Saturday, September 23, 2006

Finding An Agent--Questions & Answers

In this edition, I'm going to address a couple of questions I got about the four posts on finding an agent.

More than one person wanted to know the significance of dividing my agent list into an A, B, and C list.

The answer is simple. I didn't want to query all my "A" list agents right at the start in case my query/manuscript needed work.

I started out querying mostly "B" and "C" list people with the occasional "A" list one. That way, I still had "A" list agents to query as my query letter improved. This is another reason why I believe it's a mistake to send out thirty query letters at a time. If you query all your top agents at the beginning, you end up moving down the list to the agents you are less interested in having represent you later when you refine your query.

I know. It takes longer when you only send out six or eight letters at a time. That's also the reason why I violated the agents' guidelines and always included a couple of pages of manuscript with the query. By doing that, I eliminated the "get request for partial--send partial" part of the loop and went straight from query to either rejection or request for full. The key is in not sending too many manuscript pages when the agent said they only wanted the query letter.

I received several emails from people who disagreed with my advice about not following up if you don't hear from an agent. Let's talk about that some more.

I said from the beginning that I was giving information that I gleaned or my opinion of this process. You may not agree with me. That's okay. I'm not trying to say there's only one path.

I will say that I didn't see the point in contacting an agent to say, "You didn't answer my query." If they read my query and didn't answer, it was probably because they didn't feel strongly enough about it. If they were so disorganized that they didn't respond, did I really want them for my agent?

And, yes, sometimes the mail does not go through. But, let's face it, how often does that really happen? Of all my queries, I think I didn't hear back from about three agents in total. And--from talking to other writers--at least two of the agents who didn't respond to me are known for being unreliable about responding. So, what would I have gained by contacting them to say, "You didn't answer my query"?

There's a link to the right of my blog called "Agent Turnaround." It's under "Other Helpful Links." It's a site where you can enter the time it took to hear back from an agent and can check on others' experiences with the agents you're querying. If every writer would add to that site, the datebase could become a powerful tool for writers.

One person wrote to ask what I thought about an agent saying a manuscript needed professional editing before the agent would consider taking it on.

I may not be the right person to answer this question. To be honest, I have never heard of a legitimate agent saying this. I suppose it's possible but, in the only cases I've heard, the "agent" (note the quotes) always directed the writer to either an in-house editor or to a specifically named editor. In those cases, it was a scam, intended to defraud the writer out of as much money as s/he would part with.

Now, in the event this was a legitimate agent giving this advice, I'd believe it only if the agent refused to recommend a specific editor. That way, it would be an entirely arms-length transaction with the agent giving the advice and the writer finding his/her own editor.

Other people might tell you something different. That's just my take on the question.

Hope this helps to clear up the remaining questions about my posts.

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