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What kind of a career do you want?

While I was chatting with the Southern California Writer's group a week(ish) ago, I was talking about the sorts of questions you should ask and the things you should talk about when an agent calls you to offer representation.

One of the things I said that I, as an agent, will ask while we're on the phone is: What kind of career do you want?

Someone raised their hand and said something to the effect of, "Uh, what? What does that mean?'

I suppose it might seem odd. The answer is: you just want a freakin career at all. Any career will do.

The truth is, though, there are many kinds of careers. Do you want to be the Meg Cabot/James Patterson type, with a new book out every time I visit the store? Or do you prefer to be the John Green, with a book every 18 months or so? If you had to choose between Literary Acclaim and Bestseller status, which one would you choose?

If you queried me with, say, a dark literary YA, is that what you want from your career-- or was this a strange occurence for you and you actually prefer Rom-Coms?

The better understanding you have of who you are as a writer, the better I can operate as your agent. You may  love the security of contracts and deadlines-- of knowing you have more books in the pipeline, or you may hate the idea and only want to sell when you have completed works, rather than proposals, becuase deadlines may hinder your creative process.

Some questions to ask yourself:
*Am I a "muse-based" writer who can only write when the mood and inspiration strikes? If so, I may want to be more conservative with my committments. Writer's Block, and all that.

*Is the book I'm writing now representative of the genre/style I want to write forever? Or do I like the idea of doing different kinds/genres/age groups?

*What authors do I admire? Whose career do I wish I had?

*How many books do I really have in me?

*How quickly do I write and edit? How long did it take me to write the book that Big Fancy Agent is offering representation based upon?

*Do I like extra pressure/deadlines? Or do they freak me out?

A typical career for a successful author tends to be a book per year, with huge exceptions, of course. Some publishers are happy to accelerate that to do two books per year or a book every 9 months. Some writers, like me, choose to do pen-names for various reasons, often for contractual reasons or general strategy.

Others, like Lauren Barnholdt, write chapter books, middle grade, and young adult, which also can ratchet up the release schedule, because it's less likely you'll be competing with yourself if they are for seperate age groups.  

So, that's what I mean when I ask you: What kind of career do you want? Huge success in one genre? Rapid Releases? A diversified career spanning a few genres--and possibly a few pen-names?

It helps to have goals and a vision for your career. BUT, remember, that strategies change, depending on what book you break out with, what your contract will allow you to do, etc.


 

But at the least, definitely something to discuss with your agent.


Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
boothyisawesome
Aug. 30th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Love this post. It's definitely something I need to think about. I can definitely say I'd be a multi-genre author with a main focus on rom-coms. Not sure about how often though; yearly might be best. I could never be a Meg Cabot.
ext_238781
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
What Kind of Career Do You Want?
Mandy, I love this question. I hope to start querying in a month or two and this gave me something to think about.
Thank you!
meaganspooner
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
This is a fantastic post. I think on the writing side, we spend so much time agonizing over the questions we're going to ask if we should ever get the Call, that we tend to forget that the agent's going to have some too. And if the agent doesn't ask this question, it seems like a good topic for the author to bring up.

Thanks for posting about it!
ext_243100
Aug. 30th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
Lovely post, this is something that a lot of us don't even consider. I will be adding this to my ask agent list. :)
sachaw
Aug. 31st, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, I want to be Meg Cabot. Or Lauren Barnholdt. Or Mandy Hubbard. *grin*
leebross
Aug. 31st, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
Oh me too Sacha!!

Two books a year would be a great schedule for me.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 1st, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Awesome post
This is such an excellent post, Mandy. (In fact, so good that I hope to link to it on my blog when I get organized and write another entry.) It really is an impossible task for new authors to know exactly what they're getting into, but thinking about questions like this can make all the difference. Great stuff!
pingback_bot
Sep. 3rd, 2010 07:16 am (UTC)
Field Trip Friday: September 3
User yahighway referenced to your post from Field Trip Friday: September 3 saying: [...] . - Agent Mandy Hubbard asks, "What kind of career do you want [...]
(Anonymous)
Sep. 3rd, 2010 07:39 am (UTC)
Think I'm a rapid-release who's interested in more than one genre. I've never stuck with one thing for very long- except those things that can offer me diversity. There are very few genres I wouldn't consider writing.

I think I'd use pen-names for ease of identification, but I'd link them all back to my real name.
robindodd
Sep. 10th, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Great post!

I write both YA and memoir, so I have a pen name for the "crazy memoir books" I think I'm a two book a year person, one kidlit, one memoir.. I have a lot to say about my childhood...LOL
ext_248118
Sep. 10th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
Career
These are great questions to consider! It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately, visualizing what my dream future would be like. I'll probably be a one book a year, if that, sort of writer. Most of my projects will be young science fiction and fantasy. I might even write something in that genre for middle grade and/or adults. Deadlines will probably stress me out a little, especially while balancing writing with a full time job, but it would be totally worth it to reach that dream of becoming a published author (hopefully with many books in her future)!
ceilidh_ann
Sep. 15th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
Late to the party but got here sooner or later!

I've always wanted to be a YA writer but I've never thought about the specifics of it. I'd quite like to dabble in a few of the genres - I'm trying to write a fantasy type story (more a parody of the genre than anything else) but I'm also planning a contemporary story for NaNo (I'm still convinced contemporary's going to come back into the mainstream popularity soon, same with dystopia which I'd also love to try.) I've never worked with a deadline before so that's why I'm trying NaNo this year. But regardless of the specific genre, I'd like to write the sort of characters I want to read about and not talk down to readers no matter how heavy or light the subject matter.

Rambling over, I'm off now.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
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