Okay, so you've decided it really is time for you to seek out an agent appropriate to your needs. Let's get right to the heart of it and plot a plan for the approach. First, here's a reminder as to what a literary agent does.
- Finds the right market for your writing.
- Shops your books around knows the editors appropriate to your work.
- Sets up meeting with publishers presenting your work and recommending you for other writing work.
- Negotiates contracts.
- Collects advances and royalties due to you taking a percentage of your income.
- Tracks your publishing accounts.
There may well be more arranged between the two of you, but thatís the gist. Your agent is not your buddy, your friend, your therapist or your editor. He or she is not your travel agent, your lawyer or the go-to guy or gal for a short-term loan.
Next, determine what agencies/agent(s) you want to approach. Gather your research materials. Not all agents represent everything (thereís an understatement). Donít send your query for a science-fiction novel to a scholarly non-fiction representative.
Check out agencies, and then check out agents who work in it. Decide whether you want to work with an agency that is huge, and your agent perhaps a newcomer looking for great new talent, or for a smaller outfit that might not have the clout but could well give you more individualized attention.
Check out the whispers and warnings about agents; and remember, there are some sharks out there. You might want to bear this in mind as well: Literary Market Place informs us about 40 percent of book agents will not read manuscripts by unpublished authors and another 15 percent wont even answer query letters from them.
So, with that uplifting thought, here are a couple more places in addition to the ones I mentioned last time to find them:
- Try Publishers Weekly check out the agents who represent the type of work you write, which are looking for clients, etc.
- The Society of Authors Representatives (P.O. Box 650, New York, NY 10113) offers a list of agents.
- Attend conferences, follow up recommendations from fellow writers, subscribe to online writers newsletters and follow through on the info.
Hereís a quick aside. Over the long haul you might want to think about learning something about copywriting thatís selling with words. A book called The Copywriters Handbook by Robert Bly is worth reading, as is Triggers by Joseph Sugarman.
I know, I know, you donít want to be a salesperson. You want to write. Well, youíre gonna have to sell, one way or another, sooner or later if you want to be a successful writer, so learning a little something about what grabs attention isnít a bad idea.
Broadly, when writing your query letter, remember, donít be cute, donít tell them your mom liked it and donít talk about money.
Next time, we'll get into the nuts and bolts of writing that query letter and Iíll give some examples. Until then here are a couple of things to think about and to get down on paper.
- You should have a written a synopsis of your novel. A tight, well written overview of your story no longer than a few pages. This is a document to either include with your query, should the information you gather indicate it would be welcomed, or to send upon request either with your completed novel or in advance of it.
- Think about the hook for your first paragraph, your first sentence. You donít want to begin with, ďHi, Iím a writer and my book is great.Ē You might want to lead with a powerful sentence from your book, or perhaps create a punchy one-sentence intro thatíll hook an agent into wanting to read more. Really think about this. Itís important.
Ponder those two things and next well lie out the skeleton and talk about querying etiquette.
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (eBook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/