Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
Thanks for hanging in with me this week as I gave you the inside track. It’s not always easy to hear the realities of this business/art we have chosen. Or has it chosen us?
To close this series I want to encourage you to employ some common sense strategies in attracting an agent. Some of these should probably go without saying, but. . .
Do your research. Don’t contact an agent until you’ve done a Google search, read the agency website, followed their Twitters or any blog they may have. You need to talk to other writers. There be some scary people out there calling themselves agents. You should know about an agent before you make a career-long commitment. Believe me, I do some serious research–some serious due diligence–before I ever call a writer offering representation.
Follow each specific agency’s submission protocol. You can’t believe how many queries I get at my business email. Our submission guidelines clearly state that all queries go to: [email protected] Why is this important? Each agency has carefully designed a protocol that allows them to handle queries carefully and efficiently. At Books & Such queries that go the correct address get logged in, processed and passed on in a timely fashion. If a query is addressed to me in the subject line but, for one reason or another, I can’t consider that author, the other agents at Books & Such get a chance to look at the query. We do not take queries by mail, queries with attachments, proposals that have not been requested, etc.
Lately, believe it or not, we’ve been getting Twitter queries and Facebook message queries. We’ve also received queries that include a link and ask us to go look at a website. Really? Those are all wastes of time– yours and ours. It’s not the way we do it and we have no system in place to track these or respond to them.
In these complicated days what agent would take on a writer who can’t follow simple instructions? It doesn’t bode well for a long term, reciprocal partnership. And it’s not about our being hard-nosed or controlling– we just want to be efficient and to give each query the careful consideration it deserves. We don’t want to lose queries because they arrived in some wonky way.
Strategize. When you are seeking a literary agent you certainly could contact Nicholas’ Sparks’ agent but what are the chances she could take on a new writer? She has a handful of high profile clients whose careers take an inordinate amount of time to manage. A better strategy would be to query a new agent in a reputable firm. That agent is probably in the process of building his list and may be more open to new clients. In our agency we have two agents with pretty full client lists– Janet Kobobel Grant and me. That’s not to say we are not open for some amazing author who may come along. I’m jus’ sayin’ we have to be ruthlessly picky. But we have two newer agents who are building their lists. Both of these agents are exceptional (or they wouldn’t have been chosen to be part of the team).
Rachel Kent is a twenty-something genius who specializes in books for her own demographic– YA and twenty-something books. Her very first sale was a three-book fantasy series to a prestigious house for a not-yet-twenty-year-old author. Amazing! She is building her list slowly because she has a very discerning eye but if you have a book that fits her demographic you’d query her at [email protected] and put “For Rachel Kent” in the subject line.
Mary Keeley is even newer to agenting but she is a publishing veteran. We used to pitch our clients’ work to her when she was a nonfiction editor at Tyndale House. She’s also worked with a number of authors during her tenure at Christianity Today. Janet recruited her because she definitely has the eye! We were delighted when she agreed to join the team. If you wanted to query Mary you’d write to her at [email protected] and put “For Mary Keeley” in the subject line. (Are you seeing a pattern here?)
This strategy could be applied to any agency. Find the agent who’s newer and actively searching. If those agencies are anything like ours you need not be worried about a too-new agent. We are highly collaborative and Janet systematically mentors each agent. You get the power of the full agency behind you. It’s a great strategy. An insider’s secret.
Attracting your perfect agent is much like an executive job search. What other strategies might you employ?