By JC Lynne
Some of you may have heard it.
Hey friend, I'm coming up short on the queries for this project and I wondered if you'd pass it on to your agent/publisher?
Hey friend, would you ask your agent/publisher if they know anyone looking for a futuristic adventure/romance quest about a one-handed alligator mutant and a three-legged dog?
Oh shite, that might be a good story.
This is a pickle. Scratch that, it's an entire barrel. We always hear when one of us succeeds we succeed. Writing isn't a competition and we're in this together.
It's true. We are compatriots. We improve our skills by working collectively. Critique groups, workshops, and conferences are wonderful gatherings of like-minded writers.
I'm sure Neil Gaiman or Ann Patchett has the clout to slide a manuscript across their agent's desk. I don't know it, but I can fantasize about meeting Gaiman at a book engagement and wowing him by my very presence.
A gal has to dream, right?!
However, this request is sort of like asking if you can borrow a person's toothbrush. Not that I'm comparing my agent to a toothbrush, but you get the idea.
Here's the Agent 411 as I've learned the hard way:
If traditional publishing is your goal, it can take a year or more; I'm talking 100s of queries, before you might get a request for more pages. (The first Twilight book was turned down 172 times, 172!)
Research, research research. Find similar titles, look at who reps those authors, query them. Invest in Writer's Market to discover who's looking for what. Make sure the agents you're looking at are accepting queries. Follow the query guideline to the letter.
Keep detailed notes on who you've queried. Agents hate to receive the same project multiple times.
Go to writers conferences! Mingle, go to presentations, and take any pitch opportunity that might fit. Not only will you receive face to face feedback, but you'll become a face and a name they've met. Chat agents and publishers up, don't pitch. Remember, they're people. It ups your odds when you do query if you've had a conversation with them.
While you're waiting, write a book proposal. Most agents will have you write one. It's a business plan and you might discover something about your project you missed. Jane Friedman is my go-to on this one.
Be patient. Response times can be slow to non-existent. You may not receive a reply unless the agent wants more pages. Agents outline their response policies in their guidelines. Follow their guidelines to the letter.
It took me five years (about 70 queries, many of those face to face on my first Esau novel), three published novels, two different project ideas, and two years of back and forth banter before I queried my agent to receive a contract offer. And my yoga project won't be taken out of the stable for another few months while my platform simmers. (P.S. Help a fellow author out: Like my new FB, Twitter, and Instagram)
It's bad form to ask an author to farm out a project because you're not getting immediate success. Unless you have a contract, an agent isn't likely to pass a project on to a colleague and some agents don't make it a practice.
I'll repost your blogs. I'll promote your new book releases. I'll retweet, like, and comment on your social media to help boost your numbers. I'll write a blurb, a review (an honest review), or hit your events. Feel free to query my agent. She's pretty bomb-diggity.
I can't wait to have the clout to lend a bit of oomph to my fellow author's projects. For now, the unfortunate truth is, I have to stay out of the process.