Nabbing and Keeping an Agent

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Thread: Nabbing and Keeping an Agent

  1. #1
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Now in Sylvania, Alabama
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    Nabbing and Keeping an Agent

    Get ready to submit to an agent when you have a completed, polished manuscript, an intro query letter, a full synopsis, a little bio paragraph, credit list, some social media links and maybe a brief marketing plan.

    I just found out about a year ago that series really DO sell. I didn't think it was necessary, or all that popular. Five months ago I went kicking and screaming on a writing rampage because my agent suggested I take my YA Screamcatcher book and make it into a trilogy. Actually it had crossed my mind. I'd never done a series before. The results: I finished it and it sold. I couldn't be happier. You really HAVE to love your characters enough to see them through to this length. You have to perform a little bit of sewing to tie the books together. But...alas! You can use a little magic and make them stand-alones at the same time!

    I read where a professional stated that three agent queries a month was just fine. I disagree about three agent queries a month--if that's what the poster was actually suggesting. It will be years to find an agent with such a tepid sub outlay. Do you normally quit around 100 or 135 agents? That is more like a satisfactory expenditure of agent submissions. I know no one who subs that little (three a month) to agents. And did they really say wait one month and move on? Oh fiddle-e-dee--give me a break. You might not hear from an agent for three or four months or even longer.

    I'm at the different end of the spectrum; I use Guerrilla tactics but I don't recommend you do this: I subbed to 440 agents in a span of three weeks--a full-on blow out. I kid you not, there are that many thriller/suspense agents out there. I left hard mail subs off my list. Within five months I had four offers. I took the best quality A-list agent from the stack. Finito. Done. Finished. It was that fast and effective. Of course, you BETTER have a bullet proof query/synopses with a mind-bending premise and irresistible hook. Give it a tag line right up front like you would a movie script and be rewarded extra points for that. Tag line? Look it up.

    Here's what I put in the left margin of my query, synopsis, three chapter sample, or even full manuscript. If required, add your social media links. At a glance, the agent can see exactly what I have and who I am:

    Chris Stevenson
    18857 County Road 29 # 6
    Sylvania, Alabama 35988
    Phone—(256) 000-0000

    [email protected]
    Genre: Espionage Thriller (Adult)

    Pages: 325
    Words: 85,000
    Agent: Susie Cutie

    Where and what in the land of Goshin is your bio and credit history? Are you supposed to leave that out if you have nothing? Let me show you how to make something out of nothing and you tell me you can't do the same thing. And believe me, I'm a paltry example.

    ETA: You know where you can put this example? Right below your query or synopsis.


    Auto Repair Shams and Scams (Forward--Ralph Nader), 1990, Price Stern & Sloan, Los Angeles--226 pages, non-fiction, consumer warning and repair book.
    Garage Sale Mania, 1988, Betterway Publications, Crozet, Virginia--190 pages, non-fiction—1988.
    Word Wars, a SF novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—May, 2007.
    Once Upon a Goddess, a Fantasy novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—January, 2008
    Planet Janitor; Custodian of the Stars, a SF novel sold to Engage Books, May 2009
    The War Gate—paranormal thriller to Pen and Press—August, 2012
    Gate Walker, a Paranormal Fantasy, sold to Lyrical Press—January, 2009.
    The Wolfen Strain, a fantasy thriller sold to LBF Books, February 2009
    The Girl They Sold to the Moon, a YA dystopia, to Intrigue Publishing 2014
    Planet Janitor, Omnibus Edition Reprint, Engage Books, March 2016
    Blackmailed Bride, erotic romance to Melange Books, Jan 2018
    Screamcatcher: Web World, Book 1, Melange Fire & Ice YA—March 2019
    Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers, Book 2, Melange Fire & Ice YA—March 2019
    Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye, Book 3, Melange Fire & Ice YA—March 2019

    “Stella” by Starlight, to Amazing Stories, 1988.
    The Lonely Astronaut, to Amazing Stories, 1988.
    Temperamental Circuits, to Gordon Linzner of Space & Time, 1989.
    Things that go Clump in the Night, to Richard Fawcett of Doppelganger, 1989.
    Dance the Macabre and Dance it Well, to Erskine Carter of Ouroborous, 1989.
    Future School, to Chris Bartholomew of Static Movement, January 2006.
    The Incredible Mr. Dandy, to Not One of Us.
    Planet Janitor: The Moon is not Enough, to Enage Books, 2012
    Planet Janitor: Journey Interrupted, to Engage Books, 2012
    Other magazine appearances from 1988 to 1991 include, Alpha Adventures, Small Press Writers and Artists Organization and Sycophant.

    The Summit, 15-minute horror play to Night Sounds, Embassy Cassette Inc, Santa Ana, California—1990
    Night of the Moa, 13-minute horror play to Night Sounds, Embassy Cassette Inc, Santa Ana, California—1990.

    Finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest for Temperamental Circuits, 1987. First place, grand prize for The Girl They Sold to the Moon—in the Entranced YA novel writing competition—cash prize.

    350 newspaper profiles, stories, and interviews to Sunset Publishing, Anaheim, California, appearing in The West Coast Jewish News, The Senior Citizens Reporter and The Military Review. From 1988 to 1991. Seven automotive and home and garden articles to Dollar Stretcher Magazine, from 12-2-2011 to 2-28-2012. Eight science articles to Xiauduo Media, for Chinese translation( 8 -14 year-old audience)—Astronomy, new transportation technology, space, exoplanets, future spaced ship drives, big bang theory and inflation.

    I have written and published over 1,750 non-fiction automotive, aircraft, marine, home and garden and science articles for Demand Media Studios under the Beta-Automotive and E-How stations. Six automotive articles to—6-2012. Published. 440 automotive and general articles to TextBroker--2014—plumbing, gardening, home improvement, home utilities, electricity--Content writing for a total of three years.

    Served as content editor for Sunset Publication (see above) for three years. Responsible for all writing assignment content, filler and artwork.
    President and founder of Heartland Writers Group, Huntington Beach, California, from 1987 to 1991.

    Past agent--Richard Curtis Associates, from 1988 to 1991.
    Past agent—TriadaUS (Dr. Uwe Stender), from 2005 to August 2009
    Present agent—Sara Camilli Agency

    Iron Maiden an adult military espionage thriller.
    Valley of the Mastodons, a non-fiction book involving the Ice Age megafauna discoveries in Hemet, California, during the Diamond Valley reservoir dig in 1994--1997. Proposal, chapter outline, and 100 pages available upon request
    Dispossessed Incorporated, an urban ghost fantasy with time travel.
    The Omega Wars—SF, apocalyptic alien invasion (Sequel to PJ)
    Screamcatcher (Web World, Dream Chasers, The Shimmering Eye), A YA fantasy trilogy about teenage paranormal investigators. (ALL ARE SOLD)
    Earth Angel, a paranormal cop thriller.
    Sky High—YA dystopian thriller—Logan’s Run/Hunger Games mash-up.
    The Wonders of the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits—a children’s chapter book about the Ice Age and the megafauna entrapment—told in a nonfiction/storytelling format.

    Do you see any category in there that would include your history or even general writing interests? You SCRATCH deep for anything you have that is writing related. No one has nothing. That's impossible. BTW--your bio is a one-paragraph recap of your personal life--your name, location, work history, degrees, if you love hamsters and such things. I'm sterile. I don't include a bio--with me it's all business. If I must add a bio, it's very short.

    It's perfectly acceptable to contact your agent about every 30 to 40 days. You're not being intrusive with that frequency. Once you hook up with an agent, you can usually call and discuss things over the phone, UNLESS, your agent prefers email. The exception would be if you are both in discussions about revisions or a contract offer. With a bidding war you might never get off the phone!

    Are you worried about writing the second book for the agent? Here's a controversial tip you'll seldom hear: ask your agent what's hot and are any publishers looking for something specific. Publishers ask agents this all the time. The agent will evaluate one of his/her writers and ask them if they would like to take a leap of faith. I've been assigned twice. If you have the chops to write in most genres, or excel in one, and your agent singles you out for a stylistic fit, you just might give it a go. Talk about putting your finger to the pulse--this one takes guts. It is NOT trend chasing.

    The normal production route: getting an agent is not as difficult as keeping one. That means you write your butt off and have a new book ready to go after your agent has exhausted all attempts at selling your first one via one, two or three rounds. My agent took my entire inventory. I was lucky she'd sold and dealt with the multiple genres I write in. If you time it right, you'll have a book making the rounds all year long, year after year. Start a second book right after your agent takes your first one.

    REPEAT: You don't want a one-book agent if you can help it. You don't want a cheap date. You want a marriage ceremony. You want an agent to invest in your career. That demonstrates their faith in you.

    I really don't think the Twitter calls are a waste of time. I know too many authors who participate in them and many get picked up or get solid feedback. Those hash tag ones, you know? The pitches and call outs.

    Now, wait a minute about new agents who are intent on building a stable but have NO fiction credits or very little. I'm sorry--agents who have been in the industry for eight years plus and live in NYC or near by are on a friendship-face-to-face basis with dozens of A-list publishers and routinely use the phone (or dinner) to intro a book and get FULL manuscripts read. This also includes big agencies that live in other states. Check their sales history, staff, genres covered and best-seller status and frequency (if any). Go for the gusto first. Then work your way down. My list is A-List, B-List and C-List agents.

    There's nothing wrong with a new, enthusiastic agent that will really go to bat for you and try and pull a sale. It can happen. That's your choice. You really need to speak with those types more and ask many questions.

    Don't send agents gifts out of the blue. Seasonal cards are an exception.

    Gobble up any critique suggestions you get and use the rule of 3. If three or more agents discuss the same problem you have in the manuscript, take it to heart. They've probably got you nailed to the wall. This goes for major R&R, grammar, syntax, POV, show not tell, passive, plot, theme, execution, adverbs/adjectives and any other nasty little trouble makers. You can rewrite and resubmit to new agents, unless an agent wants an R & R. That is a revise and resubmit according to their critique. Hint: take your deliberate time on any R & R request. Go deep and slow, not fast and shallow.

    You better keep a spreadsheet/database of all your agent submissions including query, partial or full and the date of all contacts with them.

    Do not protest a rejection. Read it and file it away. You can get a form rejection, a form rejection with notes, a critique letter and even, dear God Almighty, a red-lined manuscript WITHOUT representation. Savor it. They took the time which shows you have promise.

    Do not refer your friends for representation to your agency even though you might have that power as an agented author. I get asked that one a lot. You might run across a potential best-seller written by a friend, but ask your agent first if they'd be interested in perusing it.

    I could go on and on...but I have to stop. I'll have some more guerrilla tactics on this subject later.

    Keep writing and reading and submit till hell won't have it.
    Blog: Guerilla Warfare For Writers:Hidden Content

    Amazon Page: Hidden Content
    Christy's Young Adult Fabuliers: Hidden Content

  2. #2
    So, sounds like a plan. I am tempted by the carpet bombing approach, but as you say, the query needs be pretty damn good. Others have said do ten if no nibbles tweak the query and cast again.

    Anyway, to the nub. I have a query, as yet untested. Any chance you could give it a once over for me? @Chris Stevenson

  3. #3
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    Now in Sylvania, Alabama
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    Hi, Francis. I'll take a stab at it. PM here and I'll give you my email address and you can send it in the body of the email. Or, would it work in a message here? I'm a little rusty--haven't been to my groups lately.
    Blog: Guerilla Warfare For Writers:Hidden Content

    Amazon Page: Hidden Content
    Christy's Young Adult Fabuliers: Hidden Content

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stevenson View Post
    Hi, Francis. I'll take a stab at it. PM here and I'll give you my email address and you can send it in the body of the email. Or, would it work in a message here? I'm a little rusty--haven't been to my groups lately.
    That’s great. I have sent it in a PM. Really appreciate your help.

  5. #5
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Now in Sylvania, Alabama
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    Yes, got it and answered it. Doesn't look too bad at all.
    Blog: Guerilla Warfare For Writers:Hidden Content

    Amazon Page: Hidden Content
    Christy's Young Adult Fabuliers: Hidden Content

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