Ok, love. Let’s start with basics. Not like I knew this shit till someone broke it down to me. What exactly, does a good literary agent do? Represent your copyright, financial, book and future interests vs. publishing.
Ok. But what the fc does that actually mean? What Does Said Dream Agent DO?
- Magazine Placement: Help place your stories in strategic journals/magazines/periodicals that make sense to your project
- Pitch Your Book: Using their publishing network, send your book out to targeted editors they 70% know will have some interest in whatever you’re hollering about
- Enter You in Fancy Contests: They should know the literary landscape better than you and have ideas of places where your work may have a good shot of nice prize-money or an award/fellowship useful to your writing career
- Negotiate Contracts: self-explanatory, I hope. And they’re working with a legal team that gets copyright law and how to best protect your interests. This shit really matters. I know more than one amazing writer who was initially self-represented and got got—giving away too many rights they didn’t realize was cake meant for them (like TV/e-book rights/royalties, etc). Don’t let it happen to you, fam! If you’re gonna skip an agent (do NOT recommend this if working with publishing industry), at least engage a lawyer
- Deepen Your Writing Community: Great agents represent a bevy of writers you already admire. I’m not saying it’s your agent’s job to get you BFF status with them, but being repped by the same superstar comes in handy for a lot more than blurbs.
What did I do?
Even before reaching out to agents, I knew I wanted two non-negotiables: 1. someone I could trust. Cause all super-cash, I was just handing over my raw heart and whatnot. And 2. someone who believed so much in my work, they wanted to build a career with me. Not just sell a book. I knew I didn’t need a first reader/writing ideas partner—which some writing friends prize—since I’ve got that covered elsewhere.
What do you most want from your Dream Agent? Make a list of 2-3 non negotiables.
Ok, knowing what you want. Time to get that shit.
If you’re in a structured writing program, you’ll likely have some guest agents visit. This is also true at many writing conferences like Bread Loaf, Tin House, AWP. Don’t assume someone’s a good fit for you just cause they’ve been invited to speak. Do your own research. Poets & Writers Magazine regularly spotlights agents. And many agents actually reach out to writers through literary journals—esp if you include a hint in your author bio. Also. Writing friends. Ask about their experience and if they’re down introducing you to their agent.
The real secret sauce though? Mine the books you love. Especially by authors you return to again and again. They’ll likely include a Thanks, Boss salute to their agent under Acknowledgements. If someone’s writing resonates with you, chances are their agent will resonate with whatever’s kin in your own work. And since you already admire this writer’s career and what they’ve got going, Why not reach out?
Ok. But how? What does reaching out look like?
The stuffy name is Query Letter. 🥱YAWN. But nobody lit snail mails, honey. And really, stuffy “professional” language (ie. the death of all your amazing-ness) makes it hard to stand out in an inbox busier than Grand Central Terminal.
Here’s what you may wanna include when you reach out:
- Short elevator pitch describing your project and why they’d wanna read it
- Writing milestones/fancy pants awards. Your top gun shit, one sentence or two
- Who are you? Why should they care—this aint the time to regurgitate your resume. Sure, work stuff matters, but tell them something real and hot and bothered about you
ANNOUNCEMNET : Don’t forget to attach your manuscript!
Ok. That’s gotta be your fun outing for today—Write a compelling, 3-para draft. Look up agent emails for 3 writers you regularly read and admire. And reach out.
Get it—and lmk how it goes? Rooting for you.