Finding an agent – how hard can it be?
In truly annoying form, I am going to answer that with another question – how long is a piece of string? For the last year I have been cogitating the question of what to do when I finished my book. My ideal solution would be to find an agent who loves my work and allow them to market it it the best possible way.
As I put in my last post, I’ve been down the Indy route with the band and, although it had great advantages, there was always the nagging doubt that we were missing out. Writing can be an isolating occupation and I enjoy working with people too, so I’m excited about the prospect of working with someone who wants me to succeed as much as I do.
Jab a pencil at it
The idea that you choose an agent to represent you is somewhat misleading. You can make a shortlist of agents you would like to represent you, but there is no guarantee that any of them will want to be your agent. The traditional method goes like this:
- You research agents and identify which agents or agencies deal with ‘your genre’ (finding your genre is a whole other post!)
- You send a query letter to the first of the list and then wait to hear back. After a length of time specified by each agency, you can assume they are not interested and query the next on your list.
- IF they are interested you will then be asked to send in a formal submission. Each agent has different, specific requirements but usually it will be a synopsis, sample chapters and information about you, the book and characters. If you are at this stage make sure you are very clear about what they want you to send and make sure you send it!
- A variation on this would be to send multiple queries. This can save time but can also cause problems if the agent spends time looking at your work only to find you have gone with another agent.
…you could simply write three sentences and send that off via email and find out in less than six weeks whether they wanted to find out more.
Three sentences, you say?
“Submit three compelling sentences (150 words max) about your completed, unpublished manuscript to submissions @ knightagency.net (delete spaces). Write BOOK IN A NUTSHELLin the subject line or it will not be deemed eligible. One submission per project, please. Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work…and it may even lead to possible representation. Hurry, the deadline is April 20, 2009. Winners will be notified by May 1, 2009.”
At last! A chance to by-pass the first part of the process and have a chance at representation by an established agency. I saw it via Twitter and knew that I was going to apply. Only that morning someone on Friendfeed had been asking me about my book and I had given him a short synopsis, which lead to an interesting discussion about the contents of the book! The Knight Agency website is thorough and packed with information for writers and it gave me confidence that they were a great agency to work with, so I duly worked on my three-sentence book description and sent them off thinking I had done a decent job.
What a difference a day makes
I also commented on their website (I like to leave comments – I know how much I like it when people bother to comment on my posts *ahem*) and ticked the box that sent followup comments to my email. And then the other comments started appearing. My inbox kept pinging as more and more people commented on the ‘Book in a Nutshell’ post. Some were from people, like me, congratulating the agency for a bold and inventive move. Many were from writers who were vexed about what they were to send in.
What does “three compelling sentences” really mean?
I simply sent the three sentences, figuring that they were going to receive many, many submissions and brevity was key. After reading the first few comments and the replies from TKA I realised that they were expecting, or at least not penalising, salutations and other information. Ah well. I sent a followup email explaining my interpretation of the rules and apologising if it appeared I had no manners. No harm, no foul.
Keeping things on track
I have been impressed with the responses of TKA to all the queries about what is, and isn’t permissible. They are trying to ensure that everyone is clear about what to do and replying promptly to queries. This is a very encouraging sign and I can tell you – many companies do not respond to queries in this manner. The variety of questions is impressive and it’s clear that this competition is proving to very popular. It will be interesting to see how many submissions they receive and what the outcome will be. Whatever happens it has shown TKA to be a innovative and responsive agency.