10 Minute Writer

Confessions of a Busy Mom Who Became an Independent Novelist

Newbie Finds Agent In Nine Easy Steps (Kind Of)

Let’s just squash all rumors right now that I know what I’m doing. I don’t. I’m just like a lot of other writers out there — I want to be published, I’m weighing my options, I spend way too much time on social media, and I oscillate between thinking I’m a talentless hack and the greatest writer since Homer.

But there comes a time in every writer’s life when he/she must decide what to do next with their manuscripts. For me, the time has come and I’ve decided to find  an agent.

I need a professional, someone who really gets the business and gets me, to tell me what I should do next. Should I write proposals for traditional publishing houses? Should I consider self-publishing? Are books like mine, Amish Vampire Dystopians (jk), really selling right now? I need help. I need a pro.

I’ve decided to systematically find one. If I were more technologically savvy, I would have created a flow chart to demonstrate how I did this.  Regardless, here are the steps I have taken to narrow down my selection.

Step One:  I created a database using Filemaker Pro. In this database, I had a list of stuff I had to fill out for each agent. Things like: Name, Name of Agency, website, address. Then I had a place to write in if they were accepting unsolicited queries, yes or no. (The yes people will go high on my list.) Do they represent ACFW writers? Do they attend the ACFW conference? And the last section: Which of their are the most like me? Oh, and I leave a place for notes, a place for when I contacted them and my personal ranking number. I think I put this database together in one evening.

This is what my database looks like. Yes, I made it fancy.

Step Two: I added data. This was time consuming. I started with a list Michael Hyatt wrote last year or so about all of the agents he works with that represent Christian books. It’s a long list. From it I went to every single website on this list and put in what I could. Some of the links are dead. Some of the agents I grouped together into their agency, (like Steve Laube and Tamela Hancock Murray, who work together) and some were speakers bureaus or film producers which didn’t help me at all.

Step Three: I researched each agent individually. I was looking for three big things: Are they accepting queries? Do they have comparable authors? Do they work with publishing houses that I like? (I don’t see myself has a writer for Harlequin, so if this agent sells to Harlequin a lot, she might not be a good fit for me.) I make notes on my database.

Step Four: I narrow the list down to the agents that seem to be the best fit. Out of Hyatt’s list, I reduced it to 13.

Step Five:  I re-research each of the thirteen to see what each one requires in my initial contact. Some just want simple e-mail queries (YAY!) some want only snail mail proposals and sample chapters (uh, okay, that means more work) some have online forms to fill out. Some want marketing strategies (yikes). So, I re-arrange the thirteen, ranking them from the easiest to the hardest. My thought here is that I can write a query faster than I can write a proposal, and I don’t expect to be accepted right away. So, I can use the time between queries to perfect the harder document. I think this is a good strategy. I don’t know. But then again, if all new authors are thinking the same thing, then the agents with the easier submission policy have the biggest slush pile — maybe the agents with the more difficult hoops to jump through are the better choice. I don’t know!

Step Six: Choose my number one. (Nope, not telling you who I picked.) And then I meticulously go over their submissions requirements. I will follow these to the letter.

Step Seven: I polish the query. I get my writer friends to check for mistakes. I make it as sparkly and shiny and I possibly can.

Step Eight: I send. Then I pour myself a stiff drink. Maybe I’ll wait until the Friday night Margarita.

Step Nine: I imagine that I will not get a positive response, just the law of averages in play here. But after my first rejection, I’ll go to the my second choice and repeat steps six through eight and wait again.

What happens if I get through all thirteen and get nothing but rejections? I’m not sure. I’m also planning on attending the ACFW conference in September, where I hope I’ll meet some folks face to face (and put more notes in my database) and see where all this leads. This is a long, tedious process and there are so many unknowns out there. But in order to see my dreams fulfilled, I need to step out, do hard things and see what happens.

What about you? Have you submitted to agents? Am I missing any steps? Do you want to represent me?


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