Monday, 23 April 2018

Actively Seeking an Agent

With self publishing the easiest route to getting your work out there, people often forget about things like seeking an agent or breaking into the main stream. It would be great if through self publishing you were recognized for your talent and sought out, but more often than not it you the writer who have to do the seeking. Why? Mostly because agents are inundated with people who have a book they want people to take a chance on.

I was fairly lucky in my early on career, that although applying for an agent had proved unsuccessful, I was taken on by a small press where I didn't need one. However, honestly, as things turned out, it might have been of benefit to me if I had, had a professional in my corner. Recently, with my rights being returned to me I am face with two choices - funneling as much money as I can into re-publishing myself through platforms like KDP or attempt again to seek an agent.

So how does someone go about finding an agent?

The best tool is to buy yourself the most up to date copy of this - The Writer and Artists Yearbook. Inside is not only an alphabetically list of agents - there is also a list of publishers if you want to try a direct approach - and several helpful articles written by people in the trade that you might find helpful to read. Each agency listed has a quite substantial paragraph detailing what they want and also what authors are currently on their client lists.

Top Ten Tips for selecting an agent to contact

1. Really read what their listing says. A lot of them include lines specifically to explain what they are not looking for, for example No Science Fiction, Fantasy or Children's books.

2. If you are unsure whether an agency you like the look of is right for you, google some of the authors they list as clients, you will soon see if there is someone who's work you find comparable to your own.

3. Most list a submissions email and a website. Go to the website and look around. You will often find a more detailed listing of their submission processes - also a list of agents and what they cover, so you can direct the email to the right person.

4. While on the website you should also check that their submissions are still open. Several agents in the book do state that they are not taking on new clients or they accept clients by recommendation only - but others may have been open when the book was first printed but have had to close due to workload.

5. Do follow the instructions they give you. Agency's are busy people and if your submission is not how they want it - to the letter - it can mean instant rejection. Also if they have stated they are not taking on new clients or have closed submission - DO NOT SUBMIT. I know it might be tempting to think that you'd have a better chance as competition will be scared off  but again it will more likely be instantly rejected ruining any chance for when trying again when they reopen.

6. Make sure before you submit your work that the manuscript is finished. Most submissions only want the first three chapters, or 50 pages to see if it has potential but if it turns out to pique their interest, they will want the whole thing right away to finish reading it.

7. Most agents I've looked at are now keen to do submission purely electronically. Understandably, its cheaper and faster, for both you and them to do it this way. However, your applying email should still be formal, laying out clearly why you are contracting them, about your proposed book and a little about yourself.

8. Most agents ask for a single page synopsis. One pit fall is not completing this in full. You must clearly write out the key points of the plot including the ending. Lines like "to find out how it ends please read the manuscript" will again lead to instant rejection.

9. Return on submission is a waiting game. A lot of agents will give you a time frame - its an average of six weeks but if you haven't heard after two or three months then its fair to say you probably won't but a polite nudge might not be out of the question either.

10. Rejections are unpleasant for everyone. Don't take it personally. Just because its not right for them doesn't mean its not any good. Sometimes they will offer advice if they think a manuscript shows promise but more often than not it will be a generic but polite no. Either way they don't usually intend for you to reply.

I'm going to be looking at applying to a few agents myself soon. If I am unsuccessful then I will rely on my backup plan. However, fingers crossed and hope for the best

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