Honorary Heartlette – Elaine Spencer, Part I

December 2, 2007 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Elaine Spencer, Honorary Heartlette, writing | 8 Comments

First off I would like to thank you all for stopping by. I did a quick scan of the archives and realized I’m the first agent to be an honorary heartlette. That in itself is extremely flattering and even a bit overwhelming. Where do I begin?!


Jessica invited me here months ago, and at the time I jumped at the opportunity. And then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, that time is here and I’m sitting in unfamiliar territory. I’m staring at a blank screen with no idea what exactly to say. Sound familiar to anyone else out there?  With each sentence I got on screen and then erased I was reminded just how daunting your job as an author is! But I digress, I know that you all already know that and I’m sure that you could each talk circles around me on the pains of “getting stuck”. So while it could be a something to chat about, it’s not going to do.


When I get stuck I start to make lists. And so finding myself in a tough spot, this is exactly what I did, I started to brainstorm and make a list. I thought about all the topics I could write about and which of these might just be the most beneficial to you. Suddenly I had a list of ideas that was pretty big. That being said, your December heartlette, aka moi, is going to give you a list.


During my brainstorming session it dawned on me that with the onset of December we are officially in the 11th hour of 2007. And so, drum roll please, your list is going to be based around the top things that I have learned, been reminded of or that I just think can never be said too many times. Hopefully at least one of these comments will strike a cord with you and you too will be reminded, refreshed or just plain informed as you prepare to wrap up another year!


As I mentioned my list is a bit lengthy. I’m going to break it down into three separate posts. These first few items are going to be those that in my opinion are the most obvious – the things that just can never be said too many times.


The first item on my list, DESPITE THE RUMORS, AGENTS ARE NOT SCARY. We are ordinary people, just like you. – I know I know. Easy for me to say, I’m an agent. I am going to let you all in on a secret, whoever the person was that started the nasty rumor that we were these all-powerful gods was lying. Agents are just another spoke of a very big wheel that drives the publishing industry.


I’ll talk about conferences later down the list. But here’s a heads up. If you see me out and about, and the timing looks right, don’t hesitate to approach me. Now, when I say the right time, yes I realize this leaves some room for interpretation. If you see me in the middle of a meeting with a client, making a dash to the elevator or having what looks to be an in-depth chat with anyone else, that’s probably not the right time. However, if you see me walking into a room or just standing around alone PLEASE come say Hi.


If I’m sitting on a panel or guest chatting on a loop, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask your questions! We all have to learn somewhere and I don’t know an agent out there that isn’t proud to take part in the process of educating others about our business.


Another thing, I know that this may seem a bit obvious, but I think its something valuable that factors into this topic, and something that people often forget. If an agent is out and about, it’s most likely because they are looking to help you. I wouldn’t attend conferences if I didn’t want to meet new people and find new talent. I wouldn’t agree to post on a loop if I weren’t hoping to get some good questions and provide insightful answers.


If it has been said once it has been said a million times. Network, network, network. Don’t forget, as agents we are a part of that network!  I think that in many instances authors become so caught up in this myth of “the power we hold” that they forget we need your work to do our work. We are nothing without you and your material! Don’t forget that!


Enough on that. The next thing that I want to add to this list is DO YOUR HOMEWORK. This is something that I just have to mention, because its one of my pet peeves. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, because I think for the most part in this crowd I’m probably going to be preaching to the choir.


Bottom line, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you take the time to learn the basic dos and donts of the business and follow them if you want to become successful. There are people that talk about these standards EVERYDAY. As an author, take the time to read informative blogs, pick up the industry’s magazines and guides, pay attention to the things that those who have gone before you are saying. Publishing is CONSTANTLY changing and it will never fail to behoove you to stay informed on what is going on around you.


The things I’m referring to are not the world’s great mysteries. They are simple things. Proof-read. Learn to spell my name correctly. Learn what types of material I represent (and bonus points for who!). Don’t call me on the telephone to pitch your book. Learn how I accept submissions. Know what a sellable word-count is for your genre.


See? This is not solving world hunger. In my mind, people that can’t accomplish these little tasks are not prepared to be a part of this business. This might sound incredibly harsh, but I find it personally insulting and disrespectful if people can’t follow these mores. It is saying to me that they don’t care about the conventions we have all worked to establish.


Moving onto the last point I want to make today, the last thing that we all can never be reminded of too many times.  YOU JUST NEVER KNOW. This is a business of surprises. There is no predicting which day will be THE day. There is no rhyme or reason to exactly when an agent or editor is going to call you and tell you that they are in love with the project you are selling. It might be the day after you send a project out (if we could all only be so lucky) or it may be 3 years down the road.


We are all a part of a very unpredictable machine. And it’s an exciting machine!


And then there is the whole measure of success. You never know what book is going to take off, and when. My agency currently has a title out that has now been on the NYT list for over a year. The book initially published almost four years ago with a print run that was beyond meek. There are now over two million copies available! How awesome is it to know that at any moment YOU can become a bestseller?!


You just never know. This is what makes this job so incredible. Success will catch up with you. You may have some stumbling blocks along the way. Remember though, the best things in life are worth waiting for! And in this very unique environment you never know when you are upon the best day of your career!





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  1. Thank you for the encouraging post Elaine! Wonderful words of wisdom. 🙂

  2. From one list-lover to another, thanks for sharing yours this week. 🙂

  3. This is great Elaine – Thanks so much for posting. I can’t wait to hear what else you have to share.

    Hope I’m part of that choir you’re preaching to.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I’m excited to see the next two posts too. It is a great idea to use December to regroup and reflect on the basics–what does and doesn’t work.

  5. Thanks Elaine. I’m a little less scared now. 🙂 First rookie question — I hear on and off that agents and editors don’t really like receiving new queries late in the year. True or false?

  6. I love reading things that reinforce the fact, Agents are people too. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I am such a list person myself- I blame it on my mother. Great blog, thanks for sharing.
    Kissa Starling

  8. I admit to being afraid. I don’t know why. The same reason I was afraid of my principle in school or my doctor (still, that guy just scares me.) Position of authority. I think we’ve all learned to be scared of anyone who has the right to tell us yes or no.

    I always appreciate, however, having those people step forward and say, “Hey we aren’t that intimidating” and then I believe it for a few weeks. 🙂

    Thanks for dropping by. Since the Knight Agency is my eventually target agency I read all I can about your agents and Bria runs a great blog here so you can’t beat that combination.

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