What's the best way to get an agent?
Getting a literary agent
In order to get a publisher, you need to find an agent. A few publishers will consider writers with no agents, but the typical submission route sees an agent pitching your work to publishers.
Who are agents?
Agents are experts in the book business. They consider hundreds of books a day, choose a few promising clients a year and try to pitch their work to publishers. If you did get an agent he/she is your best bookish friend! Agents are experts who believe in your book. Treat them fairly and don’t expect them to be you biatch. Their job is pitching to publishers, not advertise your book (nor edit or listen to you whine). Know what to expect.
What do agents do?
They select authors as clients and try to get them good deals with publishers. They are paid when the writer is paid. Never give money to anyone to read your work! A serious agent would never ask for money.What don’t agents do? They don’t advertise your book, they don’t edit, they don’t cook for you, nor look after your children.
How do I get an agent?
To get an agent you have to write a query letter. In fact, on average, you have to write about 100 queries to find an agent, and that is only if your book is prime stuff. An alternative is to take part in “pitching competitions” like PitMad on twitter or attending a writers’ pitch conference.
How do I select which agent is right for me?
Don’t flood all the literary agents of the world at once. Choose two or three who published books you liked and are similar to yours. If you can’t think of any, you should probably be spending more time reading before you consider publishing. Check AgentQuery to find agents open to submissions in your genre. Do some research on them, make sure they are a good fit and be ready for rejection.
How do I deal with rejection?
Dismiss it. It’s part of the job and it’s good for big egos. Finding an agent is like finding a soulmate, all you need is one. BUT, if after ten queries nobody asked for a partial of your manuscript, you might want to question if there is something wrong with your query or if you’re pitching for the wrong genres. Alternatively, it could be that your project is “high risk” or not “mainstream” enough, in which case most agents will not take a chance. I personally think that high risk projects are awesome: go indie and publish yourself!
So, how do I write a query?
This is a quick guide on what is a query letter and how to write one to successfully pitch your novel to a literary agent or, less commonly, to a publisher.
Before I say anything about query letters let me disclaim that most of what I learnt comes from the infinite wisdom of Her Holiness the Query Shark, a successful agent dedicated to help hapless, unexperienced writers. Study her website and see plenty examples of failure and success, rejoicing at her snarky sense of humor.
What is a query letter?
A query letter is a short missive (typically an e-mail) that pitches your book in 200-300 words. Don’t go over 400 words, it should fit in one page. A query letter will be likely the hardest thing you will ever write.
What elements should be in a query letter?
A query should answer the following questions:
1-Why did you select this agent?
Successful agents receive about 100 queries a day. Never write “Dear Agent” (guaranteed click-delete response). Agents want to know why you think they are a good fit for you. If you are thinking this is not your job but theirs, you’re better off indie publishing. Ask yourself how many agents are banging on your door right now and how many writers are banging at any one agent’s door. Got the picture? Good. Now do research on your agent. Good lines would be: “you represent this other book (pertinent book similar in style or genre to yours) so I thought…” or “You are seeking books in this genre so…” To find information about your agent of choice, start with AgentQuery, then check the specific agent’s website and any interviews online. Sometimes you might want to go as far as to check their twitter feed or search for videos. Yes, it is a lot of work and a time drain.
2- What is your book about?
You are a writer. SHOW, DON’T TELL! Never say “this is a great story” or “this is the best book you will ever read”, “this is the next bestseller” etc… SHOW THEM! Start with the conflict. Don’t tell them everything, just enough for them to want to read more, possibly getting a feel for your voice.
3- Why are YOU qualified to tell this story?
Are you writing a book about the Vietnam war and you’re a fifteen-year-old Italian? Well, good luck pitching that. You will have to explain why you think you are qualified, and why you are in a unique, privileged position to tell that story.
In general: You only have 200-300 words, choose them well.
1. Avoid clichés; you are a word crafter. Still, don’t overdo it! Verbose queries are not good. Use your style.
2. No typos, you hear me? None.
3. Be professional. It’s really difficult to get the tone of an e-mail or letter sometimes. Avoid jokes and confusing double meanings.
4. Be respectful. Start with Dear Miss Amman (just an example, by golly, I’m not an agent!) Most agents don’t care if you call them by their first names, but some really hate it. They are professionals and they don’t know you. Play it safe.
5. Don’t beg. If you don’t think your book is awesome, nobody will. (Avoid things like “I have been sick” “I have fifteen children” “I barely sleep” “Forgive the typos”).
6. Don’t boast. Be confident, but professional. If you have some facts that can help you list them clearly.
7. Don’t state the obvious. “I would be glad to provide a full manuscript upon request.” Of course you would be. Finish with “Thank you for your time” or similar.Essential info to include: the title of your manuscript ALL CAPITALS, the word count (approximate to the closest 5,000), the genre, your signature with your full REAL name, address and phone number.
-Check for specific guidelines on each agent’s webpage! Some will go as far as to tell you what type to use. All will specify if they want a partial with the query (typically the first three chapters pasted in the body of the e-mail).
-Send no attachments unless specifically asked. It’s the fastest way to the garbage bin. They fear viruses and will never open an e-mail with unsolicited attachments (signatures, files, anything).-Separate your paragraphs, so that your e-mail is not a scary block of text. Happy querying :D