Agent ready? Not so fast! Practical Advice for Submitting.

July 7, 2010

Song of the day: Let’s Get It Started by The Black-Eyed Peas

Last weekend, I had the honor of hosting Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency in Houston. He visited with my RWA chapter and offered us valuable pointers on preparing to submit and pitch to agents and editors.

I’m going to share his wisdom and what I learned with you.

Must...pick up...agent...

First and foremost, when picking an agent up from the airport during rush hour in the middle of a flash flood warning, it is wise to leave the house much, much earlier than you would normally.  Don’t leave the agent, no matter how understanding they are, waiting for 45 minutes at passenger pick-up. Okay, now that my PSA is out of the way, let’s continue.

Scott had so much great information; I have decided to break it up into a series of three blogs. Yes, this is my sneaky way of getting you, the reader, to come back. Mwahahaha.

This installment will focus on what a writer should do to get ready to submit. Bless Scott for his handouts because I can hardly read my own handwriting.

Before you entertain the idea of fraternizing with agents and editors, you must be READY. That means you should be ready to present your manuscript in FULL. It must be complete and spit-shined.

You must also treat writing as a BUSINESS, not a hobby. Crocheting is a hobby. Mastering Guitar Hero is a hobby. Collecting freakishly tiny spoons is a hobby. Brewing beer…well, you get the idea.

Nice package.

Do your RESEARCH. Is the agent right for you? Is the publisher right for you? Who is accepting? What are they accepting? Who will read you submissions? The editor? An assistant? The cover artist? The UPS man? Read your desired target’s blogs. Follow them on Twitter. Get to know their personality. NOTE: I don’t suggest stalking. That’s a hobby for the unstable.

Write a good QUERY. Consider this your cover letter. You’ve heard this before. Keep it brief. Include the genre, word count, blurb, and what is distinctive about your story. Don’t forget your writing biography. This is your first impression. Will the agent or editor want to know more?

Write a SYNOPSIS that won’t make them cringe. I can’t promise you won’t cringe, but try your best to keep the recipient from wincing. Three to five pages is good. You’re cringing, aren’t you?  Show the plot. Not the sub-plot, not the secondary characters. Don’t let your hero or heroine tell the story. Don’t hint to what happens and don’t end it with a cliff hanger. That is not the purpose of the synopsis.

Clowns scare me.

Be PROFESSIONAL. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? People forget that writing is a job. A REAL job. You’re not working as a clown for children’s birthday parties. Hey – don’t get your big red nose bent out of shape if that’s what you do for a living. It’s a euphemism. Don’t harass. Agents and editors are not sitting around their offices reading submissions. They are working with their existing authors; making phone calls, attending meetings, editing, etc. They read submissions in their downtime on their commutes or before bed.  By pestering them, you may come off as pushy and brand yourself as a pariah. Word gets around and so does the plague.

Send only what is REQUIRED.  That means the material that is requested and contact information. If sending by mail, don’t forget the SASE. For the love of Pete, use delivery confirmation that doesn’t require a signature.

Be TIMELY. This applies to requests and/or revisions. Take no more than a couple of weeks to respond. This goes back to professionalism.

Finally, KNOW YOUR BUSINESS. Where in the market does your book fit? What authors would you compare with?

There you have it. The basics straight talk from a respected agent.

Next week, Preparing to Pitch.