Finding an agent, I suspect, is not dissimilar from finding the love of your life – there’s so many possibilities out there, but only one is right for you, and it doesn’t happen every day. It can be a long disheartening process, but when it works out, you feel on top of the world.
When people ask me how I met my husband I say ‘Through work.’
Now when people ask how I found my agent, I say, ‘Through work…hard work.’
It may be different for everyone, so I can only describe my journey, but take from it what you will.
I took the ‘Rules of Dating’ approach.
- Always look your best – I wanted my manuscript to be the best it could be. I did as much work as I could before sending it off. I studied book after book on writing. I researched how to present my mss, drafted and re-drafted and kept my query letter as professional as possible. This is, after all, a business.
- Keep your options open – I sent it out to twelve agents in one go, none of this ‘send to one and wait and see what they say before going on to the next’. I didn’t have the patience for that sort of traditional etiquette.
- Accept compliments gracefully – Out of my twelve submissions, I received two generic replies, five encouraging replies (such as ‘this is brilliant but I’ve got another author very similar’ and ‘get back to me when I’ve moved the office to New York’) and one asking for a full manuscript. You know you’re on to something when there’s a scribbled sentence at the top of a rejection letter – handwritten by a real live agent! – what they loved about it, even if they didn’t love it enough – or a tip such as ‘email submissions have a much faster return than snail mail’ (anything to cut out the suffering of waiting!)
- No means no – If you’ve sent your mss to ten agents and you’ve had absolutely no positive feedback whatsoever then you need to have a rethink. Is it good enough? Does it grab the reader? Is it original? As with any relationship, honesty is the best policy, even if it is only being honest with yourself.
- Desperation is unattractive – don’t just throw yourself at any agency in a splatter-dash attempt at securing representation. In fact, don’t go for an agency at all. Go for an agent. I wanted to meet a person, not a company. I used the website Agent Hunter, because like a good online dating agency, they had done all the research for me and I could pinpoint someone who I felt would relate to what I was trying to achieve, an agent who was looking for someone like me.
- It isn’t always love at first sight – bide your time, stay hopeful. My agent thought she saw something in my work and she slept on it. Thankfully, the next day she decided I was for her.
- A wedding day isn’t a marriage – the hard work comes afterward the contract with the agent is signed. I didn’t realise this. Be prepared to work hard, compromise, listen and sacrifice. But there will also be moments of sheer joy, reward and satisfaction.
Best of luck, and may you live happily ever after.