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Debut Week - An Agent's Perspective

And now for my two cents from the agent’s perspective….

 There’s nothing more exciting than making “The Call.”  You know the one.  It’s the phone call authors wait for whenever their work goes out on submission, the one that says “I love your work and I must rep it/buy it, etc.”  Rarely in life are we in a position to be there for someone’s life-changing or pivotal moment.  Even more rarely are we part of the event.  That’s why there’s no greater high for me than making The Call that says, “We have an offer for your work,”  especially when it’s the first time an author has heard those words. 

 Notice I said “life-changing.”  The Call certainly is that.  New authors striving toward the ultimate goal of publication have been focused on finishing their novel(s), revising, polishing, submitting.  Everyone knows that’s the hard part, right?  Well, it certainly isn’t easy.  There’s a lot of competition out there and I can’t overestimate how important it is to do your research, to work hard, to persevere and all the rest.  But the reality is that once you get your first offer, you’re still finishing a novel (maybe the next under contract, maybe some other work-in-progress), revising, polishing, submitting (either the proposal for the next book or for some other work), AND you’ve now added all kinds of new things to your “To Do” list. 

 For one, if your first contract is for more than one book, as it often is, you’re working under deadline.  Oh sure, you may have had self-imposed deadlines in the past, but this one is important.  Production schedules are counting on you.  Missing contractual deadlines may have consequences.  I mention this not to scare you, but to ask that you listen to your agent when he or she asks if you’re sure you can deliver book 2 in four months.  You see, during the time you’ll be writing book 2, you’ll be receiving editorial notes and revising book 1, receiving line edits, copyedits, page proofs….  You have to factor in the time you’ll need to spend on book 1 while working on book 2.

 For another, you’ll have promotion to do for your books, though likely not within those first few months after publication.  Sure, publishers will take care of a lot of that for you.  They’ll get your work out to major reviewers and may place ads, etc., but they won’t take the full weight off your shoulders.  It’s important for authors to be active in the promotion of their own work.  (See interview on Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book blog for Publishers Weekly where I talk a bit about promotion.)  There’s going to be a learning curve about publicity.  Be prepared and don’t wait until the last second to get up to speed. 

 As Diana Orgain said in her Debut Week blog, it will get easier. You’ll get a sense of the timing of things, you’ll get into a rhythm, but every book and every author is different.  You’ll hear a lot of advice, a lot of “dos” and “don’ts.”  Run them all through your common sense meter, factor in your own experiences and, ultimately, find your own path.

Finally, at the risk of bouncing you all around my blog (wouldn’t that be awful?), fellow Knight Agency rep Nephele Tempest and I did a chat over on The Knight Agency site last month, which was so well attended we ran out of time to answer all the questions.  You can click here for the transcript or here for the follow up Q&A on my blog for any remaining queries.  Enjoy!

Recent debut authors:

Vicky Dreiling: debuts in January 2011 with HOW TO MARRY A DUKE (Grand Central Publishing)
N.K. Jemisin: debuted in February with THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS (Orbit)
Chloe Neill: debuted with SOME GIRLS BITE in April 2009 (NAL) and her YA FIRESPELL in January 2010 (Berkley JAM)
Diana Orgain: debuted with BUNDLE OF TROUBLE in August 2009 (Berkley Prime Crime)
Kalayna Price: debut with Belle Bridge Books January 2009, debut with Roc (GRAVE WITCH) October 2010

Debuts of new series from established authors:

The Bloodhound Files by D.D. Barant
KILLING ROCKS (forthcoming)

Collegia Magica series by Carol Berg
THE SOUL MIRROR (forthcoming 2011)
THE DAEMON PRISM (forthcoming 2012)

Outcast Season series by Rachel Caine
Books 3 (UNSEEN) & 4 (UNBROKEN) forthcoming

Reckoners paranormal romance series by Doranna Durgin

The Horngate Witches series by Diana Pharaoh Francis
CRIMSON WIND (forthcoming)

Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter
MERCY STROKE (forthcoming)

Daring Finds Mysteries by Elise Hyatt
FRENCH-POLISHED MURDER (forthcoming, excerpt)

Lady Lazarus series by Michele Lang
LADY LAZARUS (forthcoming from Tor/Forge August 31, 2010)

Demon series by S.L. Wright

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 5th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
I know you didn't mean to scare us, but I'm hiding underneath my desk right now...shivering...lol. Hearing the honest truth from an agent prepares you better, I think. My rose-colored glasses are a little cracked now thanks to informative blogs that tell the realities of the publishing world, no matter how frightening they may be.
Mar. 5th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
Yikes - 2 books in 4 months, all while doing edits on the first? That is scary!
Mar. 5th, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
By the time you sell book one, chances are you've gotten a ways into book two. Many authors think that the excitement of having a publisher for their work will spur them to finish more quickly and underestimate the time it will take them, which is why they may suggest unrealistic deadlines (authors suggest them, not generally the editors, although they may have a ballpark in mind and haggling may commense). Part of the agent's job, in addition to submitting, negotiating, chasing payments, etc. is to counsel authors about this.
Mar. 5th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
so then if an author replies 'no' to when you say you have to have book 2 done in 4 months (or whatever the book # and deadline), can the production schedule then be pushed back?

and does this mean agents like it better when an author who is setting up for a multi-book series/trilogy/whatever has more than one done when they are originally signed?
Mar. 5th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
When you sell your first novel, chances are it won't be on the market for at least a year, maybe eighteen months or even more. This means that the agent or editor won't generally be rushing you toward a deadline for book two, which won't be published before book one! Authors are asked to suggest deadlines, which might be haggled a little if they're too far out, but it's rare that an editor will suggest anything too accelerated. If they do, it's up to the author to speak up about whether or not it's realistic, as it's much easier to adjust schedules before all is said and done than after.
Mar. 6th, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
Ahh okay. phew I was a little worried there! I admit the idea that soon as book 1 is sold book 2 is due fairly soon after it made me think I want to only write stand alones for the rest of my life...XD
Mar. 5th, 2010 09:29 pm (UTC)
Awesome post, Lucienne!

Martha Ramirez
Mar. 6th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
Great information, Lucienne. Thanks for sharing. I always wondered how that worked. I think I'd want a decent amount of time, but not so much that I'd procrastinate. :-D

Mar. 6th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Better to know now and be prepared, though I have to say that it is scary. Still, we've worked so hard to get there because we want it, so scary is okay.
Mar. 8th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
Hi. Your article just makes the prospect of getting published that much more exciting.

What about blogs/websites? Should a first-timer set those up or wait to be picked up by an agent?

Thank you
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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