Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wednesday's Agent Q&A

Welcome to Wednesday's Q&A with agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency. Don't forget to submit questions for next week, either by posting a comment or emailing me at

1) How do you want published authors to submit to you?

I still prefer snail mail submissions with published authors. However, it is very important that they mention in the query letter that they are published. Outlining career plans is another important piece of information to add to the letter. That way, I know where the author is and where she wants to go. Sending along a recent published book also helps draw attention to the submission. Finally, attaching a nice portfolio along with the submission that includes an updated bibliography and reviews helps me to see where the author has been and allows me to see where I think we can go. A phone call or email from a published author letting me know the submission is coming is also fine.

2) What is your opinion on an author writing in more than one genre?

In this tight market, I think it's vital. Previously, authors were told to focus on one genre and to not stray. And, for some authors that still may be the case. But, overall, for prolific authors who can produce 2-3 books a year, I think it's very important to diversify. As the publishers' lists shrink, there are less slots available for new authors to fill. If we can start a career in one genre and convince the publisher to take a chance on a second genre from the same author (sometimes under a pen name), the author will have more "job security." Most of my successful authors do write in more than one genre - Katie MacAlister, Jennie Klassel, Pat Pritchard and our own Stephanie Rowe are a few examples.

3) What happens to an authors interests in the event of the death of an agent? Does the publisher keep paying to the agent's estate or does everything revert to the author? Does it differ if it's a solo agent vs an agency with more than one agent?

That really depends on the author/agent agreement. Most agency contracts spell the terms out in the contract. If the agreement doesn't specify, ask the agent her specific policy.

4) What should an author do if they get a cover that they think is horrible? Does an agent help with that?

First thing first, an author should contact her agent. Maybe the cover isn't as bad as she thinks. But, in any case, her agent needs to know. An agent acts as a buffer between the author and her editor, so yes! An agent will definitely get involved. Our job is to make sure that our authors are happy and are being taken care of. I've gotten involved with cover issues on behalf of my authors. Honestly, a publisher has an author's best interest at heart, and they want to see books. So, they aren't going to stick an author with a bad cover on purpose. And, they may have reasons for going with a certain design, etc. As the go between, an agent can help negotiate a happy medium.

5) How can an agent assist a category author?

There are many ways that an agent can help a category author.

Again, an agent is a buffer between an author and her editor. If any issues arrive, an agent can step in and fight on her author's behalf. For example, I had an author who had a major problem with her copy edits. I was able to step in and help her solve the problem with her editor so she didn't have to broach an uncomfortable subject with her.

And, although the Harlequin category contract is pretty standard, there are a few negotiable points that an agent can finagle.

Since I'm always looking into the future for my authors, and career planning is so vital, I have conversations with their editors on things that they can do for the future. (Online reads, etc.) It helps an author to have someone in their corner pushing for more where an author can't really do that for herself.

6) How would you like authors to follow up after they submit? After how long and what is your preferred method of communication?

I prefer email follow-ups. Our normal response time is 3-4 months on partials, so after about 3 months, it's fine to follow-up. One piece of advice - if you are the type of author who likes to call to make sure that an agent has received a proposal a week after you send, purchase the delivery confirmation. Agents receive so much mail every week, and it just helps with the flow when follow-ups are conducted after the normal response time.

7) What is your process for determining where to submit your client's projects?

Since I've been agenting for five years now, I have a good feel for the tastes of many editors. Before I submit a project, I really focus on the editors who make the most sense - if it's a comedy, I know which editors at which houses prefer that type of submission. However, if a client meets an editor at a conference or has a specific request, I will always honor their request.

Check by Friday for Q&A with debut vampire author Robin T. Popp!


At 6:24 PM, Anonymous riemannia said...

Thanks for these Q&A's. They're informative and fun. I found Michelle Grajkowski's comment on diversifying very interesting.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Shelley said...

Thanks for hosting the Q & A session, and a big thanks to Michelle for answering all our questions. After years of being told to concentrate on one genre, your comments on diversifying were interesting and welcome. Thanks :-)


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