Agents. How do I find one? Where do I start? This question is on my mind right now as I finish my current WIP. I am pleased to welcome author Teri Harman today who shares her agent story with some great advice. Enjoy!
Ah, the battle to find an agent. Sometimes it feels more like the Hundred Years War.
It took me close to five years to get my agents and it was a challenging, frustrating, informative process. But completely worth it!
I first started looking for an agent back in 2007. I relied heavily on the website agentquery.com. I’d read the full bios for and visited websites of agents who accepted my kind of manuscript. When I had 10-20 possibles, I sent out a batch of queries.
It’s really important to check agent bios, websites, submission policies and what kind of queries they accept. The better you follow their rules, the more likely they are to read your query. Many agents automatically trash queries that don’t meet their requirements.
I’d send out a batch and wait. The agonizing, mind-numbing wait where you check your email every five minutes and slowly go crazy with every rejection J
In my experience, the agents who took time to respond were very kind; I only got one nasty rejection in all that I sent. But do not expect a response from everyone – not even a ‘no, thank you’. A lot of agencies only respond when interested – it’s not rude, it’s time saving. Agents receive hundreds of queries.
When six to eight weeks had passed with no positive responses, I’d start the whole process over. I’d also continually edit and improve my query letter. You’ve got to have a killer query. Be concise and professional, but also be yourself. Personality can set you apart.
The first manuscript I tried to query failed. It just wasn’t good enough. Sometimes you have to write something different to find success.
I had one agent ask to read that first manuscript, Fran Black of Literary Counsel. She rejected it, but – and here’s the cool part – one day she’d be my agent.
So I wrote a new book and started the process all over again. At the time social media wasn’t as big as it is now. It’s amazing how much has changed in the last few years. So I didn’t connect with agents on Twitter or Facebook. And I didn’t attend pitch sessions or conferences – they just weren’t in the budget. However, these can be invaluable tools – use them.
I continued to heavily rely on research through agentquery.com. One thing I did differently was checking out agents of authors I liked or who had written books similar to my own. Most authors mention their agent/agency in their acknowledgment page and/or provide links on their websites.
When my new manuscript was ready I made sure to contact Fran. We’d established a good working relationship over the course of that first submission. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to always be yourself and always be professional when working with agents. Even when they reject you! You never know what might happen in the future.
At the time, Fran was transitioning her agency and could not accept my manuscript, but we stayed in touch. She even sent my MS on to a couple of publishers, just as a favor.
Several months later, she hired an intern and handed her my MS of BLOOD MOON. The intern, Jenn Mishler, loved the book and sent me the email I’d been waiting for!
I officially signed with Literary Counsel and after some edits we started the process of submitting to publishers, which is more agonizing, mind-numbing, heart-breaking waiting. Much worse than query waiting because you are sooo close.
Fran and Jenn worked tirelessly and kept me in the loop through emails and phone calls. Their input, advice and encouragement were invaluable. A year after signing, when we finally had a book contract, they were just as excited and happy as I was. That says everything to me!
Contracts are confusing, lengthy beasts – agents know them well and it’s their job to protect and get the best deal for the author. Their industry knowledge and connections are also so important and open doors that authors don’t even know exist.
Fran Black and Jenn Mishler, now a full-fledged literary agent, are rockstars. I am so grateful that Fran believed in me from the very beginning, even after reading that terrible first MS. Jenn is so positive, hardworking and a champion of Simon and Willa (my characters in the Moonlight Trilogy). When I’m stuck on plot issues, she volunteers to read my drafts and gives helpful advice.
So in your search for an agent, be patient and persistent. I endured five years of querying and over 100 rejections before things worked out. Each rejection teaches you something – don’t miss that important thing by being angry or depressed. Shrug off the disappointment, eat some chocolate and send more queries.
One day, someone will say yes!