Monday, January 27, 2014
Finding an Agent
Years ago I thought the process went like this; you wrote a book, you mailed the whole manuscript to the most well known publisher you knew, and you waited by the mailbox for that big advance check.
It had to be that simple, how else could there be so many books in the libraries, the bookstores, the magazine stands? Hmmmm?
Turns out the process is slightly more detailed, like a Boeing 747 is "slightly more detailed" than a paper airplane Uncle Gallant folded for you. In fact, I've been told that an author should spend decent time searching for the right agent, comparable to the amount of time spent writing your novel. After all this book is your baby are you really going to leave it with your great aunt Bertha's mailman's daughter?
This is what I've been doing so far to wade through the sea of folks who might represent me.
I piled up all the books I've read in the last two years that are in the same genre as my novel. Then reading the credits I searched for names of agents the authors wished to thank. I cross referenced those names with agent listings in The Writer magazine, in 2104 Writers Market, 2014 Guide to Literary Agents as well as the websites for each agent.
What I discovered is this; agents move around.
So before you send them a query letter, be sure they still exist in the same city on the same street , in the same building as they did when they represented Harper Lee in 1960, who by the way never published another novel after To Kill a Mockingbird.
Other hints include:
After identifying 5-10 agents you feel might be a good match for you, start flowing their blogs. (Not all agents have these but many do) Then make sincere comments on these blogs. Was their advice helpful? Did you learn something new? If so tell them. But don't just spill out fluff covered compliments in order to get your name in front of their eyes. Agents are smart I've heard. Do the same thing on their Facebook page.
Attend writers conferences, meet and greet events, book fairs etc... Last year I attended the Printers Row Literary Fest in Chicago and met writers, agents, publishers and bookmark makers. One cool event. I shook hands, handed out my business card, bought bags of books and asked lots of questions.
After you've attended a workshop, lecture or other event; drop a personal Thank You note in the mail. Do not go on about your upcoming book, instead just mention that you enjoyed meeting them and/or appreciated the advice they may have given you. Emails are effective but cold, whereas a handwritten Thank You says that you care about detail and relationships.
This is what I've done so far. To date I have not secured an agent but I'll let you know when I do. In the meantime, please leave your own comments about this process. I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface.