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Jessica Alvarez welcomes two authors to BookEnds

One of the blog readers wrote in recently to say that she enjoys hearing writers’ stories of how they got their agents, and would love to hear about it from the agent’s perspective. The majority of my clients came to me from the submission pile. They sent a query, I requested, and we went from there. So far, none of my clients have come to me through a pitch appointment—though, one of them did pitch to me in person way back when I was an editor at my very first RWA conference and then sent a query when I joined BookEnds years later. I have one client that came from an outside agent’s referral—thank you, Janet Reid! I believe I have three that came when another agent at BookEnds passed a query along to me. Yes, we really do share queries when we think another BookEnds agent is a better fit for a project.

I think there’s a common belief among writers that you have to have something special (connections, an offer in hand, etc) to get the attention of an agent, but, really, you don’t. While I’ve had a few authors who came to me with offers, the majority have not. I want to dispel a common misconception about what an offer can do for you. For the purposes of this post, I’m primarily talking about projects that have an offer from a publisher. It’s true, an offer automatically bumps that submission up the reading priority list, but I’ve probably passed on more of those submissions than not. An offer isn’t a reason to automatically sign a writer. I need to love the book and the writing just as much as if it didn’t have an offer. I better love it because signing someone with an offer means I have to drop everything else I’m doing and get that book on submission ASAP and beg editors to read it right away. All of us at BookEnds are committed to building careers for our clients. We’re in it for the long haul and, offer or not, we have to see long-term potential and have a desire to work with a writer on every single thing she creates down the road.

Back to my original topic, let me tell you a bit about two authors I recently signed and how they came to me.

 

First up is Lindsay Kallen. Lindsay is a women’s fiction writer with a gorgeous voice. Her query immediately made an impression on me and I picked up her manuscript soon after it arrived. Unfortunately, her manuscript came at a particularly busy time and I kept on picking it up then having to put it down again. Then finally, finally, I finished and wanted to speak with her about it but a business trip, an illness in my family followed by a death kept on postponing my call. But we eventually had our chance to talk and we chatted for well over an hour. Lindsay might remember better than I do, but I suspect it took at least an hour before I offered representation. When I call a writer who has submitted to me, I always spend a while talking to them before I offer representation. I need to make sure we’re on the same page and have similar goals and expectations. I also need to make sure we have a similar vision for the book and won’t butt heads over revisions (that’s a post for another day). I’ve had some phone calls in which I could tell we wouldn’t be compatible, and I ultimately did not offer representation even though I liked the author’s book. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with Lindsay—we had a nice rapport and hit it off so I felt comfortable offering representation.


Next up is Angela Addams. Angela is published in paranormal romance but was signed because of a very different, very gory thriller project that isn’t for the faint of heart. Angela originally pitched Kim but several things in Angela’s query made it clear to Kim that Angela and I might be the perfect match—to quote Kim, “I know how you love dissection”. Kim likes her maimed heroes, but I like actually seeing the maiming happen on the page. Upon reading Angela’s pitch, I immediately wrote her with a plea to see her manuscript. While away on vacation, I opened up Angela’s manuscript for just a peek. A few hours later, I finished the manuscript and knew I needed to offer on it that week, vacation or not. We scheduled a call for the next day and, same deal as Lindsay, spoke for a while to make sure we were compatible before I offered representation.

I was thrilled when both Lindsay and Angela accepted my offers, and I can’t wait to get their books out on submission this fall!

Category: AlvarezBlogRomanceWomen's Fiction

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9 comments

  1. I would like to first congratulate both your clients. I would also like to send you a query letter as well. I have written 3 books already and all 3 were self published. But I have two completed manuscripts and I am currently working on another that will be completed by winters end.

  2. It’s fascinating to see this from an agent’s perspective. I like that you talk to potential clients to see if you’ll be compatible before offering representation. As a writer, I hope I can be clear-headed enough to be sure an offering agent “clicks” with me before accepting.

  3. It’s interesting to read an agent’s perspective on ‘the call’. And to note that none have come from pitching, but mostly through the slush pile.

    Jessica, how do you wrap up a conversation with an author when you’ve decided during the conversation that perhaps you aren’t on the same page and you’ve decided not to offer representation? I’m sure the author is hoping that they’re in the middle of ‘the call’.

    Also, have you ever had the reverse happen (when you call and then offer but the author turns you down)?

    1. Hi AJ,

      It is awkward to wrap up a conversation when I’ve decided not to offer. It’s only happened two times or so but what I’ve done is end the call saying I have to think things over some more, and then I follow up with an email to bow out, explaining why I think we’re not suited for one another.

      I’ve never called to offer and had an author turn me down on the spot, though I’ve of course made offers to authors who ended up going with another agent. There have been a few times where I offered and the writer scheduled a follow-up call in which I thought she was going to accept, but instead it was for her to tell me that she accepted someone else’s offer. So I think I do understand somewhat the disappointment of getting a call only to find out it isn’t The Call.

      1. Thanks for answering, Jessica. I’d never considered an agent might be disappointed by not getting ‘the call’ too. I guess they’re some of the downsides to being an agent.

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