Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Great Agent Safari

Lately, I go to the mailbox with trepidation. On July 30 I sent out ten queries/partials to agents. It's actually more difficult to get an agent than an editor, even if you've been published before. If only being published ended the rejection, but it doesn't. Monday and Tuesday I received one rejection. They were polite, but a rejection nonetheless with no specifics except no enthusiasm, and then wished me well. If only the 8 Ball would be right!

Apparently, some people are clueless. For example, on in answer to the question What Do I Do After An Agent Asks To See My Manuscript? someone replied:

"First, call them. Try to sound confident. Ask a few questions about
their business, such as: Who are their current clients? What do they consider
their strengths? What do they think makes their agency special? etc. Now it's
time to talk about you. Tell him/her what you have had published (magazine
articles for example) or contests you have won, ask what questions he/she would
like to ask you. These phone calls will give you a sense of who you feel
comfortable with and who you think will provide you with the best deal. Take
notes for your final evaluation.

Second, send your manuscript to the
agency you have decided is best suited to you.

Third, send notes to
those you did not choose and tell them that your manuscript is out to an agency
but you would like to remain in touch with them. Be honest, but leave the door
open for further consideration. Remember, the agency you chose might not choose

This proves you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet.

Then, there's the person who placed an ad in PW:

"Category: Seeking Agency
Headline: Wanted: Literary

Body: To examine a rare 107,000 word Self-Help manuscript
introducing a flowing patented reading format. Also, the Agency would manage the
licensing of the reading format. Selected Publisher should be flexible in
typesetting and speedy in publication."

If only it were that simple. Wonder how much money he/she wasted.

Just this week Miss Snark ( posted about things in her slush pile that were a miss with her.

Over on Evil Editor's blog ( someone talked about an online auction system for query letters and proposals. That might make it easier for a writer, but an agent doesn't have to beat the bushes for clients.

So, how do you get an agent's attention? The positive kind of attention, that is.

1. Do a bit of research. Make sure the agent is reputable. Handles your type of book. Is open to unsolicited submissions. Approach in the way the agent wishes. (If they don't accept email submissions, don't send an email.)

2. Get their name and gender right.

3. Query with a good story.

4. Send what the agent wants. If she/he wants three chapters, don't send 100 pages. (Footnote: Miss Snark says send five pages even if they only want a query letter.)

5. An error free submission.

6. Make sure your spam filter doesn't require them to fill out a form to contact you. At least one agent doesn't bother.

7. Include a self-addressed, stamped-envelope (SASE). Without it, some agents don't bother responding. You never know if that response may be a request for the full manuscript.

But to quote Miss Snark, Writing trumps all.

Have you found something that worked well? Any additional advice?


Carla Swafford said...

From the different articles and blogs I've read lately, it all boils down to your writing and politeness.

Don't tell the agent how great your book is, she/he can find out when he/she reads those five or more pages.

And never threaten an agent. "If you don't represent my book, you'll be sorry!"

You have to hit that relaxed formal way of introducing yourself. Write your query as if she is someone you would like to get to know. (So true.)

Without bragging, let her know that you know your market and where your manuscript will fit.

Politeness can get your foot in the door, and your writing will get you seated at the table.

Deborah Matthews said...

Good points, Carla. I've heard agents and editors say don't tell them how funny, emotional, etc., your book is. They go into it needing proof and usually it doesn't deliver.

jennifer echols said...

2. Get their name and gender right.

I second this. Very important. My agent, Nephele Tempest, says she often receives submissions addressed to "Mr. Tempest," and this does not put her in a happy mood when she starts reading.