Literary Agent Tip #2: DON’T GO ROGUE

Broken-Pencil-Hd-Wallpaper

Yes, I know this is in direct contradiction to my blog’s tagline, “Professional Rogue Writer,” but I refuse to go rogue with literary agents. Why?

Because if I don’t follow their rules for submission, they don’t see my pitch.

It’s that simple, folks.

  • If they ask for an emailed query letter with one sample chapter, don’t include the first five.
  • If they request all pitches go to a general email for query letters, don’t send yours to their personal email.

Trust me, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. I’m used to breaking the rules to make connections. It’s how I’ve met major magazine editors and pitched them article ideas; it’s how I’ve uncovered story leads from difficult-to-find sources. In fact, I can contribute much of my current-day success to going rogue.

But when I spoke to a director of submissions at a major literary agency in New York a few weeks ago, he told me this: “The better you follow their instructions, the better chance you’ll have of getting read.” In fact, he said circumventing the literary agents’ directions probably ensures they won’t see your pitch–and if they do, they may not want to work with you.

Following the literary agents’ rules shows humility. It shows your willingness to collaborate. Most of all, it shows that you respect their time.

And guys, I can tell you that I understand this.

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I couldn’t stand when PR people wanted me to write a story on their company, but disregarded my requests. I was always more likely to work with PR people who respected my time.

If literary agents feel the way I did as a reporter, then guess what? I’d better listen to their submission rules. And you better, too.

#####

Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

5 Literary Agents Who Blog About Query Writing

Snoopy writing

I hope that someday, when I land a literary agent (and then a publishing contract), I can share with you the magical query letter which sealed the deal.

Until then, I can’t tell you if I’m doing things right, but I know five others who can! Before I started writing my novel’s query letter, I conducted plenty of research on WHAT literary agents look for in a solid pitch. I asked myself:

  • Which queries generate interest, and why?
  • Is there a certain format that works?
  • What information should I exclude?

To answer those questions, I read a lot. But specifically, here are 5 literary agents (or agencies) who helped me the most. They either blog about the query writing process, or post general advice on their websites:

1) Rachelle Gardner: literary agent, Books & Such

2) The Knight Agency: A Literary Agency

3) Janet Reid, Literary Agent

4) BookEnds Literary Agency

5) Query Shark (read edited query letters from agent, Janet Reid)

And although this isn’t from a literary agency, Writer’s Digest published an awesome list of successful query letters which landed agents: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries.

So if you’re hoping to be the next Gillian Flynn or James Dashner, I hope this list helps you!

#####

Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

Literary Agent Tip #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH

Hand Holding Pen

I’ve pitched about 10 literary agents, as of today. Ten. Literary agents.

They include the reps for Gillian Flynn, Stephenie Meyer (we both live in Phoenix!), John Green, Dan Brown, and James Dashner.

Prepare the automated rejections!

But seriously, these folks are top, top grade agents. And why not start with the best? Which leads me to the first lesson I learned upon my quest for a book deal:

Do your literary agent research BEFORE finishing your book!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t consider my book complete until finishing the first draft and editing it. Therefore, I ended my book, stepped away for a month, then started the editing/rewriting process.

It was during this month—between finishing the draft and editing—that I began my literary agent research. And here’s how I did it:

  1. Decided the genre which best described my book
  2. Deciphered the audience (YA, new adult, middle grade, adult fiction, etc.)
  3. Brainstormed which published books were similar to mine
  4. Googled their authors’ names with the term “literary agent” (i.e. John Green literary agent)
  5. Got the agent’s name and visited his/her website

Then, I created an Excel spreadsheet.

I used to work as a public relations professional in corporate communications. Whenever we were preparing a splash, we always developed a list of target reporters, their beats, and their contact information … all wrapped with a bow in an Excel spreadsheet.

We separated these reporters into “tiers:”

  • Tier one consisted of reporters who covered stories most aligned with our pitch. They also had the largest reach, or influence.
  • Tier two expanded further out, and included reporters who worked for community publications with a smaller reach.
  • And so on …

As I began compiling my list of literary agents, I did the same thing, preparing everything in Excel. My thought was this: once editing is complete, I’ll have a list of top tier, and second tier, literary agents to begin pitching.

And now that I’ve reached the moment of truth, I can tell you … this works, kid!

#####

Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.