Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Agent Awesome: Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

Okay. I probably shouldn't do this, but only for selfish reasons. Like if I talk about how amazing my agent is, she's going to be flooded with work, tying up her schedule. But you know what? I like her on a personal  as well as a professional level, so if more work equals more commission for her in the long run, I'll be thrilled to hear about her new apartment or her next fabulous vacation, so I'm not holding back.

Anyway, we all have ideas about the roles literary agents are supposed to play in our professional lives as writers. Those ideas, however, sometimes turn out to be overly idealistic. Things we thought were no-brainers actually turn out to be stretches. Other clients take priority over us. Our visions regarding timelines don't line up. Over and over again, I hear people anonymously lamenting their agents' faults online. Which is why I know how blessed I am to have my agent. That said, here's a list of things I find cool about Kerry, which is basically my entire interaction with her:

1. When I first queried her after the conference we met at, she got back to me within a few days, confirming receipt and assuring me she'd read my sample pages.

2.   A few weeks later, she wrote back saying she'd read my sample pages and wanted to see the full manuscript.

3. Within about ten days, she'd read the whole manuscript (!!!). Although she liked my work, she listed a few notes that needed attention. We scheduled a phone call to discuss same.

4. The next day, we spoke on the phone. Her notes were amazingly detailed and specific. She offered me representation on the understanding that I would implement her suggestions in a revision (which actually turned out to be more like a rewrite, with about seventy-five percent of the manuscript completely changed). The coolest thing: her notes were spot on, things I had suspected an editor might ask for but were so all-encompassing that I didn't dare make the changes without affirmation that it might be the right direction.

5. After our phone conversation (maybe an hour later, probably less), I received a written recap of Kerry's notes via email.

6. The next day, as promised, she emailed me a two-page (in a small font), single-spaced list of more detailed notes (!!!).

7. Three business days later, I received my contract via snail mail. Because this wasn't my first contract, I immediately spotted how technically professional said contract was. Almost surely drawn up by a literary attorney, and not just counsel specializing in general contracts, provisions were spelled out for writing grants, contest prize monies, etc. In case of termination, specific timelines were specified in the unexpected instance of a post-agreement sale (e.g., if a sale resulted from a submission the agent made ______ months after agreement termination, agency would not be subject to commission, while if sale resulted prior to time specified, agency would be entitled to commission). All I could think was, If they're this good with agency agreements, when they sell a manuscript, there won't be any of the career-limiting contract SNAFUs some of my friends have experienced.

8. While I revised, Kerry helped me come up with a new title for my manuscript, since I'd inadvertently picked one that has a TV show (I'd never heard of) associated with it. And I love it!!!

9. When I finished the rewrite and sent it to Kerry, even though she'd just gotten back from vacation and was no doubt swamped with work, she read it in less than two weeks!

10. A couple days later, she sent my manuscript out on submission to a carefully thought-out list of editors, some of whom she'd already verbally pitched the manuscript to over lunch.

Because my work's still very recently on submission, I can't share the rest of the details, but I will say that Kerry's doing a fabulous job of keeping me apprised. Her professionalism is unparalleled. Which leads me to my final point. You won't find her all over the social media, I suspect, for one reason: she's busy doing her work.