Even if you’ve done your homework and prepared your query letter and other submission materials by the book, the task of finding out everything you really want to know about how to get an agent to represent you can be surprisingly intimidating.
That’s why when it came time to put together our annual issue of Writer’s Digest devoted to getting an agent, we decided to start with questions from you, the writing community at large, and then go straight to the sources—the literary agents themselves—to deliver exactly the information, advice and insider perspectives you’ve been hoping for. If you want to get an agent to help you land a book deal, the October 2012 Writer’s Digest (available online and on newsstands near you starting now!) can help. Here’s how:
What You Need to Know to Get an Agent
1. Wondering which agents are actively seeking new writers? For this issue, we rounded up 25 of them, and included not only their full guidelines and preferences, but their best advice for aspiring authors. In the words of Linda Epstein, an agent with The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency featured on this year’s list: “Your chance of landing an agent increases dramatically when you do your research and submit to the right people.” Start with our exclusive roundup, and you’ll already have a leg up on the competition.
2. Wishing you could see a real query letter that resulted in a book deal? Senior Literary Manager Mary Kole of Movable Type Management deconstructs one debut author’s letter step-by-step, so you can see exactly not just how to write a query letter, but how to poise your pitch for success. Her piece is full of great advice, including this bit of wisdom: “In setting up your story, you absolutely must convey a sense of what your main character wants most in the world, and of what’s standing in your way.”
3. Have specific questions about submissions, or about your genre? Our “Agent Answers” FAQ pages tell you what you want to know. For instance, when asked about the difference between thriller and suspense, longtime agent Jennifer DeChiara offered this helpful comparison: “The differences are subtle. Alfred Hitchcock described suspense as ‘the state of waiting for something to happen.’ If you have a character eating dinner and there’s a bomb ticking underneath the table, that would be a suspense story. The reader has a sense of impending danger from start to finish. Thrillers contain elements of suspense, but they’re more of a roller coaster ride—there are ups and downs, the plots are faster paced, and there’s a lot more action.”
4. And what about those less, ahem, businesslike questions you wouldn’t dream of asking unless you could do so anonymously? (Here’s one we hear a lot: Where do some agents get off having a no-response-means-no submissions policy, anyway?) We rounded those up, too, and enlisted top agent Barbara Poelle to tell it to you straight in our feature “Ask an Agent Anything!”
And we do mean tell it to you straight. Here’s the equally entertaining and informative Poelle on the importance of being able to concisely explain your genre: “Do not say you ‘really can’t’ because ‘it has never been done before,’ because every time an author says that, a kitten explodes.” Here she is on whether or not agents are still relevant in the publishing industry: “Look, I don’t need Spanx. But I know that when I have them, they are taking care of my business.” And on the aforementioned no-response-means-no policy: “I feel the burning shame, I promise.”
Poelle’s clients have already been singing her praises for this piece on Twitter and across the blogosphere, so you don’t have to take my word for it when I say you will not want to miss this article.
Get Answers to All Your Questions About Getting an Agent
It’s true: Knowledge is power. And with this issue in hand, that’s exactly what you’ll bring to your submissions process. Which is why all of us at WD are so excited that our October 2012 issue is on sale this week. (Not to mention the fact that it also includes my interview with the world’s No. 1 bestselling crime writer, Patricia Cornwell. More on that in a future post!) Visit your local newsstand, preview and order the full print issue online, or download it instantly right now.
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser
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