Saturday, March 30, 2013

Am I open to new clients?

Am I open to new clients?

I get that a lot.

I get an email asking that question and they most of the time they could just skip to the next step, go to our submission guidelines at and just send me a proposal because that's what I'm going to tell them.Oh, occasionally they say something in the note that causes me to know that there is no point in sending it, but a quick check of the submission guidelines can tell people what those situations are as well.

Many wish to check me out with my clients before they send and I encourage them to do so. I don't post the email addresses of clients but if the person knows one or more of them I believe they are all happy to tell about their experiences. If the person doesn't know one of them I still don't give out the addresses but if they will ask me I will ask my client group if 2-3 of them would like to initiate the contact from our end. Usually they are happy to.

I am getting quite picky, however, so be sure you send your best. I get a lot of really good things sent to me and I can just take a few. It can be a great project and I just don't connect with it, or maybe I don't see the market for it or feel I have the right contacts to get it to market. And I have a great group of people in my client group, people that connect closely with one another and support and pray for one another. I look for people that I can see fitting in with those terrific folks.

We do think career over here and try to help our authors grow. Over 80% of my clients have published since they signed with me no matter what we have had to do to make that happen. I'd like for that to be 100% but I know that will probably never happen. Doesn't mean I'm not shooting for it. It also has a lot to do with the goals and aspirations of the individual author and whether those goals are realistic for that individual work. And it has to do with the fact that I don't just sign projects then try to sell them, I see if I have a clear path for the project or I don't put it under contract.

That doesn't mean I guarantee to sell anything. But it means I do see solid potential or I don't take it. Am I open to new clients? Yes indeed . . . if it's the right project.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How do I become an agent?

I've had people ask me about becoming an agent, and it's true that anybody can hang out a shingle and say they are an agent. There are no licensing requirements, courses one has t take or tests to pass, which is why people have to be leery of unknown agents. But acquisitions people know this and a submission from an agent they don't know can receive even less attention than a slush-pile submission from an unknown author. Personally I would have never jumped off myself without being associated with a known agency like Hartline.

So, how do people start new agencies successfully? Most come out of publishing where they established their name in the industry with a known publisher. I'm one of few that came out of the writing side. The key is having contacts, having people in the industry who know who you are. Either that or they get accepted to intern at a big established agency. Most agencies have such interns patiently working their way up the ladder. Most have college degrees.

The next key is building those contacts. The first few years I worked doing writing conferences at the rate of a couple a month, building my name and building exposure. I was looking to acquire some good clients, but maybe even more importantly I was firming up those contacts with editors. Not a lot of money made during this formative period. Being a little off the beaten path I had the choice of apologizing for living in the Texas Panhandle or coming right at it. I'm not big on apologizing, so I wear the big hat and boots and a flowing mustache and hope it causes people to remember me. I've cut back and this year only doing a dozen conferences and if the economy keeps going the way it is going may cut back a bit more.

At Hartline Joyce was my agent, and still is, but she gave me my start and mentored me. I'm very grateful to her and loyal to her as well. In return I have mentored some people myself. I had a young lady come up to me at a conference and convince me that I needed an assistant and that she would work for free to get the experience. This is known as a remote internship. I helped her get the experience she needed to go on and found her own Indy press. 

Since then there have been others willing to work to get the experience they need and to start forming contacts. One has gone on to become a Hartline agent alongside me, two others have become editors at small presses and one founded her own PR company. I have a couple of others working in that capacity with me now and they put in quite a bit of work as I let them try more and more of the process to learn what is going on.  I worked with a client to form his own literary agency and another client to found another Indy press. Those who have moved on from it did 2-3 years with me until they had enough of a grasp of what was required for me to be able to write them a letter of recommendation to someone.

So what am I saying it takes to become an agent? It takes learning the business somehow, from someone. It requires gaining visibility and contacts either by getting with an established organization or building credibility ourselves. It takes learning about contracts and negotiation and getting comfortable doing both. It takes learning how things work in the industry and how to keep up with the people changes as well as the publishing changes.  It takes some business savvy and sales ability. In short, it takes a whale of a lot more than someone just announcing that suddenly they are an agent.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doing Businss

It isn’t something writers want to do.

Writers want to write. We really don’t want to have to do the business end. We don’t want to have to do proposals and pitches, work on marketing and marketing plans, we really would rather hole up in a cabin up in the mountains and just write. We’d rather somebody else do the business for us.

And we sure don’t want to have to do our taxes.

I’m usually not one that waits so late in the game to do mine. Yes, I do my own. I was an accounting major in college and I took tax accounting. I feel like my education is wasted if I don’t do it. However, these days I do use Turbo-Tax software and that makes it easier.

It’s more than the anguish of having to do the complicated calculations, more than having to pay out the money. It’s an unvarnished look at how professional we are. Right there in black and white is the money I made from my various writing (and agent) endeavors. Was the year a success? Was I a success?

In a profession where the income can come in sporadically but expenses seem to come due as regular as the ticking of a clock, evaluating our progress during the year can be like taking a series of snapshots and putting them together to get an idea of progress. But when tax time rolls around the year comes into clear focus.

I hope when each of you look at the year in review that you are happy with the results. As for mine? Well, I’ll let you know, but right now . . .

I have to quit talking about this and do my taxes.