Etiquette for Authors

Etiquette for Authors


Author Questions


When should I call my agent or editor? One of the many common author questions.

Many authors are nervous about protocol. An agent takes you on, and then for some reason, you feel uncomfortable about asking questions.

Remember, the agent works for you. She (or he) gets paid only if she sells your work. She hasn’t done you a favor by sending you an agency agreement to sign. She loves your work and wants to invest her time in selling it.

On the other hand, you do want to be organized and thoughtful in what you expect from your agent. After she’s made you an offer of representation and before you’ve accepted, write out a list of “author questions” that will minimize surprises later:

* Do you think my book needs more work? If so, how will we handle editorial matters? Will you write me a letter? Will we talk these ideas out?

* Once my book is ready to submit, who will you be submitting it to? (This a general question about the types of publishers the agent will be submitting it to. Don’t expect to receive a list of editors at this point. And don’t do your own research and start sending in ideas for the perfect editor at specific publishers. Editors will worry that you’re spending your free time digesting Publishers Marketplace instead of working on your book.)

* At what point do you give up sending my manuscript out?

* What’s the best way to contact you? E-mail or phone? I like to schedule calls in the beginning so I can focus on the interaction. Other agents prefer e-mail.

After a manuscript has been submitted, ask for a list of publishers and editors.

* Ask if the agent will send rejects as they come in or if they’ll hold them. (I prefer to hold them until I have several in hand.)

* If you have one question, wait a few hours; maybe that one question will turn into several.

When the contract arrives for a new publication…read it. And then go over it clause by clause so that you understand what deadlines you’re committed to and what rights the publishers will be selling.