As those who follow my Twitter feed already know, I am now represented by literary agent Sandra Bond (of The Sandra Bond Agency).
As those of you in the publishing industry know, this means I received “The Call” – an experience which has near-mythical status among writers, both for its significance in an author’s career and also for its ability to turn even reasonably stable people into blathering idiots. Every represented author has a story about THE CALL – and since three days have given me the distance I need to write without collapsing into giggles that make those around me think I might need my head examined (more than usual)…I’ll tell you mine – but not for bragging purposes (well, not for that alone). The years I spent preparing to take THE CALL taught me several important lessons which translate to any author seeking representation.
Today’s post explains the first three lessons I learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Don’t query until you are ready, polished and certain your work is ready for the world.
One of the things that drew my agent to me was the polished state of my manuscript. She mentioned it more than once, and I was delighted and flattered to hear her say it. At the risk of sounding conceited…I knew it sang.
But here’s why: I have four other completed manuscripts hidden in my digital trunk, which shall stay there indefinitely. I don’t want to publish them and have no plans to. The Books Under The Stairs are not failures, but they are training hills upon which I built my skills. Apprentice jewelers don’t start by cutting diamonds, and few authors hit their stride out of the gate.
Lesson 2: Homework, Homework, Homework.
I knew about Sandra Bond before she ever heard my name. I read the Sisters in Scribe article “Advice from Sandra Bond” at least… well, more times than I’m willing to admit. I knew she represented Beth Groundwater. I researched Sandra and her agency as thoroughly as I could, and when I learned that Sandra would be attending the 2011 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Conference I kicked on the afterburners to ensure that my mystery novel would be published and ready to pitch.
Whether you’re querying now, about to query or still in the early phases of considering representation for your work, it’s never too early to start the research. Don’t pin all your dreams on a single agent or agency, but it’s a good idea to look around and see who might suit your style and career intentions.
Lesson 3: Don’t be afraid to speak up…and when you do, speak politely.
During the RMFW conference, I met with an editor who expressed interest in my manuscript. (Translation: said editor asked for the full.) After the banquet that evening I noticed Sandra sitting near my table, and that her table had almost cleared. I approached her, mentioned the editor’s interest, explained that I intended to query her after the conference, and asked if she could give me a minute or two to describe the project. She gave me the time…and also asked for the full manuscript.
I’m fond of telling other writers that agents are not monsters or beasts to be feared. My favorite way of putting this is: “They put their pants on the same way you do – except hopefully, they use their own pants. Because using yours would be creepy.”
Which leads me to my next and final point for today:
Approaching an agent the right way goes a long way toward a favorable response. Know what you intend to say and how you intend to say it. Wait for a time when the agent is not already in conversation or otherwise indisposed. (Translation: The bathroom is off limits, and following an agent to his or her hotel room is more likely to get you legal representation than that of the literary kind.) And when you do approach…for goodness’ sake…SMILE.
You never know when a conversation you start with a stranger might end as a talk between friends.
Tomorrow, we’ll get to the call.