“The Call” Reversed: What agents like to know about potential authors

contract signingAuthors are usually busy studying up for “the call” (an agent reaching out via phone to offer representation) when they know it’s on the horizon. It’s an exciting time for authors and agents! Resources are everywhere and there are many great guides to “the call” including these:

However, what about the flip side? What do agents like to know about writers when we offer?

What agents like to know about potential fiction authors:

  • What are you working on next?
  • How long does it take you to write a draft?
  • Who are some of your favorite authors?
  • What kind of support are you looking for?
  • What has been your path to publishing? Agented before? Published before?
  • How do you workshop your work? Critique group?
  • Where do your ideas come from?
  • What is your day job? And what does your writing schedule look like?
  • What are some of your career goals and expectations?
  • How many other agents are looking at the manuscript?
  • Do my editorial notes match your vision for the book?
  • How do you feel about social media?

Why I want to know these things:

This is a sample of some of the questions I like to know answers to when I’m getting to know a potential author. Some of the most important things are that we share the same vision for this book and your career, and that we have similar taste in books we read for fun. I like to know that writers have a strong work ethic and a writing group they work with so I’m not the sole provider of feedback. I want to know about your publishing history even if it’s not clean and tidy–often it isn’t. I like to know your patterns like how fast you write and when you write, plus the best time to get in contact with you.

Is it about the answers?

You don’t need “perfect” answers to these questions. It’s nothing you can study for. At the end of the day we want to work with writers who we get along with, whose work we love and feel passionate about, who have a career path that we feel we can assist in, and who trust us.

That call is about both of us deciding we’re a fit. Just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it. 

Q: What have you been asked on “the call” or hope to be asked?

Further reading:

7 ways to make yourself an easy author to work with

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Why Agents Pass On Material They Say They Are Looking For

stressMany writers on Twitter know how great #MSWL is. It’s a hashtag where agents and editors can list what they’re looking for. (P.S. For those of you not on Twitter there are two blogs that post them: Agent And Editor WishlistMS Wishlist.)

Many agents also list on their websites what they’re actively looking for, too.

It’s exciting when writers see their manuscript align with an agent’s interest so they send off a query and…then nothing. Either no request. Or a request but no offer of representation.

What happens when agents pass on material they say they’re looking for?

  • We’re still looking for the ‘magic.’ So many things have to be perfect for us to sign up new projects. Even if the plot matches with what we’re looking for there are other parts to the equation.
  • The voice wasn’t right for us. This is the other part of the equation.
  • Writers try to put a square peg in a round hole. If we say we’re looking for contemporary settings with suspense, don’t send us suspense set in space.
  • We have something too similar on our list. You missed the gap! We already got our ‘wishlist’ project.

If you want to know what I’m looking for here it is! My manuscript wishlist.

Q: What do you wonder about agents & their wishlists? I’ll answer all questions!

“Is it my query or my sample pages?” Why you are not getting full manuscript requests

dialogueOne of the most common, and most subjective, questions I get asked at writer’s workshops is: “How do I know when it’s my query or whether it’s my sample pages that are stopping me from getting full manuscript requests or offers?”

Ultimately, every circumstance is different, but in my experience the situations look like this:

When you are not getting requests because of your query…

…it’s because you aren’t targeting agents who are actively building a list. Established agents have great and enviable client lists, but they usually aren’t signing many debuts.

…it’s because your query is a synopsis and not a pitch. Know the difference and don’t make that mistake.

…it’s because you don’t know what your book is about. Don’t write a rambling paragraph about themes, we want the drama.

….it’s because your query doesn’t explain the external conflict, character motivation, and stakes. If you have a great book but can’t tell us about it, how will we know?

When you are not getting requests or offers because of your sample pages… Continue reading “Is it my query or my sample pages?” Why you are not getting full manuscript requests

Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part IV

Question from Renee:
I sent a query letter into an agent that looked fine on my screen but when I looked to see what it looked like it was all scrunched together. Are agents forgiving of computer glitches?

Subjective question, but in all honesty these are things you should be checking before you send them to agents. You should email your query to yourself, your partner, your friends–whoever will look at it!–to see how it looks in email format. To me, format does make an impression, but it’s not the end of the world.

Question from Jackie:
Continue reading Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part IV