LitMatch: Research Literary Agents and Track Submissions

Monday, November 19, 2007

Submission Basics: Make the Agent's Job Easier

When was the last time someone went out of his way to make your job easier? Think hard, because it doesn’t happen all that often. But when it happened, you took notice, didn’t you?

Now, consider the literary agent. His job is to find new writing talent, marketable writing talent in the form of a writer whom he can work with, perhaps for years to come. It’s not an easy job, but if you, while you’re submitting, can make that job easier, you have a much better chance of your query getting noticed.

Here are a few ways you can help yourself by helping your prospective agent:

Give them what they want, the way they want it. Most agents have their own submission guidelines, and it’s in your best interests to follow these guidelines to the letter. Those guidelines are there to make it easier for the agent to review your work, and the easier you can make that process, the more chance your work has to shine.

Don’t tell him how to do his job. It may be true that you’re the next Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling, and that any agent would be woefully short-sighted to pass up the manuscript you have to offer. You may have specific publishers in mind that you absolutely want to approach, cities picked out for the book tour, and a shortlist of directors for the movie adaptation but, at least for the moment, keep them to yourself.

Let the agent decide how best to represent your book, and how to help make it a success. If you become his client, he’ll get you the best deal possible if for no other reason than it’s in his best interest to do so. You should definitely suggest potential audiences for your book, and markets where you think it will succeed, but when it comes to the specifics, let the agent know you trust him enough to let him handle the details.

Be a model client from square one. This means being polite, professional, and gracious. When agents review submissions, they’re not just looking at the kind of book you’ve written, but also at the kind of client you’re likely to be. If you give the agent his dream submission, it suggests that you’re likely to be a dream client, too.

If you are one of the unfortunate multitudes who receives a rejection, don’t argue the point. At best, it won’t help. At worst, you’ll stick out in the agent’s mind as someone who’s difficult to work with, and it may damage your chance to approach that agent with another project. That’s the kind of attention you don’t need.

Now, get back to writing.

Christopher Hawkins

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