Monday, December 10, 2012

Sounding Like a Complete Dork During THE CALL: A How-to guide by Stefanie Gaither

Happy Monday lovelies! First off, thanks to all our new followers and such. You guys rock! If you're new to the blog, then no worries-- you rock too! But if you newcomers want the first part of my story (which continues in today's post),you might want to check here first, and if you're confused about what we're all about, then this post should clear things up.

So. On to the topic of this new series of posts:

That glorious call.

For unagented writers: if you're like I was, then dreams and wild fantasies about the semi-mythical THE CALL are probably one of the few things that have kept you going on the more grueling writing and querying days. You've probably scoured the internet searching for those lists of questions you're supposed to ask (such as this one right here) and heck, maybe you've already written a script for that call, even though you've only written like the first five chapters of your manuscript (I totally didn't do that so I don't know why you're looking at me like that) ((okay maybe I sort of did that, STOP JUDGING ME)).

And being prepared is a fantastic idea--because you never know when it might happen. In my case, for example, it was quick. A couple weeks after sending my first query, I got my first call. There was no warning, no email preceding it; just a ringing phone with a strange area code in the caller id and me standing there at work with a dumbfounded look on my face thinking "hm, well that's odd." This look being the calm before the storm, of course-- because it was before I checked my voicemail. Before I realized that it had been an agent calling me and not some guy in India telling me that I'd won a sweepstakes I'd never entered, and all I had to do was verify my credit card and social security number for them...

Wait...what is this number?

So yeah, by all means, read those posts with those lists. There are a ton of them, and more still about proper publishing business etiquette, and questions they might ask you and how you should answer said questions. They are fantastic resources, and you really have no excuse to be underprepared for this moment.

But, this is not one of those posts. This is a post about the actual call itself. Not what comes before, not what comes after--but what it is actually like (at least in my case) talking to an agent for the first time. Here's the thing: I read all those posts. I could recite those posts. I was prepared. We scheduled a time to talk via email, and I was ready for this call.

And then the phone started ringing.

And then I promptly forgot how to use words for most of the thirty minutes or so that I was on the phone. I got better with each agent I ended up talking to (or at least I'd like to think I did, haha) but Sara was first, and our conversation amounted to something like this:

Sara: I love your book! I'd like to offer representation. Here is some info about our contract terms, here are some editors I might submit to, here are some of my submission plans, here are some edits we might need to do first, etc...

Me, whilst furiously trying to write down every thing she said:

How I can string 90,000 words together into a coherent story on paper, but hardly manage a single coherent sentence when an agent asks a question so simple as What do you want from your writing career? is beyond me. I mean, I'd only been thinking about this since I was like what, nine?

Maybe that was just it, though--all of these posts full of questions and suggestions often don't mention just how overwhelming (in a good way, but still) it can be to finally reach this point in your dream career. In my case, I think I'd developed tunnel vision after having been in the query trenches for so long with other books, that when it happened I was just like wut? Like this couldn't be right or something--couldn't be happening. But it was, obviously. And it was awesome, and even though I sounded like a complete dork on the phone, Sara still didn't retract her offer of representation (phew). So it all worked out in the end.

Sara, and all the agents I spoke with (who are not terrifying gatekeepers, but people just like you and me, don't forget), were very generous with their time; they all invited me to follow up via phone or email with any more questions I came up with after we hung up. In other words, like most things involved with writing, you don't have to get it right on the very first try, so don't stress too much! (says the girl who didn't eat or sleep for most of the week that these calls were happening).

And of course I did have more questions, since I mostly just said "um" and "uh-huh" during my calls; I sent a couple of follow up emails, and one of the things that impressed me most about Sara (and one of the reasons I went with her) was how quickly and thoroughly and enthusiastically she responded to my questions. Quick, thorough emails--that's how I like to communicate, so I knew it was a good sign that we'd work well together.

And in the end, to me that was the most important thing. I was more concerned with having someone I felt like I could figure things out with along the way, rather than trying to figure it all out in a single phone call, if that makes sense. Because honestly? I don't remember most of what was said during any of those phone calls. Terrible, I know. But I also don't remember anything that happened on my wedding day, except that it was awesome. That's the only thing I can think to compare it to. Which works well, if you dig that whole agent/client agreement = a marriage analogy that I've seen some people use.

Anywho, this is getting a bit long-winded, huh? So tell me in the comments, unagented writers: what are you most apprehensive about regarding the call? Agented writers: did your call(s) go as planned? Is there anything that you feel might have better prepared you for the awesome?

Also, be sure to check back on Wednesday for another Secret Lifer's story of "The Call"!

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. 

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

  1. I'm terrified that I'll completely forget the English language. At least you were able to say things like "Um" and "Uh huh." That's better than silence. ;)

    1. Ha! There was lots of silence, too. Sara probably wondered if I was listening at all for half our convo, or if I'd just passed out or something, hehe.

  2. So fun to hear the truth about The Call. Like forgetting how to use words ;D

  3. This is my biggest fear about The Call. It's the time I want to sound the most professional, the most competent, the most like I actually do have a central nervous system, but I fear being reduced to gelatin for the duration.

    I'm lucky that I've already spoken to an agent on the phone (but not for The Call, it was more of an awesome and completely unexpected courtesy that went well above and beyond the normal level of polite on her part). We talked for about fifteen minutes, and I remained mostly coherent throughout. I will always think of that as my Practice Call. Still, when an agent calls to offer representation, that added layer of O_O will likely kick in, reducing me to a quivering pile of goo.

    1. Yeah, practice calls are good :) I'd actually spoken on the phone a bit with an editor about the book prior to the one that got me my agent, and I think that helped me be a -little- bit better prepared.

      Good luck with querying and when you get The Call! I'm sure you'll be perfectly competent (at least compared to me,haha)

  4. I forget how to use words during normal phone conversations! My tongue will probably wither up and fall out of my mouth if I ever receive The Call.

    1. Yeah...the phone is not my preferred method of communicating for this very reason! I'm much better face to face or, of course, on paper (a writer that's better at writing words than speaking--crazy, I know). But even if your tongue does wither up and fall out, you'll still be able to write, so it's all good ;)