Monday, 25 March 2013

Hunting For A Literary Agent - Part 2

Part 1

Submitting to a Literary Agent

   Addressing the letter and the envelope is very important. Obviously, the address goes without saying, but it's the name that's just as important. When you were researching your agencies, you probably came across agencies with multiple agents. It's also likely that the only way you found out what was accepted on their was by looking at each agent individually. Let's say that Agency X accepts fantasy, fiction, and poetry, and there are three agents. It's fairly likely that each of these agents only represent one of these genres each. So, in my case, I'd have to search through the agents' pages and find which one it is that accepts fantasy. This is who I address my letter and envelope too, because this is the person I want to read it. It may well be read by an assistant first, but don't be put off by this. These assistants are just as well-versed in the genres the agent accepts as the agent themselves, which is why they are the assistant of that particular person.
   Now, the reason you want to send your work to specific individuals is, of course, because they know that genre. They don't just like to read it, though - they know how to sell it. They know who to talk to about advertising, publishing and all kinds of things, and they can recognise a good piece if they saw one. I could not be a general fiction agent, because the genre all seems the same to me. I couldn't pick out a good one if it bit me on the nose. But I know my way around fantasy - not just because I write it, but because it's all I read. I read it constantly, my book case has only three books that are general fiction, two of which I never even got around to reading. I would also choose a fantasy film over a general fiction film, especially over a romance. It's what I know, and it's what I love, and if I were an agent, I couldn't represent anything but.

   Now, along with the chapters, letter, synopsis and perhaps CV, you want to include a stamped, addressed envelope. Agents will not return your work to you without this, so it has to be a big enough envelope and high enough postage to cover the full manuscript. If you don't include this, your work will be shredded and then recycled, and you may not even get a response at all, whether you include your address on the letter or not. They receive many, many manuscripts every week, lots of them not even suitable, most likely. They don't want to have to use their hard earned money to post everything back to every single person themselves. Make sure everything is neat, and numbered. Now, this may have been the wrong thing to do, but I sent two synopsis out to each agent - one for the individual book, and one for the trilogy it was a part of. One synopsis was 2 pages long, and the other was 5. I'm sure you can guess which was which. Because of the fact that there were 2, I numbered the pages of each synopsis seperately, then added a bit of coloured tape to the top corners, to colour code which was from which synopsis, just in case they dropped them or something. Agents are organised, but they're human, too!

   Once you're satisfied that everything is ready to go, post it. Make a note of when you sent it so that you can watch how long it takes to receive a reply - this is not to torture you, but rather so that when you submit your work to the next agency, or a new piece of work to the same agency in the future, you know roughly how long to expect to wait.
   The average time it takes to receive a response is 6 weeks. Sometimes it can take longer, other times it'll take less. It depends entirely on how much free time the agents have, and that can change if they have a new book deal they're working on, have a stressful event, or have an influx of submissions, or something like that. Oh, and, the reason it takes so long, is because agents only filter through these submissions in their free time. So that means that when you clock off from work and go home and soak in the bath after a stressful week, these guys are still working. So respect that fact and make it as easy as you can for them by giving them only what they've asked for in the format they want.

While You're Waiting

   Personally, I am happiest during this time period. I know full well that I'll get rejected, of course I will, I already accepted that fact before writing any letters, but I still have that lingering feeling of hope. I know I'm not likely to get accepted, but there's the slight chance that I might, because I sent my stuff to the right people, rather than sending it to an agent that doesn't know the first thing about my genre.
   But a lot of people are likely to dwell on it, and I did that too. I shouldn't have. By dwelling on it, I became more focused on the book I'm submitting, rather than by considering my next piece, when the rejection letters started rolling in, I got quite bogged down, whether I expected them or not, and I put that down mostly to the fact that I didn't immediately allow myself to move on. Because I kept thinking about the first book of my trilogy, it took me some time to start writing the next book, so when the rejection letters came in, I wasn't already occupied and I had time to think on it negatively. While I did put the trilogy to one side, regardless, I did soon start working on an entirely new book. Afterall, I don't want to receive only rejection letters and continue to waste five or so years on the trilogy when I could write something else to get my career rolling sooner.

   So, while you're waiting to hear back, get moving onto something else. Pick up a new hobby, perhaps, or just go right ahead and start work on the next part, or an entirely new piece. But don't dwell on it, and accept the fact that finding an agent is NOT an easy job, and will likely take some time. It's unlikely that your first work will be accepted, either. Keep yourself busy and positive, and when you do get rejected, it won't be as bad.

Stay tuned for part 3!


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