Agents may seem like an elite society, one that’s closed off to the general public, but they aren’t. They’re very busy and have individual interests, and will only select novels they enjoy and think will sell, but they are looking for that next novel. Here’s some things you should know:
- Complete manuscript. Make sure your manuscript is complete before you query an agent. If an agent requests a full manuscript, it’d be a major bummer to not have one ready. It’s rare for an agent to even request a full, so if and when it happens, be ready.
- Do your homework. Know what the agent represents before you send them your query. If they’re into comedy, don’t send them a dark and gritty story that has no comic relief. Also, try to keep up to date with what agents want. What they were looking for last year, they probably aren’t still looking for this year
- No fees. You don’t pay agents. They look at your submission, decide if they’re interested, and then choose to either represent you or not. They get a slice of your book deal. If an agent asks for a reading fee, don’t give it to them. In fact, don’t continue to contact them. They’re either a scam artist or are really bad at their job.
- Be professional. Your query needs to look good. No spelling errors. No grammatical issues. Make sure to include word count, genre, book title (in all caps), and a way to contact you. And don’t send an angry email to an agent when they reject you (and if you are like most people, you will get rejected). It’s not personal. The agent doesn’t know you, and they know very little about your book. They just weren’t interested in what they read.
- The Reminder. Sometimes you’ll send out your query and hear nothing from an agent. Most agents will give an estimated response time (i.e.- 6-8 weeks). If you don’t hear anything from them in that time frame, send a very concise and polite reminder email. (Waiting a week or two after the estimated response time doesn’t hurt either.) However, if you don’t hear anything after that, then it’s time to write the agent off.
- Social Media. In today’s world, social media is important, whether you want it to be or not. Agents are on social media, which is a good thing. You can follow them on Twitter, see what they up to in agent interviews, find out how to query them via their website, and find out if they’re going to be at any upcoming writing conferences. Also, get active on social media. It’s very unusual for an author to not be an active member of today’s social media scene.
- Agents aren’t required. You don’t need an agent to get published. You can self publish or go straight to a publishing house (though this is more for small publishers). Agents may make your life easier (I said may), but you won’t be ostracized for getting published without an agent.
All in all, the relationship between an agent and an author is give and take. If the relationship isn’t synergetic, then that agent may not be right for you.
Querying agents is usually a long process. You send out ten, fifteen queries at a time, each one crafted for a specific agent, each one checked countless times for errors. Then, you wait. And wait. Finally, you get a response.
“Thanks for thinking of me! I’m afraid this project isn’t a fit for what I am currently looking for, but I wish you the best of luck in finding a perfect home for it.”
So, you wait. And wait some more. Another response.
“Thanks so much for your query. I’d love to keep reading! Can you please send me the full manuscript?”
Whoot! You send off your manuscript. About two months later you get another e-mail from the same agent. This is where it gets interesting. The e-mail isn’t a rejection, but it’s not asking you to sign with the agent either. What it is, is an R&R, a revise and resubmit.
Yes! This means the agent likes your work enough to invest time in writing detailed notes on it. Now, don’t skim through the R&R letter and jump into making changes. This is your last chance to get this agent to sign with you.
So, what should you do if you get an R&R?
- Send an acknowledgement e-mail. Let the agent know that you received his/her R&R. Thank them for the feedback and say you’re working on the revisions, or ask for time to think about the revisions if you’re unsure you agree with the way the agent wants to take the novel. If you say you’re going to think about the revisions, then let the agent know in a few days whether or not you’re going to tackle them.
- Read the R&R notes multiple times. Read them when you get the e-mail, then walk away. Wait a day and read them again. On your second reading, highlight the major changes, the ones that you feel you should have thought of.
- Re-Read the entire manuscript. Read your novel without editing. Take notes, but don’t edit. This will give you a fresh perspective, especially if you haven’t read your novel in awhile.
- Organize. After reading your novel, take the notes you made and the R&R and compare them. Highlight the most important changes (the major ones).
- Revise. Go through and revise. Don’t rush. Agents aren’t expecting the manuscript back in a few days. After revising, read through it again. Edit a second time.
- Sit on it. Give your revised manuscript to a few trusted readers, while you don’t look at it for a few days.
- Check on your revisions. Re-read your notes and the R&R. Then read your novel again. Listen to what your beta readers or critique group says. You’ve made a lot of changes so don’t go looking for obvious mistakes. Take your time. You may have missed something. You may have introduced some problems that weren’t there before. Edit. Edit again. Once you’ve done that, read the novel one last time.
- Send. Now, send it off to the agent. No matter what happens, pat yourself on the back. An agent thought your novel was worth the time to give an R&R. Be proud, and regardless of the outcome you’ve got a stronger manuscript.
Have you been successful with a revise and resubmit?