I've published three novels with an independent press. The third book even won a legitimate mystery award. Yet I'm struggling to find a literary agent for two completed manuscripts. I've queried over 250 agents & had some close calls (some on-the-fence responses, which are often more frustrating than regular rejections) but at the end of the day, I can't land an agent. I don't think going back to "fix" the manuscripts is the solution. I've nitpicked them to death already.
I've been considering mailing a copy of my award-winning book to the 300 or so literary agents on my list. Chances are they will probably just throw it in the trash. But I keep thinking - what if one of them reads it & realizes this is literary genius? Of course she would sign me. The practical side of me tells me this is a bad idea. But I'm running out of hope.
Can you tell me why this is a bad idea?
Well, it's not the worst idea I've ever heard about how to snag an agent's interest.
My first concern is simply cost. The cost of the book and the cost of postage is going to set you back a couple hundred dollars easily.
Querying by email is free.
That said you've already said your querying isn't getting you where you want to be.
Rather than send unsolicited books to agents, why not use that money to pay for some face time at a writing conference? Find out what's wrong. It could be as simple as your books simply aren't plotlines/settings/categories that are selling right now. Or it could be that the market is glutted with this kind of book.
The way to get face time with an agent is to find a conference with attending agents that you'd query. In other words, agents working in your category.
Sign up for a pitch session.
Bring your query.
Ask for help.
I reviewed queries at three conferences this summer: MidWest Writers, ThrillerFest, and Writers Police Academy. In all three places, it took only two or three revisions to help a writer get a better query.
If you're willing to listen to some hard truths, you'll be able to learn a lot. It's not easy to hear some of this, and your (anyone's!) first reaction is to say "balderdash" but most of us will tell you the truth if you ask us to. And you're not carrying a box of ripe tomatoes.
If you do elect to send the books, PLEASE include a neatly hand written, or typed note telling me why you're sending it. Include your contact information.
Do NOT just put a sticky on the cover saying "hope you like this." Assume I do like it, how the hell do I find you?
And be forewarned: I am an unrepentant book snob. If the cover is ugly, or the book's interior is badly laid out, I won't read it. Life is too short for ugly books. Even prize-wining ones.
Also: you're trying to get attention for your NEW book/s, not the old book. You need to focus on why your querying for the new stuff isn't getting you what you want, rather than seeking attention for a previous book.I may love the prize winning book, but that doesn't tell you much about whether I'll love the new one.
And if you elect to follow my advice, I'll be at CrimeBake this year.