(Or, from my desk in Virginia, where I am fueled by bold, rich coffee)
by Tamela Hancock Murray
Before Christmas, when I posted about having a serious talk with your agent, a couple of you asked more questions. I really appreciate you! Over the next few weeks, I’ll provide my perspective on various questions. I want my posts to be a source of good, helpful information, so feel free to make more queries in the comments section.
1.) As an agent, what level of updates do you want from your author – do you want progress reports or just the finished product?
I can only speak for myself since each agent is different. My preference is to have a heads up about a writer’s plans, and then see the finished manuscript and/or proposal.
I like to talk with the author when we’re getting ready to prepare all proposals. That way, we can go over ideas and strategies. I am also fine with authors giving me updates on how the writing is going. I enjoy being in touch. And I’m there to answer questions during the process as well. Since I’ve written many books, I can offer helpful advice when needed. On the other hand, if an author is happier in a writing cave with no disturbance, I won’t knock, though I might slide chocolate bars under the door on Tuesdays.
I don’t find that reviewing each stage of the book is helpful. For instance, I don’t need to critique your first draft, your second draft, and your final draft. For one, time doesn’t allow me to go that many rounds. Second, when I’m on round three, I’m no longer a fresh critiquer. I find that I’m at my best when I review a final draft only. But as far as taking care with author submissions, I read what I send to editors. My feeling is, why would they want to read a book I’m not willing to read myself? And I exercise due diligence with proposals themselves to be sure we include all the information we can to help the editor make a good decision.
Of course, this answer is presented in the most general of terms. I respect the fact that each author is unique. Every relationship develops differently, and all authors have specific expectations and wants. Some authors will require more nurturing than others. I’m not perfect, but my hope and goal is to give the each author all the needed attention and support to feed his or her ministry and to find great success in today’s tough market.
2.) As an agent, would you like a lot of say in developing the project or do you expect the author to show you a finished proposal?
When I don’t know an author, I will ask to see a completed proposal because that information will help me make an assessment of how effective I can be in working with the author toward further achievement. So we’re starting with the author’s finished proposal. New authors usually need help polishing their proposals to send to editors. When I know an established author, I don’t ask for a proposal for my review, but I do discuss future plans. Then, I help put together dynamic new proposals. Regardless, I don’t want authors to stress over writing the perfect proposal for my review. I’ll use your general information to make your proposal sparkle for editors.
As for developing a project, I would take that on a case-by-case basis, depending on how much input the author wants and needs at that point. My authors come to me with their ideas and creativity. I am there to partner with them to find just the right publisher. As a literary agent, I am known for helping authors form teams for joint projects. I took the Bloomfield concept to a few of my writers, but their talents and the great editors and marketing people at B&H are making the series a success.
Do you want your agent to develop projects with you?
How confident are you in proposal writing?