Monday, March 25, 2013

Word on the Street is Wrong: Agent Myths Double Time

I'm a huge fan of Billy Blanks' Tae Bo workout videos. He starts each exercise slow so you can figure out what you're supposed to be doing. Then he calls out “Double Time!” and you repeat the motion at an inhuman, calorie devouring pace.

Anyway, I thought I'd end my March Myths on Getting an Agent series in double time. Ready?

Street says: Agents take a long time to respond to queries so you may as well send a few out and then revise.
Me: Some agents take a long time, others respond in literally minutes to a query and in a couple of weeks to a partial. You never know which day an agent may choose to clear out her inbox. Be prepared and don't start querying until your manuscript is so shiny, Gollum calls it Precious.

Street says: Query as many agents as possible, as fast as possible.
Me: Start by querying in batches of 5-10 highly targeted agents. Funny thing, I tended to get requests from agents who represented authors I liked. In other words, we had similar tastes.  Guess the process really is subjective, huh? It's also best to take it slowly in case you have to adjust your query, partial, or even full manuscript. The waiting can be excruciating but you'll be glad if you don't burn through 50 agents in a month and then realize you need to revise. That said, don't be discouraged if your first few batches don't work out. Keep querying as long as you still feel passionate about the project, and you just might find the right somebody.

Street says: Stalk agents on Twitter while you query.
Me: Following agents on Twitter while you're working on your manuscript is useful and elightening. They can give you both great writing tips and great querying tips. But when you've got your polished query and you start sending it out, you might want to stay away because it's a bit of a blow each time they tweet about a new fabulous client that isn't you. Or when they whine that they're not seeing X types of projects when you just sent them that exact thing.

Street says: Keep up with the latest trends.
Me: By the time you finish your WIP, the trend might be over. It can actually hurt to follow trends because the market might get saturated with that type of book. You're best writing something unique and fresh, within the confines of the genre (or not—genre mashups are great, too!). However, you're going to be at a disadvantage if you haven't read widely in your genre within the last 5 years. YA books today are not like the ones from my youth, and it's best to understand what is popular in terms of length, content, voice, etc.

Street says: Attend expensive conferences so you can pitch to agents in person.
Me: Attend conferences that you can afford because you're interested in the workshops and want to learn more about the industry. They're also a fun way to get inspired and meet fellow writers. The pitch portion itself isn't worth hundreds of dollars—ultimately agents care about the book, not about how many jokes you can tell or how fabulous your conference outfit is. Their response will likely be the same as if you'd simply emailed a query letter.

There are so many other things I could touch upon in the querying process, but my list would be endless! So I'm wrapping up agent myths for now and I plan to do a different series in April. Also, watch out for a query critique giveaway!