Monday, July 19, 2010

Carole Blake - RNA Conference 2010 Part Two

Carole Blake and Roger Sanderson
I've pushed this report forward to counter the article in the Time Book Review saying that agent roles are changing because it didn't fit at all in with what Carole Blake said at the Industry Day of the RNA Conference.So herewith are my notes from 'What An Agent Can Do For You' :

As a yet to be published and un-agented writer you dream what it will be like when an agent says yes. Well agent supremo, Carole Blake, told all and her words were the stuff fantasies are spun from, but being Carole it was all very practical. One of course had to expect that from the woman who wrote the bible FROM PITCH TO PUBLICATION (which was a given to me as a birthday present by a dear friend after I had finished draft three of AUGUST ROCK. I duly read it and knew I was not yet ready....)

She’s been in the business a long time – about forty years, which means that she can pull on experience gained with many clients. She still gets a thrill from selling and selling over and over again. A manuscript normally goes out widely and swiftly to multiple locations. If possible she tries to split up the English speaking world to maximize royalties.

She said to remember that you are in a relationship and that revolves around communication. For her being an agent is about preparation, selling and career management. She spends a long time finding out what kind of career her authors want and what kind of editor they need. Time is spent on making sure it’s the best possible submission package. She edits but many agents don’t.

She doesn’t like to sell a manuscript cold so she lunches almost every day with publishers and editors to find out their taste. This is a hardship she endures for her authors...

Much of her work is invisible. She listens carefully and talks general ideas. This is not done in formal way. She sets situations up. You can plan but fate will play its own role.

Carole’s goals are to sell, for her authors to be happy and to have a long career. Agents should not make decisions for authors but with them. She speaks to her author at least every ten days. She wants her authors to cc or bcc her in on every email with editors – it is a ménage a trios.

She highlighted some key things agents should keep on top of:
The Google Settlement
What happens after the contract – ie. marketing
The development of the digital market

She cautioned that things have changed and writers now need to be public people and know their USP (unique selling point). 

She doesn’t think about trends. She has to love it and luck is important and always has been.

She personally has twenty authors and has taken on only one new author in the last three years. The agency as a whole receives 12 to 30 submissions a day and takes on 6 to 8 new clients a year. It is normally an eight week wait for a reply to a submission.

(Now off to go say a novena to St Anthony to find me the right agent and to finish the polish of PENDEROWN - I can see Carole giving me 'the look' and her voice saying just get on and write a damn good book!)


Anne Whitfield - author said...

Thanks for that post, Liz.
Finding an agent is nearly impossible. LOL

Chris Stovell said...

Love your reports, Liz - always very valuable sources of information for those of us who couldn't be there.

HelenMHunt said...

A brilliant write-up. Thanks Liz, very useful stuff.

Debs said...

Thanks for the informative post, Liz.

I was sorry not to be able to attend Carole's talk, but was thrilled to sit at the same table as her at the Gala dinner. Such an amusing and clever lady, what a treat it must be to have Carole as your agent.

Phillipa said...

Thank you as ever Liz for these brilliant insights into the speaker talks. P x

cs harris said...

I personally love my agent--she's smart, funny, brazen, yet caring. I've been with her since the beginning. I've seen writers chase after big name agents, only to be dumped when they don't sell up to expectations. Agents need to be barracudas, but with editors, not their own writers. It's a delicate balance.

liz fenwick said...

Anne - it's tough isn't it.

Thanks Chris & Helen.

Debs - the dinner was great fun and so is Carole - amazing energy!

Phillipa - I do these notes so it cements it into my own head so i am pleased others can gain something from them.

CS - I love your description of your agent. She sounds brilliant.


Jayne said...

From following Carole on twitter (and keeping up with bookseller news) I've always thought she seems like a dream agent. I obviously need to have a chat with St Anthony! (And concentrate on writing a damn good book, of course.)