So You’ve Gotten “The Call”

The Call (n): Writing term. When an agent responds positively to your query and full manuscript and wants to talk to discuss the possibility of representation.

Even though a lot of my Pitch Wars class had received The Call ahead of me and put together a list of questions and even though I googled high and low to see what both agents and represented authors recommended you ask on The Call, I was nervous and sure my list was going to be completely terrible. It was exhaustive, though, and I was happy with it. I knew I might not need to ask every question, because my agent is gracious and smart and shared most of the info I wanted with me before I even had to ask. Superstar, honestly. But I still wished I could have had a handy list of questions, so here is one for you. This is only a suggestion, there are so many other wonderful resources. Go forth and google.

As for me, I printed these out over four pieces of paper, giving myself tons of blank space to take notes while chatting so I didn’t have to type while we talked.

Something to keep in mind: I signed with a newer agent, so I wanted to ask a lot of questions about her plan for her career, what her support system was like at her agency, and things like that. Your mileage may vary. I hope these questions are at all helpful. Congrats on your call!

THE CALL: [Agent], [Agency]

  • What did you like / respond to about my book?
  • What do you think needs work?
  • What do you think my strengths / weaknesses are as a writer?
  • What would our relationship / partnership look like?
  • If you become my agent, do you have an idea of how we would manage my author brand / books to come?
  • How many clients do you currently have? _____   Ideally? ______
  • Are you looking to represent:  ____ this book     ____ whole career
  • Do you have a written agency agreement I could see?
  • What’s the commission structure like at your agency?
  • How are sub rights handled?
  • What’s your support system like in the agency?
  • What’s your vision for your career?
  • If down the line you switch agencies or leave agenting, what would you foresee happening to your clients?
  • Do you have any other roles / jobs in the agency?
  • What’s something you find challenging about being an agent and / or want to improve on?
  • If I do sign with you, what would our next steps be?
  • What’s your communication style / preference?
  • Response times?
  • When do you prefer to hear about my upcoming projects? Idea phase? Outline? Draft? Once it’s been through betas?
  • What’s your editorial style like?
  • What’s your relationship with Big 5 editors like?
  • Submission strategy? (Big 5, small press, etc.)
  • How many rounds of sub before we shelve it?
  • What happens if this book doesn’t sell?
  • What’s your communication like when a project is on submission?
  • Do you have an idea of what the average length of a contract negotiation is like at your agency? From offer of pub to finalizing/signing the contract?

Like I said, I was thorough. And I didn’t ask everything on my list! We covered a lot of ground organically in the course of our conversation, which was nice. But it’s important to ask the questions you have in your head! And if you don’t think of everything during the call, that’s okay too! I emailed my agent after our call to ask a follow-up about IP work that had been floating around my head. You might want to ask if the agent is willing to represent your work in multiple genres or age groups.

If the agent doesn’t offer it up on their own, it’s also worth asking for the contact information of a few of their clients so you can ask what it’s like to work with them. Ideally, you’ll be able to talk/email with clients (current or former) who write in the same genre/category as you. A mix of writers who have sold their books and some who haven’t is a great way to gauge the full spectrum of your prospective agent’s dealings. I’ll share my list of questions I asked clients here sometime soon.

Everyone has specific needs from their agent, and it’s important to figure out if you’ll be a good match. You need to trust your agent, and sometimes the only way to do that is to ask some tough / uncomfortable questions! As long as you remain professional and respectful, you’re probably good.

To maintain my extremely professional demeanor, I leave you with this:

 

WRITE Wednesday

WRITE Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by my dear friend Poppy Simeri and Vera James every Wednesday. As What’s Up, Wednesday has wrapped up, I’m excited to jump into this new feature! It will focus on writing & reading, regular blogging, and blog friendships.

W: Writing

I’m wrapping up the first round of edits on Delia this week so I can send them to some friends for initial critiques. I can’t believe I’ve managed to cut over 30,000 words already. (It was depressingly necessary.) But I’m more excited about the story than ever since it finally has some coherency. And just yesterday Poppy herself texted me about an exciting new writing project for us to work on together. It’s going to be fun and challenging and I’m already frantically brainstorming fun things to put into it.

R: Reading

I still haven’t finished my Great Harry Potter Re-read, but I have made it to the 7th book so. It’s on the horizon. I’m hoping to be done by September 1st so that I can have read them in one year.

I also just picked up City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on a couple of friends’ recommendation. I’m about five chapters in, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m not 100% sold, but it’s something I can read pretty quickly, so I’ll stick with it.

I: Inspiration

I’m inspired by good writing. Books that are so good I have to set them aside to write something of my own. Books that are so beautifully written I want to do yet another round of edits to make my writing stronger. Having author-crushes makes something warm bloom in my chest that pushes me to be better, better, better.

T: Thinking Ahead

Having these Delia edits done! Seeing what wonderful and terrifying and insightful notes my friends will have for me and how I’ll possibly manage to do them while balancing grad school.

E: Encouragement

Writing friendships and crit partners! Knowing there are people cheering for me that are excited about what I’m doing is the best inspiration to keep me writing. They especially help push me toward the finish line and make the best version of the book possible. I try my best to be my writer friends’ cheerleader as well, because they’re all so amazing and I am so amazed by how talented they are.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //10\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY,hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

Well, let’s see. As predicted, I cried my way through the last 50 pages of Code Name Verity. It was agonizingly beautiful and I already picked up Rose Under Fire from the library.

I’m almost done with Adverbs by Daniel Handler. I loved A Series of Unfortunate Events by Handler (written as Lemony Snicket) and I didn’t expect Adverbs to be the same, it’s an adult book after all. But I don’t love it the way I wanted to. The vignettes are all woven together with a common cast of characters, but none of them feel compelling. None of them feel fleshed out nor the world well-developed enough for me to really be hooked.

The Great Harry Potter re-read is still underway, and I’m currently working my way through Order of the Phoenix. I expect to sprint through the first four hundred pages and have to force myself to finish it. I’m not ready for that kind of emotional pain.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – I’m making some serious progress! Just about three chapters to go if all of my plotting and pacing in my outline is accurate. Everything’s coming together and it’s equally exciting and nerve-wracking because I’m not ready to let go of these characters yet. But only one more golf match to write (thankfully – you can only make them so interesting) and there are relationship developments happening between the main characters. It’s all coming together.

Delia – I’m trying to use the weekends to revise, but *insert panicked laughter here* oh boy is that difficult to dive into. So I’m still just trying to jigsaw the plot of the first half together, re-tooling character introductions and meet-cutes alike.

What Works for Me

Bribes. I’m not even kidding. Once, I put off writing a kissing scene for literally weeks until Kate bribed me with a bottle of wine to finish it. And now it’s not been explicitly stated or anything, but I really revel in it when Bailey and Kate send me positive feedback and general exclamation points as they read new chapters. It gets me excited to keep writing and to think of how they’ll react to what’s to come.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I heard back from grad schools! I got in! The relief and joy have now taken a back-burner to my frantic list-making. I have a spreadsheet of pros and cons and costs and benefits for the two programs I’m seriously considering, so that’s been my main focus.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //9\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY,hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

I just finished The Wonder Boys. It was like reading a mid-life crisis.

Tonight I’m very excited to re-start Code Name Verity. I started it last summer and put a pin in it because, while I loved it, it had to go back to the library. Then, because I couldn’t bear to see the story disappear from my life, I bought a copy. Unfortunately it arrived right after I got distracted by my Great Book Marathon of 2014 when I got Unmade, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue and had to re-read all those series before I could sink my teeth into the new additions. But now I’m ready to start it again and give it the attention it deserves because I was so in love with it last summer and I can’t wait to revisit that feeling.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – Last night I finished up a super fun chapter for Bailey and Kate. I can’t wait for them to read it for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I know something about how the chapter ends that they don’t. Making them wait for the next chapter will be really fun for me to torture them with.

Delia – I think I might implement a system where I force myself to revise a chunk of Delia for every chapter of TGS that I finish. Since there aren’t that many chapters of TGS left to be written, this might be a good ramp-up to the serious revision this story needs.

What Works for Me

I’d been using Google Docs to work on my WIP while away from my laptop and it was fine. Sometimes it got laggy, but on the whole it was good. My problem was actually that I kept my outline and draft in the same document and it felt cluttered. Last week I switched to using Celtx as my browser platform and I really like it. It feels cleaner and more efficient than GDocs. I also like that I can insert chapter breaks that correspond to a handy navigator. I’d only used Celtx for screenplays in the past, but it’s really easy to use and I’ve been really productive since switching to it.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Despite having the cold from hell last week, Friday was a great day! I woke up from a nap to an email that notified me of my acceptance to grad school!!! Immediately after, my roommate invited me to go see Jupiter Ascending (which was a-mah-zing), and on the way to the theater we stopped at a book store so I could finally get my hands on a copy of VE Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic.

I’m also obsessively refreshing the Classic Alice indiegogo page. Please donate if you can!

What’s Up, Wednesday? //8\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY, hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. I’m struggling through it a bit, because it’s very, uh, self-aggrandizing. I absolutely think that is due to the main character and not the author, though. It’s written in the first-person perspective of a struggling author who’s working on his masterpiece novel. Bye-the-bye it’s also about a white dude’s mid-life crisis and I kind of want to tell Michael Chabon to stop wanking. After I give that some thought, though, I wonder if that’s spectacularly effective writing. Because the writing is good, and I’m obviously still reading. I want to see where the story goes. I’m just a little bit over reading about self-destructive white dudes.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – I’ve made it back to a chapter that I am deliriously happy to be writing. It’s fun, playful, and energetic, and there will be kissing.

Delia – Oh, god. I actually started revising Delia and I hate everything. I  made myself a note to “cut everything that doesn’t involve kissing, snark, or blood.” Which actually sounds like a pretty solid revision strategy. And then I realize that I’ve already cut 20k and it feels like nothing happened. Regardless, I’ve written a new opening scene and I’m cutting and pasting and crying and writing. Definitely trying not to think about the complete overhaul the first half needs.

What Works for Me

I’ve never written more quickly or been as excited to finish a section than I have since I started talking to Kate and Bailey about my work. In the past I’ve always been supremely reluctant to talk about my writing at all, but having two people that I like and trust to bounce ideas off of and get positive reinforcement from has been a blessing.

Though I may change my tune when I need them to start actively critiquing.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Last week I went to an event at the Smithsonian where I got to meet Martin Sheen! Not to sound dramatic, but it was everything I’ve ever dreamed of (and more!). The whole event was basically a conversation about his character on The West Wing and he was wonderful and funny and kind and we made so much eye contact. Watching him watch The West Wing is also my new favorite hobby.

On Friday I officially tendered my letter of resignation! Keep your fingers crossed that I get accepted to grad school or I may be in Cleveland for more than the summer. But that’s alright (eh), because I’m pretty okay with my contingency plans.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //7\\

Happy February! Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY, hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to. I know the Northeast is covered in snow, but the DC area hasn’t been able to accumulate more than an inch (it seems), so this weeks’ WUW sidebar is a little idealistic.

What I’m Reading

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. I started it ages ago, re-started it last week. I love Michael Chabon and wanted something to immerse myself in, but so far it just seems like a white dude’s mid-life crisis. But I’ve barely begun so I’m reserving judgment. Summerland was one of my favorite middle grade books and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a masterpiece, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

On the non-fiction front, I’m reading The Great Cat Massacre by Robert Darnton. It was on the required reading list in a college course (Enlightenment Europe) and I finally have the time to sit down and read more than the few assigned sections.

In retrospect, I should have planned my book-pairing better because they both feel ‘adult’ and serious. Because, as I’m learning, everyone was too busy working themselves to death in 17th century France to have a little fun and frivolity in their lives.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – Kate and Bailey finally received Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 is off to, well, a start. The last couple of chapters had kissing, and drinking, and a lot of music but only a little bit of golf. So now I get to write a lot of golf. All of the golf. But in a fun way. Good news, though: I’m officially working on the final third of the draft.

Delia – Delia is what I’m calling the project I finished last summer because the main character’s name is Delia and I’m truly abhorrent at naming things. And she’s not getting written so much as getting revised. But that’s a part of the writing process, so she still counts. Poor Delia is a stagnant first half tied to an action-packed second half right now, but I promised myself that when I finished applying to grad schools I would start to revise her, so here we are.

What Works for Me

Outlining (apparently). That Golf Story is the first time I’ve outlined a story in its entirety before I began writing it. I wrote an overall outline for plot. Then I broke the plot into three sections and made sure there was rising action, and conflict, and resolutions. Which worked in that I found an organic way to split the draft into sections. Then I broke down chapter-by-chapter scenes. And sure, some stuff has been cut, characters have been added and others have merged; there’s a lot of stuff I hadn’t originally anticipated. Overall, though, having a guide has been a blessing. It’s easier for me to brainstorm. I can play with structure now that I actually have one.

This is all a far cry from Delia. She’s a hot mess. I developed my main character and had a vague idea of what I wanted for her, but I pants-d it. When I did outline, it was as I wrote. And I kept the outline in the same document as things that I cut and ideas that didn’t quite fit. So poor Delia’s all over the place, and the mythology struggles because of it. Revision will be harder because of it and that’s not really an exciting prospect as a first-time reviser.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

It was my birthday recently, so I planned myself the perfect day (and executed it pretty flawlessly). Let me just say: Wine jell-o shots are my new favorite thing. But before I drank, I got my first tattoo! To balance out all the fun, I’ve been productive – I’ve already filed my taxes, completed my FAFSA, and am officially done applying to grad schools! Now it’s just a waiting game.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //6\\

Happy New Year and welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY, hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

I finally finished my great re-read of 2014. Well, most of it. I’m still halfway through the Harry Potter series and in the middle of Summerland, but those will keep. New year, new books! Yesterday I finished  Making Headlines by my good friend Erin Brown. It was just as delightfully scandalous as I expected with a bonus helping of Veronica Mars-esque sleuthing and tons of chemistry. It’s a companion novel to her first book, Taking Flight (which I also highly recommend). It was a fun page-turner and it flew by.

Now I’m reading Eternal Night by Carina Adly Mackenzie. I’ve followed Carina on twitter forever and I’ve really been looking forward to having a chance to read it. I love the premise – a bunch of eternally young gods have lost their powers as people stopped believing in them and the apocalypse seems to be imminent – but there’s something about it that’s just not clicking with me. I think it’s the perspective shifts each chapter. There are a lot of characters and I’m having trouble getting as familiar with them as the writing leads me to believe I should be. But I’m only 13% in, so I’m excited to see how it comes together.

What I’m Writing

Still working on That Golf Story. I’m about two-thirds of the way done, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking. I’m so glad I thoroughly outlined it before I started so I know what’s coming up and what I have to look forward to. It makes the prospect of sitting down and writing less daunting. Now I just have to worry about making sure there’s a cohesive, compelling plot buried under all the fun I’m having.

Short-term goal: Finish the second section / Chapter 12 by this time next week.

What Works for Me

For Christmas my roommate got me a few bottles of wine and a giant wine glass. Sometimes there’s no better writing companion than booze. I can disassociate just enough that I can write, and write a lot, without second-guessing what I’m putting on the page. Sure, some of it may get scrapped later, but it’s kind of freeing to see what kind of ideas I’ll have next.

I’m also excited because the gifts will pair perfectly with Write Drunk, Edit Eventually, Kate and my pet project, when our schedules align.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Oh boy. I’ve taught myself how to crochet, though not very well. I took a bunch of days off and went home for Christmas. I visited my extended family. I bought myself a bunch of books at Half Price. I’m almost done with my grad school applications (I better be, the first is due next week). I went to the driving range.

And I watched so, so much TV. Most recently I caught up on the US version of Shameless. I’m addicted. Next up: Looking.