Saturday, March 25, 2006

Need an agent for your book?

"I can't find an agent!" shouts the frustrated writer.

My response: "Where have you looked?"

If you're looking for an agent, don't google "literary agents." Any agent that advertises is not an agent you want.

If you followed the advice of my last post, you learned that you must educate yourself on the publishing industry before seeking publication for your manuscript. I understand that in your eyes and your family's and neighbors' that your book is the best book ever written. It's gonna blow away J.K. Rowling. It'll make a great movie. It'll be a hit in Oprah's book club.

Many authors have dreams like these, but also have realistic expectations.

There's no way any of that's going to happen if you don't do your homework. You want an agent? It's not easy nor will it happen overnight. Months will pass and you will receive many rejections. But if you want it bad enough, this is what you must do:

I draw your attention back to 2006 Writer's Market available at bookstores and libraries. They also have an online version. Read the informative articles. Browse the agent listings. Choose those who deal with the kind of story you have written.

Visit the website agentquery. Read their articles. Go through their database and start picking out appropriate agents. Visit all of their websites. All of them. Make sure they are currently accepting query letters. See which method they prefer: some like email, some like snailmail. Follow their instructions.

Also visit your local library and go through Literary Marketplace, which is a listing of thousands of agents and publishers. Find the ones who represent what you've written.

You will also note that many of them say "Always looking for new talent." This means that yes, they are seeking unpublished authors. Agents want to sign the next big author. Agents want bestsellers to add to their lists of successes. Some aspiring authors just don't seem to understand this.

Some agents will say "no unsolicited manuscripts." This means they must ask for the manuscript first. The only way they will ask for the manuscript is if you query first. Writers Market, agentquery, and numerous websites offer advice on writing queries. Once you've written your query, ask for help in the Share Your Work forum on absolutewrite or other writer's sites to make it the best query letter it can be.

By now you've begun a list of likely agents. Cross check each one with Preditors and Editors. Learn the difference between a good agent and bad agent. The quickest way to know is if they ask for any money: money for making copies, money for editing, money for representation are all red flags. I should point out that some reputable agencies have started charging very small amounts for copies, but these are few and far between. A normal agent will deduct all expenses from your royalty check. And part of an agent's job is to secure the best deal he can for the author.

Personalize each query as best you can based on the agent's history and list of books represented. Don't get chummy, of course, but you need to tailor your query to fit the agent.

Now,start submitting. It is recommended that you include the first two or three pages of your manuscript with your query, unless the agent's guidelines say not to.

Always include an SASE with your snailmail. In email queries, never send attachments. Instead, include any sample pages in the body of the email.

Email response time could be several hours to several weeks. Snailmail responses range from a week to two months or longer.

Don't be surprised or disheartened when you get rejected. It's a numbers game. Submitting query letters is like a direct mail campaign. 19 out of 20 can and will get rejected, but rejection is part of the process. Every week, send out ten or more queries; more if you can. When an agent asks to see the whole manuscript, celebrate briefly, but understand that it can still get rejected.

Many authors who successfully landed an agent have reported sending over a hundred queries before finding one that finally said "yes." You just have to be persistent and it will happen. It might take months but the end result will be worth the time.

When an agent finally agrees to take on your work, you likely be notified by telephone.

On the other hand, if you've received two hundred or more rejections, it could mean that your work is not ready to be published. It happens. If you're lucky, you may receive feedback on your query letter, sample pages, or full requests from the agencies. Always take their comments to heart. If twenty agents say "good story, poor pacing," then your manuscript might need some more work.

I strongly recommend reading blogs written by real agents for an insight to how they think. This can be a real eye-opening experience, but you'll learn a lot.

Miss Snark

Kristin Nelson

And that's the secret! Really wasn't a secret, was it?

See you in the bookstores.


At Saturday, March 25, 2006 4:41:00 PM, Blogger Dawno said...

Great advice! It's wonderful of you to help other writers. I hope you get lots of traffic.

I'll be dropping by often.

At Tuesday, April 11, 2006 8:26:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is excellent information -- thank you for sharing with us! I'll be looking for more.

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 5:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your suggestions to my question. I read your blog entry on agents and it pretty much reflects my experience. I blog at Best, Alexandra

At Saturday, December 08, 2007 9:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great information...
Just what I've been looking for, many thanks.


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