Posts Tagged ‘agent query’

Writers write and they then need to find readers by being published somehow.

Right now I’m trying to get an agent for my PhD book. It’s a crap shoot as they say. I’ve tried this before in the past with other books. My first, Relic, which I never published but did kind of get an agent for but then decided to part ways mostly because the book was flawed. Then I tried for Dragon Wine and got feedback but no representation until after I cut a deal. I had an agent for Ruby Heart and the book never sold. So here I am trying again.

What is different this time?

My mental state

My preparation

The amount of resources available to assist.

Let’s start with my mental state. I still have impostor syndrome as usual but I’m not in the ‘I’m not worthy’ mindset I had early on in my writing and believe me it is not good to query agents when you are thinking like that because there are rejections and there is silence and that doesn’t help at all. It can make you depressed or at least reinforce those feelings. And there are reasons for rejections that have nothing to do with you or your work. Of course, there are rejections that have to do with your work (not you personally) and your query letter too, but we will assume not.

You might ask why am I querying now? I’ve been there and done that. Well I think I’ve written a break out novel. It’s a novel I would not have written without the research I’ve been doing with my Phd candidature in creative writing. However, I also believe it is going to be a hard sell because it’s different. I have to believe there is an agent out there who will understand it, or if that doesn’t work a publisher. Also, I’m not in a damn hurry. I’m not racing at this as if I need to publish this before I die as I did in the early days.

The bottom line is I accept I may not get an agent or a big five publisher but trying for it costs me nothing but my time and a little battering to my ego. I accept the worst case scenario. I say this but it doesn’t mean I have no hope or I’m not a stack of nerves and so on. This is a mental position I’m trying to maintain through the next few months.

My preparation is not just preparing my brain. The manuscript is written, edited, and checked again. I also had a sensitivity read done by a non-binary reader, which was really helpful and informative. I’m not saying that I won’t tackle the manuscript again and try to refine it. I think it’s good as it can be at the moment but if I get enough rejections where the query includes the first pages then I’m thinking I might have to look again.

I also had an idea who the top agents are so I had somewhere to start. I also prepped a spreadsheet, started to work on my query letter (after some quick research) and a synopsis. I also changed the labelling on my spreadsheet from ‘rejection’ to ‘pass’ because no one needs to see ‘rejection’ all the time to reinforce those negative feelings. Despite the mental preparation discussed previously, there are negative feelings. Such as this other person I know got an agent and I haven’t so my work must suck type thinking. Yeah, forget that stuff. You don’t know what they did, what they wrote, what the agent was looking for, what gap there was in the market or whether their book sold or will sell – so forget that crap. This is what I tell myself too.

What is also different this time is that there are a lot more resources out there to help you write a query, find an agent, research an agent and so on. I have a link to Agentquery.com on this site. I have used it before and it’s a start. My problem was that there were so many agents that I didn’t know anything about and whether or not I should approach them.

I went to an intensive writing workshop last year in Dublin. David Farland suggested that we sign up to writer’s marketplace and use the information on deals to target agents who are selling our genre, selling the big deals and so on. He made me believe it was possible for the first time in my life. Okay, maybe that was on overreaction but yeah…here I am trying it out. I’ts $25 US a month and you can quit anytime.

I did some quick research on the internet to refresh my mind about how to write a query letter. I sent out two queries to my top agents. Probably a big mistake because I needed to do more work on my query letter. Thank god I didn’t sent a shit query to 100 agents. My partner, Matthew, suggested I look at Query Shark and I’m all well I know what I’m doing but I did go there and on my God! That Janet knows her shit. I’ve read most of the archive and I learned heaps even about writing because the tips she gives apply to all writing. I’ve done 9 versions of my query letter, in addition to some agents that ask for things to be done differently. I’ve also sighed up for Query Tracker because it’s free and if I want to upgrade it’s like $25 US per year. I still have a spreadsheet and I’m keeping that.

Next thing is go to each agent’s website and read about which agent you should target for querying. Some of the good ones are closed to new queries and I’m like damn, so I either query someone else at that agency or leave them for another round. That sent me to Twitter to follow all the agents I could find because they often say it there first when they are open again. There is no shortcut here, you must do this: don’t just blanket send your query to everyone because they all require something different. Just a query letter or Query letter and synopsis, Query letter and sample pages, query letter and fifty pages as an attachment, no query letter just a synopsis etc. A few agents are using Query Manager forms and at least that way you get an email or you can check the link.

The bottom line here is there is no excuse not to write a good query letter and follow the requirements because the information is there and free. There are also blog interviews with agents and manuscript wish lists that can help.

I have been reading a lot of these agents’ pages and some I think I’d really like to work with them but I’m not getting my hopes up because there are many reasons why I might not get where I want to go. Not least is the current pandemic situation and the precarious economics surrounding that. Publishers Marketplace are publishing deals so I know they are happening but many may have been in train for some time and some new deals follow the market like non fiction books about Covid 19 and political memoirs etc.

I don’t know about you but I can’t bring myself to write a post-apocalyptic novel right now because we are living very close to one so I think it will be hard to sell one.

Years ago I tried to make a goal of getting 50 rejections because that meant I would have queried 50 agents. I think I stopped around 12 because I couldn’t cope. This time I might take 100 queries before I give up or am successful. My current count is 40 queries. I try to do a couple each day. I’m also trying to revise another project because I’m taking a short break from the exegesis. All this activity will wind back when I get back onto the PhD in September.

I’ve made mistakes too, even when trying to be careful. Called one agent by the wrong name, left out the sample pages, said something really stupid and so on.

The other thing to think about is the questions to ask an agent if they offer to represent you. At first I was dumbfounded. Then I tried to think up a few things. Agent Jim McCarthy has a tweet linking to a post on this. They are good questions.

Also I should note that this approach does not take away from the Indie publishing. It’s perfectly all right to choose that path if that’s what you want. I just think that this Phd Book won’t suit.

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