Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You Have A Request Or You Get "THE CALL" - Now What?

These two things are what authors have wanted their whole career. Well, maybe it is that 6 figure deal, but let's start with this and work our way up. You're unpublished. You have been working your fanny off learning the craft, learning the business and putting together the best dang story possible and now, you get a request for more, or you get "the call" offering to do more with this project. These are exciting times. This is, however, not something you rush in to. I want to talk about each of these individually since there are slight twists to each. Still, in the end, it will come down to not rushing and simply THINKING!!!

This is the one that for most authors, they see more of. You have pitched a story at a conference, or you sent out a query and now that editor or agent wants to see more.

On the surface, this sounds great, but let me first start with a fair warning. UNLESS the author starts bubbling all over themself, or they start drooling or demonstrating other strange behavior, this request might not mean anything at all. This might not even mean that they are even slightly interested in your project. I have said this before, but, in the case of pitches, there are some editors and agents that request everything for generally 2 reasons. The first is that they hate pitches and they believe they can't tell anything until they see the project, so they might as well request. This is true. I can get excited about a project from what you tell me but the writing has to match that pitch. Still, we do know, after we hear pitches whether we really think the story will work or not. Mentally we have already made our decision. And yet, they request. Which leads to the second reason.

Reason #2 - They don't like to tell that person no to their face. They figure they have worked hard on this, they are nervous so why ruin it for them. Right now, I don't want to really go into my thoughts on this one but you can pretty much guess.

The point is, you have a request and that is all that it is. Sure, I want you to take the time to celebrate and jump with joy after that pitch, but then please, bring yourself back to down to reality.

If you do get a request from an query, you can certainly take this a bit more seriously since we have to assume they have read the material you sent and they think there might be something there.


  1. Do not hesitate to send the work. I know they tell you to take your time, but there is no need. They saw something in the project and you want to stay on their radar. Besides, if you are still working on that project, then you shouldn't have pitched anyway.
  2. Be professional. Put the material together in a nice package when you send it and think of the reader. You want to make things easy for the editor or agent. Don't punish them with files they cannot open, or sending something they didn't ask for.
  3. Remind them in the query letter some of the things they responded to in either the response or the pitch session.
  4. Again, demonstrate to the editor or agent how your story fits his or her guidelines and likes.
Nothing too strange, right?

Now, let's assume they really liked the project and they move to a more serious level. They want to offer representation, or offer a contract. Again, this is time to stop and think.

When you get the call, your adreneline, will be flowing so the odds are you are not going to think of all the questions you need to ask. Still, plan ahead before the call. Develop a list of questions and have those prepped. The odds are you won't remember them all but still, keep them in mind.

  1. Take your time. You don't need to rush this and give them an immediate decision. You need time to listen to the offer, develop some questions and so forth. Still, when we say give them time, we aren't talking about months here. Think of this as a job offer. You generally get back in a week.
  2. If you have offers out with other editors or agents, contact them immediately. See where they are with the projects. Look, if they haven't gotten to your project, it IS NOT fair to leave the person who made the offer hanging to wait until they get to it. Still, let them know. If the person is that interested, they will move your project to the top of the stack and read it immediately.
  3. Ask questions. During that time of contemplation, email the editor or agent with questions. Try to keep the questions limited to a one shot deal. In other words, don't ask a couple of questions on a Monday, and then send more on Tuesday, Wednesday and so forth.
  4. Talk to your family. Are they 100% behind you on this? You will need their support as you move to this new level in your career. Let them know what you expect.
  5. Remember, it is OK to say no. With that said, give the editor or agent a good reason. We understand you may have done a multiple submission, but the assumption is that everyone you submitted to were legitimate candidates. This includes the person who you just got the offer from. Remember, they have taken a lot of time on your project. Blowing them off might burn a bridge later on down the line.
Again, you will see all of this comes down to thinking and being professional.

But also remember, celebrate the moment. This should be pretty fickin' exciting! Enjoy.


1 comment:

  1. Great advice, Scott! There is a lot of info out there on queries and finding agents and such, but less on what happens after someone actually says yes.

    I, and I think many other authors too, would love reading a post listing some of the better questions to ask in this situation. If one hasn't contemplated which questions they'd ask beforehand, they're not going to think of any when their heart is pounding and they're trying to sound less like an orangutan on crack than they feel during the conversation.