Most writing-related talk at conventions, in webinars, and on blogs and vlogs focuses on things you need to do to partner with a literary agent. Less gets said about what happens once you do, so, a year after signing with the fab Kaitlyn Johnson of the Belcastro Literary Agency, I thought I’d write about some of it.
Obligatory disclaimer: I’m going to focus on a few things that should be universally valuable and tackle them from as generic an angle as possible. Real-life agents and agencies may of course do things a bit (or a lot) differently.
Signing With an Agent
There are lots of potential contracts to sign as a professional writer. If you go the traditional publishing route (rather than self-publishing), the first contract will probably be with a literary agent. There are quite a few details you might not be familiar with, so it’s important you talk it through with the agent and read it through on your own to understand the definition of your professional relationship.
You might be a client of the agency working with the agent, or you may be a client of the agent and have no direct connection to the agency. You may be signing for all your present and future work, or maybe on a book-by-book basis. What are your options if your agent leaves that agency? How might the business relationship end?
Every writer hopes to have “The Call”, but it’s important for your (and your agent’s) protection, career, and peace of mind that you understand how it all works. Once you do and you sign, congratulations, you’re a represented writer! 😊
Going Out on Sub is Very Much Like Querying
I’ve heard people say your agent sending your book to acquisition editors is different from you sending it to agents, but it’s my experience that those folks are picking nits. Sure, there are subtle differences (see below) but the process is essentially the same.
For comparison, here’s a one-to-one on how each plays out:
Querying – you send a pitch, synopsis, and book sample to an agent, and wait to hear back
Going on sub – your agent sends a pitch, synopsis, and book sample to an editor, and waits to hear back
See, samesies. Not convinced? Okay, here’s some Rejection 101 for each:
Querying – Agents may turn you down for a number of reasons. The voice didn’t grab them, they liked it but it’s not a good fit (they’re not sure how to sell it, it’s too close to something they already rep, etc.) and so on
Going on sub – Editors may turn you down for a number of reasons. The voice didn’t grab them, they liked it but it’s not a good fit (they’re not sure how to sell it, it’s too close to something they already have, etc.) and so on
Still don’t buy it? Let’s talk about getting an R&R (Revise and Resubmit):
Querying – The agent likes your book but asks you to make some edits and send it again. No guarantee they’ll want it after
Going on sub – The editor likes your book but asks you to make some edits and send it again. No guarantee they’ll want it after
I think I’ve made my point 😊
One difference is your agent builds the list of editors they’re going to send to (like you built a list of agents to query) because they have that expertise and those relationships. They also craft the submission, which is inspired by what you originally submitted to them, and handle all communication with editors.
With my agent, when a rejection from an editor comes in, we discuss it and may agree to course correct. If not, we continue through our editor list. This is the biggest (HUGE) difference from querying. Having someone to talk out the rejection with cannot be overstated.
You Never Have to Write a Pitch or Synopsis Again
I’ve heard writers say, “I can’t wait to never write another query or synopsis.” Friends, unless you’re never going to write another book, that simply ain’t true, for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s not that you’ll necessarily have to pitch your agent on your next book, but if you want to involve them in the selection process (is it something they represents or think would sell?) you will. The easiest way to do that, for both of you, is to write a pitch (the pitch paragraphs from a query letter) and get their feedback.
Another reason: remember when I said your agent will craft the editor submission package from the materials you sent them? That’s true. Why would they start from a blank page, right? Doesn’t make sense. Well, if it doesn’t make sense to do that for your first book, it doesn’t make sense for the following ones either. That means they’ll need a pitch and synopsis, and you, as the writer, are the best person to write them. Also, if you sell that book, those materials may even be used for back cover copy, to build interest at industry conferences from booksellers, marketing, etc.
So, sorry to break it to you, but you should get used to writing pitches and synopses. They get easier over time, I promise, and are a great skill to develop.
I think that’s pretty good for this post. Hope some of you find this info helpful. If anyone would like me to write about any other topics, please leave a comment.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe.
2 thoughts on “Agentversary! – Things I’ve Learned Over My First Year as an Agented Writer”
Hi Ron, so good to see this post from you. I’ve been thinking of you and wondering how you are doing. As for the post itself, it is so informative. As an unagented writer, this clears up so many questions that float around in my mind. So thank you for that.
BTW, I haven’t stopped querying agents. Thanks to you, I feel my queries and synopsis continue to improve. Remember you helped me out some time ago? Anyway, I’ve also joined another writer’s group and have found them helpful. One of the women has written her debut novel. And it will be out in November. I forget the publishing house, but it is a big one. I especially enjoy her comments.
Stay safe and well.
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Hi Patricia! Glad you’re doing well and still querying. Best of luck 🙂 I’m sure working with that group will be useful.