Pub Rants

When It’s Okay To Call An Agent

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STATUS: The morning was devoted to following up on contracts in process but I did, oddly enough, get to do some editing on client work this afternoon. That’s pretty rare for me to accomplish that while at the office.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ASK THE LONELY by Journey

As most of you know, agents don’t take phone queries. We simply don’t have enough time in the day to take 5 minutes and listen to a pitch for every writer who wanted to call.

Just thinking about that makes me shiver.

So when is it okay to call an agent? Well, the list is pretty short so I’ll be able to sum it up quickly.

1. You are a previously published author with a great track record that’s looking for new representation. Agents will be happy to take your call.

2. You have an offer on the table from a respectable publisher with real money involved (a least a couple thousand dollars) and you are looking for an agent to negotiate the deal. Agents are happy to discuss this possibility via phone.

3. You have been personally referred by a current client and would like to request permission to send sample pages. (Actually I’d still prefer an email first but it would be okay if you called.)

4. You have a full manuscript request from me and it’s been more than 2 months and you are simply following up on the status. (Once again, I prefer you email but I think it’s professional and reasonable to call and follow up.)

I love technology but it can go astray. I’ve only had this happen once (knock on wood) but I was mortified when I realized what had occurred. I read a full manuscript, sent a lovely letter by email mentioning that I was passing with regret, and the writer never received it. (I can’t remember if it got spam blocked or if the writer had changed email addresses or what). This person ended up emailing the agency months later with a request for the status. I keep all letters sent so it was easy to email it again but I felt terrible that the writer had waited all that time to hear the news. And then to get bad news…

That’s pretty much it.

When folks do call, Sara handles it. For the occasional times I’ve answered the phone, I’m very nice but I simply direct the caller to our website and the submission guidelines listed there.

10 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Not that I would… but it is nice to know the guidelines. I am waiting until I get world fame and then I won’t need to call… they’ll call me ^_^

    I like the iPod listing BTW… I write lyrics too and so it’s just another peice of the writing business for me.

    QUESTION for other mom/writers… do you all share your work with the kids or keep it a secret? If you share- do they seem to like it or criticize your chances. My kids are very proud of my work, but are somewhat doubtful that i could ever be published. Then they get excited about it…and then again not so much. Sometimes I think it would have been easier on me not to tell tham what I do. I feel like a yo-yo in their little emotional hands…

  2. Demon Hunter said:

    I would not cold-call an agent, although I have spoken with some assitants just to ensure the correct addresses and such, but never to pitch; that’s just not good.

  3. Anonymous said:

    I have two agents reading fulls. What if one offers me representation, can I call the other agent to see what they might want to do (i.e. need more time, offer to rep me, pass)?

  4. judy merrill larsen said:

    To the second anonymous poster–when I was in that position (an offer for representation, but other agents reading fulls), I e-mailed the other agents telling them of the offer I’d received–I wanted to be courteous (it’s a small world). All offered congrats on the offer. I happily signed with the first agent and have never looked back.

  5. Anonymous said:

    That was me that didn’t get the email. I have no idea what happened either. I didn’t change my email and I don’t have a spam filter (even so I do actually check it for just this kind of situation).

    It’s just one of life’s little mysteries I guess.

    Wish I was your client 🙂

  6. 2readornot said:

    We shouldn’t call if two agents are looking at requested work and one offers? I’m in that position (well, not any offers yet), and I’m wondering if I should call or just e-mail if one offers while the other is still reading…anyone know?

  7. Kanani said:

    Well, I’d only call if you told me to, or if you were my agent.

    It’s impossible to keep my writing a secret from the kids. I’ve been a writer in every capacity for 20-odd years! Plus, I’ve been involved in the UCLA Writers’ Program for the past few years, which has required their patience and flexibilty.

    Each year, I print a chapbook of fiction, essays, & poetry that I’ve written throughout the year. I give them to friends, family and to my children.

  8. Anonymous said:

    Before there were web sites and updated guidelines writers had to depend on books and trade journals for agent listings (the Manhattan Phone book was excellent for addresses, too). The only problem was a lot of these listings weren’t current, and you’d receive your query marked “address unknown” or some such. I was still in college when I called an agency just to confirm an address thinking I’d just get a receptionist. Well, I actually got the agent (a bitter old hag from the Upper West Side who got involved in that whole Linda Trip thing)and she decided she wanted to hear the query right there on the phone. It was cruel, to say the least. But she got her just dessert in the end when the press ate her alive during the whole Monica Lewinsky thing.