I woke up late last night to an unfamiliar sound–Rain! Not enough to end the record-
breaking Texas drought, but welcome and lovely, and I went outside and raised my face to the thundercloud and let the wind and rain soak into me as it soaked into the dry ground, and I listened to the cracked, parched earth as it sighed beneath me and seemed to relax into the rain. A lovely break, and an excuse to get out of writing. But if you’re serious about getting published, excuses are for sissies.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received was imparted from the great Sue Grafton. I had been writing for a major newspaper in Central Texas for 10 years, and squeezed my fiction into the slices of time after work, before supper, and after everyone had gone to bed.
Grafton said “That’s backwards. Use your first, best creativity on your fiction–you’re going to have to go to work, so you’re going to get paid anyway, and besides, if you make enough money from writing, you can afford to send your children to therapy.”
So, no excuses. It’s back to the digital grindstone, because we’re working on our query letters and as my daddy used to say, “We’re burnin’ daylight,” which, for those not accustomed to Southern bits of wisdom, means get your ass outa bed and get busy.
So before you sit your rear-end down to write your query letter, you need to know who you’re writing it to–otherwise it’s like blind online dating–you don’t know what you’re gonna get, and it’ll likely be a troll who lives in his mother’s basement playing video games and eating peanut butter out of a jar.
Let’s talk about researching agents and what to do once you’ve found a few that you like. Agents are so important, and I’ve had more than my fair share of nightmares. Choose carefully, because this person will be getting 15% of your money years after you’ve parted–it’s kind of like having an ex-husband who will never, ever go away, which is why before I got my new agent, I researched her, talked to her, asked questions, even went up to New York to meet with her–it’s that important once you’ve been burned.
So, based on my experience with the Agent from Hell, I researched how to choose wisely, talked with successful author buds, and came up with this advice on how to get a good agent, which I will now impart to you.
The first thing to remember about agents is Aim High. Make a list of your dream agents, start with #1 on your list and work your way down–I did mine five at a time (but wound up with #3, so I didn’t have to move on). A writer pal of mine once said she would never start at the top because she knew they wouldn’t take her. Are you kidding me? That’s like agreeing to a date with Peanut Butter Boy.
The odds are 50/50, so why not aim high? What’s the worse thing that could happen? They would say “thank you but no thank you,” and you know you at least tried. And even better, what if you get a “Yes!” from Dream Agent and have to recover from a triple-coronary and get your butt back to work, but in a good way.
So, how do you choose your very own dream agent?
There are several ways you can go about this, and it depends on what your version of “dream agent” is.
1. I chose my shiny new Dream Agent by looking at authors who write in similar genre and vein as my writing. I found her on Publisher’s Marketplace. You can sign up for their daily Pub Lunch for free, which keeps you on top of the latest and greatest news going down in the pub business.
I did a bit more research on agentquery.com (this site tells you a bit about the agent, what they’re acquiring, if they’re accepting queries and if so, email or snail mail preferences). Then I hit up Preditors & Editors then asked the Google-gods what they thought. After that, I asked around to see if my writer friends had heard anything about her, then, happy with what I heard, I sent her a query.
2. You can go the cash route by looking up agents with Top Deal Makers on Publishers Marketplace. These are the top agents, in order, according to 6-figure deals recently, which is what I did.
3. Go to your local bookstore and sit in the aisle and read the acknowledgments page of your favorite authors–many authors thank their agents, especially if said agent got author-girl a heckovadeal. Which I also did.
So you have our homework for the day–tomorrow we’re going to get writing. Happy hunting–Now I gotta go feed the cows.