Sunday, November 8, 2009

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet. I'm Hunting Agents

Stop running for the nearest hidey hole, agents. I'm not hunting you THAT way. No, like many others out there, I'm looking for an agent to represent me. It's a daunting task, especially right now when the publishing business is in such a state of flux. There are times when the hunt makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and stop writing. That lasts for about 5 minutes, the length of time for my bruised ego to pick itself up and ping Sarah or Kate who will commiserate for a few minutes and then tell me to get back to work. Then there are those wonderful notes from agents who, even though they are rejecting me, have a word of encouragement, a recommendation or even a note to send them something else because they like my writing but this particular project just didn't sing loudly enough for them.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Maybe there's something in the water or in the phase of the moon, but it seems like there's been a spate of author's doing their best to sabotage their attempts to find an agent. For those of you like me who are still on the hunt, here are a few hints from some agents and others who have blogged on the issue this past week.

Rachelle Gardner has this piece of advice:

What trait can stop you from getting an agent?
In a word:
Negativity.
If you're negative about the publishing industry; if you complain about agents and publishers and the unfairness of it all; if you're resentful about
bad books being published; if you speak disparagingly of specific publishers or editors or agents... you can be pretty sure most agents will not want to work with you.

Jennifer Jackson had this to say:

Query letters in which you tell me that your book can't possibly be appreciated in the mere five pages our submission guidelines request so therefore you have sent me many unsolicited chapters do not endear you or your novel to me. They tell me you have no respect for the other writers submitting. I have news for you. Some of them are better writers than you are. Some of them are worse. Many of them may not be writing something I want to read. But they are all just as special as you are. They have worked hard and finished their novel. They are amazing for doing that. Each and every one of them. Don't you think I know that five pages isn't enough to fully appreciate a story? Certainly anyone could agree with that sentiment. But that's not the point of the query package. It's a presentation. An invitation to read. To be enticed.

She goes on to thank those authors who take the time to read the guidelines and send only what is asked for.

Lucienne Diver adds this: There is still an etiquette, there are still boundaries and procedures, and while doing your research means you’ll be targeting the right people with your work, it should not get to the point where you feel you know them so well you can bypass those procedures. Remember, they don’t necessarily know you. . . .

She previously posted "Querying Dos and Don'ts", but adds another several things to her list:

-don’t call the agent or editor by his or her first name unless you’re truly on a first name basis

-spend at least as much time on your query letter as you would on a cover letter to go along with your resume

-spell check and proof read

-make sure you’re following guidelines and do not direct the pros to a separate website to view your work; everything we need to make a decision should be included with your query

-be sure the pro can respond to the e-mail address you’ve used if sending an electronic query (Note: this seems obvious, but I’ve had responses bounce because the address is no reply or because there’s an anti-spam process I’m not going to take the time to complete.)

Another site to check out is Lauren Dane's Writerly Wednesday. Ms. Dane is right when she says:

This is a profession. You are not so special you can simply toss off a nasty note to an editor who rejects you, or talk about it on a blog, blaming that editor for not seeing your brilliance – and expect anything positive to come from it. This is a community. You don’t have to like every part of it, you don’t have to take any crap from people either, but how you handle yourself, how you respond is as important as your writing. There are a hundred other writers happy to take any space you leave at an agency or publisher with your bad behavior. Personal relationships are important in publishing just like many other professions.

Be a professional. Do your bitching behind closed doors, lick your wounds and move on.

That being said, how do you deal with rejections?

Me, I kick and scream and feel sorry for myself. BUT, and this is a very big but, I stay away from the REPLY button on email until my emotions are under control. I rarely send thank you notes because, frankly, agents have enough email and snail mail to contend with as it is. However, I make exceptions for those who have been particularly supportive or helpful. I want them to know how much I appreciate them going the extra mile even if they haven't offered representation. I also make note of those agents who, even though their websites say they are open for new clients, habitually send rejections less than an hour after receipt -- especially when the queries met all published guidelines.

One last question. How do you go about choosing what agent to query and how do you then prepare for that initial and oh-so-difficult introduction by mail (or email)?

9 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Good post, Amanda.

Those agents are tricky fish to land!

Kate said...

Er... technique? Planning? I must be in the wrong place.

My method, such as it is, is the same as I use for submissions. Is accepting? Yes. Is looking for more or less what I have? Yes. OK, panic.

Thus far it's performed perfectly. By the time I finish panicking, there's something that wants written now banging on the door so that query gets delayed some more.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, thanks. It always amazes me when I read how folks try to argue with agents after being rejected. And yes, they are tricky fish to land. Hopefully one will take the bait soon and I can reel him in ;-)

Amanda Green said...

Kate, ha! I repeat, HA! I know you better than that. You research and agonize over your query and submission pages -- just as I do. You also know the importance of, and take advantage of, the opportunities to meet agents at cons.

And yes, you do send out and then panic. I know because you keep trying to crowd into the cupboard under the sink with me as I'm hiding and panicking after sending my work off.

So, have you sent anything off lately>?

Kate said...

Er. Um. Guilty?

You left out the "harass Sarah" part. It always helps to have a mentor who'll put up with freaking newbies obsessing over every little thing.

Amanda Green said...

Uh, I thought that was Sarah harassing us because we aren't sending out something every week...oops, did I say that out loud?

Kate said...

Amanda,

I think the answer to that one is "yes"

Matt said...

Hey, great round-up of good advice. I missed quite a few of these. Thanks!

Amanda Green said...

Matt, glad I had some links there you hadn't seen. Do you have any recommendations for writing related blogs I ought to be following?