Friday, January 9, 2009

Land That Agent

Okay, for some reason I tried to schedule this for yesterday and it didn't post. Oops.

So the good news is you finished a book. The bad news is- that was the easy part. In today’s publishing world you need an agent to sell your book. Yes, there are some houses that will look at manuscripts from unagented authors. But if you plan to be in this business for the long haul, you need an agent. They have the contacts, the expertise, the knowledge about the business.

So how do you go about finding an agent? First, you need to make sure you’ve checked off a few to-do’s before you even begin the search.

1. Have a POLISHED completed manuscript. It’s not the agent’s or the editor’s job to spell check your work. Make sure the script is the best it can be. That means it has been through several edits and beta readers before you even search for an agent.

2. Write a kick-ass query letter. Keep it short and sweet. Write a teaser that highlights the story-- pour over the back flaps of novels you’ve read, especially in your genre to learn how. Leave out subplots and minor characters. Don’t talk about irrelevant hobbies. Don't say your book is: A) the best thing since Harry Potter B) bound to make a gazillion dollars C) better than anything King ever wrote D) your first novel. Don't tell the agent that you've been rejected by everyone else in the biz and she's your last hope. Use a professional opening and closing. DEAR and SINCERELY work well. Make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors.

3. Make a list of legitimate agents who sell in your genre. You can find them by visiting these websites: Agent Query, Query Tracker, AAR. Or read the latest Guide to Literary Agents

After you’ve completed these tasks, begin your search by following the guidelines of each agent. Some don’t mind email. Some want to see the first few pages. Whatever they ask for, give it to them. Don’t use gimmicks like gifts or bright paper or crazy fonts. These are professionals. Show them you are too.

Keep in mind your location doesn’t matter. Neither does the agent’s location. There are top notch agents in Florida, Colorado, California, and the Midwest, as well as New York. What matters is connections and what they’ve sold.

Which brings me to the interview. You are hiring this person. Remember to ask questions and choose the agent that is the best fit for you and your work. I know it might be tempting to jump at the first offer, but you really want someone who will go to bat for you. Here’s a great link to questions you should ask at AAR.

Finding an agent takes persistence, hard work, and a little luck. You have to be able to handle rejection. You have to be able to handle rejection disguised as compliments (which really stinks, believe me). And you have to be able to suffer through weeks, months, maybe even years of this torture. I could have wallpapered my office with the rejections I received, but eventually, I found the right agent for me. Work hard, keep trying, keep learning and don’t give up. Good Luck!


Charlotte Dillon
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing

Happy Hunting!

No comments: