A number of books, blogs, tweets, conferences and authors have said a lot about agents and their value to an author. There have been thousands of words written on the subject. The main thrust of most is how to attract an agent to your work. There are rules for queries, synopsis, chapter and page submissions. These are generally meant to keep the process simple and on target; so that an agent can effectively evaluate whether or not the work is something the agent would want to represent. The rules are more or less designed so that any author not following them can be whinnied out of the pack. It has been estimated that on any given week an agent will get about one hundred queries. It has also been estimated that of those, ninety or so are written by folks who should not have access to a word processing program. It is no wonder then that agents are a little particular about what they want to represent.
Those of us who are serious about getting representation must follow the same rules as those who are not serious. Our query, synopsis and sample chapter or pages must be submitted in the format that the agent wants it submitted. It is very rare that an author not following the proper format has a piece that is so exciting, and well written that an agent will immediately pick up the phone and want exclusivity. Agents publish their preferred format on their website so there is no excuse for not knowing how to submit.
Another rule that agents hold sacrosanct is they do not want to see anything that is outside their area of interest. (Interest sometimes means previously successful placement with a publisher) So if you send an agent a query on let’s say contemporary fiction and they are only interested in science fiction you are going to get a rejection before any consideration of your story. The agent’s website will give you information on genre that the agent deals.
Wait….you do check the agent’s website before sending a query, don’t you?
The final thing about an agent that could lead to a rejection; the agent is a human being. (Some might question this statement) Being human carries with it all the strengths and weakness inherent in the breed. Agents, like the rest of us, sometimes do get up on the wrong side of the bed and come to work with a less than positive attitude. Although most try to stay subjective, sometimes being human it is difficult. Picture if you will, (tribute to Twilight Zone) an agent opening your query about a story of a couple who are involved in a nasty divorce. It so happens the agent just had a horrific argument with the spouse this very morning. Unless your story has an angle that will cause the agent to feel better about the nasty argument, your query will be fighting an uphill battle.
Yes agents do take things personally and sometimes a query or story is collateral damage on the highway of human behavior. So where does that leave you? Simple steps:
- Follow the rules – Go to the website and submit no more or less than is asked
- Keep submitting even though you are getting rejections
- Keep believing that there is an agent out there who is just waiting to represent you
Oh, one more thing…Try to avoid sending a query to arrive on Monday… I’m just saying.