When I first started agenting full-time in 1994 there were five other agents serving authors of faith. It was a relatively new phenomenon in Christian publishing, and not always appreciated by publishers. Some even had unwritten polices about not working with agents. Now there are about 100 agents serving Christian authors in one way or another. Today, most publishers won’t work with an author unless they’re represented. I know many of the agents, and like most of them. And while we all do similar work, our styles and priorities aren’t all the same.
So what should you expect from Barbara, Sarah and me (as the leader of this particular agency)?
Here’s what I’ll be doing nearly every day of the week (in general order of importance)…
- Negotiating and processing contracts: When a work-for-hire agreement needs to be written or a publishing contract needs working over, this is what I do first (for the whole agency). It’s what authors need and want, and what an agency ought to put on top of the stack each day. In the last few months it seems most publishers have gone to a new boilerplate contract. That means I’ve got to renegotiate my agency boilerplate with them line by line, a time-consuming task, but it is the top priority for authors. There are typically nuanced changes that have to be made depending on whether it’s a fiction or a nonfiction contract. The rights issues in the changing face of publishing means I have to be extra diligent. Negotiations often take several weeks because publishers put projects in line. That means after I get a draft (anywhere from 10-30 days), then I respond back within a day or two. Then it gets back in line again before they respond back, then I respond back…then it gets in line. You get the idea. Contracts take time and shouldn’t be rushed.
- Reading client proposals: A close second in importance is fine-tuning new proposals. There are always about five to ten projects I’m getting ready to pitch at any given moment (Barbara and Sarah the same). So when you send me your new proposal, it gets in line behind the others ahead of you. It often takes two to three weeks or more before I get it back to you with edits, but publishers are expecting excellence in proposals these days, so we take our time, going back and forth with the author, to make them as close to perfect as we can. We only have one opportunity to pitch your proposal, so making it top-notch, based on our experience, is vital. And, yes, time-consuming.
- Submitting proposals: Writing or editing a pitch letter, picking out editors to send the project to, following up on the myriad of questions editors have…this is the lifeblood of any agency.
- Client work: Returning client’s emails and phone calls is a huge priority with me. My answers may be short and to the point, but I am a responsive agent, usually getting back to clients in 24 to 48 hours. Calls with marketing directors on upcoming releases, career planning meetings and author phone calls, going over royalty reports, plus dozens of other client-related busy work details fill up a good portion of my day.
Next month I’ll share a few more of my priorities and then a couple of items that are clearly NOT what I want or have time to do.
What do you want your agent to prioritize for your career?