OFFER OF REP! (and why I said no)


guy kneeling crying

Please, put down the torches and pitchforks.

I know how that title sounds. I never, ever imagined I’d turn down an offer of rep from an agent. But I did. I had to. It was a difficult thing to do, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

It all started with the most recent #PitMad event. The day job was busy sucking the life out of me, so, the night before, I scheduled a few Tweets to jump in and scrap with the thousands of others vying for attention in the stream. By the end of the day, I had two requests: one from a small pub & one from an agent. Right away I knew I wouldn’t submit to the publisher. Because, you see, I’ve made the personal decision that I want an agent fighting by my side, adding value, experience, and wisdom to this passionate dream of mine.

So that left me with an agent who wanted to see more than the (exactly) 140 characters: Tera joins the crazy-twisted Phreak Show where she must embrace the truth: being a freak isn’t about looks, it’s a frame of mind #PitMad YAF

I’d previously researched the agency *a little*. My mind couldn’t instantly dredge up any black-listed reasons not to submit. Plus: AN AGENT WANTS TO SEE MORE OF MY STORY! Once I got home, I hunted the sub guidelines and shipped off the query, synopsis & first 25 pages. I grabbed some dinner and nonchalantly strolled into my weekend.

5 days later, this arrived in my inbox:

I’m absolutely obsessed with this. Your concept looks really tight and the message is just awesome. I think there is something so real about this, but you are entertaining instead of didactic. I could go on and on, but suffice to say I’m fangirling : ) I would be delighted to give your full manuscript a read.

Of course I did a celebratory jig (a cross between Riverdance & walking on hot coals) & sent it right over. An agent. Fangirling over my words! And only then did I do the in-depth research I should have.

Uh-oh.

As this process progressed, a half dozen of my fellow writers, CPs, and an Assistant Agent friend all suited up & went into research-war with me. There were a lot of questions marks, which twisted into perplexities, which then flared into big, flaming red flags.

– Predators & Editors only noted: slow response time to queries. [Well, hell. That’s 75% of all queries I’ve ever sent…]
– No agents with the agency are members off AAR. [Okay, well I know of some top-notch agents who aren’t…]
– No clients listed on the agency website. [Okay. Wait. What? You’ve been in business for years…Your website is a basic (and easy) venue to champion your authors’ work. If you’re not showcasing your clients & their books on your own website, then what kind of marketing value are you really adding?]
– Twitter digging, following the rabbit down its hole, unearthed a few “clients”. [Hmmm…few and far between. The quality of the book covers look little better than something created in MS Paint. Are these self-pubbers? I smell fish.]
– Even though the agency (and its parent Talent agency) has been around for years: no sales listed. None. Anywhere. [Slow the eff down. Even if the agent (for whatever reason) chose not to post sales, then the Editor, or the even the author most likely would. Right? HOW CAN YOU BE IN BUSINESS FOR YEARS AND NOT HAVE ANY PUBLIC RECORD OF SALES?]

And as a few more red flags were firmly planted: that dead fish smell clung to me, my manuscript, my misconception that landing a full request is always a good thing.

THE NEXT DAY: My phone rings during my commute home. I don’t recognize the number. It’s the agent. I pull over. I whip out my notebook, access the mental database of all those questions & red flags in my head.

I absolutely LOVE this. Love.it. The aesthetic you created is perfect for this concept, perfect for YA. The quirkiness is really good; weird in a good way. Your characters are a BIG strength; they feel so real. The whole story felt really emotional without sacrificing plot. It’s so hard to balance characterization, worldbuilding and plot, and you did it beautifully. That’s evidence of a great writer.”

Lucas’ brain: She’s genuine. She reallymeans every word. Damn, those words feel good. Why, oh why, does this have to smell like a Red Lobster’s dumpster?

I’d like to offer you and your phenomenal book representation.

Lucas’s brain: Oh fuck does this suck. Hard.

I dig into my questions: carefully. I ask about the things giving me major pause (or, actually, damn-near a full-on stop). She answers. She’s super nice. Her personality is vibrant, cheery, and wonderful. We’d get along great outside of the whole agent-author relationship thingy. Oh yeah. That’s the whole point. A knowledgeable agent guiding me through the process, selling-the-hell-out-of-my-book, connecting with contacts I don’t have, championing my story, fighting alongside me to make this passionate dream of mine a reality.

I have other fulls out, so I need to nudge those agents and give them the opportunity to offer. A week ought to do. I ask for a copy of the agency’s contract to look over. I can text or email or call anytime with questions or concerns.

I’m torn. There’s no way I can accept this offer. But, at the same time, in an ooey gooey part of me, this is the call I’ve been working SO HARD to receive for years now. THIS EFFIN SUCKS.

If the red flags smelled fish-like, the contract is the bloody meat of every fish who ever died, piled on a shit-covered beach, rotting in the boiling hot sun while zombie skunks spray musk on the stinkbugs chewing on the eyeless corpses. You think I’m exaggerating. I’ve seen a few agency contracts, so I have comparison points. I work with contracts & legal docs in both my day job and in my own business. This contract isn’t for just this project, but basically for your creative soul. The Author’s Work is defined as:

“…all ideas, story materials, characters, situations, formats, and works of authorship which Author has created or creates during the term of this Agreement…”

That feels pretty all-encompassing. “Ideas” are included? And what’s with the “has created” phrase? The word “irrevocably” is used too many times throughout the contract. The clauses involving how the contract can be terminated revolve around a very specific period in time; not just with 30 days written notice, which seems to be the standard. With each new work, the contract auto-renews & resets the clock & the termination clause. The continuation of residual commissions is scary when combined with the agreement’s definition of the Author’s Work. If things weren’t fishy before, this contract alone would have been enough to lead me to a no.

My deadline for getting back to this agent arrives. My gut wrenches as I dial the number. And I’ve heard agents say this before: rejections suck no matter which side of the conversation you are on. This isn’t true with queries or partials, I’m sure. Probably not even with a lot of fulls. But here, with an offer of rep before me, knowing and believing that (despite all the salmon) this agent truly & genuinely loves my work, I feel so awful saying no. And not for my sake. Not because I feel like I’m losing something, but because this agent feels so strongly for my manuscript. My heart hurts because she has expectation and hope. And I’m the one dashing it against the stones.

It bites when agents give you a generic rejection, which leaves you wondering But, really, WHY? It’s harder this way (on me), but I’m super-honest and straightforward with her on the reasons why I am declining her offer. She is gracious, but sadness tinges her voice.

I received an offer of rep. And yet, I had to reject it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Since I rejected that offer, I expanded the deadline: for reasons. Baited hooks still dangle in the sparkling water, with the possibility of reeling in an agent with the passion, experience, and wisdom worthy of a yes. It may or may not happen this round. I’ll keep you posted. Thankfully, there are fish in that wide, open sea who don’t smell fishy at all.

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The Ugliest Mona Lisa I’ve Ever Seen


mona lisa - ral

You know this lady.

Her name’s Mona. You can call her Mo for short. She’s kind of iconic.

She’s here today to help me illustrate this *thing* I’m going through which relates to the world of writing. No, it’s not about visualizing characters, painting a story landscape, or any such helpful advice from a novice. Sorry about that. There are plenty of other blogs with unpublished writers giving profound & sage wisdom…

The topic this blogger is tackling today is: [Well, shit, I can’t really sum it up in a single word. This isn’t Twitter; it’s a post. So eff it, I can ramble if I like.]

Let’s go with this freeform string of thoughts: I have multiple fulls out with agents, which have been out for a while. I recently nudged on one & the agent confessed that she hadn’t gotten to it yet. Cool. No big deal. Another one is past the 10 week mark, at which point I would normally nudge, but I have not because of [keep reading]. The third is in this nerve-wracking, string-a-long sort of web which doesn’t seem to have an end. I am hopeful that it will turn into an offer, but the more pages of the calendar I rip off, the less that feels like reality. So, I have just kind of turned off my wishfulness on this matter until such time as it needs to be either revived, or incinerated.

After all that, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t like to feel like I’m begging.

To be candid, I totally get that agents are busy, clients come first, I’m swamped, it’s conference season–all that. And writers are always labeled “impatient”. “This is a slow process,” we tell each other. Agents say it, too. Yet, still, are we really impatient? 2 months? 4 months? 6 months? 12 months? How long is too long to wait to hear back on a full request? An R&R? At what point has the timing passed beyond simple impatience on the part of the writer?

What it boils down to is that I want an agent to *LOVE* my work. Like, SHAZAAAAM! BAM! YES I WANT IT GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT EFFIN NOW I CAN’T WAIT TO START WORKING WITH YOU AND GET THIS THING SUB-READY BECAUSE AWESOME IN MY FACE AND OMG HAVE YOU SIGNED THE AGENCY CONTRACT YET OR WHAT BECAUSE AHHHHHHH????!!!!!

Instead, thus far, I have felt less like Phreak Show is the real Mona Lisa, and that perhaps it is more like this:

mona lisa - bad

 

And, yes, my loverly invisible ink finders. I KNOW that Phreak Show looks/reads nothing like that horrid ol’ fake. I’m just sayin’ I want that acceptance, that go-get-it agent who believes in me & my story so much that s/he can’t get hold of it fast enough. A dream? Perhaps. But my life has been built on dreams such as this. And damn it, I’m not done believing in magick.

My, What a Big Tongue You Have


TonguePiercing

I imagine that whole tongue-piercing things hurts just a little.

My ears are pierced, and back in the day, so was my eyebrow. When I went in to get that piercing, a dude was getting his nipples done. He passed out.

I’m guessing that kind of hurt, too.

In the beginning, piercings are wet and raw and sore. They are, after all, wounds. Like most wounds, piercings heal over time. Scar tissue forms, the skin closes up around the opening, and the pain completely disappears.

Now it’s your job to transition from those thoughts, to this quote from Ira Glass.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

You’re smart. I’m sure you made the transition.

For the record, my gap is closing. I can feel it. There’s no telling how many canvases I’ve painted, waited a while to realize they were only ‘okay’, and painted over them. Multiple times. The same is true with words written. Millions have been set down, only to get digitally white-washed. Yes, the gap is definitely closing.

Because I have good fucking taste. And my ambition & striving won’t die.

I’m betting you have killer taste, too. Now, go lick some more stuff and discover what’s yummy.

Agents Stalk Us Too


SneakyBurglar

All querying writers research potential agents.
Oh? You don’t? tsk tsk
What a naughty, naughty writer.

Submission guidelines and genre preferences are important, but we should totally research, investigate, and weigh our findings against our own personality and professional goals. By learning as much as we can, writers can focus our search on lit agents who would truly make a great fit. There is a lot more to an Author/Agent relationship than simply querying and finding rep. We’re entering into a business partnership. We’re committing to what hopefully will be an LTR. Sure, agents choose wisely. But the writer must also choose that potential partner carefully.

Agency websites give an overview, but they don’t provide the whole picture.  We are responsible for digging deeper: interviews, current clients’ websites, recent deals, rights’ management experience, Twitter feeds, interns’ blogs, etc. Writers can’t just scratch the surface and call it a day. I mean, we can, but if we do, we’re stupid. We should discover all we possibly can and connect the dots. Read between the lines. Make an informed judgment which goes beyond, “OMFG! S/he likes [x]. I write [x]. S/he’s open to submissions. Must.query.now.”

We believe most agents research potential clients, right? Recently I discovered this is, indeed, not an urban legend. It is truth. You know how we writers joke about stalking agents online? Well, the road runs both ways. And I’m not just talking about agents checking out blogs/websites and Twitter feeds. If an agent has genuine interest, that fact-finding can expand into indepth, hardcore, hours-long, all-hands-on-deck, digital tunneling, Googling, and breadcrumb following.

Recently, an agent mentioned a part of my web presence which I had totally forgotten about—Authonomy. I posted portions of my first two novels on the site, but Phreak Show doesn’t even exist over there. This agent also mentioned online info which has nothing to do with my writing—business websites, for instance. It didn’t creep me out or make me nervous. What it did do, was enlighten me to the fact that a great agent will be concerned about an author’s public image beyond just his/her writing. A great agent will look for anything and everything a potential reader or publisher could find.

A great agent will stalk you. 

Sobering? Scary? Are you ready for that? How long has it been since you Googled yourself?

Pitch Madness vs The God Tier


god-tier

Phreak Show is having it’s coming out party. Maybe.

Hot off the presses, it’s up for the grabby hands of the self-identified Slush Zombies over at #PitchMadness. If you’re oblivious, check it out here:  http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

The announcements for the pitches which level-up to Round 2 won’t be made until 3/26. In the meantime, I’ll query an EXTREMELY small selection of god-tier agents. I’m doing a short-window-exclusive-of-sorts during this time. Then, should the need arise, I will step down to the next rung of the Echeladder. [If you get the god-tier & Echeladder references, I totally heart your face.] Also, there is this magical nexus where PM & the GT converge…

For more info on Phreak Show:

  • Check out it’s dedicated tab right here on the blog.
  • Like its Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PhreakShowNovel
  • Peruse its Pinterest Boards: http://pinterest.com/gypsyluc/
  • Peep in on the #PhreakShow hashtag.

Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch


Get it? "Flash" punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway...

Get it? “Flash” punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway…

Ever on the lookout for blogging inspiration–no matter what bush it peeks out of–this Facebook exchange with my writerly friend, Brittany Larson, has a good feel to it. Blog-worthy, I believe. From a random interaction amongst the social media bushes: Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch.

Brittany: HEY! I need some advice on some writing!

Lucas: Ok. I’ve got a few minutes. What’s up?

Brittany: Well I have this story idea swirling around my head about the 3 Archangels Micheal (The Angel Of Mercy) Gabriel (The Messenger Angel) And Azrael (The Angel of Death) And they are all fallen. And Iwas thinking Gabriel and Micheal stay faithful to God while Azreal goes rogue. He makes a deal with the devil that’s simple Bring me Rachel (My girl protagonist) and I will make you more powerful than God. God appears to Micheal and Gabriel and says stop him and you’re back in heaven. And I am thinking that Micheal will be my main male protagonist (Gabriel more as support) so what happens when Micheal falls in love with Rachel and doesn’t wanna go back to Heaven. Something along those lines. So the first question is: sound good? And also I don’t know if I wanna just start writing now or save it for NaNo.

Lucas: Is this a story you will try to market to agents/publishers? I only ask because a few months back many were groaning about the massive amount of “Angel” stories: fallen ones falling in love with a human. There are a lot of those on the market already. So, it’s a trope the pros don’t much care for anymore.

Brittany: Yeah…see I am not too sure. I am thinking. Truly I have never made it even far enough to think about sending it to publishers.

Lucas: A twist would be good. Can they be fallen gods instead of angels? And love triangles are always sellable. Maybe one naughty god in love with your mortal, Rachel, but a second god in love with the first & fighting the matchup? Or, make them aliens, or zombies, or any other creature. Then you could go with the same basic plot without stepping into the Angels theme. If you’re not going to shop it, then just go with whatever the heck makes you happy as a writer!

Brittany: True…true. That would be interesting. And yeah…see I am still debating whether to just write it or save it for NaNo…because I mean I have it written down so I don’t forget it.

Lucas: You’ll have more ideas before Nano! It’s always good to keep writing. Like flexing your muscles to make you stronger.

Brittany: True true. And I sure hope so. This is the Biggest Aha! Moment I have had in a while. My Nano idea wasn’t this solid.

Lucas: Here’s a cool trick for discovering ideas that are novel worthy: just start with a flash fiction of your story. Write out a key scene in 1000 words or less. Focus on using as little words as possible to convey setting, character, conflict.

Brittany: Thanks That really helps

Lucas: Still have the story arc of intro, conflict, climax, closure. This helps me weed out ideas as either long-running or short lived. If the idea feels “done” or exorcised, then cool. You have a flash fiction story. But, if you find the character’s voice and keep thinking about his/her life, then it’s time to plot for a longer work: short story, novella, novel.

Brittany: Yeah. Thanks for the advice

Lucas: You’re welcome, yo. Mind if I post this interaction on my blog in a few days? “I’d rather not” is an acceptable response. 😉

Brittany: Oh that’s fine. I really don’t care…I mean it wasn’t personal or anything:)

Lucas: I can keep you anonymous or remove/summarize your novel idea if you’d like.

Brittany: No it’s fine…put in as much detail as you’d like. I’m not shy.

Lucas: Done! Do you have a blog or Twitter account I can link to? Such things often bring you new followers.

Brittany: https://twitter.com/thegirlonfire16

So, let’s get Brittany some new followers.

And, let’s get to using Flash Fiction as a test-run for those awesome ideas we keep coming up with. It tests their mettle, and keeps us flexing those writing muscles. Better to weed out the losers before we invest a half a novel’s worth of time before discovering they suck. Also, our writerly friends are awesome sounding boards for our new concepts. They can often spot holes, provide useful feedback, and tune us in to stuff they’ve stumbled upon in the publishing world but we have not.

Now, you know one of the secret tools I use to tame my overzealous ideas. What do you think? Is it worth slipping into your own bag of tricks?

Reporting from the bushes, this is Lucas, signing off.