Finding an agent is a lot like speed dating – you get one chance to catch their attention, you have to communicate a lot of information about why you’re perfect for them in a short amount of time, and you’re surrounded by others doing exactly the same thing.
I realised this because I’ve spent my summer break researching agents and publishers – and I have the mother of all spreadsheets to prove it!
Researching agents and reading every ‘how to query’ article I can find on the internet has led me to one conclusion – just like speed dating, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula.
For example, these are some of the submission guidelines/advice I’ve come across so far:
Tell me about you, I want to get a feel for who you are, even if it’s just that you life with your cats.
Don’t tell me about you unless it’s relative to your book, let the book speak for itself.
Your synopsis should be one sentence, 300 words, 500 words, 2 pages.
Open your pitch with a question, that draws me straight in.
Never open with a question, that’s an instant turn off.
Explain your process of editing/beta readers etc so I know it’s worth my time.
I don’t want to know about your process. I assume it’s been thorough or you wouldn’t send it to me.
Your pitch should be one sentence, one paragraph, three paragraphs.
Don’t send any pages until we request them.
Send the opening chapter.
Send the BEST chapter.
Send the first page only.
Send the first five pages, 10 pages, 50 pages, three chapters.
Send the whole manuscript.
We only accept email submissions, approaches on About.me, snail mail.
Call first, never call, call after eight weeks, assume we don’t want it if you don’t hear back…
Like speed dating, everyone wants something different, and you just have to go on as many speed dates as you can to find the person who is looking for what you have to offer.
And yes, you do have to play by their rules, but don’t forget you’re also going through this process to find an agent you want to work with. We’re constantly told how hard it is to get representation, much like ‘a good man/woman is hard to find’. But just like in the dating world, desperate is never a good look.
Ultimately, just like dating, it comes down to chemistry.
Agent are looking to fall in love, too. They can’t force it, and you certainly wouldn’t want them to. After all, if they choose to represent you, they’re going to be spending a lot of time with your manuscript convincing others to give it a chance, so if they don’t love it, they’re not going to do a very good job of convincing anyone else.
Your manuscript deserves someone who sees its full potential and truly loves it. And hopefully that same agent is looking for someone just like you to work with.
So while I’m making sure I follow each agent’s submission guidelines to the letter, I’m also making sure my query is true to me and my book. That way, agents who aren’t right for it will know right away, but the right ones will (hopefully) be drawn to it.
It’s a bit like opening your speed date with a line from your favourite song. Some dates will look at you like you’re crazy, others blankly, and a couple will smile, but then one will sing along with you. That’s the one you ask for a second date.
And hopefully, love blossoms.
If you’re kicking off 2017 with a round of agent and publisher queries, I wish you the best of luck. See you in the slush pile!