Recently I’ve posted about beginning my hunt for the right agent to represent my latest manuscript. If you have a) ever been in the query process, b) are in the query process or c) intend to be in the query process in the future, I feel your pain. It is not an easy or quick process. In fact, if you are a writer who just completed his/her manuscript and you are looking for the secret sauce to getting an agent, please stop reading this right now. <Channeling ObiWan:>These aren’t words you’re looking for. I don’t have the answers. I haven’t even found my own book cheerleader…yet. But based on all that I’ve read on social media and across the writerati blogosphere, I don’t think there is such as thing as a “secret sauce”. Every writer has different experiences, particularly those of us who are still on the scratching/clawing/pleading side of success. Many of the recent six-digit successful writers I’ve interacted with each tell a different story. Assuming for a moment that you’ve written something technically sound, you still have to outsmart the dreaded slush pile, while for the most part remaining within some time-honored standards and practices. You’ve got to research the right agents for your type of story, using their preferred method of contact at a time that makes sense for them, based on their interests and knowledge of the market.
Beyond these not-so-hidden gems of advice, please look elsewhere for more established writers to give you advice. Oh wait, here’s one more nugget – don’t be an arrogant asshole. I am floored at what I’ve read from agents regarding submission do’s and dont’s that have absolutely nothing to do with your ability as a writer and everything to do with simply being a humble and polite human being. Just follow the #pubtip or #querytip hashtag on Twitter for examples. Bonus – most agents have a pretty good sense of humor (or maybe just those that I follow?) and they use it very effectively in 140 characters or less. Twitter, used in small doses, is always good for decompressing from the WIP or the query process.
And finally, I do think it is very important to remember that there is a living human being on the other end of your query letter, most likely an intelligent and experienced one. I’ve received a few rejections lately. Sure, each one is a little swipe at the ego but they’ve also been professional and most of them have been personalized and encouraging. Although it feels like a gut-punch when you get one, don’t get all self-righteous and offended by a rejection. And don’t get discouraged! It’s not personal. It happens to everyone! Learn from the rejection. Make yourself and your work better. I also encourage you to seek out the blogs of the agents who commonly represent your genre. There are many wonderfully prolific agent bloggers to be found. They feel your pain too. Rejection fatigue is real and writers aren’t the only ones who have to deal with it!
Good luck with your writing journey. And if you feel the need to vent your frustrations or likewise tell me to piss off, please feel free to do so in the Comments. I won’t take that personally either.