AN AGENT WANTS TO SEE YOUR WORK! NOW WHAT?

So, you’ve been to a conference. You pitched your manuscript and you didn’t vomit on the agent’s shoes! You actually delivered a decent pitch. Then the agent looks at you and says, “This is an awesome concept. I ‘d like you to send me the whole manuscript.” What do you do?

Celebrate...then be realistic.

Celebrate…then be realistic.

Do you walk out in a dignified manner, acting as though you expected that response or do you throw yourself over the table at the agent, kissing her hand repeatedly, thanking her for a chance and promising her you won’t let her down like those contestants on American Idol who’ve made it through the first round and act as though they’ve won the whole contest? Do you wait until you’ve nearly reached the door and break into a little “I did it” jig? I’m just saying, I may or may not have done a combination of your first and third options. I sort of forgot that old football motto,

“Just hand the ball to the official and  act like you’ve been there before.”

Then as I sat in the waiting room, I watched others as they came out. A few were dejected, others were indifferent and still others were sporting the same look I had minutes ago. Throughout the day at the conference, I asked about the response others had received from certain agents. There were quite a few that were asked to send partials of their manuscripts to the agents. This got me to thinking, are my chances here the same as any slush pile my manuscript has landed in?

dont hold your breath

I probably shouldn’t be holding my breath here.

I started to question everything. What was the point of coming here and the months of rehearsing, stressing out and whitening my teeth..MY SENSITIVE TEETH- I shriek internally every time I inhale! I started doing research on how much value these request actually held.

Don’t stress just yet.

relax

But then again, don’t start taking out loans based on your book sales either. I read a wonderful blog by Wendy Lawton called Books&Such where this situation is put into perspective from the agents point of view. I’ve read articles that speak of agents in a less than positive light about the way they lead authors on by asking for samples when they may not be as eager to represent the author as one might think. The Books&Such article clarifies why agents might ask for a manuscript sample and then not give you the gleaming results you are awaiting OR they may take much longer to respond than you had anticipated.

Here are 5 reasons she noted:

  • It’s most likely a serious request based on liking the initial pitch and being interested in the writer. Whether the agent is being realistic about his ability to manage the additional work he is agreeing to evaluate is the unknown element here.
  • Or it could just be the general giddiness and I-can-do-it-all feeling that comes from letting an overworked agent out of the office. At a writer’s conference we are predisposed to falling in love with ideas and writers. We’re talking with colleagues and brainstorming possibilities. Heady stuff.
  • It can mean the agent has been meeting with writer after writer in fifteen-minute blocks all day long and has finally admitted he is braindead and cannot evaluate anything and the best thing is to just see the work and evaluate later.The danger here is that he knows he is loading himself up with work, not taking into consideration the already critically backed-up workload at the office.
  • It might mean the agent knows he can’t evaluate fiction based on a query. He has to evaluate the writing. Some agents and editors ask to see anything that may hold promise based on the pitch. (Sadly some writers pitch like big leaguers while their writing isn’t even ready for the farm team.)
  • It might mean the agent is drawn to the writer himself and, regardless of the writing, wants to continue to explore. This is the power of meeting in person. These are the not-quite-ready writers that agents sometimes decide to sign, even earlier than normal, in order to mentor them. It’s one of the values of a writing conference–the inexplicable connection that sometimes happens.

So if you’ve received a face to face request CELEBRATE! Then revise as requested, send your manuscript and if you feel comfortable ask about a time frame in your query. Then wait but Heavens to Mergatroid QUERY WHILE YOU WAIT. Don’t put all your tofu in one recycled plastic tote (sorry, I’m vegan.) Keep sending out those queries just as you would, had you never gone to the conference at all. 

Have any of you received partial requests at a conference? How about a full? I received both this weekend and I’d love to hear the outcomes of your requests to give me something to ponder while I wait for my own response!

You’re not a failure until you give up.

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Some of the smallest things can appear monumental. Five sentences. FIVE STINKIN’ SENTENCES. All I had to do was recite them with feeling and heaven knows I’d done it a million times before – to the kids, to my poor husband, my students, the school secretary. I looked into the eyes of the mock agent and….CHOKED. I laughed, then belittled my self and started over three times. The second interview only went half as bad and by the time I got to the third and the fourth I was feeling a little better but when I got home from the dinner party I was nauseous. What if that had been the real thing? WILL I DO THAT AT THE REAL THING? The awful scene kept rolling over in my head, even the next morning, until my phone started dancing across my desk with an update from a blog I subscribe to. One quote stood out to me:

Mistakes can refine us or define us. –Kristen Lamb

Oh, by the way that is my  little puppy in the photo taking on the toy dinosaur  I KNOW! She’s adorable. Anywho back to failure. We’ve all heard it before but it is truly, truly all about perspective. Now, I am so glad I went in and bombed it with the sweet people that took an hour or two out of their busy schedules to come hear this dreamer pitch her book, because now that I’ve fallen flat on my face, I know what NOT to do.
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. -Henry Ford
 My thoughts are my worst enemy. I psych myself out. I psych myself out about psyching myself out! So, when I got home that night I started thinking things like, “What are you trying to accomplish anyway? Why are you putting yourself through this?  Just bury it and walk away.”
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But  failure only happens when we quit. As long as we are trying, there is the potential for success in our future. I’m encouraged by what I learned from biting the big one the other night. It opened the door for me to improve so I can walk into the room with those agents next week with a totally new perspective.

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These moments in our journeys are the growing times and it’s all in how we perceive them. We can walk away saying, “Oh! I see exactly what I did wrong. I’m so glad I caught that so I can change it.” Or we can walk away saying, “I can’t believe I blew it like that.” I have to say I might still be wallowing in the latter stinking thinking if it weren’t for my husband, who isn’t afraid to point out the things that need working on because he knows I’m capable of knocking it out of the park. I can’t always see that but for now I’m going to take his word for it.
So, here’s what I’d love from you: advice. How do you stay out of your head in the moment? What do you do when you can feel that you’re losing your grip during a presentation? How do you just relax and tell your story to a perfect stranger? I’d love to hear from you!

It’s Not What You Know It’s Who You Know

me

First, let me start by saying that I am officially a dud. I am, at this very moment, sitting in a crowd of people at an Outlaws arena football game (who my brother-n-laws play for professionally) with my lap top, editing my manuscript and thinking only of my blog followers! I asked my husband if he could do something about the ridiculously loud music they are playing between the plays because it is distracting me but he said I’m just being sensitive. Hmpf!

Now that I’ve vented, let us get to the topic at hand. Whether you are self published or on the path to finding an agent, as an author, we all want the same thing – for our work to be noticed. For over a year now, I’ve been sitting quietly in my living room in small town USA screaming into cyberspace for someone to give me a chance, sending out queries, writing revision after revision of my synopsis, trying out new hooks on different agents and hoping to somehow stand out from the rest of the layers in the slush pile. Maybe that’s you too?

Representation is the golden egg to writers, for many have written yet few are published. To quote Alexandria LaFaye, an author I met recently,  “less than 2% of the world is published!”  This leads me to believe one thing, there is some truth in one of those old cliche’s we writers try so hard to avoid.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I’ve been blessed and honored to meet many published authors, either through conferences or festivals and each time I do, I ask them the same question. “How did you find representation?”  Nearly every author I have asked tells me they secured an agent or editor through a meeting, conference, pitch session, contest or through a connection they made with another author. Not with a query.

It’s the unfortunate truth. Trying to find an agent can start to feel a bit like playing the lottery. I’m not saying it’s impossible but writers have to be realistic about the chances. Your manuscript is in a pile with many other talented pieces.  So what is the solution? 

Get to know people!

You’ll be surprised to find that authors and agents are -gasp– people too! I know, I know; writers are introverts by nature and face time just isn’t our thing (sorry if this stereo type doesn’t fit) but it’s time to get crazy and take a risk. Time to get out there and meet people that can teach us the things we need to know, point us in the right direction and sometimes even help us make career changing connections.

How you ask?

You have to leave your house and your comfort zone and probably your zip code. I’m talking conferences, literature festivals, writer’s groups, contests! Grab that paper bag and breathe in and out. It’s going to be okay! And here’s another thing, don’t be afraid to talk to them! What’s the worst that can happen? They might not have the time to talk. Maybe they won’t email you back if you take their card. But….WHAT IF THEY DO! It’s worth that chance isn’t it?

We have a whole summer of conferences ahead of us. Pick one and go! Make a family trip out of it. Make connections while you are there and challenge yourself to know and be known!