Friday, March 12, 2010

Can We Work Together?

One of the questions I am often asked is how I decide on stories to represent at the agency. The interesting thing about this question, is it is only part of the equation. Let me explain.

Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks often describes her thought when taking on a new project. As she states, she wants to sign an author and not so much the book. I think her approach is right on the money. While we spend the first part of the "getting to know you phase" only looking at the project, in the end, we still have to work together on the project. I am sure there are a ton of projects out there that are fantastic stories, and some days, I often think I should simply sign these people, sell the book and move on.

And then I think about that comment. I want to work with a writer for a long period of time. I want to see that writer grow and develop as a writer. I want to work together on new proposals and new directions with their career. Of course, to do this requires me having to like the person, as well as the person liking the approach I take.

So how do I find out all of this information? I do start from that initial query letter. Does this person come across as being "honest" and "easy to work with?" Is this person a professional? We have talked about this one before with the query letters. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

After that, we work with the communications that take place as we request more of the book and potentially talking after I think the project is worth it. This is sort of like that final interview.

Certainly meeting someone face to face is a great chance to start the "getting to know you process" earlier. Still this process does take time.

Have I ever made a miscall on this? Yes, I have. I don't regret working with the author, but it does make the process of selling books difficult when there is a tension that happens in phone calls or via email.

My message to you writers is simple. Make sure that you are looking at going to a particular agency because of the agent and how they work. Make sure this is someone that you can work with and that a relationship can really build. If you are simply doing it because of their ability to "sell big" ask yourself if this is really what you want.



  1. Thought-provoking blog today Scott. I'm just starting to think about my first query attempt and am very glad I've found your blog. You've given me a lot to think about as I am just beginning to consider what a 'career' as a writer can mean to and for me. It's hard to take the first step to push my work out the door. But you're giving me a good perspective by making me think about this as more than just one book-it's the potential to get help developing a career and business.

  2. Scott,
    I have a question along the lines of finding representation. I have a friend, Jackie, who primarily writes fantasy and does it well. She has numerous accolades and awards for her short stories and a wonderful manuscript she's been querying. Agents and editors do personalize a response which is usually, "I really enjoyed your submission but cannot find a place to market it at this time."
    After a year of submitting, Jackie is demoralized. Rather than continue down this path, she has opted to start another project in the romance genre. As a gifted writer, I know she'll produce a quality manuscript.
    My overall question is, at what point do you give up on a genre where you feel most comfortable to pursue something marketable for an agent?

  3. Can you comment on chapter organization? I realize each chapter needs to stand-alone with its own beginning/middle/ending but its not instinctive for me to be able to tell where the breaks fall. I'm wanting to make each SCENE its own chapter.

    Any advice?

  4. Leslie and Karen, your answers are coming up on Monday and Tuesday!

    See you there.