Courting an Agent: 5 Things to Keep in Mind

Sunday, April 22, 2018

About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the KS-MO SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Agent Day. Not only did I get 10 minutes one-on-one with an agent who had read my book, I got to meet four different agents and hear their texperiences in being approached by would-be clients. The icing on the cake?  Hearing a panel of authors discuss how they got their agents. Here are five things that have stuck with me as I prepare to send in my work.

1. Name Drop When It Is Professional. Do you belong to a professional writer’s organization? If so, be sure that goes into your query or cover letter. Agents want to work with pros and being willing to shell out a membership fee to a professional organization shows a certain level of commitment.

2. The Agent/Author Relationship Isn’t About Speed. I was surprised to hear that each of these agents had had people send them work immediately following a conference or other event. Not Monday. Immediately. As in before they even made it to the airport. When they give you advice about Manuscript #1, which isn’t quite right for them, and you mention Manuscript #2, they want you to apply this new knowledge to #2 as well. And maybe even #3 and #4. Show them you are teachable.

3. Enthusiasm Is a Must. Speaking of manuscripts 1 through 4, if an agent loves one manuscript but wants to see more (this is common with picture books) and then is less enthusiastic or even unenthusiastic about #2 through #4, this agent probably isn’t a good match for your body of work.

4. Enthusiasm Needs to Go Both Ways. If the agent is also an author, read what she has written. And be sure to read books that she’s represented as an agent. I recently had the opportunity to submit to an agent who was an excellent match for me or so I thought. She represents fiction and nonfiction, picture book through young adult. But then I read both what she repped and what she wrote. Um, no. They were good books but they were so cute. Cute is not my thing so I need to keep looking.

5. Stay in Touch. If an agent says that she wants to see more of your work, she means it. If you still think she’s a good match, follow through. Far too often, agents ask for things and never receive them. They aren’t asking just to be nice. Seriously.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two manuscripts to rewrite. My manuscript wasn’t right for the agent who did my critique but another agent in the office loves science. That said, the first agent does want to see another manuscript that I mentioned to her.  

Of course, that means applying what I learned. Then my work will be winging its way, hopefully, to someone who wants to rep it.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins May 7th, 2018.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue, these are solid takeaway points, as always! Some writers are just happy to sign with the first agent that wants them, but your tip #4 is smart advice. I've seen author-agent breakups over creative happens more often than you'd think! So yes, it's important to find a realistic match.

Good luck on your manuscript rewrites! It all sounds like a very positive experience. I'm sure you'll find the right agent soon! :)

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