Hey readers,

I know a lot of you guys are writers and as writers, when we get together, our conversations usually tend toward the same topics: 

1.  Is Costco hiring? 
2.  God I wish I had written something about vampires. 
3.  How in the hell do you get an agent? 

Let's focus on #3 for a second here.  When I was first starting out with the writing, I didn't think about agents or publishing that much.  Mainly, I was just happy to be telling a story and all that other fruity artistic stuff, and I figured that I'd worry about the business parts of it later. 

But there was one day, I'm not sure when, I think I might have been about two hundred or so into Sophomore Undercover, when I decided to do a little internet research into how I was going to turn all these words into a jet ski. 

So I Googled "how to get an agent"...and holy shit was that depressing. 

I couldn't find any straight information, and spent the next five hours figuring out how long I could live off of six hundred dollars in Eastern Europe. 

But after I calculated that the plane ticket to Estonia would leave me with approximately 15 dollars, and deciding that it was probably a lot easier to be a hobo if I knew the language, I got back to writing. 

A few months later, I finished the book and I decided to go about finding an agent again, but this time I had a website.  I think my brother found this one for me, and thank god he did, because this site is awesome.  www.agentquery.com

Now, agentquery has every agent in the business listed, and you have one of two choices here: 

Your choices (as represented by a dating analogy)

1.  Be the asshole at the bar who throws a weak pickup line at every girl who passes. 

We've all seen this guy.  Hell, we've all probably been this guy at one point or another (author's note to younger readers: stay away from any drink that has "malt" in the title and isn't a delicious chocolaty beverage), but this is no way to start your new career as a writer. 

Don't send your query letter to every single agent on the website.  Don't send mass emails with fifty agents CC'd (this actually happens).  Don't send your romantic vampire query to an agent who specializes in historical non-fiction. 

Instead, be the guy who: 

2.  Studies the room, finds the person sitting at the bar who is the perfect match, and then slides over and then says something flawlessly written, completely relevant, and with enough of a hook to keep the conversation going. 

Okay, my bar analogy is kinda falling apart, but I think you get the idea.  Here are some key points: 

1.  Figure out what kind of book you wrote: the genre, other books that are like it in the market, other books that are your influences. 
2.  Do some research on agentquery and google to find out who represents the kinds of books that you both A) really dig and B) are similar to your book. 
3.  Get a list of the agents that you think would be a great fit for you. 
4.  Write a goddamn brilliant query letter.
5.  Jet ski.  

Number 4 really deserves a few thousands words on its own, so lets leave that alone for now. 

Point being, you should really do some research to find the agent that would be perfect for you.  Because even though they need to choose you, you also need to choose them.  Think of this as a marriage (author's note: disregard the fact that I've never been married. This advice is still gold).  You don't want to just take the first person that will have you, you want to find the person that you will be a good fit with for the rest of your (professional) life. 

That's not to say that there might not be some rocky times and/or divorce, but if you do your research ahead of time, then you're a lot more likely to find yourself in a happy partnership. 


Here's my story: 

I read King Dork by Frank Portman (awesome, awesome book) and I thought that my book was kinda similar.  I looked in the acknowledgments and saw that Frank thanked his agent "Steven Malk."  I did a little research on Steve on agent query and Google, saw that he represented some other authors that I really dug, and figured I'd give it a shot.

I sent him my query letter.  He liked it.  And seven months of revisions and a whole lot of emails letter, we signed the papers and made it legal. 

Steve is a really great agent and it's been great working with him.  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast just ran an interview with him the other day, and you guys should check it out.  He's got an interesting back story and it was cool to learn about his journey to becoming an agent. 

The INTERVIEW IS HERE

Okay, my hands are cramping and I gotta go drive to Santa Monica to talk at a panel for the California English Teacher's Convention.  So, you know that's gonna be a party. 
 


Comments

02/13/2010 07:13

Thanks for the link to the interview. Good stuff. I'm getting the query ready and Steve's at the top of the list.

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02/18/2010 07:50

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07/16/2010 22:52

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07/16/2010 22:54

oops, hit the wrong button! Which can happen in sending a query, and in sex.

LOL

Ok, but seriously now. Good blog. I like your strategy. I actually did 175 query letters and a spreadsheet to keep track of it all before I got the one I'm owrking with now (at the revision stage) Wish I had known to do what you did. Next time, if this doesnt work out.

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