writers believe that the
way to find an agent is to shotgun queries to a whole list of agents
and let the chips fall where they may. An agent is an integral part of
the team you are assembling—you need to be more intentional about going
after the perfect agent for you. It’s true that far more writers are
seeking an agent than they have openings on their client lists, but
even though it may seem that a writer has little clout early in his
career, he can do things to land his dream agent.
Techniques that may tip the
1. Write a Stunning
Book—This almost goes without saying. If your book is
anything less than remarkable, don’t expend the energy yet to connect
with an agent. Put that time into the craft of writing. When the
manuscript is ready, the hard part becomes how to get it in front of
Perfect Agent. With queries up more than 100 ̶ 200 percent over last
year, every agency is drowning in submissions. We know treasures may be
among the queries, but there is no way to know without asking to see
more. And the simple truth is, agents have no time to read any more
partials. Agents and writers alike are frustrated by the impossibility
of it all.
2. Meet the Agent in Person—A perfect way to get
out of the gruesome realities of the slush pile is to meet the agent at
an event or at a writer’s conference. Reality: With most conferences
scheduling fifteen-minute agent appointments back-to-back, this is not
the best way to meet the agent. By the fifth or sixth appointment, it
all becomes a blur. For me, I prefer meetings that happen in the lobby,
at mealtimes and in groups—where I’m able to connect in a casual way
with a writer and begin to see them in context. Will it happen the
first time we meet? Probably not.
3. Meet the Agent Repeatedly—I find that I take
note of writers who interest me. If I eat with them once or twice and
meet them in the lobby or watch them onstage at a conference, I start
paying attention. I may ask other writers about them. When I’ve met the
writer at a couple of conferences and still like what I see, I may ask
to see a manuscript. It is the repeated contact that works for me. I
know I’m going to work with a client for a long, long time. I don’t
want to jump into something too early.
4. Become Memorable—In an over-saturated market,
the key is for a writer to become memorable to their target agent. This
to be done in a winsome, often humorous way. The
I-have-chocolate-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-use-it approach. Or by the sheer
brilliance of the writing. At conferences, people talk about the
writing they’ve seen.
5. Connect with the Agent Online—I admire several
writers who do this with great finesse. I noticed when our agency began
blogging— http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog—that several writers left
regular comments. Brilliant. Don’t you think we take note of those
writers who are doing the hard work to find out who we are and what
we’re thinking? Also, I’m following several very interesting writers on
Twitter. I’m getting to know them long before they send me work.
6. Connect with Friends/Clients of the Agent—One of
the best ways to come to an agent is with the recommendation of one of
his clients. Of course, this is no small thing to ask of your fellow
writer. My clients will not recommend a writer to me unless they’ve
read that writer’s work, feel I would be a good match for that writer,
and feel like that writer would be a good fit for the Books &
7. Come with a Contract in Hand—You often hear that
a writer cannot sell a manuscript without an agent. That’s not true.
Several wonderful houses welcome submissions directly from writers. And
many writers sell their first manuscript at a writing conference. When
you’ve been offered a contract that might be a perfect time to call
your target agent to see if he’ll represent you. It won’t necessarily
be an automatic yes, however. The agent still has to believe in you,
love your writing, and be willing to sign on for your whole career.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Why would I need an agent now
when I’ve already sold the book?” Selling a book is just the beginning.
An agent is going to go to work on the contract, probably getting you a
better offer and safeguarding you against all kinds of possibilities.
Then the agent will begin to plot out your career with you—a far more
Those are just the tip of the
iceberg. Be creative and be intentional. Landing your perfect agent is
worth the work. We agents feel the same way about the hard work of
right perfect client.
Wendy Lawton ©2009