“How To Get An Agent”

…as you all know…it’s not that simple.

So, that’s why I’m teaching my webinar again! HOW TO GET AN AGENT will run August 11 at 1pm EST, but don’t despair–if you can’t attend live and you’re still interested sign up anyway to get the live webinar emailed to you right after.

It’s full of great information and a QUERY CRITIQUE by yours truly.

Sign up here. See you in a few short weeks.

Many writers think getting a literary agent is the hardest thing they’ll have to do as a writer. They think agents are looking to turn away writers, when actually many agents are actively looking to sign new talent. How do you find these agents that have open doors?

Literary Agent Carly Watters works with many debut writers she’s signed from the slush pile who have become successful multi-published authors. She’ll share the industry expectations of debut writers, how to find agents that are actively looking for new writers, and what questions to ask to make sure you find the right agent for you.

Learn what agents are being told by the industry and how that shapes the debut projects they sign, why you need an agent, and where to find agents that represent what you write. Do you want know how to hook an agent? Carly will make sure you’re fishing in the right pond.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • What an author/agent relationship looks like
  • How to find an agent that’s right for you
  • How to show agents you’re a ‘career author’
  • How to stand out among other querying writers
  • What the state of the industry looks like for new authors
  • How agents approach the slush pile and writers conferences
  • The important steps to writing a successful query letter
  • Why you must query an agent with what they ask for

Sign up today to secure your spot!

 

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Things I Wish I Knew: Kurestin Armada’s First Year of Agenting

photo-1434030216411-0b793f4b4173Being an agent is a tough job in general. Your first year of being an agent is one of the toughest of your career if not your life! Not only are you learning as you go, you’re also acquiring clients and building your career from the ground up. I likened my first year or two of agenting to a startup. We have to pitch ourselves to prospective clients, start a brand from scratch, network all the time in person and online, work around the clock (often while having other jobs) and keep up with all kinds of reading and events while our brain expands with new industry knowledge. Not to mention we have other people’s careers in our hands! We take that very seriously.

Today, we have P.S. Literary Associate Agent Kurestin Armada with 3 “Things I Wish I Knew” about being an agent. She just finished her first year at PSLA and we’re so glad to have her. Follow her on Twitter for more. Here, she reflects on her year:

Network with Your Peers

I knew going into this that I would need to constantly be looking for ways to network with authors and editors, the two groups I’m looking to more or less “get something from” to make connections and deals. But I didn’t realize until further into things how important networking with fellow agents would be! Google hangouts, happy hours, snatching meals at a conference, and of course Twitter, all of these are ways I can touch base with other agents. We let off steam, we laugh, and I get to hear so many stories about how other agents tackle things.

Agents have many different methods and viewpoints, and we’re a remarkably open group when it comes to helping each other. I always leave these hangouts feel refreshed and energized, and maybe with an extra tool tucked into my belt for the next time. It’s easy to think of networking as always trying to get an “in” somewhere, but really, it’s also about building a support system of other people who have been in the exact same place.

Trust Yourself

Initially building my list was a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. I knew that the things I brought on had to have two qualities: 1. I really enjoyed the book and could read it five times and not be tired of it, 2. I could see its place in the market. But when it came time to go through the first wave of submissions, I kept wondering… will I know it when I see it? Will it feel that noticeably different when I encounter a manuscript I want to offer on?

The answer is of course, yes, it does feel that noticeably different. As I’ve encountered the feeling a few times now, I’ve begun to sense earlier on in a manuscript when I’m probably going to offer on it. There’s the feeling of excitement that hits, when I start to think “Oh please, let the second half of this book be just as good!” If I get to a certain point and haven’t felt that flare of excitement, and I feel like I could put the book down and never care what happens next? I know then that it’s not going to work out long term. FOMO (fear of missing out) is always a ghost over your shoulder, but at some point you just need to trust the taste, experience, and skills you’re bringing to the table.

Protect Your Time, and Don’t Feel Bad About It

This is one I’m still working on, admittedly. Working on creative pursuits, or working from a home office, or having a flexible schedule can all lead to people thinking you’re eternally free and available. It can be difficult to enforce the boundaries around your work time gently but firmly, but it’s also incredibly important. Just because you’re in the next room, doesn’t mean you can help solve every family dispute!

I also need to protect my time from myself, oddly enough. Since I work from home, it’s very easy to get drawn into doing just one more hour of work, until suddenly it’s 12pm and I need to go to bed. For a while I was doing nothing outside of work, literally no other activities besides eating and sleeping, and that was really bad for me. Now I make sure I spend a certain number of hours in a week reading “for fun” (which is really necessary market research!), and I stop working a couple of hours before bed so I can knit or watch TV. I try not to feel too guilty about these times, because I know I’m overall in a better state of mind (and thus more productive in my work hours) when I make time for relaxing. Sometimes I even take a whole day off on the weekend!

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books with a fresh spin on a familiar trope. Query her at query(at)psliterary(dot)com.

How To Write For The Market While Still Writing For You

Let me quickly say: I don’t believe any writer should be following trends. That’s not what this post is about. However, I do believe that writers who want to get published traditionally need to have their eyes open to what the market is doing.

Why You Don’t Follow Trends

  • Trends are something that no one can predict–especially when they end and you don’t want to be on the tail end of something when the booksellers are no longer stocking that “thing.”
  • Trends are established years before anyone knows about them. With the year(s) of writing, contract negotiation, and production, by the time a book comes out it’s either starting a trend or with a trend that you have no idea about until it’s on the market. Therefore, trends are started 2 years prior.
  • Following a trend is a quick way to date yourself and risk unoriginality.
  • Agents aren’t looking for trend followers; we’re looking for writers who have something unique to say about the world, even if that type/genre of story has been done before (romance, historical etc).

Why You Follow The Market

  • To me, follow the market means reading industry news sites, going to the bookstore a lot, talking to librarians and booksellers, and/or joining a book club. Plus, reading a ton!
  • Write for the market means to have your eyes and ears open to what’s selling and what people want to read. Do your own market research as I mentioned above.
  • The market is the group of people that would potentially buy your book. Do you know who they are?
  • The marketplace is where your book is sold. Do you know which books are being chosen as “staff picks” and “recommended reads”?

Why You Still Write For You

  • If you write for trends, are you really writing for you? Is being a follower going to be the thing that gets you up in the morning? Is chasing something the right way to hone your craft?
  • Usually, most writers I know, get excited when they’re doing something special to them. Something that’s unique to them.

At the end of the day, the special books are the ones that stand out in the market and start trends. The books that are well-crafted and speak to people like few books do. So, the bottom line is that you have to write for you because you have to work on that craft. You can’t move readers until you’ve understood how to exercise your talent.

For more on this, read a great interview between editor Lee Boudreaux and LitHub.

Q: How do you conduct your “market research” as a writer?

Which pitch has the most potential? Slush pile, in-person or online contest?

I get asked this question often. Writers want to make the most of their time and talent. Querying is a part in your writing career that is fraught with stress, expectation, and worry–oh wait, this sounds like the entire length of a writing career! Jokes aside, the decisions you make to start your career have a huge influence on the trajectory of it.

So what’s the best way to pitch an industry professional? In person at a conference? In the slush pile? Or in an online contest? 

All of these have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over them.

Pitching At A Conference In Person

Advantage: We get to know a slice of your personality (even if it’s only for 10 minutes) and whether we could see ourselves working together. Establishing a personal connection is beneficial for both parties.

Disadvantage: We haven’t seen your material yet! It all depends on the writing. So even if we get along well there is absolutely no guarantee anything will come of it. And if you’re nervous in those 10 minutes we might not get to see the best version of your presentation.

Slush Pile Pitching

Advantage: You can passionately explain why you think an agent is the right fit. You can get lots of advice on how to write the perfect query letter. This targeting is one of the most effective ways of hooking an agent who is right for you. I find more clients in the slush pile than anywhere else. I’d say it’s a 10:1 ratio. For every 10 clients I sign up 10 are from the slush, 1 is from elsewhere.

Disadvantage: Agents get hundreds to thousands of emails a month and you only get one chance to impress them.

Blog Contest Pitching

Advantage: You know you have 3-10 agents actively looking at your material, depending on the contest. There are many success stories floating around from these selective types of events.

Disadvantage: There might be a few agents interested, but often the speed of which the interested agent offers puts off the other agents because we don’t always have time to drop everything and read. Sometimes this speed works out in people’s favor and sometimes it doesn’t. Competition is definitely healthy, but writers have to make a tough decision without the hoopla getting in the way.

Twitter Contest Pitching

Advantage: It happens a few times a year and agents looking to build their list are actively observing it. Plus it makes you practice how to pitch and write a hook in one sentence.

Disadvantage: Agents want to work with authors who select agents for a reason. Writers pitch blindly on Twitter and sometimes the agent that wants to offer rep isn’t on that author’s “top agents” list and there can be bad blood and also a waste of time for everyone when querying would have been a must more beneficial use of time for both parties.

Q: Do you have a success story from one of these methods? (Or, more unfortunately, a horror story?)