When I was at the Carolina’s SCBWI conference I struck up a conversation with another writer. She writes Young Adult novels like me and we had a few other fun things in common. We were chatting and I mentioned that I have a literary agent. She looks at me and goes, “How’d you swing that?”
I was a little dumbfounded.
I mean, yes. Yes it is very hard to get an agent. There’s a lot of rejection. There’s a lot of inner turmoil about the whole thing.
So, here’s how I did it.
- Research is key. Research the agents and agencies before you query them. I looked up who my favorite authors were represented by and who writers I followed on Twitter are represented by. I started making lists. I started checking out some helpful tags on Twitter including the #MSWL tag. There agents would tweet what type of book they’d really love to read right now.
- Once you’ve got a list of agents see what they’ve sold recently. You want an agent with a good track record, or in the case of new agents, one that is with a reputable agency. AN AGENT WILL NEVER ASK YOU FOR MONEY! They don’t make money unless they sell your book. The end.
- Then go to the agency websites. READ THE AGENCIES RULES ON SUBMISSIONS! FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
I actually really enjoyed the research process. I liked seeing what other clients said about their agents. I liked looking at the agents social media and seeing what they were interested in. Like, I really loved that Eric would post really great pictures of his way too adorable corgi. I knew I would want someone who was editorial, so an agent that was also a writer was a big plus for me.
I then did another revision. And probably another one.
I did a lot of things to put off the next step of getting an agent.
I, again, did some research (the theme here? You’ve picked up on it, right?). I found examples of great queries. I read the #tenqueries over on Twitter. I read about what agents liked and didn’t like in queries. I had friends read it. I had my most beloved and critical friend read it. Which, y’all, this was touch. She worked the slush pile at a publisher for a while and has seen it all. I didn’t want to let her down.
The theme I noticed with queries is the set up. The first part is just the nitty-gritty about your novel. Word count, genre, comp titles if you have them. Then it moves into a brief intro to the book. Just give the hook. Think about what the back of a book jacket says, write that for your MS. Lastly, move into a little about you. If you have writing credits or pertinent information tell it here.
I asked around on Twitter at several of the #askagent events what folks thoughts on stating your diversity in your query. The answers I got back were along the lines of, go for it. I did in mine, but because to me it was relevant to the MS I was querying. If you don’t want to do that, don’t.
Then it’s the fun part of waiting. This is a very early lesson that in publishing you are not likely to hear anything quickly. Some agents i heard from within an hour. Some I’ve never heard from. But, most of them I got some sort of personal response from. I kept a separate “response” folder in my Email box and it’s where I put all of my responses from agents. Good, bad, indifferent. That’s where they went.
Here are some hard and fast tips:
- Spend enough time writing/revising your MS.
- RESEARCH YOUR POTENTIAL AGENTS
- FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!!!!!
- Do NOT send a mass Email to all agents at once. Personalize EACH ONE.
- Have your query looked over by folks.
And have fun! Writing is fun!