Last weekend, I blogged about the things I wished I'd known before writing my first novel. That started me thinking about how you can find all sorts of advice, some good and a whole lot more bad, on the internet. One of the blogs I follow on a regular basis is Janet Reid's blog. Ms. Reid is an agent with Fine Print Literary Management -- and no, she's not my agent -- and she has not only her own blog, but she also has Query Shark where you can send your query to be posted and critiqued by her.
One of the things I like about Ms. Reid's blog is that she tells it like it is, at least as far as she's concerned as an agent. Along that line, she's written series of blog entries on Rules for Writers. And no, these are not rules to break...at least not often.
- Be ready. Despite what you might have heard, whenever you are attending a convention or workshop where you might be pitching your work to an agent or editor, have your pages with you. Have them in your car, in your hotel room, even in your briefcase in case the agent or editor asks to see them. Of course, you need to wait until they ask for the pages and then you need to find out if they want the pages now or if they want you to send the pages either via email or USPS.
- Be reachable. Don't do like I did the first time I sent off pages and list the wrong phone number or email address, etc. In my defense, we had just changed the phone number after years with the same one. Still, it was embarrassing to have to contact the editor and tell him I'd made such a stupid mistake. So, check to make sure you have the right address, phone number, email address and even blog address or web page address all listed. Don't run the risk of an agent or editor really liking your work and then not being able to reach you.
- Be brave. This is probably the most important advice Ms. Reid gives, and the piece I fail at the most. The first time to be brave, according to Ms. Reid, is to get up, get out of the house and go to a con or workshop, whether you know anyone else who is going or not. Take your pages. Take part in the critique sessions and don't let what anyone -- be they other participants, an agent or an editor -- make you give up. Listen to what they say, take notes and then see if what they say will actually make your piece better. Then either work to make those pages the best they can be or, if necessary, move on to the next piece, remembering what you learned from the critique.
- Be polite. It seems simple enough, doesn't it? But I'm sure everyone out there who has ever received a rejection has felt the same knee-jerk reaction I have. You want to respond to the agent or editor and ask why they rejected your baby. Hopefully, common sense wins out in those situations and you file the rejections away and get to work on your next story or novel. If not, remember what Ms. Reid says. The quickest way to be rejected or fired by an agent is to be rude to any member of her staff.
- Be imperfect. I'll admit, this one stumped me at first. Then I read what Ms. Reid had to say. She wasn't telling prospective clients to send in work that hadn't been spell-checked or didn't follow agency guidelines. Far from it. To paraphrase, if you insist on being perfect in your writing, you will wind up never writing anything. Or, you'll write but you will never feel it is ready to send out. So, instead of focusing on being perfect, focus instead on doing the best you can and remember you're human. So you can't be perfect.
- Be wary. Very simply, when looking for an agent, remember that they need to have contacts in the industry. As Ms. Reid says, "this industry runs on who you know. An agent who doesn't know anyone is worse than useless. It's ok to ask who do you know to a prospective agent asking to represent your work particularly if the agent is new and doesn't yet have much of a sales record."
Also, while you're cruising around Blogger, check out Dave's latest posts about his upcoming move at Flinders Family Freer.