Are you querying? Are you finding it daunting or overwhelming? Ready to give up? Author Tina Cartwright shares her advice.
Tina Cartwright lives on unceded Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung lands. She taught English, Creative Writing, and Languages in New Zealand and Mexico. Her writing has been published in both New Zealand and Australia. Her children’s book Kiwi and Scorpion was published with Puffin NZ and her monologue Masha’s Fire will be out with Australian Plays Transform, as part of Hysterica.
PEP TALK : GETTING AN AGENT
‘The end,’ you type, half-dead, half-excited and ready to celebrate. You have done it!
All your hard work has paid off. You’ve completed your brilliant, ground-breaking book. Now, to get it to as wide an audience as possible. Airplane drop? Way too expensive. What about getting an agent? Perhaps easier said than done. Let’s talk.
Full disclosure, I do not yet have an agent and am definitely not an expert. I was very fortunate that after getting a manuscript assessment from another writer she introduced me to her agent. My novel is currently under consideration. So, if you do have something to add it would be wonderful if you wanted to share in the comments.
Let’s go. First, you will need your tools: you already have your sparkling, shining, highly-polished manuscript. Easy-peasy. Now, all you need is: a full-page synopsis, a blurb, an elevator pitch, and a strong query letter. Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, you will need to connect with other writers. They are your single best resource, not to mention your bestie when times are tough. They’ve been there. They know the highs and lows. They’ll provide you with fantastic advice and share their inspirational, against-all-odds, success stories.
First up: WHERE do you find an agent?
- check other writers bios. Is there a comparable writer whose agency is worth looking into?
- pitching events. Maybe your local writer’s centre runs one. There’s #PitMad online (usually at the beginning of the month).
- Organisations like Australian Society of Authors, or writer’s centres in your state, hold regular pitching events. Do your research on who’ll be there, what they’re looking for and be prepared.
KNOW YOUR WORK
- Be specific. You are the guide to your work. You will need to be able to succinctly tell an agent where it might fit in the market and who your reader is. A good place to start is by looking over your body of work, identifying recurrent themes and stylistic devices and analysing if your work compares to other published writers. Whether it’s a publisher or an agent someone will ask where your work would sit on the shelf. Why not go in to a bookshop and find out.
- As you know, agents get a hell of a lot of submissions. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time by sending your query to an agent who is not interested in your genre. The agent is your guide to the industry. If they say they’re looking for crime that’s because they know where and how to sell crime.
- Research agents. What did they study? What are their interests? Check out their current author list. You might know one of their authors. Reach out and ask for tips. Authors have been known to build a relationship with an agent online. Be selective. You want the right agent for your book. It pays to have realistic expectations about what an agent does and what will happen after you get an agent.
- Get your book right. Love your book and be able to articulate precisely why. This is your one chance. It’s exciting to share the book with the agent. A well-known author once told me you only ever get one first book. After which, you no longer have the freedom of being an unpublished author. It’s worth considering if this is the right first book.
- There are so many wonderful resources about querying online. Take your time. Plan the questions you want answers to. Some agents have blogs where they offer to go over your query for you. Some provide perfect examples of strong, well-structured queries. Ask online. Use your fellow writers. Is paying for a manuscript assessment right for you? It can be something that strengthens your query. You might pull a quote from it.
- Ask other writers for advice. They may know agents who have a reputation for being open to new writers. They may have inside information on how other writers feel about working with certain agents.
- I’ve read articles that advise using the narrative voice of the book in your query letter. I think that would depend on the book, and the writer, but I’d carefully consider anything that compromised the economy of words.
- Agents get swamped with submissions. Their reading piles are never-ending. Signing a new writer is a huge undertaking. In many cases there will be multiple people reading the manuscript. Plus, there is the added complication of working from home, balancing child care and whatever other personal considerations that we need to allow for in these times. The book industry is slow. Plan for that. Take a rest. Get going on other projects.
and most of all:
- Do what feels right for you.
- Write what you want.
- Write when you want.
- Build worlds. And characters. And stories.
- And don’t stop. No matter what.