The second panel of the November Backspace Agent-Author Seminar included a step by step discussion of how agents and editors work together. It was moderated by Karen Dionne with Jeff Kleinman and Erika Imranyi explaining their respective roles as agent and editor.
What happens after an agent falls in love with your query?
The agent requests the full and if he also loves your book, he calls to tell you what he loved and what wasn’t working for him. This is a good time for the author to ask how the agent works (email, phone calls, etc.)
For JK, all agents want a great concept+a great voice+a page turner+great characters.
If you have this kind of project, when you send it to 10 agents 4-5 will probably want it.
Once you sign up with the agent, you go through rounds of revisions with the agent.
The author will work on a bio and a 1 page synopsis which will detail the big arc of the story and may or may not give away the ending.
How does the agent get the editor to pay attention to his submission?
For the editor, when the agents calls, their enthusiasm is contagious. Every house/imprint has a specific type of book. The agent has to identify which editors to submit to much like the author had to figure out what agents to query.
Sometimes an editor sees the pages and wants it. The first editor to call the agent gets the book.
This can happen quickly but there are slow times too.
The super big projects generally happen quickly.
Sometimes a pre-empt will occur. This is where one editor will offer a lot of money to prevent the book from going to auction.
When the editor reads and loves the book, he tries to sell it to his house. The agent must prep the book so the editor can talk it up to his people.
It’s important for the voice to be fresh and distinctive and engaging. Literally sucking the reader into the story. The plot must move fast.
The premise must be very interesting and unique but deal with familiar issues.
The characters, the voice and the emotion must all be there.
Agent tries to make the book do that via revisions with writer.
Voice is very hard to find.
The agent also must find a way to make it look like your career is taking off and brand the author.
There has to be a sense of excitement around you.
The finance team at the publishing house run the numbers and figure out how many copies can sell. In order for the house to spend $, they have to believe they can sell copies and rights.
There is strategizing when the editors go into an auction. After the agent accepts an offer, the editor and agent work through the contract stuff. There is a deal memo which list the terms and rights bought.
The rights include: World English rights, Audio rights, E-book rights, etc.
The editor will then work on further revisions with the author. The author can disagree with the editor’s input and this is where the agent steps in to run interference. An editor may have his own ideas about the book and the author may not see how to do that.
Compromise is key. Editors edit. At least 80% of their edits need to be addressed.
It is important for the author to cc the agent on all editor email so the agent can step in as needed and be effective.
Once the manuscript is finalized, the cover design begins. The publisher jacket can be amazing or hated by the author. Agent can help if author is unhappy.
Karen mentioned how she sends clear emails to agent on any issues she’s having. The agent is the buffer in dealing with editors.
Marketing and publicity come in late in the process. Six months before publication, galleys are sent out. To make your novel stand out, you have to get people talking about it. Some books aren’t review driven.
Agents need to get the editor excited about you. Show how you market the book. It’s not just about what the publisher can do for you. You need to be talking about your book. Meet to form strategy. Learn what publisher won’t do.
Your website is important.
At the end of the day, agent doesn’t want author blindsided. Agent will be honest about what publishing house will do. Editors will generate excitement about the book by getting blurbs. It takes a team to get book to do well. As the author, you need to ask questions and do everything you can to publish the book.
When a book is sold to an editor it is rare not to get published unless it’s a small press and it folds.
Twitter and Blogging are beneficial to integrate yourself into a community. If you have your own blog, 400K followers gets you attention not 10k.
The revision process between the agent and author depends on deadlines.
In terms of self promotion, “will” is a word hated by editors. Start doing it, not promising to do it in the future.