Monday, June 18, 2007

A Day in the Life

This is going to be one heck of a week. In fact, the next few weeks are going to be crazy for me. I'm going to be out of the office a great deal at lunches, meetings, and conferences. So while I'm going to try to keep up with my Day in the Life posts please excuse me if I miss a week or two.

So what did I do today? Let's see...

My first task was to sort through the huge stack of mail that I hadn't sorted through in close to a week. Oh sure I'd glanced through and sifted and pulled out those things that were extra important--like client checks, contracts and maybe a submission or two, but for the most part I tried to ignore the toppling pile. So today I tackled it. I sorted, skimmed and even read a proposal or two. So far there were no keepers in the pile that I could see so most of it went on the submission shelf, a few were immediately rejected and of course the checks were quickly sorted for depositing.

My next task, and the biggest of the day, was to prepare a submission. I received the proposal last week from a client and was really impressed. She had done all of the work and revisions I had requested and she had done them very well. So I sent off an email letting her know that it was ready to go and I was going to start the process. And then I asked a few questions that I knew would come up before an offer was made. Questions like how long will the book be and how long will it take to write (this is a nonfiction proposal by the way). And then I got to work.

I always say to authors that submitting to agents should take nearly as long as it takes to write the book. And of course I'm exaggerating, sort of. Submitting a book does take a long time. All day in fact. I have to draft a letter. A really fabulously exciting marketing letter. I want to grab an editor's attention with my first sentence and convince her that this is the greatest book to cross her desk this year, maybe even this decade. I would say that, on average, it takes me at least an hour to draft a submission letter that I'm happy with. I need to find the perfect pitch phrases and wording. What are the most important aspects of this project? The author's credentials or the book concept itself? What should I mention first and what can I leave out? What is going to be critical to a sale and what is better left unsaid?

And then I need to do my research. Sure I know most of these editors personally, but I need to double and triple check that their tastes, houses, or names haven't changed since we've spoken last. I need to know what each editor's most recent deals were. While I'm constantly in touch with editors, I'm not constantly in touch with every editor I know which means that in two month's time someone could have quit, moved, changed their interests or just plain disappeared off the face of the earth. It's my job to find all of these things out.

Once my letter is perfect I review of Publishers Marketplace. Here I can do a contact search and refresh myself on what some of my favorite editors have been up to. Publisher's Marketplace can give me insight into what they've been buying lately and most importantly it can tell me if they've recently bought something very similar to my project, which would take them out of the running. Once I'm confident that I have a strong list of editors who will definitely clamor for my project it's time to make the calls. Either by email or phone I make that initial contact to see if they are interested in my project and how they would like it sent--email or snail mail. In most cases the editors get back to me very quickly and I have my reply letter and attachment ready to go. In this case I contacted 10 editors right off the bat and most have replied to the affirmative. I also have a list of editors that I've yet to get in touch with and will do so tomorrow. They aren't necessarily second tier (in case you're reading this) I just needed to do a little more research before choosing which editor I preferred at certain houses.

This week will be spent reviewing and updating my submission list. Making notes on how editors reacted, who seemed the most enthusiastic and which editors are on vacation and until when. In about 4 weeks it's time to check in and start bugging editors for answers. If of course I haven't already sold the book.

Wish us luck!

4 comments:

Reid said...

Good luck to you and your author. It's kind of sobering to think the work has only begun when the manuscript is first finished.

I was kind of hoping after I wrapped it up, I could just drop it in the mail and wait for the limo to come pick me up for the ride to sign the contracts.

After that, I was hoping to buy a pony. I suppose I'll just table that for now.

Gina Black said...

This is fascinating! Hope you get LOTS of offers.

claud said...

I'm with Gina -- this IS fascinating! Good luck and thanks!

Susan Gunelius said...

This is an interesting post. It's great to hear the details about what goes on in the day in the life of an agent. For me, I spend the day chasing my two-year old triplets, trying to maintain my sanity, and attempting to put together a query letter all while maintaining my blogs and other work.

Sometimes, I look back on my corporate marketing career and those days seem easy in comparison to raising triplets, but being home with my kids is very rewarding, albeit tiring. They're napping now, so I'm grabbing a few minutes to research agents, preferences, etc. The hardest part is finding all the information you need to make educated choices in whom to query.