Having just completed my first manuscript, I’ll be looking for an agent soon. In preparation, I’ve participated in a couple workshops on the topic, and today I’m going to blog about some of the things I’ve learned. This is not an all-inclusive list, but I’m including points I either didn’t previously know, or things I thought everyone knew but apparently do not.
- You should research agents you plan to query to make sure they handle your genre. Seems like a no-brainer, right? I’m told this is one of the primary reasons manuscripts are rejected.
- Know that a worthy manuscript may still get rejected. A rejection may not be a reflection of your writing. For example: your manuscript may be too similar in style to another client’s.
- Do not compare yourself to Faulkner or Woolf in your query letter. Have you ever noticed the guys who claim to look like Russell Crow, never look like Russell Crow? Same for writing.
- You should complete your first manuscript before contacting an agent. After that you may be able to sell based on a synopsis or outline, but the first one must be complete.
- It’s OK to send submissions to multiple agents. You should mention you are doing this in your query and customize your query letter to each agent by explaining why you selected them.
- If an agent asks you for an exclusive, give her two weeks and then follow-up with a call before pursuing other options. The reason an agent asks for an exclusive is because she likes what she’s read so far, and doesn’t want to invest time reading the entire manuscript if you’re going to sign a contract with someone else.
- Most agents will accept electronic submissions. Think of the trees you’ll save.
- You should never pay an agent to represent you—no reading fees, no editorial fees. It used to be standard practice to reimburse the agent for postage, photocopies, etc., but with e-mail, you no longer have those expenses either.
- Don’t sign a long-term contract with an agent. You want to make sure your agent is going to be a good fit, and that he’ll return your calls.
- Don’t be a diva. Respect your agent, and remember that you are not her only client.
When an agent agrees to represent you, it is an honor. That person believes in you and believes in your work. The agent/author relationship is just that—a relationship. So, take your time when doing your research, and select an agent you will enjoy working with for many years to come.