Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Well, it’s time to find out how much you know about seeking literary representation. Here are the answers to the questions from yesterday’s test:
- The best way to get an agent is to simply pick up the phone and call. After all they get so much email it must be refreshing to talk to a real person. False— Agents set aside their phone time for clients, editors, colleagues and solving problems.
- All agencies and all agents have the exact same protocol for contacting them. False— When we talk about seeking an agent here at Books & Such, that is our protocol. Other agencies have different protocol.
- The best place to discover what an agent expects in a first contact is to look on the agency’s website. True— You need to do your due diligence. Almost all agencies have everything you need to know about seeking representation right on their websites.
- If a writer meets an agent at a conference and is given the go-ahead to send in their materials, that means you do not have to query. You can go straight to proposal stage. True— that’s why conferences are so valuable. You skip a time-consuming step, the biggest hurdle of the process.
- The query letter should be as long as it needs to be to whet the agent’s appetite for the book and to cover the author bio in detail. False— One succinct page.
- If a writer received a request to submit from an agent at a conference and, for whatever reason, was not able to follow up, that writer should not query that agent again. False— As I always say, our interest has no expiration date. Other agents may feel differently but if they expressed interest once, you have that go-ahead.
- If an agent were interested in a writer’s manuscript but suggested some edits and changes, perhaps initiating several back and forth conversations, it would be a better idea to take that final, sparkling manuscript to a fresh agent, since the original agent had seen the writer at his worst. False— It is heartbreaking to an agent who works with a potential client only to lose them after many hours have been invested. That initial back and forth is an investment. And an agent only spends this kind of time if they believe in the writer.
- If you submitted prematurely to an agent– a manuscript that was in no way ready– the best strategy is to move on to a different agent. Again, won’t that agent always see you as a loser? False— Truth to tell, most agents won’t remember. We may remember seeing that plot or subject, but very few of us keep notes on manuscripts we passed on.
- Agents understand that most manuscripts are works in progress. A couple typos, misspellings or grammatical errors are expected. False— That’s one thing you need to get right. The cleaner the manuscript, the more professional you look. We want to feel confident that we can proudly represent you to editors.
- A working title is just that. Everyone knows that the publisher most likely will change the title, so a writer shouldn’t waste time on a title. False— Often it’s the title that hooks an agent in the first place.
- The easiest way to the top of the pile at an agency is to have one of the agent’s clients recommend you. True— But remember, a recommendation is not just mentioning one of our client’s names. It is when a client offers to introduce you and your work to their agent. This is a big thing. Unfortunately it’s not something you can seek, since it could be awkward for the agented writer if they don’t think your work is ready yet.
- The agent is known for reworking the proposals before sending them on to publishers so if a few sections are too difficult, don’t sweat it. The agent can easily fill in the blanks. Especially with the competitive analysis. No one knows the industry like an agent. This would be a snap for them. False— an incomplete proposal gives the wrong impression. It speaks to a certain sense of entitlement and sloppiness. If you can’t propose your book in a professional manner, how can anyone else get a handle on it?
- When looking for an agent, the most important thing is to be a good consumer. Before settling, it would be wise to first send out a questionnaire to all the agents, asking how much their commission is and what you will get for that investment. False— Those are valid questions but only after you’ve been offered representation.
- If you met an editor at a conference and already have an offer on the table, you’ve no need for an agent. False— an agent does far more than just make the sale. You’ll notice we blogged about this many times in the past. At that point you need contract negotiation and career direction more than ever.
- Fiction, nonfiction, it doesn’t matter. The proposal is essentially the same. False— There are a number of differences. If you look on our website you’ll see the difference.
- A writer met an agent at a conference and during the appointment, nerves got the best of him and he made a complete cake of himself. That writer shouldn’t discount that agent because of it. She is not likely to remember it. And if she did, it would make a great story to tell when the writer wins that huge award. True— Those appointments can be grueling for both the writer and the agent. We offer a huge dose of grace. And we won’t even talk about how much an agent remembers after a couple of dozen appointments. . .
- If an agent turns down your manuscript you need to cross him off your list and move on. God often uses closed doors to send us on a different path. True & False— God often does use closed doors to send us in another direction, but please don’t forget that a no just means not that manuscript at this time. Don’t cross off a potential agent (or editor) because of a declined manuscript. They certainly haven’t crossed you off any list.
- It is wise to find some way to stand out from the crowd. Think creatively, artistically, when packaging your proposal. True & False— Yes, it’s good to stand out from the crowd, but the manuscript and proposal are tools we use to evaluate writing, the author and the concept of the book. Fancy fonts and artistic expressions end up looking somehow amateurish.
- If at all possible, deliver your query in person. It would make an impression. No one could doubt your commitment. False— that would be enough to encourage an agent to have the local police on speed dial.
- Agents often say it’s great writing and a fabulous concept that makes them offer representation, but, at this stage, it’s more important to follow the submission rules to the letter to prove that a writer is conscientious and will be easy to work with. False— the submission guidelines are just that– guidelines. We don’t grade writers on how well they follow instructions. Many agents (and editors, too) flip to the writing first before they read a word of the proposal to see if they love the writing. Gorgeous writing covers a multitude of sins.
Remember the fun part? I’m picking one commenter from yesterday and one from today and I will send a box brimming full of great books to each. I’ll announce the winner right below as I’m quitting for the day– sometime around 6 p.m. PDT.
The winners are:
Will you both email me your mailing address? You can send it to me via email@example.com
I loved your answers to the essay question about when to seek an agent. I wasn’t able to comment but as many of you pointed out, a novelist needs to have a complete novel before seeking representation. A nonfiction writer need only have the proposal and three chapters. But of course the answer is more complicated than that. Most agents say, get an agent as soon as you can find a good one willing to represent you. 🙂
So. . . how did you do on the quiz? Don’t forget, I promised you can argue any of these answers. You might convince me.