Monday, February 27, 2006
QUERY FOR HIRE
I thought it was time that we bumped my silly, ridiculous laughing self. I always think I'll be a better, more frequent blogger, but then it never seems to happen. We've had a busy six weeks at TKA--we've placed 43 titles, closed a movie deal, and also had a number of foreign rights deals. BUSY. Plus, PARALLEL HEAT is due next week, so I'm putting the finishing touches on the book.
Diana Peterfreund's blog is always a source of interesting discussion and viewpoint, and the other day she had a great post about rejections, which I loved. Some of the discussion in the comments gave me an idea about a great blog post, so here we go.
Exclusives tend to daunt authors and I think it's largely because the agents or possibly editors requesting them don't give the authors any ground rules. They don't want to school the author about anything to give them more sophistication in the submission process, and this is done either as a simple act of omission or even to try to have a certain advantage (a long safe look at the material.)
So let's discuss ground rules for exclusives. First, if an agent or editor requests one, it's because they think the work has strong potential. They want time to read the full material without worrying about finding themselves scooped. It doesn't mean they intend to sign you on, but it is a signal that you've moved past the basic Query For Hire stage (Hi! I'm an author...) So keep this fact in mind: They are asking you to remove your material from the market for a period of time. Therefore--and never forget this--limit that period of time. They may ask for the time they need (great!), but more likely you may need to say, "Hey, that's awesome! I could grant you a six week exclusive. Is that enough time?" Just be sure you don't sound like a DIVA, but rather as someone who is pleased by the interest, but wanting to be sure they don't tie you up indefinitely.
Next ground rule--follow up. Send a quick email to be sure the material is officially logged in and received. Follow up again a week before exclusive ends. Then one more time the day before, then at last to say, "Thanks for looking at the material, but I now need to begin submitting this material wider. I'd still welcome your interest in discussing representation, but..."
Get the picture? You don't want to find yourself on the end of a six month waiting game or even discover that nobody ever received your materials. That's not the agent's job, i.e to track that YOU sent the material and that THEY received it--it's the author's job to follow up.
As always, I think a healthy dose of remembering agents are humans is a good thing. We're not sitting around dying to screw authors over by losing material or by generally bungling the submission process. But we ARE overworked, overstressed people who have dozens of people pulling on us each day (I usually get about 200 or more emails a day, just as a for instance.) So anything that makes our life pleasant and positive--a nice note letting us know that material is on the way, or a quick thank you for unsolicited critique comments, well these things are always appreciated.
So in short, remember that you drive your career. Don't hang back and wait for agents to wake up and notice things--be proactive. We all respond to a good nudge now and again so long as it isn't a daily nudge (at which point we become convinced we can't pass fast enough!) Carpe authorship Dieum!