Answers from the Mountaintop

(Or, from my desk in Virginia, where I am fueled by bold, rich coffee)

Coffee at workplaceBefore Christmas, when I posted about having a serious talk with your agent, a couple of you asked more questions. I really appreciate you! Over the next few weeks, I’ll provide my perspective on various questions. I want my posts to be a source of good, helpful information, so feel free to make more queries in the comments section.

1.) As an agent, what level of updates do you want from your author – do you want progress reports or just the finished product?

I can only speak for myself since each agent is different. My preference is to have a heads up about a writer’s plans, and then see the finished manuscript and/or proposal.

I like to talk with the author when we’re getting ready to prepare all proposals. That way, we can go over ideas and strategies. I am also fine with authors giving me updates on how the writing is going. I enjoy being in touch. And I’m there to answer questions during the process as well. Since I’ve written many books, I can offer helpful advice when needed. On the other hand, if an author is happier in a writing cave with no disturbance, I won’t knock, though I might slide chocolate bars under the door on Tuesdays.

I don’t find that reviewing each stage of the book is helpful. For instance, I don’t need to critique your first draft, your second draft, and your final draft. For one, time doesn’t allow me to go that many rounds. Second, when I’m on round three, I’m no longer a fresh critiquer. I find that I’m at my best when I review a final draft only. But as far as taking care with author submissions, I read what I send to editors. My feeling is, why would they want to read a book I’m not willing to read myself? And I exercise due diligence with proposals themselves to be sure we include all the information we can to  help the editor make a good decision.

Of course, this answer is presented in the most general of terms. I respect the fact that each author is unique. Every relationship develops differently, and all authors have specific expectations and wants. Some authors will require more nurturing than others. I’m not perfect, but my hope and goal is to give the each author all the needed attention and support to feed his or her ministry and to find great success in today’s tough market.

2.) As an agent, would you like a lot of say in developing the project or do you expect the author to show you a finished proposal?

When I don’t know an author, I will ask to see a completed proposal because that information will help me make an assessment of how effective I can be in working with the author toward further achievement. So we’re starting with the author’s finished proposal. New authors usually need help polishing their proposals to send to editors. When I know an established author, I don’t ask for a proposal for my review, but I do discuss future plans. Then, I help put together dynamic new proposals. Regardless, I don’t want authors to stress over writing the perfect proposal for my review. I’ll use your general information to make your proposal sparkle for editors.

As for developing a project, I would take that on a case-by-case basis, depending on how much input the author wants and needs at that point. My authors come to me with their ideas and creativity. I am there to partner with them to find just the right publisher. As a literary agent, I am known for helping authors form teams for joint projects. I took the Bloomfield  concept to a few of my writers, but their talents and the great editors and marketing people at B&H are making the series a success.

Your turn:

Do you want your agent to develop projects with you?

How confident are you in proposal writing?

11 Responses to Answers from the Mountaintop

  1. Jackie Layton January 10, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    It’s nice to hear that you help authors with their proposals.

    The writing business overwhelms me at times. I’m not sure how anybody dives into it without an agent. After you write your story you’ve got queries, proposals, web presence, keep up your own blog, tweet, promote, and think up a new story. Actually creating the new story is the fun part. Who wants to do all of that without an agent’s guidance?

    Thanks for sharing, Tamela.

  2. Angie Dicken January 10, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Tamela, I wish I lived closer so I could get some of that chocolate on Tuesdays! :) Your answers are very encouraging. I’ve told you before that I used Steve Laube’s website a long time ago to understand proposal writing better. Sometimes it is scary to write “about” your book to hook a publisher, especially as a new author, but having an agent to guide you is so much less unnerving! Thanks for all you do!

  3. Debby Mayne January 10, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Thanks, Tamela! I know from personal experience that you give your authors the respect and attention we need. I’m looking forward to reading your perspective and answers to more questions over the next few weeks!

  4. Lisa January 10, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    I don’t have an agent yet, I hope to in the future. I have found this blog and others written by agents to be invaluable in learning the ropes and preparing for publication. I know that guidance will be priceless when I’m ready for the next step in my writing career!

  5. Lindsay Harrel January 10, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    I’m not super confident in proposal writing, but I’m thankful to have a CP who is a marketing person. She can definitely help me with hooks, etc. I’m looking forward to having an agent to give advice too.

  6. Jeanne T January 10, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks, Tamela. I appreciate your answers. As for developing projects, I think when I have an agent, I’d want to hear his/her thoughts on the project and if it needs tweaking, some direction on how to make it better. On proposal writing? NO. I’m not confident in this area, but I’m learning. Slowly. Having an agent’s help with this would be a godsend.

    I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts. :)

  7. Rachel Muller January 10, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m glad to know that you help in the proposal writing/polishing process.

    When I entered the writing realm I was as green as a pickle! Proposals, query letters, blurbs…what were they anyway?

    As a new and unpublished writer I’m not super confident in my own proposal writing, but I have found established authors who are willing to help me along the way. So in answer to your question, yes, I think having an agent’s help in the project development process would be beneficial to someone like me.

    With much thanks to ACFW and helpful blogs (such as yours, Tamela) the learning process has been easy and enjoyable. I look forward to reading more answers to readers’ queries in the future! :)

    Blessings!
    Rachel Muller

    • Tamela Hancock Murray January 10, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      Rachel, learning from established writers is a great way to go! Sounds as though you are doing everything right.

  8. Patti Jo Moore January 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Thanks for this post today, Tamela. I always enjoy seeing “the agent’s perspective” and look forward to your upcoming posts. :)

  9. Laurie Alice Eakes January 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    One of those authors waving from her cave. You can slide some chocolate down a mine shaft.

  10. April W Gardner January 11, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    You’re a dear to answer these Q’s! I’m getting better, but am not the most confident proposal writer. Good to hear some agents aren’t terribly picky over the little proposal mess-ups. And that you don’t require a proposal from an established author. Good news for many! :-)

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