Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Andrea Hannah Manhandles THE CALL + Tips and Tricks for Not Peeing Yourself

Hi, lovelies!

My fellow Secret Lifers have already covered the basics of the nausea-inducing, piss puddle-producing AGENT PHONE CALL. So I'm just going to give you a little snippet of my experience with THE CALL (or calls, in my very fortunate case) and then give you some ideas for handling your own future calls.

Okay? Okay.

My first call was exceptionally fantastic, even though I was  nervous. But the thing about the call is (at least for me) you're waaaay more nervous wading through the anticipation of it than when it actually happens. And especially if you get that solid gut-pinging reaction to an agent.

Here are some dinosaurs. Just cuz.
(Courtesy of
So once I started talking with Agent #1, and we discussed what she loved about my book, ideas she had for pitching it, and some common small talk, I was certain I was going to sign with her. We meshed so well, we laughed together, she seemed to get my book. All good signs. But still, I didn't commit right then, as it's courteous and professional to contact all of the agents that have your manuscript and inform them that you have an offer of representation. And it's also a good idea to give them a timeline for when you'd like to make a decision (that timeline is completely up to you).

I did that. Then I got two more phone calls.

Agent #2 called. And honestly? I was the most nervous about this call. This was a BIG agent, one who represents some of the hugest books in YA. And I'm not lying when I say huge. But something twisted in my stomach the entire time I talked to her, and I did not get a good feeling at all. I just didn't. Compile that with the fact that I felt like I was being drilled the entire time, plus she didn't seem to understand what I was exactly going for with the (apparently controversial) ending to my story, I couldn't wait to get off that call. Even though it was tempting to just sign with her because of her sheer power, I knew I couldn't. I knew I wouldn't.

Finally, Agent #3, the one I was really holding out for. I'd had a good feeling about Victoria even after just researching her tastes, what she had sold recently, and following her on Twitter. So funny enough, I wasn't nervous at all for her call. (Also, just a reminder: I was still high on morphine after having my son, so... I'm certain that helped.) And as soon as Victoria told me all of the things she loved about the book, and told me exactly what I had been going for (correctly, even) I just knew. She was funny and smart and a "friendly enthusiast," and I am too. It was honestly one of the most enjoyable phone conversations of my life, not even lying.

Anyway, blah blah blah. We all know how this story ends, so now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty details. I sent out a poll on Twitter to see what you guys were interesting in knowing about the call, so I'm gonna hook you up. Right now. Right this second.


If you've already queried them, is it weird to ask about their latest sales? Should you already know? 

It's a good idea of what they've sold before they call. However, I also think it's okay to ask them about those sales. That conversation is definitely not off the table. Remember, you're trying to get the best picture you can of this agent, and this includes past sales. 

Which questions should you ask during the call? 

I had a list of things I wanted to ask. I think I asked like three of them, because it's a two-way conversation and once it gets flowing things have a natural timbre to them, just like any other conversation. There will be things you forget to ask. This is okay. It's okay to send a follow-up email saying that you forgot to ask some things and ask them then. 

Here are a few good questions to ask: 
  • How much work do you think my book still has before we submit? 
  • Are you an editorial agent? How hands-on are you with revisions? 
  • Do you have a tentative plan in mind for submitting my book? Timeline? Publishing houses? 
  • How regularly do you communicate with your clients? 
  • Can you send me a copy of your agency's contract? 
That last one is super important so that you can see for yourself royalty rates, percentages, etc. And you can do some Internet research or ask your writer friends what's average in this arena before you sign. 

Did you talk about submission stuff or just revisions at first? 

Both. They told me their plan for submitting, which houses, when, etc. Then Victoria in particular gave me an idea of what she'd like to see happen for revisions. I asked her what her timeline was to have my revisions in. She told me to take my time, just to make sure it's the best book I can make it. Because she's awesome like that. 

How does the conversation start? What happens after the agent says, "I like your book"? How professional should you act. 

After "I like your book" comes a whole bunch of reasons why, and you will feel all blushy and full of unicorns and glitter. Then you'll have to see how it goes. I was friendly and made some jokes, but also professional. However, being professional doesn't mean being a robot. It honestly really does flow like a regular ol' conversation. Don't think too hard about it. (I know, easier said than done.) 

Is it more about the book or the relationship? How can you determine if an agent is the "right fit"?

I put these two questions together because my response to both is similar. It's about both. You have to be able to work with this person. You have to be able to talk to them. So you're looking for that, and they're looking for that from you as well. It's also about the book. Like I said, Agent #1 and I got along fantastically. However, her vision for my book and revisions was just a tad off from what I was shooting for. Do I think we could have talked through it and it would have been okay? Probably. But Victoria nailed it. So it was a win-win. 

What should I say if my manuscript is with other agents? 

If your manuscript is with other agents, you tell them. It'll come up somehow. Victoria and Agent #1 both outright asked how many other agents had it, and I told them. Agent #2 didn't, but I just said, "This manuscript is still out with ___ agents, and I'm waiting on their responses before I make a final decision. I'll get back to you in ____ (whatever amount of time you decide). Agents will understand this and not be mad at you, promise. BUT,  it's really, really hard at the time to say that, not going to lie. 

Okay, I think I got them all. If you have some others that you want to ask, feel free to plop them in the comments section and me or one of the other Secret Lifers will try to come up with an answer for you! 

Anyway, I hope your calls are as lovely and exciting as mine were. I also suggest you wear an adult diaper and take a lot of pain killers before. Should totally work out that way. 


Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she's not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things.

You can find her on Twitter @:
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10 secret replies:

  1. I LOVE THIS. It's so helpful to get a real sense of what it's like when these calls happen. I'm sure I'm going to be a bundle of nerves if it happens for me.

    Guess I should go get some of those adult diapers....

    1. What do you mean, IF? More like WHEN, you silly, gorgeous thing you <3

  2. "being professional doesn't mean being a robot."

    Totally agree! Thank you so much for this post, it's extremely helpful. :D

  3. Thanks for this! I can see myself being very nervous so it's good to know what to expect (and how to prepare) going in.

    Congrats on signing with an awesome agent!

    1. No problem! I like a combination of preparation and flow for just about anything in life, you know? Yeah, I did a bunch of research before, had a list of questions, but I think it's also important to just let the conversation flow the way it needs to and then follow-up if you still have questions later :)

  4. I basically set myself up for this call when it was just an R&R and it was.....awkwardly hilarious to say the least. I had no idea you had 3 offers though, Andee, that is so wonderful!!!!!! :) I also agree with gut instinct - I was teasing about the questions; I think you just know when things fit together.


    1. Awww boo!! That is no good. Don't worry girl, it's only a matter of time :)

  5. How long do you give other agents who have your full once you get an offer? What is the average amount of time? Thanks! I really liked your post and it's super super super helpful!

  6. “…being professional doesn't mean being a robot." – I also agree with this. In every phone call conversation, you must be professional, especially if you’re talking business. You must know how to adjust yourself with the person you’re talking to. -Ruby Chelmsford