Tell us all about the first phone call you received from your agent.
I figured this was an appropriate dare, seeing as I recently celebrated my one-year agentversary (no, it’s not a word and no, I don’t care) with my fantastic agent, Tina Wexler of ICM Partners.
It was August 1, 2011. A Monday. About 3pm and I may or may not have still been in my pajamas but THAT IS NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. My phone rang in the other room and I remember thinking, I should be hearing back from Tina Wexler any day now about the manuscript I revised and resubmitted—what if it’s her? And then I looked at my phone and it totally was!
I was, true to nature, an awkward weirdo when she said she was calling to offer representation. I inexplicably responded with something like, “Oh, I was hoping you weren’t calling to tell me thanks but no thanks!” in this half-crazed, half-terrified voice. She then laughed and said, “Yup, I always call potential clients to personally reject their manuscripts!” And that is the moment I knew she was the agent for me.
Of course I learned over the next hour and a half that we were a great fit for a number of reasons. First of all, she had such wonderful things to say about my manuscript, including the revisions I’d implemented based upon her suggestions, which improved it so much more than I could’ve imagined. She was obviously well-read, suggesting contemporary titles that were comparable to A POINT SO DELICATE, and books I should read to help with the last round of revisions we’d be tackling before we went out on submission.
She asked me about myself, since I didn’t have much of a web presence beyond a locked-down Facebook account and a Twitter account I rarely used. Probably a mistake, in hindsight. I had no idea where to begin, but pretty sure it started with “I’ve been writing since I was seven . . .” I mean, come on. But, as usual, Tina humored me (reason number 5,698 I am thrilled to be her client), and I somehow managed to condense my life story/writing aspirations to considerably less time than the 12-hour phone saga it was shaping up to be.
I asked the usual agent questions you’re supposed to ask, but only because I felt obligated. I could have stayed on the phone talking books and writing with her forever! And she, of course, asked what I’d like to work on in the future—was I open to adult too, or would it be YA only? I have no immediate plans to write adult fiction, but never say never; I read much more YA, but I love adult fiction. The point is that she represents both, and that was good news for me in case I do decide to write adult fiction someday.
I then asked her about verse novels because one thing I know for certain is that I’d like to at least attempt one in the future. Also, I knew from my research that she had an MFA in Poetry; I mentioned this, then immediately blurted, “That probably makes me sound like a stalker, huh?” (Because when in doubt—and especially when on a business call—always bring up stalking.) But, once again, Tina assuaged my fears and said she found it reassuring because she knew it meant I had done my research and was not arbitrarily querying agents.
By the end of the call, I knew I would sign with her, so I accepted on the spot. Look, I don’t advocate this. You should always take time to think about how you’ll mesh with this person. You should also talk to their current clients to get their take on working with this agent. Your career is in their hands! You will have to trust them a lot when it comes to your book, from submitting to editors who will “get” your work to contract negotiations to handling paychecks from your publisher (which are typically routed through your agent, whose agency then cuts you a check minus their commission). Not to mention all of the post-sale support, which includes, among many things, reading the manuscript you revise with your editor, reading your future, unsold work, and calming your fears when the crazy won’t get out of the way.
But I knew that I was in good hands with Tina. I’d been querying for four years and hadn’t read or heard a bad word about her. In fact, all I kept hearing was that she’s one of the nicest agents in the business (it’s true) and how happy her clients are. So I accepted at the end of the call. I was happy. She was happy, despite my display of unbridled dorkitude. And a year later, I still think about the afternoon I received that call—how much my life changed in the matter of a few seconds (and when I wasn’t even wearing proper pants!).
One thing Tina failed to tell me on The Call was how much she talks about cats on social media. Luckily, I’m a virtual cat lady—none of my own, obsessed with everyone else’s—so this was just an additional perk to what I knew would be a wonderful working relationship. A year later, I’m happy to say my instincts from the first minute of that phone call were absolutely spot on.
And I leave you with the following gif because I'm quite sure this is how ICM's lit department would look if Tina (or I, for that matter) had anything to say about it:
Come back Tuesday to see our next guest poster and continue submitting your truths and dares here!
Brandy Colbert lives in Los Angeles where she works as a freelance magazine copyeditor, combining her Journalism degree and love of words and grammar. Her debut novel, A Point So Delicate, is forthcoming from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers/Penguin in Fall 2013. She'd love to connect with you on Twitter, her blog, or Goodreads.