The process of seeking agent representation

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  1. #1

    The process of seeking agent representation

    I'm not sure if this is the right place, but I couldn't find a section of the forum specific to agent representation so I figured I would post here.

    I have finished my manuscript (genre: thriller) and am in the final editing stage (fourth complete edit). Sometime after the first of the year I intend to begin the process of contacting potential agents about representation. I have written my query letter. I have written a five-page synopsis, but still need to write shorter versions (probably one-, two- and three-page versions). I have compiled a list of a little more than 60 agents from different agencies and have ranked them from what I feel are best fit to, not worst but, least perfect fit.

    Can those of you that have been through the process of searching for agent representation offer any suggestions, tips, successful steps taken,mistakes to avoid, personal experience, etc. that can help me as I head bravely, but undoubtedly obliviously, down this path?

  2. #2
    I hope you understand that agents are a business, and taking on an author entails seeing a profit in the near term. Their decisions are based on what they see as a moveable product, like any business, depending on the reader audience. To find what each believe to be such, they scan thousands of queries a year.

    As to you boiling a five page synopsis down to one, two, or three page versions, take a look at what most agents are willing to look at. Many state on their site submission guidelines that they want an initial query that is one page total (two is stretching it). This initial query needs to catch their attention even to be fully read, and generally must include a hook, a brief synopsis that sets your book apart, a brief bio maybe (at least any writing credits and training, they aren't interested in your life story), and possibly any marketing/branding avenues you can use. You should also succinctly note your appreciation for them taking the time to review your query. As to marketing/branding avenues you can use, examples are Twitter and Facebook handles they might look at if interested, to see how effective you are at garnering others' attention.

    You're switching hats here, from a book author to a business letter writer. Employ what you've learned about catching others' attention, but make it business like.

    If you haven't already seen them, you might read the following (at least the first one):

    In short, use Google to not only find agents to query, but more importantly to learn what makes for a good query letter. Having done that, carefully note what each agent specifically requests.

    Best of luck.

    PS: With a new book being published (traditionally and self-published) every fifteen seconds, one has to really bust their ass to get noticed. The many self-published books that aren't all that great give self-publishing a bad name, but their are gems among such that agents/publishers didn't see enough of a market for. Personally, I've started, but dropped, a good number of traditionally published books that "catered" to current reading interests/levels.
    Last edited by LeeC; November 27th, 2017 at 07:56 PM.

    Hidden Content

    The simplest truths are written on the wall,
    where we see imaginary greatness in our fall.

  3. #3
    You haven't mentioned finding beta readers. I recommend you have the manuscript beta read by a couple people, one at a time, so as to pick up on things you missed.

    I don't have any practical experience with finding an agent, but I think you might want a shorter synopsis.

    How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter -NY Book Editors https://ny A query letter is a one-page letter sent to literary agents in an effort to get them excited about your book. You have one page and 300 words (or less) to woo a literary agent into falling in love with your story and then requesting your manuscript.
    Good luck with your project!

  4. #4
    I'm in the same boat; looking for an agent. I've been an Indie writer for years now, and would keep being an Indie if it weren't for the fact that all the marketing is keeping me from writing. And although I have read a number of books on writing queries, I still think mine are terrible.

    maybe we should start a thread where the gang picks apart our queries. That could be educational actually. Writing effective queries is a lot like writing the jacket text: harder than writing the damned book!

  5. #5
    Ye olde elevator pitch. Learn it, burnish it. Put the book in their hands verbally.
    I'm currently unagented but my last agent was found by asking others who they recommended or who represented them. This is probably a good approach for a genre writer. Then you can name-drop.

    "Greetings, ___________

    I'm a writer of (insert genre) novels, with several book-length manuscripts, and I'd be interested in your parameters for representation. ___________ recommended that I approach you.

    Sincerely, __________ "

    Keep it simple. Give them what they ask for. Don't go bio or previous pubs unless the agent asks for that information.

    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I'm in the same boat; looking for an agent. I've been an Indie writer for years now, and would keep being an Indie if it weren't for the fact that all the marketing is keeping me from writing. And although I have read a number of books on writing queries, I still think mine are terrible.

    maybe we should start a thread where the gang picks apart our queries. That could be educational actually. Writing effective queries is a lot like writing the jacket text: harder than writing the damned book!
    We have a whole forum for that!
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel

    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

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  7. #7
    When I was looking, it was helpful for me to think of the process in distinct stages, rather than one long blur. I broke it down into tasks...

    The job of the initial query is to get the agent to read the first chapters. (This means the query doesn't need to be a 100% accurate depiction of the story - it shouldn't be a LIE, but if, for example, your novel has six MCs, it might be a good idea to only follow one of their stories in the query. The query is a sales tool, not a book report).

    Then the job of the first chapters is to get the agent to request and read the full MS. You've got to make sure you get the reader hooked early and well.

    Then the job of the full MS is to get the agent to think she can sell your story to a good publisher.

    If you send out your queries in small batches, which I think is really important, you can analyze your results and get some idea of where things are going wrong (assuming you don't get offers immediately). If you get instant rejections or no responses, there's something wrong with your query. If you get requests for the first chapters, your query has done its job. (This stage is a bit less clear now that so many agents ask for the first chapters to be included in the query, obviously). If you get requests for the first chapters but no requests for the full, then there's probably an issue with your first chapters. If you get requests for the full but no offers of representation, then you know your query was okay, your first chapters were okay, but things fell apart later in the book.

    And I think a lot of agents who ask for fulls will give at least some feedback if they reject, which you could then act on if you choose to. This is another reason to send queries out in batches rather than all at once - if you get good feedback from early batches you can switch things around for later queries.

  8. #8
    A lot of good advice, and as somebody in a similar situation to you I cannot offer an expert opinion. However...

    I did not find the query letter process that bad once I got over the psychological magnitude of it. I mean, its only a letter when all is said and done.

    For my query letter I basically cheated and pulled a bunch of successful ones from online (there's tons), following which I found a format I was comfortable with and rewrote it for my work.

    The main thing is to really polish it. Avoid pretentiousness but do try to sell the work. Don't dwell on stuff that might be a negative (such as lack of published experience) or even really mention it, but focus on what you do have. Obviously the text itself is the main thing, so spend 80-90% on exactly that. Make sure you cover all the key points, are clear about the genre and target readership. If writing it involved research, mention the research you did and the ways you did it. I did a lot of interviewing for my book so I was pleased to brag about all the time I spent on trying to capture authenticity. Mainly, though, this is an elevator pitch for a book - not a resume or a plea. Be frank, be enthusiastic, be honest and be engaging.

    Also do proof check. If you fuck up your query letter even slightly on any aspect of SPAG or general style it goes into the trash no questions asked. You might get away with a small typo in the full manuscript, but you will not on a one page letter.

  9. #9
    A lot of good advice. If I were to cherry-pick your next steps.

    Get your MS beta read, and nail your synopsis to a skeleton one pager.

    Are you UK or USA based because the approach to agents differs?

  10. #10
    Agents do ask for different-length synopses, or at least they did when I was querying... but I guess that was three or four years ago...

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