. Would they consider waiting until the end of that period?
If they get miffy, then don’t bother. You owe it to yourself and your book to make the best decision possible. Trust me; no agent is better than a bad one.
- An agent really likes your work and offers to represent you. (For the sake of brevity, let’s assume she already read the full, etc.) Remember that finding an agent is like dating. You wouldn’t marry someone after the first date, would you? You want to get to know each other, see if you have common values and goals.
AAR (Association of Artists’ Representatives) has a great list of questions to ask a prospective agent. A note of warning: never sign with someone who charges agency fees. More than likely, she is not a real agent. And by the way, I tried to link to the AAR website but the server was down.
- When you agree to sign with your agent, start talking about (a) how she will market your book and (b) how you will establish a career. You should have some ideas of publishing houses that might be a good fit. Don’t rely solely on your agent. This is a business partnership and you should have an active role in this venture because you, mi amiga, are the one who wrote the book. Your blood, your tears and your weekends went into its creation.
- Write a business plan. This doesn’t have to be a formal document. Mine is a document in which I write down all those impossible dreams. It also keeps me focused and reminds me why I am a storyteller. I blush as I write this but I also cut and paste the nice emails I get from readers.
There are so many websites and “book doctors” who are willing to part writers from their money. Here are some of most helpful sources that I know of (please feel free to share others in the comments!):
UPDATE: I am donating a free critique and a signed copy of IN BETWEEN MEN this weekend at www.themichelefund.com. This fund was set up to help a fellow writer who was diagnosed with breast cancer in Feburary. They also have critiques offered by Patricia Gaffney, Susan and Harry Squires and Lisa Valdez.