Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Call: Or How My Agent Made Me a Crazy Person

I totally forgot it was April Fool's Day until I logged into Absolute Write and saw that it had gone all Twilight all the time. It's pretty hysterical, so go take a peek. If you're a writer and haven't found Absolute... uh...Bite...dash over right now and join in the fun.

Rachelle Gardner also talks about all the things you should look for in an agent.

And Brooklyn Arden is just plain genius.

I really wanted to do something clever and funny, but nothing came to me, (And the delightful lass at How Publishing Really Work does it so much better here.) so you'll have to settle for a story writers get asked all the time (at least by other writers).

What was "The Call" Like? Or, how did you find out you'd sold your novel? (I know people are curious about this stuff, so I'll try to be as candid as possible without giving away details that will make my agent put a hit out on me. Some stuff is private for a reason)

Some writers have the big "my agent called with this huge offer" moment, but mine wasn't so dramatic. My agent sent me an e-mail when she started submitting The Shifter (then still called The Pain Merchants) to editors, letting me know who and where it was going.

Did I want to see the rejections? she asked.

Sure, I replied.

She promised to forward comments to me as she got them. That was around the end of May 2008.

We got the first responses back the first week in June. One no (but just to the query), but one the editor loved it so far. The first official no after reading the fill manuscript came about a week later. Knowing that the first editor was still loving it and sending it on to her publisher to read helped take the sting out of that no. More responses came in over the next two weeks, and by mid-June, I got another rejection for my files, with an "oh, by the way..." comment. My agent had spoken to an editor and she hoped to have an offer the next day.

Hardly dramatic, I know. I was still jazzed and wanted to know details, but my agent was playing it close to the vest at this point. I danced around the house like a crazy person.

The next day a second editor came on the scene. Totally loved the book, and it looked like another offer was in the works. Nothing official yet of course, but definite interest going on for my little book. My feet hadn't touched the floor in days.

Then, I got the official "Call". My agent calls me up to discuss a solid offer, a pre-empt. (A pre-empt is where a publisher comes in with a large enough advance to chase away the competition. Now, "large enough" doesn't always mean huge money, just more than another house might be willing to pay for the same book. I'm no millionaire or anything. I still need my day job)

My agent spells out the details. I'm speechless. (Actually, I think I gasped "holy s@#t!") From everything I'd researched, the average advance for a science fiction/fantasy novel was around $5000. I figured with an agent, I'd might get two, maybe three times that as a debut author. Let's just say this offer was more than that.

Then here's the kicker. My agent recommended I turn it down. Yeah. Here's where I started hyperventilating. But the deal had some stuff in it she didn't think was best for me, and she wanted to negotiate something better. Which is the whole reason you have an agent in the first place. Trust me folks, you want someone like this in your corner at this moment. Your brain won't be able to focus on anything past "I'm gonna sell my novel, I'm gonna sell my novel!" You know nothing about rights or contracts or royalties and all the other stuff that also goes into a book deal. And those are very important things to get right.

So I did as she said, cause she knows what she's talking about. Negotiations began. The pre-empt was successful, and the other editors who were interested were chased away.

The offering editor came back with something my agent liked better. But we still had a few editors out there who hadn't responded, and just like when you're looking for an agent, you give everyone who expressed interest in your work a chance to say yay or nay. It's only polite. (And good business)

Then editor two came in with their own pre-empt. Now, as they say, we had a ball game. I was a basket case at this point, a total loon, freaking out and giggling like a madwoman. I wanted to tell everyone I knew, but of course I couldn't. I sat back and let my agent do her thing while I breathed slowly into a paper bag.

Both deals were good, so it really came down to which was better for me and my book. I got to talk to both editors and hear what they had to say. And let me tell you, hearing top-notch editors gush about your book is the most Awesome Thing Ever. Now, it was up to us to choose.

My agent and I discussed all the pros and cons, we looked at the deals and we made our decision. On June 26, 2008, this announcement went out in Publishers Weekly:

Janice Hardy's debut fantasy trilogy beginning with THE PAIN MERCHANTS, about a teen war orphan who becomes a pawn in a bigger political game when her uncanny ability to heal by drawing pain turns out to be the only weapon she has to save her sister, to Donna Bray at Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins for their their launch list in a very good deal pre-empt by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency.

When this all started, I had hoped to sell one book for enough money to re-do my master bathroom (which has the ugliest wallpaper known to man). Instead, I ended up with a three-book deal for six figures. Not too shabby. Certainly a dream come true and more than I was even willing to dream. The most astonishing thing... I still haven't re-done that master bathroom.


  1. lol when do u reckon you'll do the bathroom then? And it was really great to hear how it turned out for you. Can't wait to read your book. Cheers!

  2. Thanks! It's got to be soon. We keep talking about it, but somehow it always gets pushed aside. :)