How to Get an Agent for Your Novel

A few years ago, I left a writing conference feeling pretty good about things. I’d had a manuscript critique that went very well and I’d been told that I should start sending out queries. Five weeks later, I had a request for the full manuscript and a few months later, an offer of representation. And if you believe nothing else, believe this: If it happened for ME, it can happen for YOU. Just follow the rules –

1. Finish the manuscript.

Seriously. Everything I have ever read about looking for an agent (excluding those writing NON-fiction) has said to please finish the novel before submitting anything. Yet I consistently meet people who can’t wait and insist on starting the process before the manuscript is done. WHY? If you do get a response, you’re not going to be ready, and no late-night panic sessions are going to help. Finish the novel, tighten it, get it as close as you can to perfect, BEFORE you query anyone.

2. Write a great query letter and synopsis and be willing to change it if it doesn’t work.

I took classes on query writing, read books on the subject, looked at everything I could find online, THEN I sent out my queries. Guess what? I got rejected. When it didn’t work, I tweaked it and tried again. Don’t be stubborn. Try a new approach if you’re getting consistent rejections.

Some good query advice can be found at: QueryShark

3. Do your research.

Again, this is simple advice, but people ignore it all of the time. When I started the process of finding an agent for my middle grade novel, I knew nothing except I should find an agent interested in middle grade novels. I used QueryTracker to search for agents interested in my genre, THEN I followed the link to their website where I checked out their bios, and read their submission guidelines. I did not want to get rejected over something silly like including the first 5 chapters when they only wanted the first 10 pages.

4. Treat it like a job.

At the conference mentioned above, I sat in on a session by Haywood Smith. One of the things she said that I never forgot was that writing is WORK and that you have to treat it like a real career. So I sat down with my query letter and my research data and I began to send out queries. I sent out TEN each week. If that doesn’t sound like much, then you’ve never actually researched ten different agents and reworded your query letter and then figured out whether to send 10 pages or 10 chapters, or nothing at all, in addition to all of the other things you do in life like real jobs and family. It was exhausting, but it paid off!

5. Do not GIVE UP

Was getting rejected discouraging? You better believe it. I even got two rejection letters on the same day – my BIRTHDAY. But I’ve come to believe that half of the battle to being published is sticking with it. Don’t give up. Rework your query, rework your novel, start the heck over if you must, but don’t give up! I believe the desire to create is innate – the first thing God did was CREATE. If it was good enough for Him, it’s good enough for me. Write on.

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