Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I'm a regular reader of Editorial Anonymous (added reason: I love love love her slush monster!!) and her post today about "agents" who send cover letters addressed to "Dear Publisher" made me snort coffee out my schnozz.

I've long advocated asking a simple benchmark question of prospective agents-What have you sold
but perhaps it needs to simpler yet: which editor might like my book!

Publishing is in a rollercoaster ride of changes right now (just listening to the tweeting from TOC conference this morning makes me slightly frantic) but one thing has not changed: this industry runs on who you know. An agent who doesn't know anyone is worse than useless. It's ok to ask who do you know to a prospective agent asking to represent your work particularly if the agent is new and doesn't yet have much of a sales record.


~Jamie said...

I am so very scared of agents! How crazy is that? I know that they have a job to do, and they can only sell certain books, but I am TERRIFIED of sending them my Query Letter! I know it isn't good, and more importantly I don't know how to MAKE it good, so I just send it, and wait for my little rejection. I am so worried that I am in over my head, and that I have no idea how to proceed... so the agent scares me because they are the gateway into publishing... I am so happy that YOU write this blog because it gives me a little insight into agents and how they think... it makes me realize that you guys aren't JUST the gatekeepers, but are also people who do this as your job. Thank you for that! You have made agents slightly less terrifying :)

SundaySoup said...

Interesting. I was working with a new agent (unofficially) for a while before she offered. One of the reasons I ended up saying no to her offer is because she wouldn't tell me where she thought my book might be submitted. It was like she thought I'd run out and submit it myself if she told me. Or maybe she didn't know. I had my own list already of places I thought it would fit! I just wanted to see if we were on the same page. She was at a big agency, so she probably had some contacts, but she was so vague it made me nervous.

ryan field said...

I've seen this happen more than once. That's why it's so important to become familiar with sources like P&E.

amberargyle said...

Wish I'd have read this 6 months ago.

Sarah Jensen said...

Jamie, don't be afraid. If your book is well written and a great story, then no need to fear. As for the query letter, go to http://querytracker.blogspot.com/ and to http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
They both have great helps on writing queries to hook an agent.

And Janet, as usual, thanks for the post. They almost always make me smile. ;)

ICQB said...

Gaa! If an agent ever actually contacted me, I'd react just like I did when I accidentally shook Hillary Clinton's hand and found her looking right at me and asking , "How are you?"

Mind blank.

Me, "Duhhh..."

SAVanVleck said...

Jamie, I agree with Sarah. Don't be afraid. First, there is a ton of help out there for writing queries. Remember, the agent needs you too. If agents did not have writers, they would be looking for a job.
Just remember, the query is as important as your story and you need to write and revise and revise, just like you do your story.
Good luck!