YMMV – Part One
So... I promised to write this blog quite some time ago and then got bogged down with doing the requested revisions to STAKED (all done and accepted now), the final draft of my first fantasy novel, plus the maps and synopses for it and the two suggested sequels, and working on a different Urban Fantasy novel, this time a twist on werewolves... but I digress.
Getting an agent:
Before I even get into this, let me very briefly tell why I felt I needed an agent first, and in general why I feel most writers who want to be published by the major US publishers need an agent:
I don’t go to many conventions (most of my vacation time gets spent with family)
I don’t have a lot of time to go to conventions, make contacts, attend pitch sessions,
I don’t live in or near New York
Having said that, and assuming that you want to be represented by a literary agent, I have the following warning: I am not an expert, but I do have a literary agent, so my method has worked once. Also, before you even read the advice below or start looking at lists of agents, go to the Preditors and Editors website at: http://anotherealm.com/preditors/ and read it. This will save you time and very possibly money.
When querying an agent, I used the following rules:
1) Send a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope). They all want one. If you don’t have one, your query may be thrown away. Nearly every site on the internet, every book on getting and agent, and anyone who has and agent will tell you this. If it doesn’t have an SASE, your query might get thrown away unread.
2) Send them what they want. Among other things, this demonstrates your ability to follow instructions. If they don’t want you to submit manuscript material, DON’T SEND ANY. Some agents want none, others want the first five pages, an outline, the first three chapters. For the record, I submitted an email query, was then asked for the first three chapters, and then the balance of the manuscript and a synopsis. Yes, the wait is maddening, but if you don’t give it to them the way they want it, they might not even read it and again… straight into the garbage.
3) Make sure you have an idea what they are looking for. Some have only one requirement: fantastic writing. But you can have the best idea for a Werewolf Transsexual Self-Help Mystery ever and it means nothing if you submit it to an agent that is only accepting Young Adult Caterpillar Thrillers. If your potential agent has a list on a website of likes and dislikes, so much the better. Play those aspects of your submission up, but do it honestly. After all, if you pitch that Werewolf Transsexual Self-Help Mystery to the Young Adult Caterpillar Thrillers agent as the biggest, most fantastic, touching Caterpillar Thriller of them all… and it isn’t... you’ll just piss them off. That is NOT how you want to get word of mouth started.
4) Prevail. What do I mean by that? Do not send one query out, get one rejection and stop. That’s just plain lazy, though it used to be how I did things until I got serious about getting published. It’s very humbling to be sitting at home after work and realize that the reason your dream hasn’t come true yet is because you haven’t mustered enough effort to make it come true… very humbling indeed.
5) Keep your commitments. If you tell your agent you will have something to them by X date, have it to them by X date. I usually try for X-1, if at all possible.
I’m sure there is more advice I should be giving on this subject, but that’s all I have for now.
As always, your mileage may vary. Just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it’s the “best” way. You have talents and abilities that I don’t have, a spark that makes you different. Use your strengths.
Oh and one last note:
Spell the agent’s name correctly on your query letter…