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For every epic story, there is a quest. For every quest, there is a hero. And for every hero, there's a sidekick. A sidekick can be anything from your protagonists best friend, to maybe something as simple as a household pet. Heck, in my story, COPERNICUS NERDICUS, Nic's sidekick is a fully functional battle-robot from an interactive video game. Strange, eh? It really doesn't matter who or what they are, there is one thing you have to realize :

They are JUST as important as your main character.

Before I move on and discuss just how important a side kick is to your main character, let's take a look at some famous side kicks in storytelling history. Oh, and feel free to comment with your own personal favorites. After all, every story has one.

Star Wars - There are so many to choose from, but thanks to my love of robots from my own MG novel, I can't resist choosing these two bucket of bolts.

What's great about these two guys, is that they're not even human yet they show such a wide range of human emotion that you literally feel for them just as much as you do Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and all your other "organic" characters. But that's not even the half of it. Without these two characters, the universe would be destroyed as we know it. Without that little R2 unit, we would have never seen the destruction of the death star, and who knows how long it would have taken for Luke to find Obi Wan. And what's a huge alien universe without a protocol droid?

Long story short - without these two guys, our Star Wars story would go nowhere.

Lord of the Rings - Sure, I could have picked Gandalf. Better yet, I could have picked Aragorn. But no, they aren't even close to the same level importance as my favorite hobbit. That's right, folks.

If Sam was hanging outside Frodo's window that night, consider middle earth destroyed. If it wasn't for Samwise's undying faith and love for Frodo Baggins, Frodo NEVER would have made it to Mount Doom. What's great about Samwise, is that he is weak and vulnerable. But the love he has for Frodo makes him stronger than any weapon at their disposal. He never ONCE gives up. Okay, maybe he does have moments of despair, but he comes through in the end. Sam is well deserving of the title hero of the shire.

Now what's the point I'm trying to make? Well, you can say one fact about secondary characters is that they all have their own intriguing back story that cannot be ignored. It creates some amazing depth in your story, and the fact of the matter is, your MC isn't the only person we're following in the story. Plus, it's a lot more realistic if your secondary characters actually appear to be alive, and not just cardboard cutouts or cookie cutters.

Oops, forgot -

I'm sorry Batman, I forgot about you and Robin.

There's one thing about secondary characters that make them quite possibly the most IMPORTANT part of any story. I want you to take a guess. Come on. Guess.

Done guessing?

Here's what it is - it's all about making YOUR MC evolve! And I'm not talking pokemon (but seriously, if you want to talk pokemon drop me a message on twitter or something). I'm talking about growing as a character throughout the story. Look at what I pointed out above with our side kicks from Star Wars and LOTR. Every one of them teaches the MC something about themselves that they didn't realize before. They go through moments in the story that are life changing for both sides. But without those side characters, there's little hope for your MC to get anywhere.

So do yourself a favor when writing your story. Don't just add characters as fluff for your MC to talk to or joke around with. Static conversation with another character doesn't go anywhere. I had made that mistake plenty of times when I first started writing. Make each conversation meaningful in one way or the other. And have each interaction between our MC and sidekick move the story forward.

Remember, it's not only about your MC. Where would Harry be without Ron and Hermione? Where would Wesley be without Inigo and Fezzik? Where would Bruce Willis be without Carl Winslow from Family Matters?!

Get it folks? Good - now get writing, and give me some of your favorite secondary characters!

*gulps* The CALL

You've been waiting for this day to happen for what seemed like an eternity. Since the first word fell on the page, until the last. You've done your research and you've queried only agents you know that would be interested in your epic tale. A handful have gotten back to you and requested pages, and some of them have even upgraded to full manuscript requests.

Then it happens.

You receive an e-mail (or a voice mail) and you can't believe it. An agent wants to schedule a phone conversation. That's right, an AGENT WANTS TO TALK TO YOU!


You are about to make - THE CALL!!!

Feel free to dance! You've earned it! It's no easy feat to get this far, but through perseverance and hard work, you've done it! But now the most important thing is not to panic, and not to let excitement get the better of you. It's time to put your business hat on.

When I first received the e-mail that my agent wanted to talk on the phone, I couldn't believe it was happening. I remember exactly where I was too when I saw it come in. I had just come back from Cape Cod, and picked up my dog from the kennel only to realize I had no dog food left at home. I was at the pet store, and lo and behold the e-mail came in. I responded almost immediately and arranged a call for the next week.

The first part of the call is all about preparation. It's a great way of calming your nerves too. I'll assume by this time you've done your research on the agents you've queried so you pretty much know what to expect in terms of what they're looking for, what sort of clients they have, and whether or not they are a boutique agency. But now is the time to prepare a list of questions that you can ask them.

Here is a handful of questions that I had locked and loaded for my phone conversation -

  1. What did you enjoy most about my work? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses?
  2. Are you an editorial agent?
  3. Will I be working solely with you or with someone else at the agency as well? An Intern?
  4. How long have you been an agent?
  5. What are your most recent sales?
  6. How many clients do you currently have?
  7. Can I speak to a current client of yours? (this is insanely important. I can't stress how helpful it is to get insider feedback from someone already working with the agent. It's VERY helpful in making your decision!)
  8. Are you interested in future works by me?
  9. What happens if you can't sell this manuscript?
  10. Which publishers did you have in mind for my work? Will you update me on the submission process?
  11. Besides the novel, what other routes do you feel we can take this manuscript? (great when talking about merchandising, film rights, audio books, etc.)
  12. How much work is needed to prepare my manuscript for submission?
  13. Will you help with my proposal?
  14. Do you work with international rights?
  15. Do you have a verbal or written contract? (although I think now a days most agents seem to have a written contract. It's the best route too. Cover your bases)
  16. What is your percentage? Most agents to my knowledge are 15% domestic and 20% international.
  17. What would happen if we have to part ways? (if it turns out it just isn't working out. This does happen, as unfortunate as it may sound)
  18. What do you look for in a client?
  19. What questions do you have for me?
Now I'm sure you can come up with some other questions that are more specific to you, but this is just a general list I had scavenged up. It's better to be prepared though, trust me!

So the day arrives, and you're waiting for the agent to call you. The phone rings, and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is some sort of gibberish that you never knew was in you. Your nerves have gotten the better of you. It's all over! You've domed yourself!

Alright, alright. Calm down. Here's the most important thing to realize. AGENTS ARE PEOPLE TOO! They are JUST as excited to make the phone call as you are to receive it. There's a reason they are calling you, and it's because they LOVE your work!

Let the agent lead the conversation. Be personable, friendly, and throw in a sense of humor. You don't want to come across as a robot. Unless you are one. Then that's pretty cool. Anyway, they are calling you because they want to know if they can work with you. It's one thing for them to fall in love with your manuscript, but they have to know that you aren't going to be some crazy person too. 

Okay, you can be crazy. But not TOO crazy. 

Now the agent is going to be asking you a lot of questions. Think of it as a casual interview. They're trying to get a read on you and how well you know the industry and how it works. And to prepare you for this, I've even drummed up a list of questions I remember being asked across my phone conversations, and some that I had even planned to be asked about!

  1. How did you come up with your story?
  2. What is your platform?
  3. What is your target age group?
  4. How are you involved in social media? What is your presence?
  5. How would you market your book?
  6. What are your goals with your book? What are your expectations?
  7. Do you see this as a stand alone, or a series?
  8. Are you working on anything else currently?
  9. What do you look for in an agent?
If all goes swimmingly, you and the agent are probably having a shockingly smooth and natural conversation! Just when you think it couldn't get any better the agent hits you with this -

"I would love to represent you."

Feel free to dance again.

Okay, okay. That's enough. 

I know part of you wants to just scream YES, but hold on there! Aren't you forgetting you have other agents out there with your manuscript?

The first thing you want to do is thank the agent for extending the offer. Tell them how excited you are and how much you enjoyed speaking with them. Then tell them you would like a week or so to decide, and that you also need to get back to other agents regarding this turn of events. Trust me, they'll understand. It's business. They know you have been querying other agents, and they probably assumed other agents already have your work. They aren't going to retract their offer just because you asked them to wait a little bit. 

It's a courtesy! And it's very professional of you. Once you say your goodbyes, and you've caught your breath, go ahead and do your third little dance...yeah yeah, go ahead. Do a little jig.

Done? Okay.

Now all you have to do is e-mail every agent out there that has your manuscript currently and let them know that an offer of representation has been extended to you. It's up to you WHO you want to send it to. I personally sent it to agents that had some form of my manuscript (whether a partial or a full). Some of them will get back to you, some of them won't. You might find yourself scheduling a few more phone conversations in the next week depending on how much time you gave. 

Typically, the best mindset is to give around 7-10 days. That should be enough turn around and enough notice for everyone. Not too long. Not too short. 

After another 2 weeks or so, you've had all your phone conversations, and you may have even received a few more offers of representation. The only thing left to do now is decide who you want to champion your book. Now I cant make that decision for you, but I can leave you with a little piece of advice.

Go with your gut. Usually that's the right route to take. That one agent you KNEW you had an awesome connection with is probably the one who is going to work the hardest to sell your manuscript. 

And don't forget to pat yourself on the back - you did good, kid. Go treat yourself to some pizza.

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