Last week, I talked about the query slog: wading through the depths of depression and rejection, and what I did to keep motivated and how I tried new approaches. In today’s post, #6 in the 7 stages of memoir writing, I’ll discuss what happens when you grab that brass ring of agent representation, and how to handle it: what to do if you get one or more offers of representation, and how to know if you’ve found the right agent.
When success occurs, it all seems to happen so fast. I’d only gotten a single favorite on my #PitMad tweet, but I followed the agent’s instructions on his website and sent him my materials, not getting my hopes up. That week, I received an email from the agent, Lane Heymont at the Tobias Literary Agency in New York:
Thanks for the opportunity to review FLYING FREE. I am absolutely in LOVE with your story.
Do you have time to chat later in the week — Thursday or Friday?
Such a short note, and so momentous. It had now been two full years since I’d begun writing my memoir in a serious way. I’d been working over twenty hours per week on the memoir—sometimes many more—from September 2016 through September 2018, except for a period of about five months while I licked my wounds after that first period of rejection and worked on different writing projects.
I freaked out. I had a feeling this was a potential “yes,” but I couldn’t quite believe it. So I reached out to my friends and mentors, who confirmed it. And I spent hours searching the web for “what to do to prepare for The Call.”
How to prepare for a phone call with an agent
Here’s what I learned from my research:
- Google the agent and their agency
- Are they a member of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives), which requires agents to adhere to its code of ethics?
- Look for interviews and mentions by others
- Check for red flags, like reading fees or complaints
- Sign up for Publishers Marketplace (they have a free one-month subscription) and look up deals by the agent. Do they make deals in your genre? How active are they? How many deals have they made, and how recently?
- Create a list of questions you want to ask the agent but that you haven’t been able to find out online. For example, what terms does their author contract include?
- Let everyone else who has your materials know you’ve received the offer of representation, and give them a deadline to respond.
- Make sure to ask the agent to give you time to make the decision. A least a week. (I was anxious about this. What if the agent wanted me to sign right away? How could I turn them down?)
At the end of the week, Lane called me on the phone at our scheduled time. I was ready with my list of questions, but very nervous.
I shouldn’t have worried. Lane gave me answers to many of the scripted questions without my even having to ask. Without any prompting, he offered me two weeks to make my decision, and gave me the names and contact info of three references — two current clients, and one former client. I was particularly impressed that he was willing to let me speak with a former client.
I got off the phone with him knowing in my gut I’d finally found my dream agent. But now it was time to do my due diligence and follow all the proper steps.
After I peeled myself off the ceiling, I sent out emails to the other agents who had my materials. I let them know I had an offer of representation, and gave them a date a couple of days before my deadline with Lane so I’d have time to think over my decision in case someone else was interested in representing me.
I looked up Lane on the web, checked Publishers Marketplace and AAR, and contacted all three of his references. They each raved about him in a way that led me to know I would work well with him.
A second offer of representation
But then another of the agents I’d contacted called to offer me representation as well. I was astounded. Not one, but two people believed in my memoir enough to put their careers and livelihoods on the line for it? This validation made me unbelievably happy, but it was also agonizing. Now I’d have to say no to one of these two people. After talking with them, I knew I would’ve been fortunate to work with either of these agents.
In the end, though, I signed with Lane Heymont. He was obviously passionate about my memoir and about the larger values and themes that resonated through my writing and my life. And I have to say my decision has been validated. Throughout the time I’ve worked with Lane, he’s impressed and delighted me. He has my back, and an author couldn’t ask for more.
Why Pitch Madness works
In my newsletter, I go into more detail as to exactly why I believe Pitch Madness works, and why I never would have found my agent by searching in the traditional way. (Sorry, but this post is already getting too long.) I also include a much longer, uncensored version of this post that describes how I almost made a big mistake on The Call. You can subscribe here.
If you have questions about any of the topics I touch on briefly in the blog post series, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll add them to my list of newsletter articles.
In the next blog post on Thursday the 25th, I’ll give even more evidence that Lane is a fantastic and effective agent. I’ll describe the sales process to publishers, including how he generated multiple offers for my memoir.