Posts Tagged ‘agentquery.com’

Literary Agent Blogs

September 22, 2011

I attend a lot of writers’ conferences. Most of the people I meet there, not surprisingly, are looking for agents. You can always find well-attended classes and workshops that have to do with the steps the writer must take to find an agent; subjects  like:  making effective pitches, how to compose  query letters, and how to write non-fiction book proposals.  A lot of the readers of my blog are looking for answers to help them get published. I try to do that, but frequently I seem to indulge myself in rants of one sort or another. I thought it might be nice to talk a bit about some other agent blogs. It’s a good way to get the kind of information you are looking for and to learn a little more about how agents think. There is a  longer  list of agent blogs along with other publishing and writing related blogs at Agentquery.com.

 Here are some agent blogs that I think  are pretty good and have a lot of substance.

 Guide To Literary Agents.    Chuck Sambuchino is the blogmeister of this extremely popular blog for writers sponsored by Writers Digest. His site has lots of interviews and posts of agents talking about their life and work . It also includes guest posts by writers giving tips on how they found their agent. It is one of the most widely read blogs about publishing.

 Nathan Bransford.   Nathan was a literary agent for many years until he left last year for greener pastures in the tech industry. He is still an indefatigable blogger on all matters related to book publishing.  This blog won the best publishing industry blog in 2009.  Check it out.

 Rachelle Gardner.   I love this blog. It has  sound tips and advice.  But a lot of blogs have that.  Rachelle’s personality really shows through. She has warmth and a very encouraging manner.  Rachelle is relatively new to agenting. She started in 2007. She is associated with Wordserve Literary Agency in Denver. She specializes in the Christian market. But at least one Jewish – secularist- humanist- former Berkeley radical agent (me) really likes this blog.  

 Laurie McClean Agent Savant.   Ask the Agent had a great interview with Laurie last year about genre fiction. Laurie specializes in this. In case you didn’t know, “genre fiction” is a term of art for: romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and thrillers. She also works in teen fiction. Agent Savant is filled with tips and thoughts about writing and publishing in this genre. When I need information about genre fiction, I always go to Laurie for advice.

 I’d be interested in hearing from you what you think of these agent blogs and if you have others to recommend.

 

 

 

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9 Tips for Effective Query Letters

November 28, 2010

 

I give a lot of classes and presentations at writers’ groups and conferences. Whenever I do, I get questions about how to write effective query letters.  You can find advice about writing queries floating around the Internet and in magazines like Writer’s Digest.  So this information is widely available. I see a lot of misinformation and bad advice as well. It usually comes from people who promise sure fire success getting published if only the writer will  follow a certain technique. Don’t buy that for one minute. The only road to success in publishing (and it is by no means sure fire) is by working on good projects, writing it well, and having the platform to get attention by an audience of readers. There is no kabalistic knowledge of query technique that will bring you closer to getting an agent. 

These tips are what work for me. Other agents will likely see things differently.

1)      Do your research in preparing your submission list. There are over  2000 literary agents listed in Publishers Marketplace. Most of them specify the subject areas they are seeking. You can find it on their websites or on databases like:  Association of Author Representatives   and Agentquery.com. Don’t waste your time and theirs sending queries to agents who aren’t interested in your genre.

2)      Always do multiple submissions. The odds for finding an agent through unsolicited queries isn’t so great, so you might as well maximize your chances. I get about 3000 queries a year. Out of that number I probably will respond to about 50 asking to look at their   proposals. From that number I might take on 5 as clients (probably less, really).  And I might succeed in getting one published. Agents’ decisions are subjective.  Harry Potter was rejected by lots of agents.

3)      Follow agents’ submission guidelines. This might also be on the  agent databases mentioned above , but it will always be on agents’ websites. Specifically look to see whether the agent wants queries by email or post, and what and how much information they want included . Some agents will even specify what words to use in the subject heading of the email.

4)      Keep the query short. I like less than half page for the entire query. Save the rest of the information for the book proposal. Remember that agents are getting hundreds of unsolicited queries a month. Chances are that they will be spending about 10 seconds deciding whether they want to follow up with you. Make sure those 10 seconds are used effectively  to find the information the agent needs.

 5)      Answer the key questions: What? Why? Who? What is the genre? What is the book about? Why does it need to be published? Who am I to have the authority to write it? And remember that in this day and age “platform” is everything in commercial publishing, so most agents will look for your qualifications first.

 6)      Be professional and sound professional. Writing for publication is a business as well as an art. Familiarize yourself with the proper terminology and terms of art in  publishing. When you specify the genre of your project in the query, make sure you know what the standard genres are. More than once I have received queries that begin: “This book is a narrative non-fiction novel.”  This is not an impressive way to start a query.

 7)      Be transparent. Avoid hype. After hearing thousands of pitches, agents (and publishers) have pretty good bullshit detectors. A query brimming with hyperbole sends a message to me that the author is either imbued with grandiose delusions or playing me for a fool. Neither of these messages bodes well for a happy author-agent relationship.

 8)      Be patient. As we have mentioned above, agents get hundreds of queries a month. Responding to them is not always the highest priority of an agent. Some agents are not even interested  in new clients and  accordingly may  not respond  at all to your query. You can usually determine this by looking at their submission guidelines in the databases. I try to respond within a week, but I don’t always succeed and I am in the minority on this. If you don’t hear back, assume that the answer is “no”.

 9)      Writing queries isn’t very hard. Chances are that you didn’t need to read this list of tips to write an effective query. Agents are all looking for good projects that have a chance of finding a publisher.  We aren’t going to reject one of those projects because the query diverges from a desired format. If you have a great idea and are the right person to write it, I’m going to discover that regardless of the form of the query.