Monday, July 18, 2011

Landing An Agent - How To Avoid The Bumps

Because my Dad is an avid flyer of radio control airplanes, I’ve watched landing after landing at the air field. Sometimes they’re bumpy and the plane jolts wildly as it careens down the grassy strip, while spectators hold their breath. The pilot knows he needs to practice more on landings. Sometimes the plane crashes and all that remains is a pile of wood splinters and motor parts. Dad isn’t too happy when this happens. The plane needs to be rebuilt and the pilot may just give up and never try again. Then there are the landings that pilots live for, the dizzying whirl of engines and dust as the plan whizzes perfectly down the runway to a smooth stop. The audience claps and the pilot breathes a sigh of relief. This pilot may have suffered the above landings, but they learned more, practiced a lot, and finally succeeded.

Now lets take these scenarios and relate them to the art of landing an agent. In scenario number one, an author begins submitting to agents and receives several rejections - bumpy landings. Instead of taking the steps to improve their writing or attending writing conferences and networking, they stumble along continuing on their bumpy path. Maybe at the end of this path they will receive what the writing community terms the “call” - the landing of an agent. Writer number two also submits to agents, receives rejection after rejection which dims their hope, so they give up and never do receive the “call.” Instead their career splinters into pieces of failed manuscripts and ruined hopes. Meanwhile, writer number three begins submitting to agents and while they do get a few rejections, they then take steps to improve their writing, attend conferences, and learn all they can about increasing their opportunity to secure an agent. They receive the “call” and their hard work and persistence paid off.

Now why did the last scenario to land an agent progress smoother than all the others? What can we as authors do to improve our success in getting an agent? Although, I still am waiting for the “call” myself, here are four “P’s” I have gathered from both reading articles and talking to writer friends.

1) Be Prompt:
When you receive a request from an agent, what do you do? Do you make appropriate changes to fit the agency guidelines, and then send off your proposal? Or do you spin in your chair and eat a box of chocolates? Agents are busy people who speak to a lot of authors. If you don’t follow up promptly they are likely to forget they ever contacted you. They are less likely to forget however, if within a week after their request they receive an email from you with the proposal attached.

2) Be Professional:
This applies to both face to face and email conversation. Be friendly, polite and prompt. Respect them, their comments, and suggestions, even if they don’t accept your work. This will establishing a good reputation for yourself which will undoubtedly work to your advantage in the future.

3) Be Polished: Polish and re-polish, and don’t click the “send” button until it shines. Make sure your work is complete and as ready for publication as you can make it. Novelists have submitted proposals, gotten requests for a complete novel, and have not even had a complete novel ready to send out. So don’t even think about sending out a proposal until your novel is finished and ready for the publication stage.

4) Be Precise:
Agents don’t have all day to read your long emails, so keep them brief. Also follow the proposal guidelines on the agency website. If they only want a three page synopsis make sure it is only three pages. Also, check and double check grammatical errors. Although a misplaced comma won’t lose you a contract, it will decrease your chances. An author with a thorough knowledge of grammatical elements, has a higher chance of succeeding than one who does not. Use your spell check, make sure the agent’s name is spelled correctly, and rid both your proposal and email messages of as many mistakes as possible. The saying “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” does not apply in this case. Your proposal is what will sell your book. So follow the guidelines exactly.

These are only a few tips, and although they don’t automatically guarantee a contract they are tried and true. Many have had success with them and landed an agent and a book contract by using these tips. For other articles and more tips on this topic see the following link:

Happy Writing…

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