Don’t be arrogant

Want to know one quick way to ruin your chance of landing an agent? Check out my blog post on this topic over at Murderati.

5 replies
  1. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    Once again I did some research and found the following. Again, sorry for its length.

    Ten Basic Steps to Finding a Literary Agent
    If you want your book to be published by one of the larger publishing conglomerates, you will in all probability need a literary agent to approach them for you. However, you do not need a literary agent to approach the smaller publishing houses. Step one is to determine which medium you would ideally like to publish your book through. If you decide to go through a literary agent, it is believed by many in the business that it is better to finish your manuscript before hooking an agent. This way, your polished manuscript and proposal can assist you in landing an agent, and you will not have to keep your agent waiting for anything, as you have completed the book ahead of time.
    No matter what stage your manuscript is at, you should complete some market research on the topic on which you wish to publish. Make sure your topic is defined and easily marketable. Clearly targeting an audience and strategizing on how you can reach them is a useful way to devise a marketing strategy. Further, develop a sizzling title and text for the cover copy that will capture the attention not only of your potential readers but also of your prospective agent.
    One way to contact agents is through standard mail. Search literary agent books for agents that seem to handle books that are similar to yours. Try Literary Market Place as a starting point. Seek out books in a bookstore that are similar to yours and find out who their agents are. Read Publishers Weekly, especially the Hot Deals column.
    Discover where to meet agents on-line. While it may be easier to meet with agents in person, it is also possible to find agents on-line. One way is to read Publishers Lunch, which is an e-mail list that covers the publishing news. One time a week, “Deal Lunch” provides details of the latest agent coups. Email in order to subscribe. Remember that you are not only trying to find a good agent, but also the right agent for your book.
    Find out where to go to meet agents in person. If you know someone who has an agent, ask for the agent’s name. Attend a writer’s conference and attempt either to make the acquaintance of an agent or a writer who has a decent agent. By attending the best writing conferences you can find, you will be able to find top-notch writers and agents.
    After you have begun to research appropriate agents for your book, the next step is to write a captivating pitch letter. Make sure your letter is personalized to the agent, does not exceed 2 pages, has professional form and no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Come up with a 10 to 15 second pitch you will use to sell your book when you come face-to-face with an agent. From there, you should develop a one-paragraph hook for your book, starting either with the most compelling reason people have for reading your book or an intriguing question. Continue your letter by explaining why you have contacted that agent in particular. Then describe your audience and marketing plan as clearly and specifically as possible. Finally, include your credentials, why you are the right person to be writing this book, offer to send a complete proposal and manuscript, and thank the agent. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope so that it will be easy for the agent to respond. If you have been waiting longer than 2 months, follow up with an e-mail or a letter.
    Following the pitch letter is the book proposal, which will help the agent get a better idea of both your book and the marketing strategies that you will use. For tips on writing an exceptional book proposal, see Ten Basic Steps to Writing a Nonfiction Book Proposal.
    After completing and sending your book proposal, you can wait to receive responses from interested agents. The next step is to learn the basics of approaching agents. First interest the agent by being brief, professional, and intriguing. Do not share personal information or ask the agent about his or her marketing plans until he or she has offered to represent you. Also, note that if an agent charges you for reading your submission, he or she is not a valid agent. Interest the agent in your pitch and don’t forget to tell the agent why you are interested in him or her in particular.
    After an agent has offered to represent you, feel free to ask them certain questions to discover if they are the type of agent that you want for your book. You can ask them questions like:
    Are you a member of an agent organization?
    How long have you been an agent/in the publishing business?
    What authors do you represent and may I contact them as references?
    Will you handle my book directly?
    How often will you give me feedback on its progress?
    Will I have input on all overtures and offer?
    What is your commission?
    What expenses will I pay?
    When do I get my money?
    When you find an agent whose answers to the above questions suit your needs, you will be able to decide on a contract with that agent and you have successfully completed your goal!


  2. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:


    You are a gracious lady. It is nice that you not only shared your insight with the writer in question, but used it to help others learn to fish as well.

    Thank you for returning to the blogosphere. You are needed here.

    (BTW, it was unseasonably warm here yesterday. 85 and sunny! It’s not Hawaii, but I think of the wine country as paradise.)


  3. therese
    therese says:

    That was a great blog and I’m glad you helped this guy and shared the information. Most writers forget the hundreds of queries, proposals and manuscripts agents deal with every day or week. They are looking for great story, good writing and a partnership with the writer.

    To often writers get caught up in their craft and forget their relationships with agents are business partnerships. The editor/publisher is the boss, the author – the client, and the agent the exceptional buffer zone between the two.

    In my opinion, Tess, you will always find publishing professionals willing to work with you because you know your readers and you are a class act professionally. You also know, it’s all about the story.

  4. BernardL
    BernardL says:

    That was a great post at Murderati, Tess. It is strange how people cannot see the obvious sometimes without having it pointed out to them. I think you were exactly right about the man having worked in Hollywood so long, the undercurrent of arrogance in his query letter to agents never registered. It was a neat ending to the story when he took your advice, rewrote the query, and had an agent and offers within weeks.

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