Friday, July 2, 2010

The Challenge of Agents

We have all queried, or most of us have. We have all readied the dreaded synopsis and sample pages. You've made sure to check your grammar, and more importantly, the correct spelling of the agent's name. Right? Of course you have, otherwise you'll be receiving a form or nothing at all. You've made sure to insert only plain text so there is no formatting jumble and have labeled your snail mail correctly or e-query subject line to the agent's specifications. You have taken the time to research the agent and his/her likes and open client list and what they are currently seeking to represent. You have subbed to the agent's blogs, followed their RSS posts and done everything possible to make yourself more open to an agent's eyes, whether virtual or in person.

A few of you have attended conferences or workshops and spoke with agents. You have carried samples and slapped yourself clean across the face when you don't have pages to hand out. You are the lucky one of a thousand plus hopefuls looking for representation that managed to catch an agent's eye with your personality or TKO query.

Now what? Do you refresh your inbox every few minutes? Do you check your feeds and see if they have ranted about your received query? Do you double-check query assisting websites to triple-check if you really did everything correctly.

No. You let the agent do his/her work. You write and write hard. You do not dwell on the strong possibility of a rejection or the wonderful feeling of a partial/full request. You do not even think of the circumstances of the call for representation. You write and continue on in your journey. The craft is an unforgiving one and the business of agents, who are writers themselves, do have a life besides their career. Granted, they chose to be an agent to make a commitment to budding writers, but they are people and need the chance to work at their pace.

We all know the feeling when someone tries to rush you along in a job that needs time. You want this thing to simmer. Do not let it control you. You also want to make sure you can put out simultaneous submissions. Normally the case when submitting short stories is that editors like the time to have the submission to themselves, but you can usually lie your way out of it. I am not condoning that you should, either. But with agents, the challenge is to really challenge them. When you have polished writing and that TKO query, pump out your batches. Give agents the challenge of fighting over you. That is what they really enjoy. If they want you as a client, they will make it happen, be it through advances or calling you personally. Give them the opportunity to do their work, but if another agent shows even the smallest amount of concern even with a partial, you must contact any other agents (usually their filing assistants) and do them the courtesy of saying you have an offer of a partial. This may often challenge them to put your material ahead of another writer.

So the business is all about patience and challenging yourself and who you want to read your material. Make it easy for the agent by doing everything correctly and at the same time, make them work for you by pumping out those batches.

So, the question to my community is: Do you agree with this? Is this a philosophy to follow? How do you work your query route? I am eager to learn and I'm sure others are eager to share.

Bye for now!



  1. Hi Justin,

    Multi-querying is expected, so sending out batches is both smart and effective.

    The key is to know when to recontact. And that's usually when an agent offers you representation. Then it's acceptable (nay, professional!) to contact any agent with a partial or full and give them a few weeks to responsd. The offering agent will respect you for saying you need to do it. And the agents with the sample pages will appreciate your overture (many will probably step aside, but not always).

    For those agents that have a query but haven't responded yet, there are a number of preferences. Most say you don't need to recontact upon offer, but a few like to hear back. Just depends on the agent.

    Other than that, you don't have to notify agents that have sample pages if you get another partial/full request---unless they ask you to. A few did ask me, so I kept them updated. Most didn't, however.

    A really great article about the etiquette of offers is on AgentQuery -- it's called, appropriately, "The Call."

    Best of luck!

  2. Kendra's got the right idea, as do you. Keep writing, keep sending stuff out. Eventually you'll get a reply or two or three.


"Little by Little, One Goes Far." -- J.R.R Tolkien.

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