The Great Literary Agent Hunt – 2011

Let me start by saying that I have submissions out to 3 amazing agents.  If I get “the call” from any one of those agents, I will jump up and down and scream YES! like a freshman cheerleader invited to senior prom by the all-star quarterback she’s been dreaming about all year. (That is, once I hang up the phone and can no longer horrify the poor agent with my unmitigated glee.)

I really, really hope that happens.  I do.

But…all of the experts seem to agree that this publishing process is a numbers game.  Sort of like dating.  You’ve got to circulate and keep an open mind.  Do not hang all of your hopes on a small “dream team” of literary agents.  Even with the best possible manuscript polished to near perfection and the world’s most intriguing query letter, even then, it’s still a numbers game. And I need to step up my game.

This week’s challenge:  Every day for 7 days, identify at least one literary agent who seems like a good match for my manuscript, figure out the necessary submission guidelines for electronic submissions (I like to keep it green) and send a query.

Why all the work?  If it’s a numbers game, why don’t I just submit to every single agent in that big, thick Guide to Literary Agents that’s sitting on my desk?

You see, the truly committed novelist in search of the right agent needs to search and search and search again.  Then take all the data from those initial searches and dig into some research, then more research and then maybe research even more.  It takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  Why?  Because today’s savvy novelist is expected to target the best possible agents for what s/he has actually written.  Common sense, right?  Yes.

However, there are hundreds of literary agents in this country.  And I don’t care what anyone says, it is NOT easy to find the agents who (1) are open to new, unpublished authors, (2) make it easy to find all the authors/novels they’ve represented, and (3) have successfully sold manuscripts that are anything like my manuscript.

Seriously, it frustrates me to no end when “helpful” people tell writers in search of literary agents to “Just look in Writer’s Market” or “Check the acknowledgments in comparable books” or “Search the agent’s names in Amazon.”  Yeah, yeah.  I know all that.  I do all of that.  It’s still a VERY time-consuming process.  Plus, many of those agents who represent the “superstars” of your favorite genre are no longer looking for new clients.

Also, keep in mind that while I am working very diligently to present myself as a professional, respectful type of person to every agent I query, those same agents are receiving electronic floods of queries every day from hundreds of hopeful writers who have not even reviewed a basic “Query 101” tutorial.

I just found a Tweet by a literary agent (Nerktwin) that says “Got query directing me to a website: ‘I simply cannot take the time daily to spend writing agents and publishers.'”

Really?!?!  Imagine if a job seeker sent something like that to a potential employer.  “Too busy to create a resume or cover letter.  See my link.”

If I were a truly gifted tech entrepreneur, I would develop a site like eHarmony aimed at matching writers with agents (and vice versa).  You know, base it on the “deeper levels of compatibility” that eHarmony’s commercials are always blathering on about.  There’s no way it would be perfect.  Trust me, eHarmony’s process certainly isn’t as perfect as they like to pretend.  (Not that I’d know anything about that on a first-hand basis….ahem.)  Still, I have to imagine there is a better, more efficient way for authors and agents to connect.

That said, this is not a rant.  I am not complaining.  Well, maybe I am complaining a wee little bit, but not too much.  This process may be time-consuming, but it can also be quite fun.

I’m not just a writer.  I’m a reader.  And there are soooooo many interesting books that have been published in the past few years that I have not read.  Doing this agent research leads me to many new authors.  Reading about those authors leads me to books that I suddenly NEED to read.  With my handy, dandy eReader at my side–zap, zip, boom!  Hello exciting new book in my queue.

Anyone lamenting the eBook revolution simply must not understand how easy it has become to make impulse book purchases.  Any time of the day or night!

Just a few years ago, I was keeping a small notebook in my purse with this loooooong list of books and/or authors I’d heard about or read about and wanted to remember to check out once I actually made it to a book store.  I would build up this list, then walk into a bookstore–either a large independent or one of the “big box” Goliaths–only to discover that most of the books on my list were not on the shelves.  I would have to special order and pick it up next Tuesday.  Or call around to other book stores to see if they had the book and would reserve a copy for me.  Or I could just browse around and find other books to buy (not an arduous task).  Here’s the thing–I didn’t end up buying 50- 75% of those books on my list.

Now….Zap, Zip, Boom!  New book!!!!  I want it.  I get it.  Easy as that.

In the long run, I am hoping the ultimate reward for all of this research will be the right connection with the perfect agent for my manuscript.  In the short-term, I am rewarding myself with LOTS of new reading material.

Oh, and even more fun for free…book trailers!  In today’s publishing world, just about every new fiction novel has a book trailer.  Some of them are works of art.

This is my favorite book trailer from today’s agent search:

Seriously, isn’t that amazing?!  That’s what you get when a debut author is published by Disney/Hyperion.  (By the way, that trailer is not new.  Katie Alender has a 2nd book out and a new book trailer out there. I like the first one better.)

So, today’s query has been submitted.  Am now going to sit here and imagine the perfect book trailer for Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away….

8/14/11 UPDATE:  I just found this agent’s blog showing the number of queries and pages she reads.  Holy mind boggle Batman!  Is it any wonder many agents stop accepting queries after a few years/successful sales?  For anyone who grumbles and groans about how unfair the agents are, how unfair the query process can be….read that post!  I think she perfectly illustrates the agent’s side of the query equation.

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One thought on “The Great Literary Agent Hunt – 2011

  1. ACK. I jumped on that trailer. They were both pretty horrible. I know those are two books I won’t be reading. I can’t do horror. But the trailers are excellent. Man, wouldn’t it be cool to have a book published and a cool trailer.

    Have you gone to Verla Kay’s blueboards? If you register you can see threads that aren’t available to guests and they are so full of info on agents, you would not believe it. It’s a goldmine. Up to the minute news, instead of working from a book, and you can always ask people what books different agents repped.

    I’m with you on the e-readers. I’ve done a whole filppin’ lot of read-one-chapter-have-to-have-the-rest-right-now type of purchases since I got my Kindle.

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