Should You Sign with the First Agent Who Asks You and Other Great Publishing Questions
Blogger: Rachel Kent
The staff for the upcoming Write! Canada conference requested an interview with me, and I was happy to oblige them. Since some interesting topics crop up in the conversation, and I figured you might like to see it too. Thanks to Jayne Self for coming up with these great questions. To see the original interview or to find out more about Write! Canada, click here.
JAYNE: I don’t think it would be too strong to say writers hunger for an agent. And often first-time writers are happy to sign with the first agent who offers. That’s a bit like accepting the first man who proposes. What problems or dangers do you see arising from this attitude?
RACHEL: I think it really depends on how you query. Before you do your querying, you should do research so that you are only querying agents with whom you believe you could work well and who are reputable in the industry. That way if one of them offers representation you already know that that person is someone you want to work with. When you do receive an offer of representation, it’s a common courtesy to give the other agents who are looking at your book a chance to respond to you. I suggest you write to each of them and ask if they could have an answer to you within 10 business days. The representation-offering agent will understand because he or she would want the same courtesy if a different agent had finished your project first.
I think that the situation you mention shouldn’t even be a problem if authors approach getting an agent in the right way.
JAYNE: What unique qualities/perspectives do you offer prospective clients?
RACHEL: I am an encourager and friend to my clients, and I pray for them. I also think I am able to give good content editing advice to my clients when I read a manuscript. I’ve always enjoyed helping authors to make a story the best it can be. I’m a peacemaker and work hard so that the author/publisher relationship runs smoothly.
JAYNE: Many new authors hope publishing a book will be the fast ticket to fame and fortune. Knowing that no two books are the same, from your experience, how much (in ballpark figures) should an author expect to make on their first book?
RACHEL: This can range from $500 to $100,000 or more depending on the size of the publishing house and the sales forecast for the project. It’s best not to have financial expectations and to trust God. Also, don’t expect to quit your day job when you get published. Writing is more often a hobby than a career, and the money comes infrequently so counting on it to pay all the bills is dangerous. Most authors I know write because God gave writing to them as a passion, and they want to touch lives. In my experience God always gives his servants what they need to continue doing his work.
JAYNE: You’ve stated that you want to develop strong relationships with your writers. Many new authors hope that means you will take a hands-on approach that helps them to become better writers. But isn’t that an editor’s job? What do you mean when you say strong-relationship building? How long do you continue to work with a book /author you are unable to connect with a publisher?
RACHEL: When I say that I like to develop strong relationships with my clients I mean that I enjoy getting to know my clients as friends as well as work partners. I pray for my clients and many of them include me in their prayers as well. We’re friends on Facebook and get together for dinner at conferences or whenever we can. Our emails aren’t all work related, and we open up to each other about our personal lives.
I do read my clients’ work and offer writing advice quite frequently because I enjoy reading the books they produce. It’s not really in an agent’s job description but these are authors whose books I believe should be published so it’s a given that I’d want to read the books they produce. I don’t usually do line edits on manuscripts, but I’ll give advice on plot, character development and other “big picture” areas. I’m not sure how many agents do this, but I hope I never get too busy to help with the creative process. It’s something I enjoy and I believe my clients appreciate.
JAYNE: You are interested in fantasy but not spiritual warfare. Can you explain the difference and give an example of each?
RACHEL: Spiritual warfare to me is anything that involves angels, demons, and the devil as characters or even in the background battling for souls. I believe all three exist, but I’m easily creeped out by focusing on such things so I avoid them in what I read. Example: Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness.
Fantasy books are books set in different worlds or books that treat the fairytale realm as real. You’re likely to find a dragon or fairies in a fantasy book. Example: Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Heartless.
JAYNE: Part of your job as an agent is to attend writer’s conferences. What has been your best Christian Writers’ Conference experience? What has been your worst experience?
RACHEL: Most of my conference experiences have been wonderful! I’ve enjoyed every Christian conference I’ve been to, and I love meeting with authors and editors.
Best conference experience if I have to pick one would be when my client Sarah Sundin won the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2011. It was great to be there to celebrate with her, and I was so proud of her. I knew she had been selected for the award before it was announced so I had to keep a secret but was able to sit next to her and purchased flowers to give to her that I kept hidden until the announcement was made.
My worst conference experience was when an author who was serving on faculty at a conference asked me in front of a large group of writers if I was twelve years old and said there was no way I could be old enough to do my job. I have always had a strong work ethic, and I work hard for my clients so it was hurtful for someone to be so demeaning to me because of my looks, especially in front of others. Thankfully God addressed situations like this in the Bible with the verse in 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (NIV).
JAYNE: Anything you would like to add?
RACHEL: I’m looking forward to the Write! Canada conference. Thanks for taking the time to find out more about me through this interview.
Any questions/comments about my answers? I’d love to hear from you!