As a literary agent with a blog and a Facebook presence, I am regularly approached by writers, and one particular kind of question stands out. It seems many writers and speakers are dying to know the secret to getting an agent.
People ask things like: What is the single most important thing when approaching an agent?
And: What’s the best way for a writer to get their foot in the door with an agent?
I think they’re hoping I’ll reveal the secret handshake or code-word that will break down the barriers to getting an agent. I wish it were that easy! But it’s a process, with no shortcuts and very little magic. Here are some things you can do:
1. Write a great book.
If your book isn’t marketable, nothing else will matter. You’ve got to have a book people want to read, and write it well enough so that reading it is a great experience.
2. Write an effective query letter.
It’s crucial that you pitch your book in a way that captures an agent’s attention and makes them want to read it. Crafting a query letter can be a tremendous amount of work, but can make all the difference.
3. Attend writers’ conferences.
Make sure there are agents on the conference faculty, and take every opportunity to meet with agents, network with them, and get to know them (without constantly pitching your book). Agents often take on writers after multiple interactions with them—your query is one interaction; a conference could be another.
4. Meet agents online.
You can read and comment on agent blogs, or interact with agents on Facebook and Twitter. This is not the place to pitch your project; rather, it’s a more informal way of creating relationships. You never know what might come of them down the road.
5. Network with other authors.
Eventually a referral from a writer friend might help you get an agent.
6. Be persistent.
Don’t query a few agents, get a few rejections, and lose hope. Keep trying. It can take a while to get an agent.
Sorry I couldn’t provide any magic bullets or directions to the secret passageway! Start with a great book, then do everything you can to get it in front of agents. It’s that simple—and that hard.
Here are some ways to find the agents you want to query:
Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary, looking for authors with long-term publishing potential. She represents Christian fiction and non-fiction, with a particular fondness for strong spiritual memoirs and books that address contemporary issues in Christianity. www.rachellegardner.com