So far in my writing career, I haven’t felt the need for an agent, although at some future point, I suppose one will become a necessity. I’m in no rush. I want to be sure if I enter into such a relationship, it will be worth it. Any writer who produces the best story s/he can deserves someone who will work hard to get his or her work in the best possible market.
As in Dennis Palumbo’s article, Three Hard Truths About Agents, jokes about agents abound. Like all good comedy, some are rooted in truth. As Palumbo points out, first and foremost, it’s a business. You’re both in it for the money, honestly. But like any good relationship, it needs to be based on trust and honesty, in addition to a sincere liking – or at least respect – for the other person.
With that in mind, Marisa D’Vari advises us on How to Get an Agent. The easy answer? Write a great story! Avoid the slush pile by first reading Chuck Sambuchino’s article, What Agents Hate. He compiles the dislikes of noted agents with regard to prologues, description, voice and point of view, action, clichés and false beginnings, and character and backstory.
As always, research any agent before approaching him/her. Be sure s/he is worth spending the time in preparing a query. After verifying the agent is reputable, genre is next important. Don’t submit to an agent who doesn’t handle your type of story. Find out from the guidelines whether the agent prefers a query letter alone, a query letter and 10 pages, a query letter and the first three chapters. Don’t assume that, because your work is so special, s/he will surely want to read the entire manuscript.
Think you’re ready to send your stuff out there? First, read Chuck Sambuchino’s 10 Tips for Querying an Agent. Then read through Sambuchino’s list of 28 Agents Who Want Your Work.
And don’t be discouraged if you get a rejection. Maybe the agent already has a full stable of authors. Maybe (gasp) s/he didn’t thoroughly read your submission. It’s a purely subjective process, as Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul outlines:
- Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: Rejected by 18 publishers until Macmillan picked it up. Went on to sell 7 million copies.
- Louis L’Amour received 350 rejections before making his first sale. Went on to write more than 100 bestselling novels.
- Mary Higgins Clark received 40 rejections before his first sale. More than 30 million copies of her books are now in print.
- John Grisham was rejected by 15 publishers and 30 agents for his first novel, A Time to Kill. More than 60 million copies of his novels are in print.
And the list goes on. So don’t take rejection to heart. Keep searching for the right agent for you.
Oh, and if you hadn't noticed, I beefed up my Blog List. It includes several from agents as well as other authors, so check it out!