Posts Tagged ‘literary agents’
Each writer who has ever tried to submit a manuscript to an agent knows how difficult, and nearly impossible, it is to move past the slush pile. Agents receive hundreds of queries in a week, and most often they will send a polite rejection or ignore your letter of you don’t do something to catch their attention.
Of course if you have a Unique Concept, they would ask to see your manuscript because agents like creative and new ideas, but sometimes you have to do others things to catch their attention. Here are four tried and tested tips to make your way past the slush pile.
1) Address you agent by name, get the name of their agency right and make sure the letter is concise. Do not write a generic letter and email if to a hundred agents.
2) Perfect your blurb until it shines. Make it the highlight of your letter and not yourself, and your various accomplishments. You have to sell the story before you sell yourself.
3) Research the agent well. Make sure he/she accepts queries in the genre you write in. Follow them on twitter, checkout their website and blog before you submit to them.
4) Read some articles written by the agent. If they have a webinar, do check it and mention that in the letter. “I read your article on so and so site, or I benefited from your webinar on …topic’ is a sure fire way to get the agent’s attention. Agents are also trying to build a platform and they are more likely to notice a writer who is interested in them. Of course it’s not a guarantee that he/she would buy your book but they would likely ask for a partial or a synopsis. After that, it’s your luck and the strength of your story that will get you a ‘yes’ from an agent.
Most of all enjoy the process of submission and queries. It’s part of the job.
If you are a fellow writer, I would love to hear from you. Join me on facebook, twitter or Goodreads so we can all support each other during our writing adventures.
Making it past the slush pile
Most big publishers will not even give you the opportunity to enter their slush piles. Very few publishers actually accept un-agented manuscripts, or even unsolicited queries. If you are a writer trying to get published in the traditional way, your best bet is to go through an agent. Agents, however, are also extremely busy, receive hundreds of queries in a week and take on few clients in any given year.
How to make it past an agent’s slush pile? Writing an original and intriguing story is the key, of course. However, few writers, including me, have an objective view regarding their own story. Obviously if you have spent a few months writing a story, you must believe it is intriguing and exciting – but no one can be sure whether the reader will believe it. So as a writer it is given that you have faith your idea is unique. In order to make it past an agent’s slush pile, apart from presenting a unique idea, you also have to sell your writing skills as well as your professionalism.
The query is the only way you can attract an agent (unless of course you meet one at a conference and your verbal skills are better than your writing skills). I will not rehash the basics of a query letter. There are plenty of other sites that do a better job than me. You can read here and here and also here.
However, I would stress that you do research the agent before querying. On the official website, many agents do not specifically state which sub-genres they like the most. So if you have an urban fantasy and you are pitching to an agent who is more into dark fantasy, there is a good chance your idea will not appeal to him. Do a google search on the agent and read their interviews, which are usually more informative.
Also, try to see if the agent likes any of the same books you like. For example, if you are a fan of suspense and read Mary Higgins Clark, and the agents does the same, and if you write suspense then perhaps that agent’s tastes in reading would match yours. Try to pitch to those agents who have the same reader preferences.
Make the blurb as exciting as possible but also keep it brief. Spend time on editing and perfecting your blurb until it accurately represents the story, and the unique idea around which your story has been based. Here is one of my old posts about How to write a Story Blurb?
If the agent specifies for you to send the synopsis or few pages of the manuscript, make sure they are polished to perfection before you send the query along. Follow their directions. Don’t send attached files if they have asked for pages to be pasted in the body of the email. Agents can judge the writing in the first few pages so make sure your voice shines through before pressing the send button.
Be professional, and don’t take the rejections personally. Move on to the next project before you start sending your query. I have discovered that it’s easier to accept rejections when you are already involved with a new and exciting project. Most of all enjoy the process of writing and accept the process of querying as the business side of the world of publishing. One has nothing to do with the other. As long as you enjoy your writing, and work hard to improve it, sooner or later you will become good enough to attract the attention of a dedicated agent.
I have been subscribing to a lot of literary agents blogs recently, and reading them got me thinking about the interesting relation writers seem to have literary agents. With the advent of self-publishing, more and more writers are shunning literary agencies and publishing their novels, print or digital, on their own without any outside help.
However, it seems to me that more and more literary agents are opening their inner sanctum to writers. They are offering advice through blogs, giving suggestions, cold data and hard statistics. Nathan Bransford was perhaps the first to start this approach (he is now a published author but still gives good information on writing and publishing), and but now many others are connecting with published and unpublished writers and building an agent platform.
If you are an aspiring writer, I would really advice you to read everything on Nathan’s blog, and watch this interview with Rachelle Gardner who is a literary agent with WordServe Literary Group. She has a wonderful agent blog roll that gives links to other agents who blog.
A few important tips I picked up from her blog as well as others I read over the last week:
1) Writing is a personal endeavor, but publishing is a business and every aspiring writer has to understand that if he/she hopes to get published.
2) You might be getting rejected because your work is not good enough yet or simply because you are writing something which doesn’t have an appropriate fit, word count, genre, etc.
3) No writer can hope to survive without social media, but fiction writers don’t need a platform as much as non-fiction writers do.
4) Your priorities as a writer are different from the priorities of a publishing house or an agent. An agent will always do work connecting to existing clients first and will look at incoming queries in their spare time. Same with publishing houses.
In today’s world, this means that a writer has to be savvier than before. We have to understand the publishing business, use of social media, etc as well as develop our craft of writing. On the other hand, we have more options due to self-publishing or the rise of digital publishing. I published my novella The Black Orb with a digital publisher Uncial Press because no big print publishing house is going to take a chance on a fantasy novella, but digital publishing doesn’t place so much emphasis on word count. I have already sold another fantasy novella, and hope to finish a series soon that will have the appropriate word count to be accepted by a big publishing house.
As writers our future is in our own hands, but it pays to have literary agents and publishers who are willing to share their experience and knowledge to guide us to the path that is most suitable for our needs.
Have you had a good/bad experience with a literary agent? Do you feel you need to have a literary agent before submitting your manuscript to a publishing house?
Are book bloggers the new gatekeepers of publishing?
Writing will break your heart
Do Author Blogs sell books?