It’s been said that an agent is like a bank loan: You can only get one if you can prove that you don’t need it. But there are more than 1,200 agents in the United States, and more than 90% of them must find new writers to make a living. Here are eight steps to getting the agent you need:
1. Find a salable idea.
2. Write a proposal or manuscript. The only time to contact agents is when you have something ready to sell.
3. Research potential agents online and off as my previous post suggests.
4. Write an irresistible query letter about the hook, the book, and the cook, the subject of an upcoming post.
5. Follow the submission guidelines of the agents you contact. The comedian Steven Wright once saw a sign in a restaurant window that said: “Breakfast served at any time.” So he ordered French toast during the Renaissance. Of course you don’t want hear back from agents at any time. You want to hear yesterday. But don’t call or email to see if your work arrived or when you will get a response. Established agents receive thousands of submissions a year and don’t keep a log.
Make a note on your calendar or your copy of your query letter of when the agents’ guidelines say you will hear from them and call or email them if you don’t. If it’s important for you to know that snail mail arrived, send it certified or get a return receipt.
If you’re mailing your work, and you don’t want the material back, you still have to include a stamped-self-addressed #10 business envelope if you want to be sure to get a response. If you don’t, you may lose the chance to get feedback and may only hear back if an agent is interested.
6. If the agent has a written agreement, read it to make sure you’ll feel comfortable signing it, and feel free to ask the agent questions about it.
7. Meet interested agents to test the chemistry for your working marriage. Look at the challenge of finding and keeping an agent as creating and sustaining a marriage that has personal and professional aspects to it.
8. Choose the best agent for you, based on passion, personality, performance, and experience.
Then bask in the glow of satisfaction that an agent thinks enough of your book’s potential and yours to represent you. I hope you find an professional, knowledgeable, and motivated mentor for the adventure that awaits you.
The Third San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Writing to Make a Difference / November 13-14, Hilton Financial/Chinatown / www.sfwritingforchange.org /Keynoters: Dan Millman (The Way of the Peaceful Warrior) and John Robbins (Diet for a New America)