Blogger friend, Jennifer Neri, asked me to guest post at her blog. She suggested some topics, but then she asked me a question: Now that you’ve self-published, would you ever query agents again?Go to Jennifer’s blog to read my response.
In my last post, I voiced my opinion that nowadays it’s almost impossible for a writer to obtain representation through cold-querying an agent. I also asked you to share your opinions. Some of you agreed, some of you disagreed, and some of you were discouraged. Today, I’d like to address all those reactions.
If you agreed with me, you’ve surely been down the same path I trod. Enough said.
If you disagreed, you’re in good company. Jody Hedlund, whose recent blog post, in part, inspired mine, stopped by to remind me that she advised those still looking for a literary agent to query the new agents. That’s good advice. New agents are actively building their client list and are more open to cold-queries.
Some who disagreed, did so because they or a writer friend recently found representation through cold-querying. I would bet they all write YA fiction. And those that don’t, write in another hot genre. Bottom line: it is easier for some writers than others to get the attention of an agent without a referral or a prior connection, simply because of what they write, not necessarily because they are better writers than those who get form rejections.
So, for those of you who might have been discouraged by my post, take heart. Agents still need books to represent—new agents, especially. And if you can make contact with those agents through conferences, seminars, their blogs, or Twitter, so much the better.
And if the traditional route doesn’t work for you, you can query the editors at small presses. Or you can come back here and we’ll discuss Indie Publishing. Good luck to us all, whichever way we publish.
I’m no longer involved in querying, but I read Jody’s post and comments with interest.
A few had tales of the cold query system working for them, though most of those acknowledged that was years ago. Some said they got their agent’s attention through referral. Many said they first developed a relationship of sorts with the agent who eventually offered them representation.
To do that, they did things like commenting on the agent’s blog and following and interacting with them on Twitter, but the most often mentioned method was meeting their future agent at conferences and seminars, possibly more than once. The object was to cement your name in that agent’s memory and to garner that “golden ticket” allowing you to send REQUESTED material. But, as the writer of another comment pointed out, that’s not fair to those who can’t attend these conferences and seminars for whatever reason. And it’s not.
Repeatedly, I heard it’s all about the writing. I followed all the agents’ rules, polished my query letter until my fingers bled, selected agents who said they were interested in books like mine—and got nowhere. I was frustrated because I knew my writing was good. I knew readers would enjoy my book. It’s demoralizing to think my query might not have even been considered.
I had believed a lie. Finding an agent to represent your novel is not all about the writing. It’s about what the publishers are buying. It’s not all about the writing. It’s about having a connection with that agent. Yes, in the end you have to write well. Or sort of. You have to have a great story, at least. But none of those agents I carefully selected knew me from Eve. Was my query even in contention?
Those of you still seeking an agent, take note. If you have no “in” and no ability or opportunity to physically connect with the agents, you may have a very long struggle ahead of you. I wish you well.
Your turn: This is my opinion of the query game system. How do you see it?
I feel like I lost my train of thought in October and still haven’t found it again. November was all cleaning, little writing. December has been all traveling and holiday preparations. Now, it’s time for a new year to begin and I’m scrambling to get my mind back on track.
Nearly all of my October posts were about editing, literary agents, and query letters. January will be about major editing. No agents and querying, but a thousand other things are in the works. And, as my friend Kasie reminded me yesterday, I have to write something in the next week for critique group. First chapter of my next novel?
So, yeah, three days left in this year and I’m already stressed about the next one. In some aspects, you can take one day at a time, but in most, you can’t really do that. The business of writing takes planning. I now have certain tasks to be done in a certain order by a certain time.
I’m trying to ignore the actual number of tasks though. Overwhelming leads to inaction. When the new year starts, I’ll keep my eyes down and edit my heart out.
Your turn: Are you winging it with your writing in 2011, or do you have a plan?
The first agent blog I discovered was Nathan Bransford’s, and the first thing I read there were his posts on how to get agent representation. His number one tip: have a referral. For top agents, he said, that’s essentially the only way. I really, really, really didn’t want to believe that.
I don’t know any agented writers. I know of some. At least three have even commented on my blog, but I don’t know them in the sense they would refer me to their agent. Nor do I know any agents, editors, or publishers. My budget doesn’t allow me to meet them at conferences or seminars, not even online ones. I’m stuck out in the cold.
I believe my completed novel is a good one, but it’s not the novel of the century, a straight to #1 on the NYT bestseller list. No agent is going to read my query, or sample pages and synopsis, and declare, “I will die, absolutely die, if I don’t get to represent this book!” How close to a miracle will it be should an agent offer me representation, I wonder?
Tell me, fellow writers, do you know of any recent debut fiction authors who found an agent by cold querying?