Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Art of Finding the Right Agent

(Image from:  Mr. & Mrs. Smith)

Meeting a literary agent that you hope will endorse your work, can be an awkward affair, like in the opening scene of Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  Or it can make you feel wrecked, as in this later scene...

How can you avoid such emotionally catastrophic events, while trying to publish your novel? 

In the workshop, The Art of Finding the Right Agent, Sarah Callender explained that finding Mr. or Mrs. Rightagent, was like a romance story:

Writer meets agent.
Writer ditches, or (most often) gets ditched by agent.
Writer finds another agent.

Or as Sarah put it:

Getting hitched.
Getting ditched.
Learning to love again.

So, how do you avoid, or at least mitigate the effects of this road-to-publication roller coaster?

You research and prepare.

Before you being your quest for Mr./Ms. Rightagent, you need the following:

1. A polished manuscript (for fiction), or proposal (for non-fiction).

2. A supportive community of writing pals.

3. A list of available and APPROPRIATE agents.

One of the "recurring themes" agents complain about, are on receiving manuscripts from genres they have no interest in representing--even when its clearly posted on their website.

Once you are prepared, it is time to submit a query letter.  The key parts of this introduction to you and your work should include:

1. Pertinent details about your manuscript.

2. Pertinent details about you.

3. Why the agent seems to be a good fit for you.

4. Sample pages, but only if they are requested.

Have a plan when you undergo the querying process.  Sometimes you'll receive form-letter rejections, while other times, you may not hear anything back at all.  Give yourself and the agent(s) you queried a reasonable amount of time, before launching another salvo of query letters to other literary agencies.

Then be prepared for more rejections.

And more rejections. get the idea.

Every author I've encountered, talked about how discouraging this serial rejection can be.  Despite such an onslaught against your emotional health and well-being, it's important to maintain your professionalism during such adversity. 

You don't want to burn any bridges...

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