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literary agents
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archie_the_cat
 05 Aug 2011, 09:56 #125933 Reply To Post
Has anyone got any advice on the topic of approaching literary agents please.

I’ve got a completed manuscript of 97,000 words. It’s general fiction, but it could be construed as mystery or comedy if it’s absolutely essential to give a piece a genre. I consider it complete (in the sense that it’s been edited and proofread, not just by me). So I’m at the stage where I want to start hawking it round to agents.

I don’t know if anyone deals in paper manuscripts any more, but I was certainly planning to do my approaches by e-mail, unless that’s not the done thing.

What I’m after really is advice on what sort of approach they would prefer. Things like –

• Should I send them the whole manuscript, or just a sample?
• If just a sample, how much?
• Are they interested in information about myself, or just about the book?
• Should I tell them a lot what the book is about, or leave it to speak for itself?
• Should I write a chapter by chapter breakdown?
• If so how much detail should I go into?
• Should I take a tone that ‘advertises’ the book to them, or is that just an annoyance?
• Should I approach agents one-at-a-time, or is a scattershot approach better?

Any tips you have really gratefully received.
notleyab
 05 Aug 2011, 10:41 #125949 Reply To Post
Quote: archie_the_cat, Friday, 5 Aug 2011 09:56
Has anyone got any advice on the topic of approaching literary agents please.

I’ve got a completed manuscript of 97,000 words. It’s general fiction, but it could be construed as mystery or comedy if it’s absolutely essential to give a piece a genre. I consider it complete (in the sense that it’s been edited and proofread, not just by me). So I’m at the stage where I want to start hawking it round to agents.

I don’t know if anyone deals in paper manuscripts any more, but I was certainly planning to do my approaches by e-mail, unless that’s not the done thing.

What I’m after really is advice on what sort of approach they would prefer. Things like –

• Should I send them the whole manuscript, or just a sample?
• If just a sample, how much?
• Are they interested in information about myself, or just about the book?
• Should I tell them a lot what the book is about, or leave it to speak for itself?
• Should I write a chapter by chapter breakdown?
• If so how much detail should I go into?
• Should I take a tone that ‘advertises’ the book to them, or is that just an annoyance?
• Should I approach agents one-at-a-time, or is a scattershot approach better?

Any tips you have really gratefully received.


Best thing is take a look at their webpages.
I think everyone of them gives their submissions MO, including whether they accept email or only snailmail.
This post was last edited by notleyab, 05 Aug 2011, 10:43
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Zak Spundy
 05 Aug 2011, 11:22 #125953 Reply To Post
Nathan Bransford's website has a lot of useful information on this, including some sample query letters.
I think a lot depends on what your background is, too. If you have any literary experience or significant writing experience, or are from an academic background, then that gives you an advantage, I think.
Another option might be to google (or search for) small publishing houses that accept direct submissions - I think the Bookshed has quite a good list.
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RayM
 05 Aug 2011, 15:25 #125969 Reply To Post
As notleyab said, each agent will have their own set of rules and submissions guidelines. It's best to always check them first.

In most cases, from what I understand, a query letter is the best way to first approach an agent and I believe many (of the ones that I've seen anyway) prefer paper format. Though there are some who prefer and will accept emails.

I would suggest checking out Writer's Beware as they offer advice and give information on stuff to avoid - such as agents who request a reading fee.

Additionally, the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is a book released every year that is filled with lots of information - including pages and pages of agents and publishers that you can submit to.

It is advised that when submitting to a publisher or agent, do a bit of research on them and the other books and clients they have and see if any of them have similar themes to yours. Some recommend including a paragraph at the beginning of the query letter stating why you chose that particular agent or publisher.

Inside a query letter, you usually have one or two paragraphs of informaton about your book - first paragraph being what your book is called, how many words it is and what the genre is. It's also a good idea to contain a hook, or tagline, that will grab their attention.

As for the rest of the query, from what I understand you create a sort of synopsis that will intrigue them and make them request a sample of your work (or the full thing)... so like a brief synopsis like you find on the back of a book.

I'm still just starting out on my own agent search now... so I can't really swear by any of this. This is all just information I've gathered from my research on agents.

Good luck!!
This post was last edited by RayM, 05 Aug 2011, 15:27
Alasdair
 05 Aug 2011, 16:28 #125975 Reply To Post
Echoing what's been said here - check the individual websites for submission guidelines. Don't just send it out to anyone though, find some books that you think are similar to yours and see who represents the authors then send it to those agents (and state clearly that you think they would be good to represent your book for that reason).

I have that from the horses mouth - I did an interview a few years ago with Simon Trewin of United Agents on this kind of subject - it's here:
http://sleepyorange.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/the-options-are-open/

He states very plainly that you should research the right agent for you as he has personal tastes, as does everyone, and you can tell what they are from who he represents - increase your chances by going to the right person.

The basic package is 3 chapter sample, 2 page synopsis and query letter. The query letter sells you as an author and your work, though I would avoid treading on the toes of your synopsis. The synopsis is the most important part - it needs to cover everything that happens in the book (yes, plot spoilers are definitely necessary and any cliff-hanger "you'll have to read it to find out what happens" moments will see it head for the bin), show the quality of your writing (include some of the best lines/paragraphs from each chapter in the way you describe the events and try to put in the excitement and tension you feel as you read it) and it should be in-stream text, not a chapter by chapter explanation. You might need one of those to do your synopsis, but the agent probably won't want to see it.

Obviously, make sure you thoroughly spell and grammar check everything and spell the names and addresses exactly as they say on the website. It's best to lean the letter tone towards professional rather than light and friendly - if they take you on then they'll be friendly but until then they mean business!

What I can't comment on is how many agents you should send it to - some agents will refuse to represent anyone who has their work "under consideration" with (read that as 'in the post to') another agency at the same time. I'd suggest sending out a handful only, working individually on each to tailor them to the specific agent, and wait for responses before sending the next batch. It can be a long wait too - expect 3 months from most places. It's basically a job application...

Everywhere I know of prefers paper copies, though a lot of smaller agencies who do e-books will accept emails now. You might be able to email directly if you approach the agent rather than the agency, but again if they don't prefer that then the door will close before they even open the attachment - see if you can find information off the website. Personally, I recommend getting the addresses and sending the whole submission - don't email just a query to see if they will read it. That just gives them an extra chance to say no. and if you send the sample chapters then they are likely to take a look, whereas an email attachment doesn't have to be opened...

Good luck!
sulcus
 05 Aug 2011, 18:25 #125992 Reply To Post
The last line of Alisdair's excellent summation is a key difference to submitting in the UK & submitting in the US. In the US the first step is a query letter on ly in most cases. You wait to be asked to submit a partial. In Uk there is no separation of these two steps
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olady
 12 Nov 2011, 13:03 #134929 Reply To Post
This comes late, but I still want to point out that it is absolutely important to know what the genre is!
If you are in hell, keep on going! Winston Churchill
katarina66
 22 Dec 2011, 17:21 #137693 Reply To Post
All I can say is Good Luck. I have had no luck with agents for a number of years.; Great book, they all said, but this genre is not in vogue at the minute. So I self published 'Follow the Dove' (only to find that there are several other books with the same title - rats)
My one is by Catherine M Byrne if anyone is interested. It is now flying off the shelves. So - what do Agents and publishers know? JK Rowling was turned down over 20 times. Bet they are kicking themselves now!
Follow the Dove
The Broken Horizon
Of Time and Distance (in process)
Talking Horse
 22 Jan 2012, 15:54 #140201 Reply To Post
A piece in an Irish national paper last week had a story about someone who self-published. She said she was sick of literary agents. The last straw according to her was one New York-based agent who according to her spoke to her glowingly about a submitted work; and then not a single word ever from the same agent....nothing; gone; disappeared.
I hear the same about agents, is it some penchant for time wasting they have? Very frustrating........

If I come across such a person I'll name them. Out the name will come and I'll post it online, 'beware of XYZ, they're time wasters...'
I'd find it just as easy if someone just said 'no, I'm not interested in that work,' and not leave you in mid-air dangling.

Katrina, I think I reviewed something by you, the name's familiar, it was good if I recall right.
papa stas
 27 Jan 2012, 17:09 #140620 Reply To Post
Check this link out for UK agents -

good list IMHO

http://www.writersservices.com/agent/uk09/index.htm
As I have grown older, I've learned that pleasing everyone is impossible, but pissing everyone off is a piece of cake!
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