What Is the Agent Doing While I Wait?

You submit a great manuscript to an agent. Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

What could she possibly be doing?

Let’s say your baby jumped most of the hurdles and is near the top of the slush pile. (See the previous post on the Mystery of the Slush Pile) Why can’t the agent make up her mind? Might I offer a few ideas:

1.) Market changes can mean a shift in priorities. An agent may receive an email at five in the afternoon on any given Friday that opens up a new market or closes an old one. The agent may need to reevaluate and reassess her strategy. This does not mean agents chase the market. What it does mean is that, for example, if markets are trending away from a certain type of novel (Remember hen lit?) the agent may realize she’d better focus on the writers she already has rather than risking taking on a new client writing that type of book, no matter how wonderful. Or if a huge market opens up, the agent might focus on that category for awhile, shunting your wonderful retelling of Genesis to the side, if only temporarily.

2.) She may have gotten surprise submissions from clients already on her roster. In my experience, it’s not uncommon for writers to explore new territory or to ramp up their speed in submitting. The agent’s obligation is to the clients already signed rather than clients as yet unsigned. She might hold on to your book while working out career options for the existing client, thereby holding up a firm decision on your work.

3.) Your work is good, but someone else’s may be just as good. The agent may delay while choosing between the two submissions.

4.) Your work is perfect for the market, but the agent is unsure if the writing sparkles enough. He might put your work aside to re-evaluate while deciding if he should proceed.

5.) The agent sees how to improve your manuscript and could market it with a few tweaks, but is unsure whether to lead you on, so to speak. Once an agent dispenses advice on how to change the manuscript, she feels a sense of obligation and partnership with you. A wise agent will think before engaging an author to this level unless she’s THIS close to offering representation.

6.) The agent may be traveling out of town to visit publishing houses so she can meet with editors as well as sales and marketing teams.

7.) The agent may be attending conferences, during which time he will learn more about the markets and other authors — and where he may also meet you in person. He may wait until after the conference to report back to you.

8.) Contracts often come in waves. The agent may be tied up in negotiations, delaying a response.

9.) The agent may be so busy with current clients, regardless of how and why, meaning responding to slush pile submissions is #56 on the To Do list.

These are just a few reasons why it may take an agent awhile to get back to you. We agents wish we could give everyone a five-day turnaround period, but my office isn’t able to respond with lightning speed unless the submission is so far out of the park we’re not able to consider it, or such a sparkling, must-have property that my assistant tells me I must pick up the phone that day to talk to the author. For everyone else, no news really is good news, or at least near-miss news.

Don’t lose heart, though. I have found many authors through the standard slush pile, and I want your submissions. Without your work, I have nothing to send editors. So thank you for submitting, and thank you for your patience.

Your turn:

1.) How many agents do you submit to at any given time?

2.) Do you think it’s worth waiting for your dream agent, or do you think writers are wiser to go with the first reputable agent who acts quickly?

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Wordle Anyone?

Some days you just have to take a break and do something fun. That’s what we’re doing today with Wordle. Just hop over to the website (www.wordle.net) and have at it! Below is a Wordle for one of Steve’s keynote speeches:

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Christian Book Awards

Congratulations to our client Mesu Andrews (represented ) for winning the 2012 Christian Book Award for best New Author!

Here is the list of winners:


Nearing Home, Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson)

Category: BIBLES

ESV Student Study Bible (Crossway)


Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, Glen G. Scorgie (Zondervan)

Category: CHILDREN

The Story for Children, A Storybook Bible, Max Lucado, Randy Frazee, and Karen Davis Hill (Zonderkidz)

Category: FICTION

The Queen, Steven James (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)


The Law of Happiness, Dr. Henry Cloud (Howard Books)

Category: NEW AUTHOR

Love Amid the Ashes, Mesu Andrews (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)


Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, Greg Paul (Thomas Nelson)

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News You Can Use – May 1, 2012

Amanda Hocking is Happy with her Publisher – An update from the woman whose self-published ebooks garnered a monster traditional deal.

10 Best First Lines in Fiction – Chosen by editors at the Guardian (UK). Do you agree or disagree?

How We Will Read in the Future – An excellent interview with Maria Popova, the curator for the great BrainPickings blog. (The article is about 2,500 words long so take your time to absorb her thoughts.)

The Return of the Novella – “The Atlantic” article things this art form will have a resurgence. I contend it has been around, but not in a sizeable way. Try presenting one to a publisher and then talk about how easy they will eventually sell to the public.

How Do You Know You’ve Made it as a Writer? – Steve Ulfelder attempts to answer the question right after being nominated for an award for his first novel.

Market Your Book Through Google Ads – Ever wondered if this is a good use of your money? And if so, how you would go about it? Vikram Narayan does an excellent job introducing the idea. If it works, let us know!

The Most “Kindled” City in the U.S. – The answer may surprise you. The analysis of the whole article is fascinating.

Four Best Twitter Tools – Agree? Any you want to add?

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Blood, Guts and Peanuts: What it’s Like Writing with Ted Dekker

Guest blog by Tosca Lee

Our guest today is Tosca Lee, author of Demon: A Memoir and Havah: The Story of Eve. She is also the co-author with Ted Dekker of the NYTimes bestseller Forbidden. The next book in that series will be out this Summer. A sought-after speaker and former Mrs. Nebraska, Tosca was a senior consultant for a global consulting firm until turning to writing full-time. She holds a degree in English and International Relations from Smith College and also studied at Oxford University. Please visit her web site at www.toscalee.com.


People ask me often what it’s like writing with Ted. “Is he weird?” they say. “Does he really paint his nails/eat small children/write from a dungeon?”

Of course he’s weird. As weird as anyone else who grew up with cannibals. As strange as your average seven million bookselling novelist who lives mostly on peanuts and barbeque in Texas and, you know, speaks an obscure language known only to remote tribes in Papua New Guinea.

Or as weird as you and me.

And yet, the questions persist. “He scares me,” author friends confess in low tones.

He scares me, too. Because, you know, it’s just not healthy to eat that many peanuts.

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On Reading the Classics

“A classic is a book which people praise and don’t read.” 

This quote attributed to Mark Twain made me think of classics I didn’t enjoy, but also those I did. I have a lifelong habit of choosing classics for my leisure reading.

When I was in the seventh grade, I enjoyed Gone with the Wind so much I read it a second time. Unfortunately, this intense involvement in the full story caused me to be very disappointed in the movie when I saw it for the first time in college because time constraints meant they had to leave out too much of the 1200-page plot.

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Romancing the Readers

I had a conversation with a writer friend a few weeks ago. She was telling me that the book she’s writing is, at the core, a romance, and no one was more surprised than she. “I don’t know a thing about writing romances,” she confessed. “Any tips?” I sent her an email with my thoughts, and that was that. Then she emailed me a few days ago:

“I just re-read this [email] as I’m still struggling through the end of my ms. This is an unbelievably beautiful note! It would make a great blog post on how to write romance….”

Well! I took a look at it, and I think she’s got something there. It does lend itself well to a blog. So I did a little editing, and here you go. If you find yourself writing a romance and you’re not quite sure about it, here are some things to keep in mind about the hero and heroine:

* The reader needs to see their attraction as believable. In other words, Not just because he’s handsome and she’s beautiful. As with real romance, let their feelings surprise them, then show those feelings growing as an organic part of the story. That’s not to say they can’t be immediately attracted to one another, or that one can’t be immediately attracted to the other. That instant spark does happen. But make sure readers see good reasons for romance—and love–to grow between them. Think about it. What’s more romantic than a man who treats women and children with respect? What’s more appealing to a man than a woman who honors and respects him? It’s not about Tarzan meets Jane, it’s about character and integrity and true strength and beauty.

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News You Can Use – April 24, 2012

How to Pay a Ghost – Great post on how ghostwriting works.

A Noah’s Ark for Books! – Brewster Kahle is storing a copy of every book ever published. Spending millions on storage and scanning. Fascinating.

Search Google by Reading Level – Refine your searches! Who knew Google could do this too?

Yet Another Supreme Court Case Concerning Book Sales – This time dealing with the “grey” market of reselling used books.

BookTango – A new social reading site. Check it out!

The Dirty Secret of Overnight Success – I love this article. Read it and then get back to work.

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How Can You Manage So Many Clients?

by Steve Laube

I am frequently asked this question. It is perfectly understandable as many agencies carry a sizeable list of clients. A prospective client or even an existing one wonders, “Will this agent or agency have time for me?”

We post a list of our clients on the web site because we are honored to work with so many gifted people. Not every agency makes their client list public. It is neither right nor wrong, it is merely a preference. As of this morning we have over 150 clients on our roster.

Proper management of a client base is all about communication and work flow. The best metaphor I’ve been able to use to describe how a literary agency works is “We are like a major airline that is always overbooked but never flies full. But if everyone show up at the gate at the same time, we would be in serious trouble.”

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