Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How To Query an Agent

The always readworthy blog Do Some Damage has a post today on the ever-popular topic, “How To Query an Agent.” My comment got a little lengthy, enough to make it a blog post of its own:

I'm amazed at how many people are looking for the "secret" to getting an agent. It's as obvious as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. (Apologies to Raymond Chandler.):

· Write a book they'll think they can sell. That means it's the best writing you can do, and has a chance of getting a publisher's attention. The writer may not be the best judge of either.

· Meet them halfway. Follow their guidelines. It will help to place yourself in their position: getting dozens of submissions a day. Everyone has ways they work best. The agent's guidelines reflect theirs. Do what they ask, just as you'd like anyone asking for your attention to do for you.

· Give them respect (they are professionals), but don't kiss ass (so are you). If their guidelines are too arbitrary and stringent for your tastes, don't submit. If they will only reply if they are interested, don’t submit. (That's my pet peeve. Emailing a rejection takes under thirty seconds. They can spare the time.)

· A query is like a job interview. True, if a contract is signed the agent theoretically works for you, but it has to be a mutual thing. If you don't put your best foot forward, you can't get a fair assessment, and it will be your fault.

Last, but most important: Stop whining. It doesn't help, and no one wants to hear it.


Nicholas Bruner said...

Thanks for this--all good things to remember! I'm currently looking for an agent. I think I'm following your directions--the first bullet point is the tough one, of course!

So do you have any ideas about judging whether your work is fit to send out?

pattinase (abbott) said...
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Dana King said...

My rule of thumb is when I'm sick of looking at it, it goes out. Not to say I have to be sick of it--sometimes I finish a draft and feel comfortable that's the best i can do with a piece. But when I can't bear to do another draft, it might as well go out.

We can't be better writers than we are. We get better, but, at any given time, there is a ceiling. As Stephen King (I think) said, writer's block is what happens when we try to be better writers than we are.