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Getting an agent.

April 12, 2011

Since today was the day I sent off my last batch of agent queries at the post office, I think I should maybe write a little about how to get a writing agent.

(Wait for it).

I do not know how to get a writing agent.

The thing is that from the extensive online research and combing through the Writers and Artists Yearbook I’ve done recently, I have come to the conclusion that nobody else knows, either, not even those famous, successful authors we all aspire to be. The main thing I’ve found online is wildly conflicting advice: the do’s of one site are the do not evers of another. So all I can really offer you is my own personal experience of the process so far.

A lot of people seem to insist that you don’t need an agent, or that you will never get an agent unless you first have the interest of publishers. I hate admin, so I for one feel like I need an agent, if only to take a little of the office-y burden from me. I stuck to those agencies listed in the Yearbook, apart from a couple who I found out from online research represented writers I admire. I read through all the listed UK agencies, looked up those of interest online and checked to see if they are interested in my genre. I found individual contact names, rather than just cold-mailing the companies. Anyone I wasn’t sure about, I researched their reputation. I checked and double checked their query policies: most places now I find are asking for three sample chapters and a synopsis straight off, rather than just a query letter. I am hoping that I’m right in thinking that simultaneous queries are now the norm rather than a no-no.

I double spaced my sample chapters in single-sided 10 point verdana. I wrote a full synopsis. I wrote a one page synopsis. I wrote a half page synopsis. I wrote my query letter. I rewrote my query letter. I had a minor* breakdown and rewrote my query letter again. I re-tailored each letter to the individual 12 agents who I had meticulously selected to receive my entreaty query. I made up packs of the required reading material, plus query letter, plus mss return SAE, plus a special read-receipt postcard printed with the DPM logo. I suppose that part was a slight gamble – I don’t want to come across as a smart-arse – but the query letter seemed to me to be so straight and professional that I wanted to show that I do have a sense of humour. Hopefully it’ll make me that bit more memorable, too.

In short, from all my research, the one solid fact that I’ve uncovered is this: the one, single thing you need in order to get an agent and be successfully published is luck. Certainly talent and tenacity and all that won’t hurt, but mainly it’s luck. You can plan and plot and reword all you like, but eventually there comes the point where you just have to throw it out there and hope for the best.

Cross your fingers for me?

* by ‘minor’ I mean ‘major’.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Michele permalink
    May 7, 2011 5:47 pm

    Trying to find an agent is a soul-destroying and lonely business. I gave up after about 40 attempts and consigned my effort to the desk drawer even though I did get one or two encouraging replies. In retrospect it should have been put there in the first place. Having said that, I dont think that’s the issue. Like you I think that many lesser novels than mine have been published and even aquired a readership.
    You write too well to fail so just keep at it! Don’t give up writing cos whilst you’re writing your next novel your first one may just find a publisher.

    • May 10, 2011 7:50 pm

      Well, hopefully I’ll have some luck – I really do this it IS luck as well, as much as it is talent, like you said. Thank you for the encouragement – I definitely won’t stop writing, even if I never make it commercially.

  2. May 25, 2011 3:36 am

    Luck and perseverance as much as talent, I think, for sure!

    You know how I feel about your writing! Now it’s just a matter of finding an agent who gets it! :) Totally rooting for you.

    • May 26, 2011 6:13 pm

      Well let’s hope for some luck for both of us then, because we definitely have perseverance and I’d like to think we’ve got talent..!

      Thank you, is definitely mutual. At the very least, we get to read each other’s stuff – those agents don’t know what they’re missing ;-)

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