Dear Miss Snark,
One of my friends signed with an agent on the strength of one novel, a thriller, which the agent says is ready to submit. However, said agent has been sitting on it for almost four months. After a gentle inquiry from the author, the agent now says he wants to wait until novel #2 is done so he can sell both together, which, according to him, should result in a better deal for the author. Novel #2 has been drafted, but is not submission-ready.
Other friends who have gotten two-book deals have gotten them on the strength of the first book alone, so this seems unusual to us. In fact, in our friends' experiences, there often isn't even a premise for the second book, let alone a draft, when the contracts are signed. Furthermore, most of our other friends' agents start submitting quite soon after a novel is ready - within days or weeks, not months.
Can you shed any light on this for us? We're a bit confused. We realize there's a spectrum of acceptable agenting practice -- are we expecting too much or is this a little strange?
I want clients who can be good earners right from the get-go. Mr. Soprano taught me that in his weekly eponymous show about business management which runs on HBO. I like clients who arrive with novels ready to sell, which I then turn into little red wheelbarrows full of cash. If a client is just sitting around the pork store working on plans for novel #2, there's no income stream.
I've sold every single two book deal on the strength of one book. I pitch one book, and they chomp it up and ask "is there more" and I say yes knowing full well that #2 is still whirling around in the author's cogitation machine.
It's time for some very direct questions to the agent. I'd start with "do you intend to shop this finished novel any time before the end of the year". If the answer is no, you'd don't have an agent.