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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.