The Ideal Client

Finding an agent is not easy. Recently Rachel (my soigne associate) gave me a copy of this book:

It’s full of good advice for the aspiring author; I highly recommend it.

It got me to thinking–is there anything someone can do to improve their chances with an agency, or agent?

And yes, there are. Keep in mind, aspiring authors, that the following list is a list of suggestions. They do NOT guarantee you will get accepted by an agent. Some of it is timing; some of it is luck; some of it is the fit. (By ‘fit’ I mean that someone could send me a first-rate children’s book & I still wouldn’t accept it, because I don’t deal in children’s books. That does NOT mean the book cannot be sold; it just means *I* can’t sell it.)

So, here we go–my suggestions!

1) Only send your work to the right people. A friend of mine Toronto runs a very successful literary agency. It says all over the website—“NON-FICTION ONLY.” And yet he still receives 2-3 novels a week. Don’t be one of those people.
2) Try to follow the submission guidelines to the letter. I know this is annoying; everyone has different rules; but those rules are there for a reason.
3) Patience. I know, this is annoying too. But please allow 8 weeks before asking for a response. I know, I know, this is a living death. But you would be astonished by how many submissions agents get, even agents who are are not famous or listed in directories.
4) Be prepared to take no for an answer, even some criticism on your proposal. Criticism is a gift, even if it doesn’t look like it or feel like it. I know this can be tough to take. But I am serious. If you submit to agent A, & she says no & says why, & you take her suggestions & amend your proposal, your chances with agents B or C are much improved.
5) DON’T be a whiner. Agents have to say no more often than they would like to.
6) If in doubt, send the shorter form. By this I mean, for submissions, less can sometimes be more. Say you are considering which chapter to send as your sample. One is 25k words long, the other, 15k. Unless the 25k chapter is sparkling, prizewinning, & un-put-down-able, send the chapter that is 15k.
7) Return calls & emails promptly. DON’T be one of those people who say “My spouse didn’t give me the message” or “We have relatives in town” or “It’s the long weekend” or “My Mom didn’t tell me you called.”
8) In your outline, try to make sure each chapter gets a one paragraph summary. Rules vary here, agents differ. But don’t have this–“Chapter 1–some guy steals my bike. Chapter 2–I get it back.”
9) Spell my name right. Spell your name right. Double, triple check your work. I throw away stuff addressed to Brain Woods.
10) Mind your p’s & q’s. A good friend of mine, a great editor at Penguin, told me once: “Brian, play friendly in this industry. You never know–someday you may be working for your intern.”


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