Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So You're Looking for a Literary Agent...

Thank you to all of you wonderful blog readers, tweeps, family, friends and writers out there who've showed your enthusiasm over last week's agent signing news. I am both humbled by and grateful for each and every one of you.
In the hoopla of the amazing week, I've spoken to many people and received several questions about what being a writer truly means. The question that has been asked the most, however, was the following...

"What do I need to do to get an agent?"

It's a difficult question to tackle, but for this Writer Wednesday I'd like to give you a basic guideline of what that road entails. First, you need to answer every one of these questions with a resounding YES.
  1. Can you write a book, edit it until it sparkles, and send that book out into the world?
  2. When you face hundreds of rejections, can you continue to write?
  3. Can you continue year after year, book after book to write and send out your work if you don't get an agent offer?
  4. Can you narrow down your 50k, 60k, 70k, 80k, 90k, 100+k novel into a 250 word query?
  5. Can you handle criticism at every turn - critique partners, beta readers, agents, editors, etc?
  6. When one of these people tells you that your book is the worst thing they've ever read, can you smile politely and say "Thank you for your time and consideration"?

If you answered YES to all of these questions, then you can BEGIN the journey. Now, here's your guidebook.

STEP 1: Write an awesome, amazing, out of the box book.
STEP 2: Edit that book until you can't stand to look at it anymore.
STEP 3: Take the advice of trusted critique partners.
STEP 4: Edit it again.
STEP 5: Test it out on beta readers.
STEP 6: Edit it again!
STEP 7: Pull out your hair. Chew your fingernails. Write your query letter.
STEP 8: Seek advice about your query letter. Visit the FOR WRITERS links, bottom left.
STEP 9: Edit your query letter.
STEP 10: Test out your query letter on a batch of 10 agents.
STEP 11: Wait for responses.
STEP 12: Wait some more.
STEP 13: If you're getting requests, great! If not, revise your query letter and revisit your opening pages.
STEP 14: Repeat steps 10 -13 over and over again.
STEP 14: If all goes well, you'll get an offer from an agent and happy dances ensue. 
Sounds simple, right? HA! I've featured a writer on this blog who spent eight years and six books to land an agent. I've had another who has fought to gain, and then lose, three different agents before finding one that truly "got" her work. My own journey marked one year and one day from querying to agent offer, after I'd spent several years rejected in a different genre. Is it true that some writers get agents in a matter of days? Yes, for some lucky few. But, don't let anyone ever tell you this journey is easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and a oil tanker full of self-confidence - even when you feel like your works sucks.

The best advice, I can give anyone wondering about this journey is simple but oh so important...
If you don't, no one else will.

And remember only two more days left to enter contests!

From Tina & Yelena in celebration of our agent signings HERE and HERE, double the chance to win $10 gift cards from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Winner's choice! Contest open until October 7th.


  1. Great advice, Tina! :) I'm at the "pull out your hair" stage, even though it's crossed out. I feel it pairs well with steps three through six. *grins*

  2. Oh yes! The "pull out your hair" stage is ick! If it makes you feel better I went through 17 - yup, count 'em now, 17 - drafts of the query letter before getting the agent offer. My request rate was great on the final draft, mediocre on the middle drafts, and sad on the earliest drafts. So, trial and error.

  3. Excellent advice! I especially love the "Believe In Yourself" part. You are an inspiration. :)

  4. Good outline of the steps and advice for the writers. I'm glad we got to share this particular road together. :)

  5. Tina - I am so excited for you guys!!!! I kept thinking about you all week, and it's been one heck of a week around here. :P Awesome post, and awesome advice. Very candid and very true. :D

  6. Thanks so much for coming by the blog! And CONGRATS!!

    I always love hearing querying-->agent stories; they cheer us fellow writers so much.

    Lastly - anyone who has the peanut butter jelly time banana logo on her post is AWESOME.

  7. Awesome post and LOVE the advice! You know I'm taking note, right?!? Gotta get myself an agent soon ;o)

    Congrats again, Tina!!!

  8. Thanks everyone! You all are so sweet. :)

  9. Great advice. I think Number 2 is key! Just keep writing!

    I have a blog award for you!

  10. Awesome post! And MAJOR congrats! Would you be willing to do a WOW Weds post for us, something very close to this post would be PERFECT. It is so amazingly well-put.

    Hugs on your news, your perseverence, and your encouragment to other writers.