Getting Your Work in the Right Hands

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 10 2007

I received the following email recently:

It’s a bit hard to tell who does what at the various listings because although the opportunity is there to advertise yourselves selectively you all tend to not want to be left out of an opportunity. We writers in turn end up sending off a lot of mailshots, particularly with tough books like this one, to people who are not in the patch or whose feelings might be hurt with the material. Any tips you might have to avoid this problem would be much appreciated.

You all know by now that it’s imperative when looking for an agent that you do your research and make sure you submit only to those agents who represent the types of books you’re writing, but as this reader points out, there are a lot of nuances to what an agent represents that may or may not get listed.

Some examples . . .

An agent may have just taken on three new authors in a particular genre or sub-genre and might not be actively seeking out what you’re writing.

An agent might have a secret fear of cats and can’t read anything with cats.

An agent might abhor any book that even hints of child endangerment.

An agent might love redheaded men and is always searching for redheaded heroes.

An agent might be a mosaic artist and would love anything to do with mosaics.

What’s my point? You only know what the listings say and from there on out it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Your job is to narrow your list as much as possible (for your own sanity as well as that of the agents you’re approaching) and then hope you’ll find that one person who connects with your book, for whatever reason. There’s no way to avoid sending it to people who don’t feel they’re right for the book, it’s an honest reason for rejection.

So do your research to the best of your abilities and don’t worry that you’re offending an agent if you didn’t know that she refuses to read anything with cigarette smoking. How would you know?


5 responses to “Getting Your Work in the Right Hands”

  1. Avatar Reid says:

    Thanks for the blog as always. Idle question, do you happen to have any of the names of those agents who like red-headed men?

    Just askin’.

  2. Avatar JDuncan says:

    When I started looking into querying not so long ago, I began to notice this was the case, and from reading agent blogs, I also realized that even things like having your query read on the wrong day can screw up an otherwise possible chance. If you’ve got a headache, had a shitty day, or not had enough coffee, it can effect the read. So, I assumed going in the 3/4 of my queries were likely going to be a ‘sorry, not for me’ response. Writers just need to assume that a large chunk of their querying is going to get rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with how good the story is. Query far and wide. I think Miss Snark mentioned the magic 100 number. If everything is good, the query, writing, etc. then it’s just a matter of time and timing to get it dropped in the right lap. Writers really can’t afford to fret so much over rejected queries, it’s not a reflection on them or the writing.

    Oh, hope to meet you at RWA, Jessica. If not, have fun!


  3. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Aren’t agents in the business of finding books that will make them money; sussing out what will appeal to the end user?

    Are editors like agents, i.e. do they choose books based on their personal likes, dislikes and phobias? Seems to me, that would constitute a very bad business model.

    Since agents are the conduit for getting a product to market, one would hope they would choose the products they feel are most likely to sell, setting aside their personal foibles as much as possible.

    Not trying to be argumentative here. Just honestly wondering.

  4. Avatar Tammie says:

    Considering agents receive so many queries it would be natural that their own “preferences” would get factored in with what they say they will look at.

    I’m with the above comment suggested by Miss Snark – query 100 times before you think of giving up.


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