A Few Things Your Agent Needs to Know

changes

You have an agent, but want to be low maintenance. You value your agent’s time and hesitate to fill her in-box with lots of chatty emails or tie him up on the phone all day. I’m sure your agent appreciates you for being considerate.

Still, writing is a serious profession and a business. Therefore some personal events and occasions in your life are critical for your agent to know:

Happy Event

If you are the bride or groom, the parent of the bride or groom, expecting a new life in your family, are taking a month-long vacation to Hawaii, or have another major happy event planned, let us know so we will be aware that you might not be around for stretch of time.

Death of an Immediate Family Member

If you don’t tell us about a death that affects you in a major way, we won’t understand your emotional state. Also, consider that if you are responsible for executing a will and disposing of an estate, it’s best to let your agent know you are involved in time-consuming, heart-wrenching work that could affect your productivity.

Major Medical Issues

This includes any major illness or surgery, particularly if you may be looking at time-consuming physical therapy and multiple visits to doctors. If you don’t tell us, we won’t understand that you must see the doctor three times a week so you never seem to answer your phone or email. Or if you are faced with a chronic condition that changes how you approach your work.

Caregiving

If you must become a caregiver let us know. Not only are you having to adjust to a new routine, but taking on the responsibility of an adult who is unable to function on her own will also consume much time and emotion.

Difficult Family Circumstances

Family difficulties, a separation, or even a divorce are all things that you might hesitate to mention to your agent. Don’t fear judgment. Let your agent know. Your agent is your business partner and these situations can have a chilling effect on your creativity. And sometimes the agent can let your publisher know if you are in danger of missing a deadline, but in a tactful manner that protects your privacy.

Jury Duty

Each state has different rules regarding Jury Duty. For some it is only a day. For others it means being on call for a month. But at least tell your agent if you think you’ll be sequestered. If you are, then we’ll have a heads up and have thought of an action plan for while you are away.

Moving

Keep us up to date, even if you are months away from our deadline and don’t think it affects your work flow. We need to know your new address. And don’t forget to tell the publishers who are sending you checks! Or if you spend months in a second home, let us know when you switched to the new location.

What Not to Do

Please remember that the sooner you can let us know about any changes, the better. The worst mistake you can make is hoping against hope that things will be better than you think, and you can still make that deadline. Don’t make the mistake of meeting the deadline by just turning in whatever you have on screen, in other words, the raw first draft. It would be better to ask for a few extra days to clean up the mess before scaring your editor with something not ready for prime time.

And please, do not assume anyone is reading your Facebook or Twitter updates and consider that sufficient notice. Social Media posts do not substitute for an intentional notification via e-mail or a phone call.

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Are We Speaking the Same Language?

by Karen Ball

I love languages. I started studying French in the 7th grade (“Bonjour, Monsieur DuPree. Comment-allez vous?), and by the time I had my double college degree in multiple-languages and journalism, I’d studied French (12 years), Spanish (5 years), and Russian (1 year). But I confess, I never expected to have to learn a new language when I entered the publishing world.

Surprise!

I remember the first time I realized words and terms had very different meanings in publishing. As a PK and PGK (preacher’s kid and preacher’s grandkid), I knew my duty to widow and orphans. It was right there in the Bible. So you imagine my astonishment when I discovered it was now my goal to kill the widows and orphans. Then I learned that bleeding in the gutters had nothing to do with murder, that picas weren’t fuzzy little forest animals, leading wasn’t something done to stained glass, fonts weren’t receptacles for baptismal water, a kill fee wasn’t about hiring a hitman, and a galley wasn’t the kitchen on a ship.

It all reminded me of a line from a poster I had up in my college dorm room: I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure that what you heard is what I really meant to say. Or the poster in a friend’s room that said, “I’m not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am.” (Okay, it has absolutely nothing to do with that last one. I just put it in because it makes me laugh…)

It’s taken years of study and practice, but I’m finally fluent in Pub-Speak. Or so I thought until a few days ago when I had a discussion of editing terms with the illustrious Steve Laube. It went something like this:

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News You Can Use – Mar. 20, 2012

Why Finish Books – I loved this essay! He had me at the picture of C.S. Lewis…

Why Your Book Isn’t Selling – Suggestions from a book marketing expert.

The Publishing Industry May Not be Falling Apart After All – One author suggests that today’s crisis sound awfully familiar. And underneath all the talk of seismic changes and Amazon, she has a valid point. If you click all the way through to her original article you will find a “Live Journal” site that is hard to read on screen.

Free E-book on How to Attract Customers with Twitter – From Hubspot. Must submit registration info to get the free e-book. They offer a number of these papers on a regular basis.

Is Your Facebook Account Part of Your Estate? – Facebook says that if you die your Facebook account must be closed. So all your writing, pictures, etc. will disappear. And they don’t like it if someone else simply uses your password to keep it online. Goes to the heart of what you “own” and do not “own” on the Internet.

How One Man Started Writing for “Sports Illustrated” – He worked on his craft for six years before submitting something to an editor.

The Making of the Hunger Games Blockbuster – Whether you like the book or not is beside the point. Read the article to find out how this YA phenomenon grew via word of mouth and intentional marketing. Fascinating.

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Barriers to Effective Communication

By Steve Laube

It has been said that ninety percent of all problems in the universe are failures in communication. And the other ten percent are failures to understand the failure in communication. In the publishing business, or any business for that matter, this is so true. There are a couple common barriers to effective communication, assumption and expectation.

But I Assumed

Often one party assumes knowledge that the other person does not know. Or someone without knowledge fails to admit their lack and try to fake their way through the situation for fear of being found ignorant. Simple to fix. Just ask if you don’t know and alternatively make sure the other person knows what you are talking about. I learn something new nearly every single day and hope to continue that streak for the rest of my life.

But even  worse, and more common, is assuming the other party is mad at you for some reason. The fear of that “assumed anger” prevents an open dialogue or at least delays it.

Much of our business comes down to relationships and fear or anger prevent them from being healthy.

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My Hat Collection

As an agent, I wear many hats and I love them all!

Miner’s Hat:
Worn while picking through slush pile submissions.

Tiara:
Worn in celebration of gem discovery in the form of your marketable manuscript.

Gold Crown:
In celebration of signing you to be a new client.

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It’s A Brave New World

I’ve been in publishing for lo, these many years (over 30), so you’d think the work would be pretty much second nature for me. No so! In fact, just this last week I did something completely new!

I edited a book, in four days, using Skype and Dropbox.

The amazing thing about this isn’t that the author and I got the book done so quickly, but that it was SO MUCH FUN! We parked on Skype for hours, so that if I had questions as I edited a chapter, I could just ask him, and if he had questions about the editing, he could just ask me. It was like being in the same room together, but without the expense or stress of travel. And I discovered that doing the edit this way gave me a fresher understanding of what the author wanted to say. It also enabled us to do a bit of arm wrestling when we disagreed on something, but to do so with humor and kindness. When you deal with issues over the phone or in email, you always run the risk of misunderstanding because folks can’t see your expressions or body language, or hear the tone of your voice. With Skype, those risks were gone, so we handled a couple of sensitive issues without frustration or misunderstanding.

And that, my friends, is a miracle!

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The Perfect Christian Woman … According to Christian Publishing

This lady…

Lives a Purpose Driven Life and
Knows the Power of a Praying Wife.

She practices Five Love Languages and
Will not be Left Behind.

She spent 90 Minutes in Heaven
And is convinced that Heaven is for Real.

She is both Captivating and Radical
Because she Kissed Dating Goodbye and
Has developed a Mary Heart in a Martha World.

She wears Blue Like Jazz and keeps The Shack spotless
While making a Case for Christ.

She secured Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and
Appreciates a man who is Wild at Heart and More Than a Carpenter.

But ultimately the Christian Publisher is most attracted to and admires the perfect Christian woman because she is…
Amish.

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The Unhelpful Rejection Letter

Have you ever received an unhelpful rejection letter that says, “Sorry, but this just isn’t a fit for us.”? I have. And I’ve also written more of these rejections than I’d like to admit. In fact, after I write this post, I may just have to send out twenty more.

Some authors write back to say, “Can’t you tell me what I can do better? What suggestions do you have?” I’m sure I frustrate writers when I tell them I can’t comment further. As a published author in my own right, I understand why writers want feedback. So now let me tell you why I don’t feel it’s in your best interest for me to offer feedback when the answer is a firm no.

Lead Me On

When you were in high school, you kept from encouraging people you didn’t want to date, right? Sometimes those people were nice and would make a great match for someone else. Just not you. You hated the fact you couldn’t, in your heart of hearts, be passionate enough about spending time with them to accept invitations for dinner. But how to tell them without gaining an enemy forever? Ouch!

I don’t want make writers, especially my lovely friends, think I’m going to introduce their work to editors if I have no intention of doing so. If I tell you, “Well, I’d like this better if the heroine’s eyes were blue and her name was Sally,” and you changed both factors and sent it back to me, you’d expect me to pursue your work. Now, in truth, I might think your book would be better with blue-eyed Sally instead of green-eyed Sarah, but another agent might disagree. Unless I’m serious about pursuit, it’s better for me to keep my opinion to myself.

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