How do you get an agent? I have sent letters and writing samples to several agencies and either have not heard back from them or have gotten rejection letters which seemed like form letters.
Good question! Here are some things you can do to improve your chances at getting an agent:
1) You need to have a good novel. If your novel isn’t good, an agent will not pick it up, no matter how many query letters you send or conferences you attend. If you keep getting rejected, you might want to go back and reevaluate your work to see what you can do to improve it, thus improving your chance of getting an agent.
2) Know your genre. If you don’t know your genre and don’t write with a genre in mind, your book might be hard to sell. This deters agents from wanting to represent you. Read books in your genre to get a feel of what the publishing houses are looking for, but at the same time, make sure your novel has an original plot. Also, pay attention to the typical style of your genre. Do the books in your genre tend to be first person or third person? Many young adult novels use first person, but novels geared to adults are more likely to be third person. Learn what works by reading what’s out there!
3) Make sure you edit your novel to perfection. You don’t get a second chance! Have your friends/family read it, or join a writing group to get other points of views. Sometimes we understand what we’re writing about so much that we forget to think from the mind of a reader, so constructive feedback is important!
4) Make sure you know the average word count for your genre. This is easy to find with a little online research. If you go above or below the maximum/minimum word counts, agents will reject you on the spot without even reading the first page, because your novel will be harder to sell (unless you’re Stephenie Meyer, but as a first time author, it’s best to play by the rules to give yourself the best chance possible. Even the first Harry Potter book fit the average word count!) Which brings me to point number 5 …
5) Don’t try to “stand out” by ignoring the guidelines set by agents and editors! The rules are there for a reason — learn them and follow them! If you don’t you’re only hurting yourself, and after slaving over an entire manuscript, you deserve to give yourself the best chance possible.
If you’ve done all of this, I recommend meeting agents in person by attending pitch sessions. You can find these by researching online, but a great one is the Writers Digest Pitch Slam. 40+ agents gather there with the same goal — to listen to your pitch! Meeting an agent in person moves the process along, and sometimes they give you advice on how to improve your pitch. I met my agent at a pitch slam, which was great because I already knew that I clicked with her as a person before she offered to represent me! 🙂
I will soon blog about how to write a query letter and how to give a live pitch that works. Remember if you have any questions, post them on my question blog!