Oh, boy!!! Winter has arrived and there is snow everywhere. As an Old English Sheepdog I find the cold and snow invigorating. I love playing in the powder with James and all my friends. I’ve been praying for the white stuff for weeks now. In fact, I’ve been longing for winter and snow ever since last spring when it melted.
Yeah, it’s me, Ollie. James and I went out playing in the recent dump of white powder so he could take a break from work. He claims that when he’s in the snow he thinks of nothing else but the fun he’s having outside during the winter. It provides him with a break from his most recent writing activity – querying agents.
James has reached a point where he believes his novel (the one he’s been working on for years) is ready to be considered for publication. What he told me was that he has two decisions he needs to make now. One: whether or not to self-publish this novel like he did his memoir, World’s Fair. Two: if not self-publishing he needs to reach out to agents to see if they will represent him with a major publishing house. I didn’t want to have to correct him, but there is a third option: he could reach out directly to indie publishing companies to see if they will publish his novel. (YES!! James agrees and I got a special treat for that one.)
Well, James has asked me if I would discuss the second option above as this is the path he is going down this time around. Now the question becomes: how to find the right agent for his work. The first place James looked was in the Writer’s Market put out by Writer’s Digest. He had paid good money for that book, yet found it less than helpful. Perhaps the “deluxe” version is better. So, what’s a writer to do? Save your money and search Google!
Now there are all kinds of searches one can do on Google. After a couple of fruitless attempts, James went with finding the top fifty literary agencies. From there he began searching the individual agents listed online for each agency. Well, he didn’t search all fifty of them right away. He took the top ten, which ended up being the top twenty since some of the “top shops” don’t accept unsolicited queries. He then searched within their agent listings page to find out which ones were looking for new clients. That’s what they call writers – clients.
Once he had identified the agents looking for new clients/writers, he looked at what type of work they were interested in representing. James’ novel is a New Adult, coming-of-age story with a mystery and legal bent. It also takes place in the south back in 1972 so it deals with bigotry. Agents who might be interested in one or more of those elements were then selected as potentially queryable. (Okay, that may not be a word, but I like the sound of it. Yes! A treat! James likes the sound of it, too.)
The next item to be identified was in what manner each agent wanted to receive a query. Some were still interested in hearing from writers/potential clients via mail – the United States Postal Service. The majority of agents have moved to wanting to receive a query via email. The address, whether physical or virtual, was supplied for those agents interested in new clients.
From there, James looked to find out how the specific agent was interested in receiving information on his novel. It appears that only a very few are willing to receive an attachment. Most want their requested information within the body of the email itself. It appears that agents have run into viruses once they’ve opened an attachment. This can make for a lengthy email depending upon what the agent has requested.
James has found that most agents want a query letter along with the first ten pages of the novel. Others may want as much as the first three chapters along with a synopsis. Some only want the query letter by itself. When querying an agent, it is imperative that they receive only the items they have requested. If more or less is sent, time is being wasted.
Once agents have been identified that might be best suited to represent the work, a running tab on which agents within which literary agencies have been queried should be kept. Also, the date on which the query was sent should be noted. This is because most agents specify how long they typically take to respond, if they will respond at all. Some ask that a follow-up email be sent if they have not responded by a specified period.
All of this is very time consuming but hopefully worth it. It’s a means of staying organized and motivated to keep searching for the right agent. The right agent is key to getting a publishing contract with a leading publishing house.
Had James known this after completing his memoir, World’s Fair, he would most certainly have sent his manuscript to more than one agent. Having one decline (known as “rejections” in the trade) is hardly something to cause one to become discouraged. James knows that now. That’s why James wanted me to write about this. He wants as many writers and other creative people to know that there is method to the madness of getting work recognized.
Have you been successful in querying an agent? Have you tried, like James in the past, to reach only one agent? What experience do you have to share? You are welcome to let us know in the comment section. I always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.
In two weeks, James and I will review how to write a query letter. It might surprise you how easy it actually is. It surprised me.
Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)