So, mystery author extraordinaire, Nancy Pickard, posted some thoughts and questions on agents this morning and it turned out I had a lot to say in response. Here are my comments from over there:
I think you absolutely must be friendly with your agent. I think that it also is a great thing to make friends with them over time, but I’m leery of starting off the relationship as friends because if it doesn’t work out* you have a major problem.
Ooh, I should probably back up one from that, I really believe that having an agent is a huge asset in this business both to sell your work so that you don’t have to do what is a really big second job on top of writing, but also because a good agent will do wonders for you in contract negotiations and long term improvement of both your revenue stream and flexibility**. This is doubly true as more and more publishers stop looking at unagented works.
Multiply submitting…I’m with Miss Snark on this, exclusives suck and should only be entered into when there is no reasonable alternative. Submit to a bunch of agents (though you’ve got to read guidelines and tailor the pitch). Only agree to an exclusive if it’s an agent high on your list and for a finite window and for a full. If you’ve got stuff out with multiple agents and someone asks for exclusive on the full, be honest, tell them you’ve got the partial out elsewhere and that you’re willing to give them an exclusive on the full for a finite period–probably not less than three weeks and certainly not more than a couple of months. Don’t submit multiply to several agents at the same house, but other than that, go for it.
I will say that I think it’s best to send in waves. Maybe five at a time in the first couple so that you can get a sense of the response to your initial query and synopsis and adjust as necessary.
Finally, as I said, Miss Snark is the best thing ever to happen to online agency discussions, and I am eternally bummed that she no longer updates her blog. However, the archives are still there and a while back I went through and read and indexed the whole thing by topic: Miss Snark index. The vast majority of basic and even advanced agent questions have answers in her files and they are both smart and funny.
Okay, going to stop now since I’ve already grabbed a huge chunk of Nancy’s comment real estate. Hope it’s useful.
Oops, I lied. Two last things, I have my doubts about the average value of in-person pitches, but for anyone who’s interested, I’ve sunk some time into talking about pitches and synopses: Pitching and Synopses parts 1, 2, and 3. Plus, what a synopsis should do.
*possible reasons for not working out, they don’t sell your work, you don’t agree on the way your career should go, you change genres into something they don’t/won’t represent, major life changing events knock them out of business for a significant time, etc.
**Mine has a standard contract with all the houses he works with that is much better than the base contract. With that the starting point for negotiations we don’t have to fight over all kinds of things that unrepped authors do. Also, his negotiations for me have a lot of impact on options and no competing works clauses, very important in my case since I write fast.
(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog November 18 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)