Meet the Agents: CWC Session VI


Agent Highlight: Michelle Grajkowski, Danielle Egan-Miller, Elizabeth Evans, Kristyn Keene

This CWC Recap covers the thoughts of the above agents during a moderated panel, so comments varied widely.

How to Find an Agent:

  • Enter Contests. This gets your work out there, especially if it wins!
  • Go to Conferences. Pitch to as many agents as possible, or just chat with them if you see any around. Absolutely do not pester them.
  • Subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace for ($25/mo). This, and others, cost money, but it’s a valuable resource that shows you who is acquiring what in real time. You can subscribe to one month, make a huge spreadsheet, drop your sub, and then update the sheet again in a half year.
  • Search Facebook & Twitter. Searching “agent” directly, or checking the “suggested” people on agents’ pages, usually turns up a few leads.
  • Check the Acknowledgements of your favorite (or similar) books. You can see who represented those authors!
  • Association Memberships. If you can become a member of the SFWA (for example), there will often be networks of agents you can utilize.
  • & Other Free Sites. Often these aren’t well-updated, but they’re a good place to start.

On Query Writing:

  • Include the Hook, Book, & Cook. Hook: tell us what sets it apart. Book: give the specs  and a small summary. Cook: tell us about you. For more in-depth help with this, check out my blog on query writing (written during an internship).
  • Make Comparisons to Non-Huge Works. Don’t compare to Twilight or Harry Potter, for example, because agents have seen these comparisons a billion times.
  • Only Include Writing Stuff in Your Bio. This means your Twitter, blog, or Facebook follower count (if impressive); any local events or writing groups you run or are involved in; any publications or contests wins; and maybe one perky detail.

Once You Have Interest:

  • Be Completely Transparent. Don’t lie or embellish to an agent, before or after you’ve nabbed them. Stay honest, or you will encounter big problems down the road.
  • Make Them Feel Like They Have Competition. If an agent requests a manuscript, let other agents (to whom you have submitted, but not yet heard back from) know about it. If an agent has your manuscript, but hasn’t gotten to it, and another agent requests it – let the first one know. This will light a nice fire under them!
  • Make Sure You Have the Right Match. You want someone you can get along with who will really champion you. Try asking these questions to see if you have the right agent (and editor). Dropping an agent can make it hard to get a new one later on.

To Move From Self-Published to Agented:

  • Don’t Expect a Publisher For Your Current Book. Even if you get an agent, more often than not the agent will represent your next book – not the one you have currently self-published.
  • Your Book Must Be Brand New or Have Sold More Than 15,000 Copies. If it’s brand new, it can be taken off the market and reworked; if it hasn’t sold 15k, no one likes it enough.
  • You Shouldn’t Have Tapped Out a Niche. If your audience niche is very small, and your self-published book seemed to capture all its readers, then there isn’t much room for growth. However, if can be a platform for a future, wider-ranging project.
  • You Can Have an Agent Without a Publisher. They can still help you out, even if all you do is self-publish – especially if you come across any other types of contracts, such as a film options or foreign rights.

Session I Missed: To see this session (and because of a beer-related side-trip involving a bad Uber driver), I had to miss these five sessions:

  • The Writer’s Path to Breaking Into the Film Industry
  • Break Into Newspaper and Magazine Writing
  • To MFA or Not MFA?
  • Breaking Into Live Lit: Conquer Literature’s New Frontier
  • Networking For Writers: Get on the Radar of Agents, Publishers, and Bloggers (Please message me if you have notes from this one! I was so upset to miss it!

If you went to any of those sessions, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

Lessons of Submission: The Martial Arts of Hitting ‘Send’

At summer camp ages ago, I learned Judo, the “martial arts of falling,” as my instructor put it. To oversimplify, in Judo one learns to take people down – so, naturally, one must also learn to hit the ground, because everybody has to lose if they are going to learn.

As a preteen, I was astounded to learn that by hitting the ground with your hand – before your body followed – helped to arrest your momentum and control your collision in a way that kept you from experiencing pain. Falling had always been one of those infallible things to me – unstoppable once instigated, its resolution was one of scrapes and bruises. But all things, it seems, have their art.

Submitting to agents this past week was like learning Judo. I compiled each query painstakingly, tailoring them to the agents I was most excited to work with, throwing in different numbers of pages, and even writing up a bio and synopsis (who knew so many agents wanted synopses? One agent declared that they were evil, to which I agree wholeheartedly). The compilation of each query was the fall before impact, the prelude to failure – because we all know rejections are a thing.

But then, after triple-checking my subject line, the agent’s email, the spacing between my synopsis and bio – all the thoughts raging through my head, “Will this even work? Is this even worth it?” – I hit “Send” as if hitting the ground, and suddenly there is no impact. I have completed the task, and, unharmed, I move onward to the next agent in line.

I’ll just have to have my clicking hand ready for “Archive” once the rejections come rolling in 🙂