I asked readers on my Facebook page for questions they’d like me to answer on the blog. It seems many are dying to know the secret to getting an agent.
Stephanie asked: What is the single most important thing when approaching an agent?
Aleah asked: What’s the best way for a first time novelist to get their foot in the door with an agent? Where should one start?
These questions always make me feel like the writers are hoping I’ll reveal the secret handshake or code-word that will break down the barriers to getting an agent. I wish it were that easy! But it’s a process, with no shortcuts and no magic. Here are some things you can do:
1. Write a great book. If your book isn’t marketable, nothing else will matter. You’ve got to have a book people want to read, and write it well enough so that reading it is a great experience.
2. Write an effective query letter. It’s crucial that you pitch your book in a way that captures an agent’s attention and makes them want to read it. Crafting a query letter can be a tremendous amount of work, but can make all the difference.
3. Attend writers’ conferences. Make sure there are agents on the conference faculty, and take every opportunity to meet with agents, network with them, and get to know them (without constantly pitching your book). Agents often take on writers after multiple interactions with them—your query is one interaction, a conference could be another.
4. Meet agents online. You’re already doing this by reading and commenting on agent blogs; interacting with agents on Facebook and Twitter. This is not the place to pitch your project; rather, it’s a more informal way of creating relationships. You never know what might come of them down the road.
5. Network with other authors. Eventually a referral from a writer friend might help you get an agent.
6. Be persistent. Don’t query a few agents, get a few rejections, and lose hope. Keep trying. It can take awhile to get an agent.
Lori Ann asked: Do you recommend first time authors (or any, I guess) hire an agent-finding consultant to narrow down and pinpoint the most appropriate agents to pursue with our manuscripts and proposals?
If you don’t have time to research agents, then maybe this would work for you. However, I have a hard time recommending writers spend money on this because there’s no guarantee you will get any return on your investment. Even when you target the exact right agents, it’s still a long shot.
It’s not just about you and your book.
Getting an agent is somewhat a numbers game. It’s an equation of supply and demand. The supply of writers is always far, far greater than the demand. So agents have to choose, and they have to say “no” to a great many worthwhile, marketable books.
Sorry, I couldn’t provide any magic bullets or directions to the secret passageway. Start with a great book, then do everything you can to get it in front of agents. It’s that simple—and that hard.
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Here are some ways to find the agents you want to query: