Thursday, February 18, 2010

Author Guest Post - Carla Buckley

The Things That Keep Us Here

Readers, please join me welcoming Carla Buckley, author of The Things That Keep Us Here who's guest blogging here today!

About the book - Ann Brooks never thought she’d have to answer that question. Then she found her limits tested by a crisis no one could prevent. Now, as her neighborhood descends into panic, she must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves from a threat she cannot even see. In this chillingly urgent novel, Carla Buckley confronts us with the terrifying decisions we are forced to make when ordinary life changes overnight.

A Debut Author’s Guide to Agents

I began writing fifteen years ago, and found an agent ten years ago. My debut novel is about to be released, and I’ve been reflecting on a few things I’ve learned over the years regarding authors and agents.

In order to be published, you have to have an agent.

False, sort of. It depends on your hopes and dreams. If you’re writing category romance or looking at e-publishers, you don’t necessarily need to be agented. But if you want to be published by one of a major New York firms, you’ll need an agent to cut through the slush piles dumped in their inboxes every day. Editors will read manuscripts submitted to them by agents because they’ll know that manuscript has a better chance of being coherent, proofed, and possibly even interesting. As publishing houses continue to merge and become more streamlined, and editors grow crazy busy, this is becoming even truer. Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes a writer will get the magic ticket to NYC without an agent, but then there’s the back-end of the situation. An agent not only helps sell your manuscript, he or she represents you during the publishing process. They are your best business ally, and believe me, you’ll want their expertise. Want to be re-released in paperback, hate your cover, write something that’s different from what you’re currently writing, wonder where that royalty payment is? That’s when an agent steps in to negotiate on your behalf. The publishing world is complicated, with lots of loopholes and pitfalls. You as the author can’t possibly be expected to navigate them successfully. It’s hard enough just writing a book.

Any time your agent calls, it’s with news.

True. The first time an agent phones you, you can count on it being with an offer for representation. The second time he or she phones (also known as The Call), will be with an offer from a publisher. Things usually disintegrate after that point. Depending upon how hands-on your agent is, future phone calls will be about your latest manuscript, foreign rights deals, film sales, or gossip about what so-and-so wore at the awards banquet.

The first few times your agent calls, it will be when you least expect it.

Also true. Once you begin sending around your manuscript to agents, you run various scenarios in your head. The agent of your dreams will call and you, calm and poised, will answer the phone, “Hello?” You may or may not use a bored intonation; you may adopt an English accent. Every time the phone rings, you’ll pause and collect yourself, just in case it’s An Agent. As time goes on, however, and life hurtles along its unpredictable path, you’ll stop rushing to the phone. You’ll stop preparing yourself. And that’s when he or she will call. At least one child will be screaming for a cookie; the doorbell will be chiming, and something will be burning in the oven. Amid this cacophony, you’ll scoop up the phone, expecting it to be another telemarketer, and you’ll bark, “Yes?” 

I promise. It won’t be your best moment.

If you’re serious about your craft, you’ll want to be represented by an agent in New York City.

False. Really false. Maybe once, long before either of us were born, before planes flew and the phone was invented, having a NYC agent was essential. But that is no longer the case. You want an agent who knows the people in New York, and that’s easily managed by phone calls, visits to the City, meetings at writers conferences. What you really want is an agent who loves your manuscript and knows exactly who in New York will love it, too.

Still, it’s better to go with a major agency than a lone agent.

False. An agency with many agents and different departments to handle foreign sales and so forth, does offer benefits. You’ve got the power and expertise of many behind you, instead of just one person handling everything. But it’s also possible to get lost amid the noise at a major agency. It depends on whether you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish at a big pond. Again, it comes down to the relationship you can build with your agent, and that doesn’t depend on whether he or she eats lunch among a crowd at work, or shares a sandwich with their cat alone at their desk at home.

It is not possible to deluge your agent with too many chocolates.

True! You will find that before you sell to a publisher, your personality with your agent will be muted. You’ll be polite, upbeat, and very low maintenance. Why, you’ll be the ideal client and no trouble at all. This undergoes a seismic shift the moment you sign that contract. All of a sudden, those insecurities you kept carefully hidden from your agent will bubble to the surface. You won’t be able to help yourself. As you hurtle through the process of seeing your book come to print, all sorts of issues you didn’t even realize you needed to worry about, will emerge. You’ll be emailing your agent seventeen times a day. You’ll even be driven to pick up the phone and call, breathless and anxious, needing that explanation or reassurance right away. The only way to ameliorate this bad author behavior is to regularly send your agent chocolate (or bottles of wine, gift certificates to a spa, hand-painted silk ties.) Find your agent’s weak spot and indulge it regularly. Which reminds me: I have a two-pound box of truffles to buy.

Carla Buckley is the debut author of The Things That Keep Us Here (Delacorte Press, 2010.) She lives in Ohio with her husband, children, and two curious dogs. Delacorte will release Buckley’s next novel in 2011. You can visit Carla Buckley’s website at
Great advice, Carla. I'm sure all those aspiring authors out there will be glad to have those myths cleared up.

Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration. This post is part of a virtual tour organized by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.
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  1. Thanks for hosting Carla Buckley today. This book has received rave reviews during the tour, so far. Your readers can visit if they would like to check out the other stops on Carla's tour.

    This book is actually in my TBR pile. I can't wait to read it.

    Thanks again.


  2. Awesome interview. I love to find out what authors do, or how they decide to write, etc. The interview was great. I have not read any of Carla Buckley's work but the info given here makes me want to read her book.

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