It’s a sunny late August morning here, warm but with that refreshing taste of freshness in the air that I love. I feel re-energized at this time of year, and a good thing that is, because I’ve decided to try once again to Get An Agent. As you may know, I wrote four novels over the past few years. That was great fun, but here the poor things lie, languishing on the laptop. I’d much prefer I people like you were able to pick them up and read them. A literary agent could help to make that happen, but first I have to interest one in my work. That can be a complicated process. You probably already know this, but in case someone reads this who doesn’t, let me first explain about Literary Agents, what they do and why.
Imagine that you want to sell your house. You want to reach the largest possible market in the least possible time, so you decide to list it with a Real Estate Agent. Since they make their living by selling houses, you’d think they would welcome you with open arms, right? But imagine this: What if these realtors were besieged by people asking them to sell dog houses, mansions, grass shacks, condos, outhouses, townhouses, treehouses, un-surveyed lots, tool sheds, heritage homes, house-plans, ranchers … etc. You couldn’t blame them if they look at you askance as you walk in the door, could you? That’s what it is like for Literary Agents, poor things.
Unfortunately, as a writer I don’t know for sure whether my work has value or not. If I query a literary agent and they reject it, what am I to think? If I’m confident in my work, I’d think, “Pshaw! Your loss, agent-dear.” In the distant past, when I was running on zero confidence, I thought, “I just not a good enough writer.” (Oh what a grievous, depressing bummer!)
By last winter however I’d done a lot of work on myself and on my writing and had come to believe that the novels I was writing were actually pretty danged good. They deserved an audience. So I wrote a few query-letters to a few agents. “I wrote a novel about blah-blah!” I said, and invited them to have a look.
Oh dear. It was not a good experience. All I got were variations on the theme of ‘thanks but no thanks’. When I got one of those within 24 hours of sending my query, I threw up my hands in surrender, concluding that while I might be able to dash off a decent novel, I was hopelessly hopeless at the art of interesting an agent. Feeling bruised, I put the project away and went back to my preferred activity: novel-writing. That’s another story, one I’ll tell you another time; meanwhile, one more thing about my big Get An Agent Project: Just as I gave up trying, what should magically appear in my email Inbox but a promo-letter from a guy whose work nowadays is all about helping writers get taken on by literary agents.
Well, knock me down with a feather! Magic Happens!
I studied Mark’s websites and signed up for a coaching call. Golly, did I ever learn a lot! His websites are outstanding, but the coaching call? WOW! I cannot begin to say how valuable it was. And not just because he said, "your writing is strong", although that was sweet music to my ears. More importantly, I learned how to compose a pretty decent query letter. I found out that once an agent is ‘grabbed’ by a brilliant q-letter, they often want a 400 - 700 word Synopsis of the whole novel, so I drafted one of those as well. Then I went through Mark’s free, exhaustive listing of Literary Agents and made up a list of some 300+ names of possible agents.
On Sept. 1st I launched the Great Get- an-Agent project with a battery of query letters. My plan: Keep the barrage happening until someone says, "Yes please Elaine, I want to work with you!"
Watch this space … I promise to keep you posted on what happens next.
Elaine H (for Hannah) MacDonald is a fiction writer, grandmother, mother, homemaker, gardener, baker, seamstress and more, not necessarily in that order. She lives on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada.