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Jay Clark

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Ten Tips for Nabbing Yourself a Literary Agent

Posted: 06/25/2012 12:06 pm

So, after years of torturing yourself beyond emotional repair, making several highly unnecessary sacrifices to the gods, and, finally, signing a contract (in blood) entitled Deal with the Devil, you've managed to finish your book. Yay! But here's the funny thing about those esteemed publishers you've had your eye on since carefully crafting your first sentence. They don't give a **** about you! So what's a writer to do? Get your very own literary pimp, that's what. Pimpin' ain't easy, though, so agents don't represent just any Tom, Dick, or Rumplestiltskin. You have to convince them. Shamelessly shake your money-maker in their vicinity. Do whatever it takes to grab their attention and NEVER LET GO.

Here are 10 tips for trapping a literary agent into representing you:

Agents are sneaky little buggers. They often hide from us annoying writers under rocks, expensive clothing, and corner tables at the fancy restaurants they just loooove to "do lunch" at. Don't let them get away with these tactics! A good place to start unearthing your agent-of-choice is AgentQuery.

Agents are human, believe it or not, and that means they have egos. Big ones. If you're about to send a far-too-general-sounding email your dream agent, stop! Take the time to internet-stalk them first. Then bring up what you have in common in your query letter. If you don't know what a query letter is, I just buzzed you. You're reading the wrong article.

Avoid spending too much $$$ on how-to-find-an-agent books. Everything you need to know about finding an agent is available somewhere online. Spend more time thinking about how you can stand out from the pack, less time checking off the same boring boxes as everyone else. If you're sexy, know it, and happen to arouse the interest of more than one literary agent, don't be afraid to pit those suckers against one another! Isn't it nice to have a modicum of leverage for a change? No need to be a b-hole about it, of course, but this is your time to find out what your agent can do for you. Don't be afraid to ask questions and let each of them know the other is breathing down your neck. And I highly recommend getting one of them to buy you a puppy. I forgot to make this demand, and I regret it.

Nothing against, say, Kenton, Ohio, but if your prospective agent is located there, hit the back button on your browser. Do it! There's a reason most agents are located in NYC -- that's where the freaking publishers are! -- and unless this rural-living, horseback-riding agent represents James Patterson or Stephenie What's-Her-Face, then they're not doing lunch with anyone important. And they're definitely not doing anyone important. And if that's the case, you may as well have your mom represent you.

Don't have your mom represent you.

Find an agent who's willing to work with you on your book (because it probably still sucks). Preferably one with some writing experience. I mean, not to brag or anything, but my agent has an MFA -- F, I don't even have one of those! --and he was instrumental in helping me fine-tune the original draft of crap that is now known as The Edumacation of Jay Baker.

This is your future agent, not your elementary school principal, so drop the formal "Dear Mr. Peabody: I consider it my privilege to send your esteemed self this humble query..." act. In theory, this is someone you're going to be dealing with for a long time, so the sooner you let your freak flag fly, the better.

Don't be creepy, though. This means no phone calls, and especially no follow-up phone calls. That voicemail you just left was the opposite of charming. And, please, stop mailing letters -- what century is this? Any agent who doesn't use email is either five hundred years old or too busy to bother with the likes of you and your writerly neuroses, so it's best to just move on.

Listen to the agents who take the time to personally respond to you. Even if they wouldn't represent you with a ten-foot pole, they must've seen something that they liked. Inhale their feedback, tweak your query letter (and manuscript) accordingly, and then get back to hunting down another one.

 
 
 

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