Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post: Before, During, and After the Agent

We all love writing. We all hope our work will help us secure an agent (and a book deal). But what do you do if you get a book deal before an agent? Today, Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman (long with their fabulous agent, Natalie Lakosil of the Laura Bradford Literary Agency) are here to talk about just that. 

Before, During, and After the Agent

In a sane world, you write the book, get an agent who sells the book, and then you’re off to publishing heaven.

Not us. We wrote Sirenz. We shopped our series at Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators conferences. We talked to agents who encouraged us to send the manuscript to them. Or not. Months, conferences and rejections later, still without representation, we started trolling Writer’s Digest for articles like “50 Agents Who Want Your Manuscript.” We sent out queries by letter and email. We waited. We piled up more rejections, filed away unanswered queries.

Not ones to sit patiently and wait, we forged ahead with submissions to editors at conferences alongside the agents. Again we filed rejections, crossed off no responses, and started another round of submissions, dragging out the “Editors Who Want Your Manuscript” articles, and trolling the websites of all publishing houses looking for those who accepted unagented queries. There weren’t many, but we submitted to them, hoping for the best.

About two years into our quest, we received an email from Brian Farrey-Latz at Flux, expressing interest and asking for a conference call. We conferenced, we revised—and were offered a contract! But with talk of our book having series potential and having a pile of individual projects, we knew we needed an agent, so we continued to query—and continued to collect rejections.

That’s where I came in. Nat and Char submitted to me through the infamous slush pile, and, once I got my hands on the full manuscript, I couldn’t put it down. I spent and entire conference longing for just one more break minute to get back to the book!

But it was a book they already had a contract for. I’m inherently wary of on-the-table offers; the last thing I want to do as an agent is sign a client, negotiate a deal, and…never like anything else they write.

So I asked them to send me more. Luckily, these two knocked my socks off with their individual projects as well – so I offered representation, and the rest is history.

Natalie negotiated a sequel to Sirenz and is shopping our individual projects around. We might still collect rejections, but it’s great to have someone in our corner. Although we had the contract, Natalie was able to follow up on foreign rights, and ebook, audio and other media rights—things it would be difficult (if not impossible) for us to do on our own. She’s fielded questions about ARCs and publicity copies, and reviewed Sirens: Back In Fashion before we sent it to Brian. Natalie’s also made suggestions for publicity and themes for future books.

But most of all, having an agent means that with all future projects, she gives them one (or more! ☺) professional reviews to smooth out any rough spots—and we don’t have to spend time researching who the best potential editors are for a manuscript and submitting to them, then following up. (I also field questions or concerns to maintain a good editor/author relationship – they get to let me be the bad guy.)

Lesson learned: even if you’ve sold the first contract, keep shopping for that agent; there’s so much they do that you’re going to need and want (and, to jump in again…so much you can miss or miss out on including in a contract by not having an industry professional – not just any lawyer- look at it! There’s always a chance to revise and better the next contract you do – and an agent can make that happen!).


More about Sirenz:

Bickering frenemies Meg and Shar are doing some serious damage at a midnight sample sale when the fashionistas find themselves arguing over a pair of shoes-with fatal consequences. One innocent bystander later, the girls are suddenly at the mercy of Hades, Lord of the Underworld himself. To make them atone for what they've done, Hades forces the teens to become special-assignment Sirens, luring to the Underworld an individual whose unholy contract is up.

Finding that delicate balance between their fashion addiction and their new part-time job in the eternal hellfire biz turns out to be harder than Meg and Shar expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved. Then there's the matter of the fine print in their own contracts...

Sirenz is avaliable here.


  1. You definitely have to be patient when you query editors from conferences. I've done that and received rejections a year or more later (once even two years later). Long after I've shelved the book. Talk about a painless rejection.

    The main thing is you want an agent who loves your book, and not one who offers representation just because there is an easy sale on the table because you've already done all the work.

  2. What a cool and encouraging story! I love the perseverance you guys showed. And it paid off!

  3. What a great story! It gives me hope and to keep going!


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