Friday, December 27, 2013

How I Got My Agent, Step 4: The Rat Race

First of all, I apologize for the 12 day delay between this post and the last. The holidays happened--what can I say?  I can only assume that in the last week and a half you’ve been diligently researching agents, compiling your list and perfecting your query—while eating your weight in pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. 

Once your queries are in the wind a few things may happen:

False starts (“Bites”)
While I had flat out refusals, which are hard to misinterpret, I also had a few bites. These “bites” can be confusing as hell. What happens can vary but usually an agent will respond to your query favorably. They will usually compliment what they’ve seen so far and request more material.

Now, once they’ve requested more material a couple of things can happen:

--they can request more material (i.e. Thanks for sending the first 50 pages; send the rest)
--they can reject you
--they can never contact you again

These last two occurrences can be frustrating because you may not know why you’re being rejected. It can be like a great date that you thought was MAGICAL with singing bluebirds, prancing chipmunks, all ending in a two-hour makeout session--only to have him/her never call you again.

In the best case rejection scenario, the agent will offer feedback with the rejection. For example, a couple of bites expressed confusion regarding the world I created. So I did a few revisions and kept on submitting—and people stopped citing this as an issue.

The Neverending Story: Revise, Revise, Revise
Evaluate the rejections and see if there is any merit to the criticism. Sometimes it will simply be subjective/personal taste, and other times, the criticisms are spot on. You’ll have to distinguish between the two yourself—or ask your beta readers (those brave friends/family who read your book first) for insight.

If the agent rejecting you doesn’t offer feedback, feel free to ask. After all, what do you have to lose? Nothing, while the gain is far greater. After all, if you take the time to revise this “flaw”, then it is one less issue to put off the next agent.

No need to bring the train to a screeching halt—don’t withdraw your letters or notify the agents who have partials/etc. Just fix the problem once you agree there is one, and the next time someone asks for materials, send the revised copy. This is the best way to keep the process running smoothly, all while continuously improving your odds at quality representation.

--Revise. Submit.
--Revise. Submit.
--Revise. Submit.

--Make tiny avoidable errors*
--Show a lack of professionalism**
--Give up***

*Don’t make the mistake of submitting too much, too little, or in the wrong format. There was a reason why you diligently researched the agents. Put that knowledge to good use.

**Publishing is a business like any other. If someone makes you mad—or even directly slights you—that is no excuse to lose your sense of professionalism. No matter what you should be kind and courteous because a lot of people in publishing know each other. Watch what you say. A lot of “Thank you for your time and consideration” should be falling from your lips, regardless of what they had to say about your work.

***I’m going to say it again: This can take a long time. You will submit. Be rejected. Revise. Resubmit—it happens to the best of us. Yes, you might dream about sparklingly vampires one day, have an agent the next, and a three-book deal the day after—but that is really rare. If that happens, awesome! Give me a call! I’d love tips. If it doesn’t, settle in for the long haul and keep the faith.

You’ll get there. :)

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