How to Sign with An Agent
December 9, 2009

Today on her blog, my lovely client Shannon Morgan detailed twelve ways an agent can sign a potential client based on our own experience just about one year ago. I thought I'd return the favor and catalog the twelve steps a writer may experience when signing with an agent.  (Author's Note: If you look hard enough, you may actually find some decent advice in here. But no promises.)1. Write an awesome story, revise, share it, sit on it, revise again, research agents, send it out, and commence fingernail biting.2. At first, check email constantly, even though you've researched response times and know, in your heart of hearts, that you're in for a wait. Finished with fingernails, move on to toes. 3. Begin to hear back on the queries. A few nos (Boo!) but a few yeses (Hurray!). If I'm requesting, it's always for a full manuscript. I don't request partials. I'm just cool like that.4. Send out the manuscript. Begin to get scared. You can handle someone passing on a paragraph about the book and maybe a few pages, but what if they actually pass on the whole book? Nails bitten down to nubs, seek out husband/child/poodle's nails and begin to chew.5. Driven crazy by the waiting, begin working on a new book to take your mind off things. Pare down how many times you're checking your email a day. Look to get the number in the double, rather than triple, digits. Check out your local chapter of Nail-Chewers Anonymous (NCA). Admit you were powerless over chewing - that your nails had become unmanageable.6. Hear tentative interest from an agent! Ack! Get a bit excited! I usually send a note to say I'm enjoying a story and ask for more details about the author and other projects. At this stage, I'm sometimes looking to do a revision and not officially offer representation quite yet and will be looking to gauge an author's reaction to this idea. For the sake of this post, let's say I want to make an offer...7. Schedule "the call." Get nervous. It's just a phone call, right? Right?! It's no different than talking to Nana! Make sure to attend an NCA meeting and cover your feet and fingers with socks and gloves to avoid temptation. Purchase padlocks if necessary (but make sure you can still answer the phone). If you are Shannon Morgan, "coincidentally" be in the city at the time the agent wants to offer representation.8. Talk! Be yourself, be excited, ask lots and lots of questions, and receive an offer. Get off the phone and take a deep breath. Realize your nails are actually starting to grow back a little.9. Inform other agents who are considering the manuscript of the offer. Set a reasonable deadline for them to get back to you. What if an agent only has the query, you ask? It's common courtesy to let her know of the offer as well, especially with us here at Upstart Crow, since we still have to read the 20 pages attached to it.10. Really think about your decision. If anything didn't sit well or you have misgivings, make sure to follow up with additional questions. Give the other interested agents time to get back to you. If you receive multiple offers, really ponder the pros and cons of each (unless one of the offers comes from an Upstart Crow that case, it's a no-brainer, right?)11. Talk it over with your spouse/children/poodle. Show off your almost-back-to-normal nails.12. Sign already! Jeez!