Posted On December 14, 2011 by Print This Post

Sara Megibow Sells Romance – What Newbie Mistakes Have I Made As An Agent?

Okay – if you haven’t figured it out by now, the absolute best thing about Sara Megibow is her refreshing honesty and openness. She loves books, she loves her job and she is an absolute hoot to talk to.  I’m so glad that I sat down next to her at lunch at my local chapter retreat, thanked her for rejecting my query, and helping me get PRO status! Today’s post is quintessential Sara – sharing herself and giving insight into her part of the publishing world.

What Newbie Mistakes Have I Made as an Agent?

A writer asked this wonderful question at a recent webinar, “what newbie mistakes have you made as an agent?” Yes, this month – December 2011 – marks the release of the very first books I ever sold as an agent. This correctly labels me as new. I loved this question because it’s different from the standard “what are you looking for in submissions” and because it’s really a thoughtful question. I’m on this publishing journey the same as writers and authors and editors. I’ve had ups and downs, failures and successes. This time of the year it’s easy to reflect. So, let me share with you an extended answer to this question. Happy Holidays everyone!

A hint of background: I joined Nelson Literary Agency in 2006, so am entering my sixth year in publishing. For four years, I was in charge of reading slush pile – queries, sample pages and full manuscripts. I picked HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford out of the slush pile. Same with PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS by Sherry Thomas and others. Then, in mid 2009 I read a submission by Sarah Skilton and fell in love. THIS was an author I simply HAD to work with. She agreed to sign with me (lucky lucky lucky me – seriously, she is so talented) and that marked my debut as an agent. Since 2009, I have signed 17 clients and sold over thirty books. CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally released on December 1, 2011 and this was the first book I sold to hit bookshelves. Jane Kindred’s THE FALLEN QUEEN came out Dec 6. And Roni Loren’s debut CRASH INTO YOU comes out January 3, 2012. This is the big start for my authors and I couldn’t possibly be more excited!

So, mistakes I have made – yes, they exist. Hopefully my clients won’t run screaming when they read this.

#1 – in an effort to “get my name out there” – I agreed to too many free critiques (usually for auctions and fundraisers and such). Oof – those all seem to come in at once and they really make for a backlog of work. My priority is and always should be reading for my clients. So, next year = fewer critiques and faster client reading.

#2 – I passed on AFTERLIFE by Merrie Destefano, CINDER by Marissa Meyer and FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT by Darynda Jones. Oops.  ;)

#3 –  My first submission lists were very long – like 20+ editors all at once. Now that I’ve been doing this for two years, I find I prefer the small submission list out of the gate. There’s more wiggle room if the submission goes into its second and third month and it’s easier to manage. Maybe that’s not a mistake – maybe that’s just my style developing.

#4 – I email my clients every week with an update (on sales, reviews, publicity, about a submission, on edits, whatever). Some agents think I’m nuts as that’s a LOT of time that could be spent doing other things. I still stand by it though and will likely keep doing it. Again, not a newbie mistake but rather a style thing.

#5 – I haven’t made any egregious contract errors yet (thank heavens) but I HAVE learned that contracts can’t sit on my desk even one day before I start auditing. This process takes hours (HOURS) and if I procrastinate all of a sudden someone is calling saying “ahem, where is that contract?”  oops.

#6 – I have sent manuscripts to film agents too soon. Hollywood is such a pile of whackiness. I’ve learned that it’s way better to ping producers after a book is out (with a very few exceptions).

#7 – I didn’t do enough research on ebooks way back last January. There are probably many great authors out there who didn’t submit to me because I didn’t have a platform to support them.

#8 – I skipped Book Expo in 2011. Big mistake – it’s such a huge week for networking with editors and other agents. I regretted it the second I started seeing BEA announcements. Yup – I’ll be there in 2012!

The big ones, I suppose, would be:

Have I ever signed a client that I later regretted? No. Absolutely not and that’s truth, not me just being nice on the internet.

Have I ever messed up a submission (sent projects to the wrong editor)? Yes, although this one is easier for agents than for writers. I have submitted a book and gotten this response, “I’m sorry – I don’t buy for that imprint anymore but you could try XYZ.” So, I simply go to XYZ and start over. That’s one nice thing about agenting and submissions – there’s a wee bit of room for error.

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that agenting can only be done (at least for me) for the love of books. Plain and simple – I adore my authors and their books and that’s the reason I come to work. Publishing is (falls down laughing) absolutely not a get-rich-quick scheme! It can be slow and frustrating so loving the stories and the authors is what keeps me going. The feeling of “success” for me has been in holding the finished books and celebrating with my authors.

***

Okay – any other questions for Sara and her newbie mistakes?  Were you surprised by her list? What do inquiring minds want to know?

On Friday, Jennifer Probst shares her tips for keeping your writing fresh.

***

And for one lucky commenter, Sara is giving away a copy of CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally.

One of the boys

What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though – she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

 But everything she’s ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he’s also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan’s feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart’s on the line?

***

Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC

Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.

Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http://http://www.nelsonagency.com/for submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow) is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibowHow an agent chooses what books to read.

 

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35 Responses to “Sara Megibow Sells Romance – What Newbie Mistakes Have I Made As An Agent?”

  1. Sara, thanks for the candid look into your first two years as an agent. Really brave of you.

    Number 4 is a tremendous service you’re providing to your clients. I’m sure there will be a few salivating authors out there today after reading this newbie “mistake.”

    About Book Expo…do you think that’s a good conference for authors to attend?

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | December 14, 2011, 5:26 am
    • Thanks!

      Book Expo is a tremendous event, but it’s not a place to promote your brand name. It’s a great place to network with other authors, meet with your editor and agent and see what’s “big” in the industry. If you are asked to sign books, it’s a definite win (and then YES, it will be good brand promotion). But otherwise, it’s a behind the scenes look an very excititng

      :)

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 11:17 am
  2. Hi, Sara! This has been a very insightful post for me as an aspiring author. I’m with Tracey above about #4 – I’m sure your clients love the weekly updates, whether there’s anything new to tell or not. I don’t have a question, I just wanted to say thank you for the peek into your journey as an agent so far.

    Posted by Ayda Recknagel | December 14, 2011, 6:19 am
  3. Sara – thanks for being her with us and sharing all of this great info. Very brave to dredge up the mistakes but also the awesome example of learning a making it benefit your next client.

    What mistakes have you sen your newbie author clients make? Anything you caution them against?

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | December 14, 2011, 6:23 am
    • It’s the hardest thing to avoid, but I still caution against it and that’s authors who ask “how come XYZ is getting such and such for their book from their publishing house and I’m not.” There are sooooo many things our publishing houses do for us behind the scenes. Asking for more is great and pointing out successful tips from other books is helpful. But, complaining ineffectively tends to be a newbie author mistake we can all avoid. Asking for something politely is 100% ok, but complaining never helps.

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 11:20 am
  4. Hi Sara,

    E-mailing clients? What a crazy idea. I’m sure they love you for it. Are there aspects of your job that surprised you? You are part coach/confessor/shoulder to cry on. Any one you wish wasn’t true?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | December 14, 2011, 6:50 am
    • The part of the job that surprises me is my new reaction to the slush pile. I spent 4 years reading slush pile and it was so fun and exciting! Now it feels like the absolute last thing I get to each day as I spend so much more time selling, promoting, answering questions, auditing, etc.

      As to which I wish I did less of? editing. I’m slow. REeaallly slow at it.

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 12:03 pm
  5. Morning Sara..

    Darynda? Oh, that just HURTS. She’s my new favorite author….=)

    Thanks for sending us your Oops list…lol…and Happy Anniversary! =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 14, 2011, 7:51 am
  6. I think you can be forgiven for this one:

    “I have submitted a book and gotten this response, “I’m sorry – I don’t buy for that imprint anymore but you could try XYZ.” So, I simply go to XYZ and start over.”

    It seems like – in the publishing industry more than other types of business – it’s like musical chairs. Agents, editors and publicists seem to move around all the time.

    You were brave to admit your mistakes, but I give you lots of credit for that. It’s the people who refuse to admit they ever make mistakes that make me nervous (agents or otherwise).

    Thanks for a fascinating post, and good luck selling lots of books in 2012!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | December 14, 2011, 8:06 am
  7. Sara –

    As always, I love your monthly column!

    Sometimes I wonder if it might be better for an author to go with a fresh and enthusiastic newbie rather than someone who’s “been in the game” for a while and may not have the excitement for it anymore. Do you think it’s easy to become burnt out as an agent?

    Thanks for being here !
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | December 14, 2011, 9:05 am
    • Absolutely its easy to get burnt out!

      Remember that agents get paid after an author does, so new agents are expected to go 3-5 years without breaking even financially.

      Also, there are so many people in the chain that have questions needing an answer that it’s easy to wait 2-5 days for a response on anything. That’s frustrating all around.

      That’s why I always say I can only do this job because I love books. Not for the money and not (snort) for the glory, but for the books.

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 12:07 pm
  8. Good morning, Sara. I loved your list. It makes me realize agents need to figure out how to navigate this crazy publishing world just like authors do.

    On #7, I’m curious what you would do differently today then you would have last January?

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | December 14, 2011, 9:06 am
    • Well, the world has changed so much in a year. What I SHOULD have done last January is carved out an hour a day to follow people like Courtney Milan and Amanda Hocking and just listen to their opinions and experiences.

      What I do today is (and remember this is TODAY, it might change next month) – I try to listen to various conversations about ebooks. And I support my authors who might want to self publish. BUT, right now I feel the wheel has come back around a bit and where it was popular last January to turn down contracts from NY publishing houses in order to self publish, in most cases right now I feel that I would recommend trying to do both at once.

      Remember that’s on a case by case basis and it’s in general.

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 12:11 pm
  9. Sara, what a great list! I love your honesty and enthusiasm.

    As a newbie author, I’ve had experience with #1 as well. In an effort to “get out there” I agreed to so many things that it took over my life for awhile. Like you, I’ve decided that this next year I’ll be more selective so that I can keep the writing as my number one priority. (Maybe it just goes with the territory when you’re a newbie at anything. The eager puppy syndrome.)

    And I seriously loved #2. It shows that just because an agent passes on our work, we writers shouldn’t automatically think our stuff sucks. For what ever reason, it just may be a better fit for someone else.

    Thanks again, Sara!

    ~Laurie

    Posted by Laurie London | December 14, 2011, 9:42 am
  10. My Sara. Love your “oops” list! And I love that you email your clients on a weekly basis.

    Posted by Cynthia D'Alba (aka ArkansasCyndi) | December 14, 2011, 9:50 am
  11. Hi Sara, I love your candor and your insight and I find myself waiting for this column.

    #2 is what keeps us aspirants going, #4 is probably going to make your inbox explode with queries, and I hope you’ll never stop #1 altogether.

    Thanks for sharing the other side of this world with us,

    Sonali

    Posted by Sonali Dev | December 14, 2011, 10:24 am
  12. Sara, I loved your list. Not so much mistakes, as learning curve, I would say. Congratulations on all the books coming out this month!
    “for the love of books.” I guess that is just the kind of agent we all want to find.
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    Dawn

    Posted by Dawn | December 14, 2011, 10:57 am
    • thanks. true – much would be called “learning curve.” I have a great team at Nelson Agency that prevents me from making real big mistakes. Thank heavens, no contract errors or payment mistakes or anything like that.

      Cheers!

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 12:25 pm
  13. I LOVE those charity auctions. The idea is amazing, that you can generate so much money for charity and still benefit the people who’re giving it and it still feels like a steal. And in my experience, the author who did my charity critique gave me absolutely helpful and true feedback that none of my writer buddies had.

    I can see how it’s not so great for the other side, though. Those and also contests, which is a real bummer because they are so valuable to writers. Maybe more standardization (of feedback or scoresheets or management) might help? But ultimately, it does take time.

    Posted by Amber | December 14, 2011, 12:49 pm
    • *sigh* I love them too – honestly for me it’s just that I need to commit to fewer of them. I don’t like the feeling on a Friday afternoon that I can either critique carfeully or read a client manuscript. not fair and not easy.

      I do loe helping to raise money though

      #dilemma

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | December 14, 2011, 12:54 pm
  14. Everyone makes mistakes and the best thing about them is that we can all learn from them. I think writer’s workshops and conventions and places like the Book Expo sounds like a great way to network and gain visibility. Good thing there are so many of those around although I imagine it can be hard to balance writing time and the marking time. Good luck :)

    Posted by Na S. | December 14, 2011, 1:55 pm
  15. Thank you for sharing your learning experiences with us, Sara! I love the honesty. Also, how telling is it that your feelings of success are entwined around finished books and celebrations with your authors? From what I know of you (mainly via Twitter), that seems to sum up your lovely character just right. Well…that and the “rabid fan girl” admission in your bio. Very nice. ;0)

    Posted by M. Christine Weber | December 14, 2011, 2:21 pm
  16. Thanks Sara for a wonderful post!

    And Sonali Dev – you are the giveaway winner! Congrats!

    Posted by Robin Covington | December 16, 2011, 6:20 am
  17. Great post, Sara! I’ve always appreciated your candor in articles like these. You’re truly an asset to the industry. :)

    Posted by Carrie Butler | December 16, 2011, 3:38 pm
  18. I have learned so much from you, and many of your clients, such as blogger extraordinaire Roni Loren, Natalie Bahm, has been amazing online buds, I am not giving up trying again with another query, I figure nothing venture nothing will be gain, and other metaphors like that, you are an honest to goodness great agent and your personality shows, via the way you respond to authors on various social networks. Congrats to all your clients release and I wish you a prosperous 2012.

    Posted by Keisha | December 16, 2011, 7:32 pm
  19. I never get tired of hearing about Sarah Skilton’s story :) Not only is she a great writer – she’s a GREAT PERSON. I adore her to pieces.

    Posted by Sophia Chang | December 18, 2011, 4:11 am
  20. It’s refreshing to know that agents can make mistakes too. I’m often afraid to push the “send” button on submissions for fear of an error that will cost me an agent.

    Posted by Traci Kenworth | December 24, 2011, 8:10 am
  21. Love your honesty! Thank you very much for writing this.

    I was wondering how you came into slush reading? It’s something I’m interested in doing remotely, but I didn’t know if there was a certain “best” way to go about finding a position.

    Posted by Shae | December 25, 2011, 3:20 pm

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