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guide to literary agents

Just Keep Pitching (Day 31)

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When my husband graduated from high school, he was not ready for his baseball career to be over. He went to a small JuCo a few hours from our hometown and tried to walk on. He ran. He hit. He pitched. For weeks, he worked out in hopes that they would allow him to walk on. Finally the day came for them to announce their team—they posted the 25-man roster, and he wasn’t on it. They told him he didn’t make the team, but if he would keep coming to practice, there was a chance to earn a spot. He was devastated.

But, he went back.

And he ran.

He hit some more.

And he pitched and threw batting practice like he was playing the most important game of his career.

And the coaches noticed.

And in a week, he had a uniform. Later, the assistant coach, who is now the head coach at Texas Tech, told him that he felt the head coach cut him as a test to see if he would press through. My husband worked his way to a new team after that, Tyler Junior College. The coach there had noticed him at Hill, and offered him scholarship money if he would transfer and play for them. He had a very successful year at TJC as one of their pitchers, when the coaching staff at The University of Houston noticed him. They offered him a substantial scholarship to come pitch for them, so he transferred there to finish up his degree. My husband led his team in wins at U of H, and went on to help his team win a Conference USA Championship.

When you work hard, eventually heads will turn. When you keep trying, eventually an agent will notice your perseverance. Sometimes it’s a series of baby steps that lead up to your securing an agent, but it’s ALWAYS about hard work. Pitching at The University of Houston was one of the best times of my husband’s life. He is a baseball coach today, and I wonder what life would’ve looked like had he looked those coaches in the eye and gotten hurt, angry, bitter, or so frustrated that he decided not to pick up a baseball ever again.

It happens—I promise this happens every single day.

Maybe you have queried 20 agents, sat in front of them nervously, recited 20 awesome elevator pitches, and struck out every time—find ten more agents to query. Maybe you’ve attended writers’ conferences for 20 years and you are a regular, but still, you have no agent—stay the course. Stay a regular. Keep pitching. Eventually, the right agent will notice. Just keep pitching—your time will come.

Thank you to everyone that has followed along on our 31 day journey. This was really fun, and I hope you feel educated and encouraged to go out there and snag yourself the agent of your dreams. If you’ve enjoyed our series I would love for you to share it with your friends. And I’d be honored if you’d sign up for my email list and stick with me at my place beneath the pines.

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This series is part of the #Write31Days challenge. To read all the posts in this series click here.

 

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Ask for a Referral (Day 17)

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I have between 40 and 50 clients. I would say that over half of the people I’ve signed came to me by referral from an existing client. This is my method of choice for signing.

Our agency is a boutique agency and we do lots of hands on mentoring with clients. So, we function much like a family. I mentioned, “teams” in a previous blog post, and this team mentality affects how I sign authors, particularly on the fiction side. When three of my clients “adopt” someone that doesn’t have an agent into their critique circle, it often makes sense that I sign them. I’m still not going to sign someone until they are ready, but I love to sign from referrals. I want my existing clients to get along as a team.

This isn’t a requirement, but you can see the natural correlation to synergy. If I sign someone who doesn’t get along with anyone else, then naturally they probably won’t get along with me either. And of course, if an author gets along with a group of my writers, and also has a unique story that is worth representing, then there is a good chance I will sign them. For sure, I will investigate the possibility of working with them if they are interested.

If you are looking for an agent, the best place to start is with your published friends. Who are they represented by? What do they think of their agent? Have they had a good experience or a bad one? If they talk highly of their agent, then ask them for a referral. You don’t need someone else to ping an agent’s email with your proposal, but if you want to jump the line—ask for a referral and you just might get what you want.

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This series is part of the #Write31Days challenge. To read all the posts in this series click here.

 

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Personalize Your Pitch (Day 5)

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Whether you pitch to an agent face-to-face or via email query, please make your pitch personal. I believe there are ways to combine professional story information with a personal touch to show an agent that you intentionally chose to pitch to them. I have had people send me queries addressed to “Jennifer” not “Jessica.” I have had people spell my name like a boy “Jesse.” I have received queries where I was one of a hundred agents CC’d on a mass email. It’s not wrong to query multiple agents at a time, you should do that to improve your chances, but, there is a proper way to do it. I promise that cc’ing a group of agents together won’t get you an agent.

I was at a conference a few weeks ago and one gal sat down, looked me straight in the eye, and said “Hey, I’m a mother of multiples too.” I appreciated her personal approach. I knew she had done her homework, because she knew I had triplets. After our agent/editor panel, another lady approached me and gave me two amazing icing filled chocolate bundt cakes. I totally know that my mama taught me not to take food from strangers, but there they were in all their glory…gluten-free, chocolate-chip, bundt cakes! Of course I had to eat them, didn’t I? Well either way, I did. You know why that matters? Because she read my bio. The last line of my bio says that I can be “bribed with hugs and gluten-free cupcakes” and when people bring me things like that, it means something to me. It means they researched me. Or maybe it just means they are trying to make me gain weight! These tiny personal touches matter to me, and they matter to other agents. We invest our time, our energy, our emotions into you as an author, and we want to know that this partnership is going to be mutually beneficial. When someone pays attention on the front end, I feel more confident in signing them and investing in their career.

There was another girl at that same conference that sat down at my table, looked me in the eye and said assertively, “I want you to know that I came to pitch to you. I really want to work with you and I’m not pitching to any other agents.” She proceeded to slide a folder across the table that had my name on it, our agency address, and on the cover letter she told me all the reasons why she wanted me to be her agent. That is how it’s done. You don’t have to fill our emotional cup or desire to feel loved and accepted, but agenting is a two-way street. The agent/author relationship is an intimate one; it is personal. And a personal pitch, or lack thereof, sets the tone for what our interactions might look like in the future. This is business, but in my opinion, business is always personal.

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31 Ways to Snag an Agent is part of the #Write31Days challenge. To read all the posts in this series click here.

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