Querying & Agent Tips of the Week (How to get an Agent)

Hi, guys. I didn’t get a chance to post this weekend because Saturday was my five-year anniversary with my fiance’ and on Sunday, we were busy watching the Superbowl. Did you watch it? I’m not a big sports fan, but I actually had a lot of fun watching it. My favorite commercial was the Doritos one with the goat. It made me laugh. The one with the horse was also good. Which ones was your favorite(s)?

Today I will be talking about agents, and the best way to get one. As the last few posts have stated, all the material I’m covering comes from the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents book. A little outdated, but I’m still finding it very useful and pretty much the same as the 2012 version I looked at.

So, how do you get an agent?

Research. I know, it may sound easy (or hard, depending on how you view research), but this is going to be your best tool to finding an agent. It plays an important role in getting an agent’s attention. If you do your research well, it should also impress the agent. Can you imagine being an agent and dealing with people who don’t even have a clue about what it is that you do, or how the publishing process works?

The 2011 Guide to Literary Agents states, “If there is an author whose book is similar to yours, call the author’s publisher. Someone in the contracts department can tell you the name of the agent who sold the title, provided that an agent was used. Contact that agent, and impress her with your knowledge of the industry.”

With that being said, finding an agent to represent you isn’t going to be easy, unless you are lucky and/or know someone. Since I have the feeling that most of you (myself included) are going to have difficulties with the task, there are four ways to help you find the right agent:

A. QUERY LETTERS/PROPOSALS

Writing a query letter or a proposal package is the most common way to get a hold of an agent. Most agents will accept unsolicited query letters. Some may also look at outlines and sample chapters. Make sure to follow an agent’s submission guidelines when submitting your queries. This will further show the agent that you’ve done your research. Which I’m sure will make the agent even more likely to look at your work rather than someone who ignores their requests. Wouldn’t you?

Some Tips for Querying Letters via Postal Mail:

– Address the agent formally and ensure that his or her name is spelled correctly
– Double-check the agency’s address

– Make sure to include a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope)

Some Tips for Querying Letters via E-mail

– Be formal, just like with postal mail format

– Make sure the agent’s e-mail is correct. If you cannot find the listing on the website, call the publishing company directly to get it.

– Don’t send an angry response if you are rejected. E-mails should be business-like!

B. REFERRALS FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THE AGENT

Of course, getting a referral from one of the agent’s clients is going to be the best way to get an agent’s attention. After all, agents are more likely to listen to a writer they are already representing if they are successful, right? If you are friends with anyone in the publishing industry who has connections, ask politely for a referral.

C. MEET THE AGENT IN PERSON AT A WRITER’S CONFERENCE

Many agents attend writer’s conferences to find new authors. Be polite, prepared, and don’t push your work onto them. Wait for them to ask to see your work. Don’t bring any sample chapters or your finished manuscript as most agents aren’t going to want them. If you are going to pitch an agent, it’s suggested that you time it down (in verbal format, a.k.a a speech) to one minute, two minute, and three minute versions. Keep it simple and exciting to get the agent’s interest. If you get a Writer’s Market book, or the 2012 Guide to Literary Agents, you will find a list of writer’s conferences to attend. You will also find a listing of agents divided by genre who you can send queries to.

D. ATTRACT THE AGENT’S ATTENTION WITH YOUR OWN PUBLISHED WRITING

Sometimes agents read journals and magazines to find fresh talent. If you have had something published, an agent may actually contact you if you are what they are looking for. This is considered an honor, obviously. Having something published means that you already have publishing credits, as well as the fact that editors have looked over your work and found it workable. If you have self-published something and it has sold well or received positive reviews, you may also attract the attention of an agent.

Some writers post their work on the internet in the hope of attracting agents. Since agents stay so busy with submissions, don’t expect one to call you anytime soon. However, there are agents who do browse the web for new voices, so it isn’t a totally bad idea, either.

Did you know this is my 100th blog post? I am so proud of myself. Thank you for staying with me this far!

jncahill_name

P.S. Tomorrow, stay tuned for my review of Jessica Spotswood’s Born Wicked: The Cahill Witch Chronicles!

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