Literary Agent Rambling
I thought if any of the readers were also writers, they may find a few words on finding literary agents useful. And if not writers, the subject might be interesting anyway.
For better or worse, I have had considerable success in obtaining top agents in both London and New York with many different forms of work. My first short story collection signed Peters Frazer and Dunlop in London and Henry Dunow in New York. (The fact this coincided with the almost universal decision by commercial publishers to virtually abandon publishing short story collections, is beside the point).
My latest, currently two self-published literary thrillers are being represented by Jon Elek at United Agents. And to say the least, there have been others!
So, some Dos and some Don’ts.
But before I start, as my example shows, a top agent does not necessarily guarantee a deal. However, trying to obtain one without, will guarantee that you won’t. Or at least make it very, very unlikely.
And besides, you need an agent to police your deal, especially today.
I have a friend in New York who after some Kindle success was approached by a publisher. She signed on the dotted line and had a party. A little while later (too late) she approached an agent who signed her as she loved her book. Then had to report that the film rights had already been optioned and for free; the eBook download was also free; and the contract stated her next book had to be published by the same publisher! So if you are an Indie and your book hits the bestseller list and a published comes along, approach an agent first. If the publisher is bona fide, they will recommend it anyway.
- First thing. A great book. Edited and edited again. Nice tweet from top agent, Jonny Geller: Think of your first book like Ryan Air baggage. If it is overstuffed you won’t get aboard!
Then when you are ready to try an agent, find one who you think represents writers you either admire or are writing in a similar genre.
But you don’t go to Jodi Reamer and say you’ve written another Twilight; or Chris Little and say you have a boy with a wand!
I recall the agent who represented The Perfect Storm, saying he got so many nautical novels, he felt like wearing a life jacket to work!
So selective, not obvious. And don’t say you love their writers. It makes you sound like a fan who will probably get a copy of a free book, or more likely a discount voucher for one!
State, if you want, a few writers you think your work is comparable to. I never have. Just the genre. And never, never say you write just like someone else. Or that you are original. I once had an agent describe my novel to publishers as Sui Generis!
Kiss of death that was!
Use credits, if they are good ones. I’ve had 85 plus short stories published worldwide and won numerous awards.
It helps but isn’t vital.
It is the book you are selling that really counts. And if the only reviews you have were written by friends or relatives, keep them hidden.
It is the pitch. In it you must sell yourself and the book quickly.
So polish it until it gleams like a diamond. Read it aloud. If it is corny, do it again.
A good exercise. Try and write a one line pitch for your book. If you land an agent they will ask for one or several before submitting, so you might as well learn. Also, a synopsis. You will get asked for one. And they are really hard to get right. But get it ready.
One line pitch: Girl flies to strange land and kills evil woman and then battles her evil sister. Wizard of Oz.
Turn it into a party game with your fellow writers or friend.
That’s a few words to think about. You will have to be persistent and stoical; but if you believe and are willing to work, you will get there. Or at least part of the way there.
At the moment as my two thrillers have had mostly great reviews (apart from one who thinks I am the perfect foil to kill her book club rival with) and my agent has just shown them to a top publisher. The senior editor wants and is talking internally.
As I write this, I wait to hear. Will it be good news? Will it be bad?
Whatever, I will carry on writing as that is what matters.
— Neil Grimmett