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seun
07-16-2010, 03:43 PM
Yesterday, I phoned an agent to ask if they take email subs or postal. I had to go outside as I didn't want to have a personal conversation in a room full of people. Five seconds after the agent answered the phone, it started raining. Hard. Just as I finished saying hello and asking my question, a van started backing up right behind me. Feeling like a bit of a dickhead, I'm hoping to get off the phone when the agent asks me to tell him more about my book. So, unprepared and wet with a van that is about to run me over, I had to try selling the story over the phone. While my pitch was amateurish at best, he did ask for the first three chapters.

So, given that I should have prepared something other than my original question, how do you ready yourself when phoning agents?

Ken
07-16-2010, 03:50 PM
... only phoned one once to find out the status of my requested manuscript. Wound up speaking to the head of the company. Gulp. He was very nice and explained the reason for the delay and said I'd be hearing shortly which I did. I didn't really prepare at all prior to the call as I figured I'd most likely be speaking with a receptionist. I was very naive about the whole procedure at the time. // Good luck with the request!

seun
07-16-2010, 04:47 PM
I didn't really prepare at all prior to the call as I figured I'd most likely be speaking with a receptionist. I was very naive about the whole procedure at the time.

Exactly the same as me yesterday. But on the plus side, the van didn't hit me. :D

nitaworm
07-16-2010, 05:01 PM
You should write out a 60 second pitch for your book. Make sure it packs a punch and memorize it for just these situations. Also, note, even after the book is published - you'll be giving that pitch to prospective readers.

seun
07-16-2010, 05:04 PM
I gave a garbled version of the cover letter I use when subbing. It was one of those moments where I tried not to listen to myself because I knew how I sounded.

Eddyz Aquila
07-16-2010, 05:31 PM
One tip - pitch it in front of strangers. That works best. People you barely met and when they ask you about your hobbies just drop in "Writing books." 99% of the time they will ask about them, so practice with them :) If it gets their genuine interest, you're on the right track.

happywritermom
07-16-2010, 05:43 PM
After that happened to me the first time, I loosely prepared a pitch. For the most part though, I think agents understand that we are writers, not necessarily public speakers (yet). If the agent is a good one, he/she will listen through the nervousness and get the gist of it as that agent apparently did.

Phaeal
07-16-2010, 06:05 PM
Heh. I would have emailed with my question, so the van would have had a hard time getting me.

seun
07-16-2010, 08:58 PM
After that happened to me the first time, I loosely prepared a pitch. For the most part though, I think agents understand that we are writers, not necessarily public speakers (yet). If the agent is a good one, he/she will listen through the nervousness and get the gist of it as that agent apparently did.

I'm hoping that's the case and he wasn't just trying to get rid of me. :)

suki
07-16-2010, 10:14 PM
Yesterday, I phoned an agent to ask if they take email subs or postal. I had to go outside as I didn't want to have a personal conversation in a room full of people. Five seconds after the agent answered the phone, it started raining. Hard. Just as I finished saying hello and asking my question, a van started backing up right behind me. Feeling like a bit of a dickhead, I'm hoping to get off the phone when the agent asks me to tell him more about my book. So, unprepared and wet with a van that is about to run me over, I had to try selling the story over the phone. While my pitch was amateurish at best, he did ask for the first three chapters.

So, given that I should have prepared something other than my original question, how do you ready yourself when phoning agents?

ETA: I just realized Seun is in the UK - if the rules are different to UK agents, then I'll defer to those of you querying UK agents. BUT for anyone querying US agents, don't call to check submission guildeline or to pitch.



You are very, very lucky.

As a general rule, you do *not* phone agents, and especially not to ask them about how to submit. It's usually a hugely unproferssional move that in many instances will sink any chance you had with that agent.

So, as a general rule, you do not call agents, not to ask how to submit, and not to pitch.

You follow their submission guidelines that are online.

In this instance, you got lucky, so great for you and good luck with it. But for those reading this tempted to do the same - tread very, very carefully and research the agent very carefully. I can't count the number of times an agent has ranted on twitter, a blog, at a conference, etc., about how inapprorpiate it is to call them to pitch them. And even more saying that people who call to ask how to submit have two strikes against them from the start because it means they aren't capable of finding and following the submission guidelines.

So... Seun, good luck to you with this :)

But others...do not try this at home. ;)

~suki

seun
07-16-2010, 10:49 PM
In my defence (if it's needed), I didn't phone to pitch. It was just a case of checking their policy. Also, a link I found for the agency said no submissions without phoning first.

suki
07-16-2010, 11:46 PM
In my defence (if it's needed), I didn't phone to pitch. It was just a case of checking their policy. Also, a link I found for the agency said no submissions without phoning first.

Well, if they told you to phone first, of course, you're then following their guidelines. ;)

And I didn't mean to attack - just worried about newbies coming along after and thinking cold-calling agents sounds easier and better than querying. So, I just wanted to make it clear that calling is not the norm and incredibly risky for US agents.

But of course if the agent tells you to call in their guidelines, then of course it's ok. But otherwise, people should find their guidelines, not even call to aks the guidelines.

~suki

shaldna
07-17-2010, 12:07 AM
if she signs you this would be a brilliant story.

it certainly mde my day. lol

Ryan_Sullivan
07-17-2010, 03:21 AM
I haven't called my agent--too afraid to bug him--but every call he's made has been Friday night around 7:00, so I know more or less when to be ready. And honestly, whenever he calls, I can't remember a thing I said afterward. They understand if you're not in an office, etc--so amateurish isn't necessarily THAT bad--rude, on the other hand is. It shouldn't be something to stress over.

suki
07-17-2010, 06:01 AM
I haven't called my agent--too afraid to bug him--but every call he's made has been Friday night around 7:00, so I know more or less when to be ready. And honestly, whenever he calls, I can't remember a thing I said afterward. They understand if you're not in an office, etc--so amateurish isn't necessarily THAT bad--rude, on the other hand is. It shouldn't be something to stress over.

I'm not talking about once you've signed with an agent. Once they represent you, then absolutely you can call them, etc.

I'm only talking about calling a prospective agent to pitch (instead of querying) or to ask that agent about their query guidelines.

Once they are your agent, of course you can communicate with them. lol.

~suki

Ryan_Sullivan
07-17-2010, 09:24 AM
Right, I just tied it in with a story. Basically, my point is that if you sound amateurish, it's not necessarily a big deal. They understand you're probably not a professional, and as long as you're as pleasant as you can be, it shouldn't make a huge difference whether there's a truck backing up behind you (amateurish both in sound around you, and in pitch--writers are nervous people by nature, and generally not the best at explaining their stories in speech, agents surely encounter this frequently).

seun
07-17-2010, 02:24 PM
I just wanted to make it clear that calling is not the norm and incredibly risky for US agents.

But of course if the agent tells you to call in their guidelines, then of course it's ok. But otherwise, people should find their guidelines, not even call to aks the guidelines.

~suki

An interesting difference between US and UK agents. I've seen on sites and links for agents where it specifies not to phone at all, but as I say, this one said to call first. As far as I know, agents here are generally OK if you call to ask if they're accepting subs.

waylander
07-17-2010, 02:45 PM
Seconded.
It is one of the major differences between UK and US agents.
Just to underline it don't call US agents to pitch your novel

shaldna
07-17-2010, 05:35 PM
actually I've seen alot of Uk agents especially listing 'call in the first instance' in thier guidelines.

seun
07-17-2010, 05:39 PM
actually I've seen alot of Uk agents especially listing 'call in the first instance' in thier guidelines.

Makes sense to me. If the info's not online, then surely it's better not to waste the agent's or your own time by subbing a piece they don't rep?

seun
08-11-2010, 04:27 PM
I just wanted to make it clear that calling is not the norm and incredibly risky for US agents.

But of course if the agent tells you to call in their guidelines, then of course it's ok. But otherwise, people should find their guidelines, not even call to aks the guidelines.

~suki

Bumping this to mention I called another agent this morning to check if they're taking subs (and whether they're open to email subs). She couldn't have been more helpful or friendlier. So it must be a UK/US thing.

cspradbery
08-11-2010, 06:12 PM
Agree with Seun. Have spoken to a couple of UK agents by telephone and they have always been incredibly courteous and helpful. In fact I also once called a couple of big publishers to ask about an agent (was concerned about his credentials and whether he really had contacts at these places - he did not) and they were also very friendly.