Hello gentle reader,
In my previous posts, I have talked at length about the querying process. Today I’d like to share with you a few pointers about what comes at the end of the querying process: namely, The Call.
What is The Call?
It’s the moment when an agent offers representation by means of a phone call.
It’s both a very exciting and important time, because it’s when you assess whether or not the calling agent is actually the right agent for you. Hopefully you’ve done some research before The Call happens and you have an idea of the agent’s working style and goals. However the only way to be certain you can have a long-time working relationship with an agent is to talk to her. Hence The Call ritual.
What should you do before The Call?
You should prepare. When you’ve been querying for a long time, getting The Call may seem like a mirage. You’re so focused on getting an agent’s attention, you don’t even think about what will happen once you finally get it.
So it’s very important to start preparing for that phone call as soon as you receive the long-awaited “We need to talk” email. Sometimes, like in my case, the agent will say “I want to offer representation” in her email. Other times, the agent will only say “I want to talk to you about your manuscript”. In the second case, it may mean the agent only wants to discuss an R&R (Revise and Resubmit), so beware. But in the first case, you need to be ready to ask the agent the right questions.
What questions should you ask?
There is a lot of advice on this topic out there.
My advice is: don’t prepare a million questions. Chances are you can find a lot of answers online before The Call. Finding out how experienced the agent is, how many clients she has, what professional organizations she’s a part of, if she handles film rights/foreign rights/audio rights, what her percentage is, if she’s a hands-on/editorial agent… all this is usually available online. My suggestion is therefore that you focus on YOU, YOUR BOOK and how THE AGENT fits in with both.
Some of the topics you can discuss are:
- The editing process for your manuscript (what does the agent want you to work on, in what timeframe, etc.). It’ll help you decide if you and the agent share the same vision for your story.
- The submission process (to which editors the agent is planning on submitting your manuscript, according to which timeline, etc.). It’s especially important if you have multiple offers of representation. You’ll want to go with the agent who has connections with the editors you’re interested in.
- The long-term relationship (what the agent thinks as a good working relationship with her clients, what will happen after your first book sells, what her vision is for your career, etc).
- Lastly, I’d suggest asking for a copy of the agency agreement. Just to make sure everything is in order before you say yes.
What won’t be discussed during The Call?
Even if I was prepared for The Call when it came, I still wasn’t 100% sure of what the agent would want to discuss with me.
I expected questions about my online presence, there were none. Agents are interested in YOUR MANUSCRIPT and YOUR WRITING. If that’s good, the rest can follow. Not the other way around.
I expected questions about my private life (I have an unusual background and day job, and I thought the agents might want to know about it). They weren’t THAT interested. Those questions came later, once I signed with my agent and she became curious. But at the time of The Call, all that mattered was MY MANUSCRIPT and MY WRITING.
Are we noticing a theme here? Yes. In my experience, The Call is about making sure the agent and you share the same vision for your manuscript and your writing. If you do, then the rest will usually follow.
Thanks for the advice!