Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Problem: Catching the attention of an agent and getting him to ask for a proposal or manuscript.
Traditional Solution: Write a smashing query letter, send it to multiple agents and hold your breath.
Workaround: One way around the oh-so-slow agent query is to come to that agent with a referral from one of his clients. Our clients become our best screeners. When I get a referral from a trusted client, I try to drop everything and give the submission my full attention.
Here’s the rub. You cannot put that writer on the spot by asking for a referral. And you cannot approach a stranger to do this. If the client is not familiar with you and your writing, he could never put his reputation on the line to refer you. His referral capital, so to speak, is only valuable if he has a good eye and the ability to offer a great possibility.
So, if you can’t ask directly and you can’t enlist strangers, how in the world do you go about getting a referral? It has to do with investing in other writers over a long period of time. When you first start writing, you need to join the community of writers online. You begin to identify writers you enjoy. You give them Amazon reviews. You write on their Facebook pages. You retweet their tweets. You attend their events and booksignings if you are close. You join a local critique group of writers who are a step or two above you.
As you get to know writers and invest in them, let them reciprocate. Let them read some of your work and get to know you. If the two of you click and the relationship is reciprocal–meaning you’ve given as much or more than you’ve received–it blossoms into friendship. It doesn’t hurt to let your friends know you are seeking referrals at some point. Let them tell you when they think you are ready.
You can tell this is not something you decide you need and then set out to make it happen. I’m not advocating using people. I’m making the case for honestly connecting with the community of writers from the very beginning. Your friends will help you work around some of these odds. It’s no surprise that so many of the published authors are friends–they’ve been helping each other for years.
Please share your story of a helping hand you received from a fellow writer. Was the relationship reciprocal?