I never thought I would take on a graphic novel for representation.
I grew up reading comic books and I always wanted to discover/represent a graphic novel, but I didn't know if I could actually sell one to a publisher.
I knew nothing about the market and let's be honest, what author in his right mind would sign with an agent who had no experience in their genre?
Gabe Guarante, that's who! (Actually quite a few of my clients did that. How lucky am I?)
When we first started talking about his books, I was completely honest with him. I remember saying something like "I have never done this before. I have no experience in this genre. You are better off with a more experienced agent!" I was actually telling him that I loved all his proposals and wanted to represent his work, but at the same time I was talking him out of signing with me. LOL.
I even told him that I would help him find another agent.
And I was adamant that he understand what he might be getting himself in to.
"I want to learn about this market," I told him, "but you are going to be taking a huge risk by signing with me." And he responded with something about that being ok with him.
This was an author who had already been published by Razorbill and had already published a successful comic series (COMEBACK KINGS). I thought he was crazy (and I think I told him so), but I was also ready for the challenge.
I knew that if I tried hard enough and researched the market and reached out to other agents with more experience that we would have a good shot. I had done it before with a picture book (1st-time sale to Random House) and a women's fiction (1st-time sale to William Morrow/Harper Collins) and many other fantastic books. I am still a new agent and I am having to navigate rough waters with my amazing clients, but research and perseverance to find out how to do something and then do it, is my most valuable tool. And that is just what I did.
We put together a proposal -- being new to this genre, I had no idea what a graphic proposal would look like.
So we settled on a mock cover, a few pages of art, a synopsis broken down into parts and a detailed character list. This was our proposal and it looked gorgeous. Gabe did an amazing job and I was so proud of it. The artwork (by Dave Fox) was stunning, the outline was beautifully detailed and the premise was so high concept that I shook with anticipation every time I thought about it.
I wanted to sell this BADLY!
I made a small first-round list of graphic novel publishers (some our agency had actually worked with) and I sent it out.
After chatting some more to other agents, it turns out some of them felt that we would need an overview, tons of artwork, panels (WTF was that?) and more before we got an offer. One fabulous agent even leveled with me and told me it is almost impossible to sell graphic novels, even if the publisher is interested. Even if they make an offer. Sometimes the publisher likes the art and not the writing. Other times they like the writing and not the art. Sometimes they make an offer, but it never goes to contract. Sometimes it goes to contract and then gets pulled. Um, that is crazy! And it was not what I wanted to hear.
It was like I was being introduced to the dark side of publishing. The crazy unpredictable, impossible side of publishing.
But I was so thrilled to have all these amazing agents at other agencies helping me on our journey. I mean really helping me. Telephone calls, polls, they reached out to other graphic novel agents, authors and publishers with questions; we talked contract language, rights, distribution. I was blown away by the generosity of these young, new agents who were rocking this market and being so transparent and helpful with their infomration. It was such a surprise, but Gabe and I took note of everything they said (except the part about bulking the proposal) and motored forward with our mini proposal.
Two small offers were on the table and their requests made me nervous. They LOVED it, they knew it would sell, they were lovely and their graphic novels are amazing, but they wanted the rights to EVERYTHING! I reached out to the other agents and they told me the two most important things to keep: Film rights and rights to the characters. We had some pushback and then a traditional publisher made us an offer. A THIRD OFFER! And they loved the proposal, loved the concept and the editor was so enthusiastic and open to negotiation that we knew we would be in good hands.
So we made a deal.
And all is well.
In fact, it is fabulous.
I guess it all comes down to the fact that hard work, research, perseverance and the ability to take a risk and a chance on being someone’s first, does pay off.
It did for us.
And here is the announcement as it appeared in Publishers Marketplace.
June 13, 2012
Gabe Guarente's SATAN'S PREP, pitched as "Dante's Inferno" meets "Breakfast Club" about a teen slacker who discovers that high school really is Hell when his soul gets sent to a private academy in the underworld run by Lucifer himself, where he has to navigate the nine periods of eternal torture - dodging demon jocks and zombie cheerleaders - and try to maintain his humanity, while impressing a goth girl (Persephone) he has a crush on, to Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press, in a nice deal, for publication in August 2013, by Louise Fury at L. Perkins Agency (World).