Monday, August 7, 2017
Yep, I'm still slogging along with the agent search. That's normal; very few people accept/get accepted by the first agent who responds. Being that this is my second time around, here are five random tips I've learned about querying agents:
1. Make sure the agent handles what you write. Okay, they like and want middle grade sci fi, which you have at least one complete manuscript. But suppose you have an idea for a young adult historical fiction that you're really excited about- only the agent you're looking at or who responded doesn't do historical fiction? I foresee three choices: one, you forget about it because their guidelines specifically listed no historical fiction. Two, you write it and self publish. (I don't think this goes over very well with agents...). And third, you work on it and when you feel the time is write, break up with your agent and shop it around (but check with agent to make sure they haven't changed their minds. Or, they might not represent it, but will let someone in their agency handle it.). It's your call.
2. Read. Their. Submission. Guidelines. This seems like a no-brainer, but even wise authors make the mistake of 'skimming over' the guidelines. I've automatically assumed every agent wants a short bio, short synop, and the first 10 pages of the manuscript within the email, no attachments, and use the word 'query' in the subject line. Almost all the time, those are the basics. Recently though, I had one agent who asked for first 50 pages. Another wanted to know what was the last book I read, and what author influenced me the most, etc. Gotta read it ALL. Every time.
3. Even if agents say they always respond to every query, don't hold your breath (or become like Harry Potter in front of the Mirror of Erised, waiting...waiting...). Sometimes things happen and the agent can't keep that promise. You shouldn't put your life and writing on hold for someone who may never know you're at home, waiting in your prom dress, for a date that will never knock on the door. Keep sending queries out. Most won't acknowledge unless interested, only a few will send an automatic "we got the query" with the footnote not to bug them with follow-ups, and a very rare few send a personal email- eventually. Keep submitting to other agents. Life is short.
4. Make sure your short bio and concise synopsis are current. I recently sent out a query package only to realize the bio didn't have my latest book. (I'm still finding variations on my computer, social media and other websites that list my old agent.) Check. It. First. Before you attach/copy. If you can, have someone who knows you well read it. Also, make sure the manuscript sample is the correct number of pages; don't try to be sneaky and add more. The excuse 'you have to see how this chapter/situation/conflict ends' won't work. Sending more than they initially requested shows that you can't/won't take direction. And, I think it's more of a cliff hanger if you suddenly end on something like, "As the door creaked, she turned around and saw-" Saw what??? Your sample should be interesting enough to catch their attention. If not, revisions or submitting to another agent are called for.
5. Don't ask a friend who has an agent to 'recommend' you to theirs. Everyone who doesn't have a famous relative or their own fame has to go through this process. You have to do the work of querying. The information helps establish communication and interest. Your friend's agent may not be right for you, even if the agent repped 50 Shades and everyone wants to sign with them. Read agent and agency bios and/or meet them at a conference. Most of the time, there are no shortcuts in querying. So come join the rest of us and we'll slog through this together. First person to get an amazing agent buys the drinks.
Till then, keep querying.