Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Agent Has Lost That Loving Feeling

STATUS: I have a lot of reading to tackle and unfortunately haven’t been able to devote any time to it during the day. Nothing huge going on but a lot of time-consuming and boring “this is what agents do behind the scenes” details to help clients. In fun news, Sara launched our brand spanking new MySpace page if you want to check it out and friend us. It’s just one more way we are trying to get the word out about our YA (and crossover) writers. It’s probably a trend that is like, so over, you know? We’ll see what happens.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? A LITTLE RESPECT by Erasure

The mark of a good agent is an agent who doesn’t give up after the initial submission glow has faded.

Yep, it happens. Agents take on projects because we love them and think they can sell. Invariably, a manuscript will go out on submission and completely flummox us by not selling. By the way, this happens to all agents (except maybe if your name is Binky but let’s not go there).

Does the glow fade some after the initial submission excitement has subsided? Well, you know I’m honest, of course it does. It’s the worst feeling in the world to think, “Gee, did I miss on this one? Why isn’t my taste matching up with everyone else? Have I lost my mojo?”

In reality, sometimes the market timing just isn’t right (and let me tell you timing is everything) and a good project doesn’t sell right away or just doesn’t sell period.

A good agent rolls up her sleeves (or his cuffs) and gets grubby looking for the non obvious choices, the out of the box possibilities, and tries to get that project sold. Despite our best efforts, sometimes it doesn’t happen.

So here’s the reality of the situation from the Agent Kristin perspective (and remember, I don’t speak for all agents):

1. First round submission comes back all NOs. Yes, the glow is definitely off the submission but I don’t just drop the project. I know I’ll move to my second round choice of editors and push forward. This usually happens in pretty quick time—unless an obvious revision per the editors’ comments is needed. (For me, I give editors about 5 weeks to read any submission and get back to me. When the project is hot, it never takes that long before I hear back from an editor. If not hot, most editors will get back to me within that time frame. After the 5-week deadline has passed, then I start my gentle nudging). So, first two submits within a 3-month or so window

2. Second round fails. Oh boy, the glow is really off the project. And yes, it does get regulated to back burner. And I have to be honest; it’s not a first priority for me. Current published clients as well as new submissions take precedence. Perhaps the author needs to revise (first time or some more) and we can go back to some editors that showed some interest. Time to dig deep for the out-of-the-box editor ideas. I don’t give up though.

3. Third round. Most likely a mix of new editors and editors seeing a revised version. Depending on the project (and the genre), we might have exhausted all possibilities as this third round goes out. If it doesn’t sell in this round, it probably won’t. Not to mention, I need to make a living. I really have to start concentrating on what will sell to keep the agency profitable.

4. If it doesn’t sell and I’ve dug deep, I’ll put the nix on the project and urge the author to get started on the next project. I never really give up though. If an opportunity arises out of nowhere or if the market changes, I’ll take it back out. It hasn’t happened to me yet (but then again my agency is only 4 years old so not enough time has elapsed for some trend cycles) but it has happened for Agent friends of mine to sell a project 2 or 3 years after the original submission. It happens. Not often but it can happen.

In the history of my agency, I’ve had the pleasure of selling two great projects that took me over a year to sell.

I feel the greatest triumph for those two. Would I prefer they had sold in 2 seconds? Heck yes but I was pretty darn proud when they sold.

Tomorrow I’ll talk more about how writers can know and understand if their agent has lost that loving feeling or if the agent really has exhausted all possibilities. And also, tips for how writers can handle the “lost submission glow” scenario.