Getting an agent.
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’.