In September, I purchased the Writer’s Market Guide to Agents, and I dutifully spent several afternoons scanning the listings to highlight possible “matches.” Yes, I think you can get it online and probably have the listings sorted for genre, but sometimes, a girl needs to do the work.
I’m old school. I like holding a highlighter (or three-a different color for each genre) in my hand and sniffing ink and paper while physically turning pages. The tactile experience keeps me engaged. Although I admit I fell asleep on two separate afternoons after leafing through dozens of pages.
I’ll return to the book at some point and make a list of my top choices. Because that’s what an author who wants to be traditionally published does.
And I don’t like it. It’s worse than marketing because it IS marketing. It is me “selling” my story idea in a cover letter to a bunch of strangers in hope they will be interested enough to read the pages.
Okay, I want more than that. I want them to read the pages and scramble to their laptop or phone or whatever to send an email that reads like this:
Oh my word, girl! I love your voice. Your characters crack me up and I’m dying to know what happens next.
Please send me the full manuscript as soon as possible (and I do mean yesterday) because my sleep will be affected until I find out what happens.
The Agent Who Will Get You the Deal of Your Dreams
Yes, I’m pretty good at imagining things. That’s why I make up stories for a living. Well, I’m not exactly earning a living wage selling my stories. Yet. But, I can imagine what it will be like to have a multi-book deal with a major publishing house.
I’ve already explained the first step of the traditional submission process: finding prospective agents or publishers to pitch.
This is what the rest of the process looks like:
- Create a list of the top five, next five, next five and so on until all the possibilities are exhausted
- The list includes: name, address, submission guidelines, links
- Once the manuscript is polished, sit down and write and polish a synopsis of the novel. Check the requirements for the top five agents on the list and write the synopsis that fits the largest number. (Yes, some will ask for a one-page synopsis but generally, they will ask for a synopsis, meaning no more than three pages. You can always distill that synopsis into something shorter for those who demand no more than one page).
- Craft an amazing pitch and paragraph hook for the query letter
- Write a stock query letter.
- Customize the stock query letter to each agent on your list. This means make sure the opening paragraph indicates you know something about them by mentioning either a book they represent or a genre they’re slathering to read because they said as much on their website.
- Send the query, synopsis and number of pages requested in their submission guidelines carefully following their submission instructions
- Record the pertinent information in your submission tracking spreadsheet. Mine records the agent’s name, agency name, email address I sent to, title of submission and date I sent it. I have a formula that tracks the days so I can enter a no response date after the appropriate time.
- Make ke sure the agents accept simultaneous submissions. If they respond and ask for more pages, I always let them know if the manuscript is being considered by someone else, too. A bit of tension to keep them reading, right?
And yes, a large number of agencies will say “If you don’t hear from us in 90 days (to as long as six months) consider this a pass.” I don’t generally put these agencies in my top ten list because I want to be able to get through the list in a timely manner.
In this day and age, is it really such a hardship to sent your assistant a little note saying “Not interested in NAME OF MANUSCRIPT” as seen in this query. Send them a note. Thanks.
No. I don’t believe it is. Even if you’re the agent who is doing the work. You read the query. It’s not for you, so you open your email and dash off a quick note letting the author know that.
It feels rude that someone wouldn’t consider my hours of writing and research and due diligence to send them a complete submission worthy of a quick reply. In fact, anyone who wouldn’t think my effort was worth their two sentence: “Thanks for submitting but this isn’t what I’m looking for right now. Best of luck” response probably isn’t someone I want to work with for the next twenty years.
Yes, it’s on days like this when I’m sending out submissions that I wish the indie author life appealed to me. But I tried that road. It didn’t lead to my dream destination, so here I am, back to the traditional publishing path.
Have you ever submitted something for consideration? What sort of responses have you gotten back?