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Getting An Agent: Alternatives To The Traditional Method

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WRITER WEDNESDAY
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From Writer's Relief staff:

Although it seems that the majority of writers who land a literary agent take the traditional approach of writing and sending query letters, some authors connect with agents in different ways.

We at Writer’s Relief have been helping authors craft and target traditional query letters since 1994, but here are alternative methods that writers have employed in recent years to meet, schmooze and impress literary agents.

  1. Conferences. Literary agents frequently attend writing conferences—in part because they hope that writers who are willing to fork over significant fundage to take classes and hobnob with important people might just be the kind of writers who are more likely to offer quality work. Having a ten-minute chat with a literary agent at a pitch session might give you an edge up on the competition. Hint: Bookmark this free, regularly updated list of writing conferences.
  2. Writers Groups. Professional writer organizations, like Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America, provide great opportunities for networking. Chapter meetings frequently feature panels with literary agents, as well as cocktail parties, award assemblies and general who’s who gatherings. Be there—and with a little finesse and luck, you just might catch an agent’s eye.
  3. Blogging. When it comes to blogging, some writers have great success while others flounder (see Lisa Dale’s free e-book "10 Simple Facts That Can Make Or Break Your Author Blog" for her thoughts on why this happens). If you start a blog that has a strong, unique commercial hook, you could end up with a literary agent and a book deal. Case in point: "Julie and Julia" or "101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress," by “Kevin Cotter, author of the famous blog.”
  4. Self-publishing. Some self-published books are showstoppers. They float to the top and break through the surface like a great white shark chomping a seal. If your self-published book takes off, you can bet literary agents’ interest in it will too.
  5. Social media. Let’s say you have a self-published book. Or perhaps a book that you’re publishing in installments. Or you’ve amassed a huge fan following for your blog, your Facebook page, or your Twitter account. A good rule of thumb is, if lots and lots of people are paying attention to your writing, there might be a literary agent or two in that crowd as well.
  6. The (un)lucky writer. Did you have a crazy experience that made the news and caught the attention of the world? Literary agents might come looking for you—even if you don’t know your bare from your bear.
  7. Publish short pieces in literary journals and/or newspapers. Here at Writer’s Relief, we’ve seen a number of clients—some who weren’t even writing books—gain interest from literary agents who “saw something” in their writing. We’ve also seen writers offered representation based on little more than an op ed in a major paper. Some people get lucky.

There may be more alternative methods when it comes to getting a literary agent. In most cases, having personal contact can help. Being in the right place at the right time can help too. But you’ve probably realized that some of these “methods” are little more than crapshoots.

Most writers we know aren’t willing to leave things to chance or take a passive “wait to see if somebody notices me” approach. And that means agent hunting the way most writers do it: writing query letters—to agents you’ve schmoozed and/or agents you haven’t—and hoping for the best.

QUESTION: What’s your strategy for getting an agent? Going the traditional route? Or breaking new ground? Let us know in the comments!

Writer’s Relief is an author’s submission service that helps writers research, target, and prepare their submissions. Learn more!

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