Monday, March 4, 2013

Word on the Street is Wrong: Myths on Getting an Agent

I love my fellow writers, and they usually offer all sorts of great advice. But there are a few ill-advised pieces I hear over and over again, and it's all I can do not to not to scream, “No! That's not true!” to my friends' faces. So instead, I will scream it to you, dear reader. No! It's not true!

I will be sharing these myths about landing an agent in a series of posts (in no particular order). Obviously, these are my personal opinion, based on my own experiences and observations.

Myth #1: If you pitch to an agent at a conference, send her your material soon or she'll forget about you!

The above has been said to me, often delivered with an annoyingly perky smile, at every conference I've ever been to. The smile is only annoying because I usually don't have a manuscript in perfect, polished condition at that exact moment, and my instinct is to run away and hide because I am a terrible, not-ready-to-submit writer. It's enough to give a nervous writer hives.

The truth is, you usually plan on attending a conference months ahead of time, and you have no idea if you will have completed your WIP by the date of the conference. Most likely, you'll be in the middle of something, and that's okay.

So here is the low-down. It might sting. You may have to sit down for this. But guess what? She's already forgotten about you, most likely. Agents at big conferences might have 50+ pitches thrown at them. The silver lining: she can use these nifty tools called pen and paper to keep track of her requests. Maybe even a laptop if she's extra savvy.

Most writers I know query far too early, and they feel especially compelled to make this mistake after a conference. An agent wants to see your best material and no, she's not going to think you're an imposter because you send it a few months later.

It's really very simple. As the subject line of your email, write “Requested <Partial or Full> for <TITLE> (from <XYZ Conference>)”. In the body of the email, you can even mention how lovely it was to meet said agent at said conference. No need to apologize for the wait! I promise you, she may not remember you, but she remembers attending the conference. She can simply look back at her notes, and say, “Oh yes. I was excited to see that YA novel about <insert your brilliant idea here>.”

She will appreciate the confidence and professionalism you display by sending the manuscript when it is ready to be seen, even if it is months after the fact. Newsflash: it doesn't matter if she can't recall your fabulous conference shoes, no matter how much you spent on them. It's all about the book.

Dear writer, take your time and get it right. Don't miss out on a great agent because Miss Perky Smile goaded you into freaking out and sending too early.

Check back for more agent myths soon!