Amanda grew up in Southwester Wyoming, but since then has lived all over the country. She now resides in central California with her husband and three children. When she is not writing middle grade fiction or homeschooling her children, she’s reading, gardening, or knitting.

Traversing the Agent-Author Relationship (Like a Pro)

So, you finally have an agent.

You’ve spent years, wrote multiple stories, worked your butt off, and the long awaited day has finally arrived.

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But now what? Some authors find that figuring out the agent author relationship is a little trickier than they’d anticipated. It’s hard to go from idolizing someone for so long to working with them as partners. But you’re a professional now, dang it! It’s time to act like it.

So here’s some Do’s and Don’ts.

Do tell your agent about other publishing contracts that come up, even if they don’t have to do with what you were signed for. This is something that comes up often with freelancers or when a past publishing contract needs to revised or anything like that. Before you sign it, send it to your agent, just in case. You don’t want there to be any clauses that might get in the way of future publishing contracts. This sort of thing is what your agent is for. Use them!

Do ask your agent about the process from here and expectations. Every agent will be a little different, and so you can’t always compare how your agent does something with how your friend’s agent does something. But if you have established clear cut expectations and you know what to expect, you can feel more at ease and worry less.

Do talk to your agent about your next book ideas. Some agents will want you to work on whatever you feel drawn to. Others will want you to really try to hone your brand and focus on a certain genre. They might also be able to give you some insight into the marketability of an idea.

Do ask for details about where your manuscript is being submitted if you want to know that. This is your book. It’s your career. It may not be the way your agent usually does things, but if you really want to know your sub history, you have a right to that information.

Don’t bombard your agent constantly with emails. By all means, ask important questions and get the information you need. But remember that your agent has other clients, other responsibilities, queries to sift through, etc, etc.

Do ask for an estimated turn around time when you hand in revisions or a new manuscript to your agent. This is helpful to both you and your agent. It makes it so you can relax a bit. There’s so much waiting in this industry, you don’t want to be anxiously awaiting feedback if your agent isn’t going to get around to it for another two weeks. It’s nice to know that. This will also save your agent frantic emails from you when you convince yourself they must hate it, you, everything. 🙂

Do be flexible. Things come up in your agent’s life. They might have to delay reading your manuscript for a few days, or even a week or two. Be understanding. Don’t freak out. If you continue to be delayed and delayed and delayed, though, you may need to have a talk with your agent.

Don’t send your work with a bunch of apologies or caveats to your agent. Send it with confidence.

Don’t allow yourself to be treated poorly. Your agent is your partner. If they continually make you feel stupid, lower than, ignored, condescended to, or like you’re ungrateful and whining for asking normal questions, it maybe time to find a new agent. Your agent is your partner. Remember that.

Do let your agent know you appreciate them. Send them a card or a gift. Appreciation is never wrong.

Good luck on the next leg of your journey!

Writing With Children

I think it’s important to start off this post by stating the obvious. Everybody has obstacles in the way of writing, whether or not they have children, or homeschool, or have a full time job. There’s always something. But I can only speak to my experience. I think what I say here can be used by people in any situation though (with maybe a few tweaks.)

Now…onto the post!

Writing is hard. Period. Writing with small children running around the house? Harder.

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But if you love to write, then you’ve probably figured out by now that you are a better parent when you are writing. Having a creative outlet opens up your imagination. It helps you show your children what it means to work at something and follow a dream. It lets you work off excess…emotions. 🙂

However, when I first started writing, I did this for a few weeks. I just couldn’t help it. I was so obsessed with the idea of writing and getting my words on the page that I sat in front of my computer for hours and wrote while my kids played or watched TV. And I was super productive. But I didn’t feel very good about how I was parenting.

So, how do we find a balance?  giphy (1)

This is something I’ve worked extra hard on, and had to refocus on recently, so I wanted to share for you my rules and routines. These might not be your rules or routines. But I’m hoping you can see what works for me and get an idea of what can work for you. Because you won’t be a good writer if you feel like a terrible parent/don’t live life. And your life will feel half-lived without writing.

#1 – Set a schedule. I know women who wrote an entire book on their phone while nursing a baby. That was their schedule. Nursing time = writing time. I know parents who wake up at 5 AM before the kids are up to get their writing time. Personally, I do it in the evenings after I put the kids in bed. I sit outside their bedrooms and write while they fart around until they fall asleep. They are pills, so this usually gives me a good hour. And you can be extremely productive with only an hour of writing a day. Bottom line: find a time that works for you and try to stick to it every day.

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#2 – Tell your spouse. When I first began writing, I felt a bit guilty that my writing was cutting into my alone time with my husband. And in the beginning he would call and ask what I was doing and couldn’t I come and hang out with him? But when I eventually felt confident enough in the fact that I wanted to write and I wanted to write every day, I told him. And guess what? If you’re not married to a jerk, they’ll understand that this time is important to you. These days, my husband helps me clear out that hour of time. He hands me the computer, tells me to go write, takes care of the kids if they’re being super distracting and not sleeping. Your spouse is your partner in everything. Even your writing.

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#3 – Be selective about your beta reading and critiquing. Beta reading and CPing is a vital part of being a writer. But it also takes a lot of time. Personally, I try to make sure I only have one thing to beta or CP at a time. If I have a backed up line of manuscripts to read, I make sure to let everyone know when I’ll be able to get around to reading. I treat my beta reading as part of my writing time, usually only reading a couple chapters a night. This makes me a slower reader, but I set those expectations with the person I’m reading for right away. Another way you can make sure you are getting in your beta reading and CPing without feeling like it is taking over your life, is by putting it on your kindle and reading while you exercise, or when you take the kids to the park, etc. The key is to find what works for you so that you aren’t a total screen zombie around your family.

#4 – Make a schedule for family time and keep it. Just like with writing, make sure there are certain times of your day when you are consistently not writing, not beta reading, not on the internet, and just spending time with your kids. Face to face. Keep this schedule with the same (if not more) consistency as your writing schedule.

#5 – Give yourself grace to sometimes break the routine. The nice thing about setting up a schedule and time limit for your writing each day, is that when something comes up and perhaps you have to meet a deadline and write like a maniac for eight hours a day for a month or something, you can do that. You have set up and lived your writing and family life in such a way, that you know this crazy onslaught is temporary. You have built up a good “reserve” of family time, so when you have to be a little more absent, you can do so without guilt. Because you know that you will be back to being the awesome parent and spouse that you are. Your kids are part of your writing team, too. If you have made sure that, for the most part, writing has not constantly diminished your quality time, they will also understand and support you.

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Life is all about balance. And I hope some of these ideas help you find yours!

Choosing from Multiple Agent Offers When You area People Pleaser

I realize that getting multiple offers of rep from agents is sort of like the “First World Problems” of the publishing journey. But until you are there, I think everyone really underestimates the stress of it. And if you are like me and have issues with being a people pleaser, it can be even more stressful.

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When you suffer from being a people pleaser, you tend to have problems worrying about what other people think of you, trying to make everyone happy, and fretting over upsetting someone. I’m such a people pleaser, that I occasionally still think about my sixth grade teacher, who never seemed to love me the way my other teachers did, and I find myself thinking, “Gosh, why did she hate me so much?” This is just a touch unreasonable for a grown woman to still spend brain power on. Of course, the one nice thing she said about me was that I had a very strong writing voice. And now I’m a writer…and hmm…this really doesn’t sound healthy. 😉

But back to the issue at hand. As a people pleaser, getting your first offer of representation will be amazing!

Look! Somebody loves your work! They want you! It’s the best thing ever!

Then other offers roll in. And they’re all amazing too. Because the only thing better for a people pleaser than having one person love you, is having several people love you.

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But then you have to make a choice. And this is where your people-pleasing becomes a real problem. Having been in this situation, I want to give you a few questions to ask yourself as you are considering who to choose to be your agent, to make sure you are making the best decision for you and not for someone else.

  1. Do I feel like I owe this agent something?

This tends to be a problem with the very first offering agent. After all, they pulled you out of the slush, they found you first. All those other offers are because of the first agent. Shouldn’t there be some extra points for that? I remember reading a stat somewhere that writers overwhelmingly go with their original agent offer, and I think a lot of it has to do with this bond that is felt from being discovered. And there is definitely something to be said for that. However, it is important to remember that you are looking for a business partner. Someone to work with as equals. You shouldn’t make your decision based on a feeling of indebtedness.

 

2.  Am I worried about hurting this agent’s feelings?

giphy (5)   I think this is probably a worry everyone has when they have to turn down an offer, but it is felt especially by people pleasers. I just had a friend in this situation recently talk to me about it. How can I turn this person down? They were so nice. What if they hate me now?  I will tell you the same two things I told her. First, all agents understand that this is a business. Any agent who loves your book enough to offer is going to expect that other people will feel the same way. None of this is a surprise to them. They know you will be nudging everyone else, they know you might get another offer. And they know you might decide to go with that offer. You won’t be the first or the last to turn them down. Second, they will not hate you. They will definitely be disappointed. But they will handle it with grace and be very nice about it. I promise. And if they don’t, you don’t want to be represented by them anyway.

 

3.  Am I only choosing this agent to impress other people?

giphy (6)    This might sound like an odd question to ask yourself. But the flip side of being a people pleaser is that you probably also really want to impress people. And so if you get multiple offers and one of them is from a really big name in the industry, you will feel immediately affirmed and want everyone to know it! It’s impressive! However, just because that agent is a big name, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best fit for you. And so, when you find yourself making a decision and thinking, “Wow, everyone will think it’s so awesome that I’m repped by HER!” or something along those lines, make sure to take a step back and analyze why you would choose her if nobody ever knew who she was. Try your best to really be objective about it. Write out your reasons for working with this particular agent over the others, and make sure that there is more than just, “She sells a lot of books.” Not that that isn’t important, it most definitely is, but there are also other things to consider in the agent/client relationship.

 

4.  Am I excited to work with this agent, or will I feel like I’m settling?

Your agent wants you to be as excited to work with them as they are with you. If you feel like you are settling, or like you’ll always have this thought in the back of your mind of, “I could have gone with so and so…” don’t accept that offer. It’s not fair to you, but more importantly, it’s not fair to the offering agent. Both parties should be absolutely enthusiastic.

 

I hope this helps someone in that insanely stressful and wonderful situation. And if I could finish off this post with one last word of advice, it would be this.

Schedule your “Offer rejection” emails to go out a few hours later, so you don’t have to actually press send. And then send your offer acceptance email so that you have a few hours of just celebration with your new agent before you have to feel bad about turning down those other offers. Trust me, when you get the celebratory email back or talk on the phone and hear how happy and excited they are, it makes handling that feeling of letting the others down so much easier!

Happy decision making!