They say that to be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid. If that's true, then the last several months have been quite the life lesson. As writer hoping to attain the coveted "Agent-ed" status, I have successfully made every mistake a newbie can make. So, rather than bury myself in a gallon of Salted Caramel Ice Cream (because, well, we're out of it at the moment), I have decided to pass my literary foolishness on to the rest of you, so that you may fare better.
1) DO Look up Nathan Bransford and Chuck Sambuchino on the interweb. Seriously, these guys have more working, viable knowledge about seeking, querying, and snagging agents than anyone I’ve come found so far.
2) And with that, DO follow literary agents on Twitter or Face Book (There seems to be a vast swarm on Twitter.) Pay close attention to what irritates the hell out of them, and then don’t do what irritates the hell out of them. This means following their guidelines. This means addressing your queries properly. This means check your spelling. This also means CHECK YOUR ASSUMPTIONS AND DELUSIONS OF GRANDUER AT THE DOOR.
3) DO Pay heed to the snapping teeth of the QUERY SHARK http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
4) DO try really hard to keep your queries to 250 words.
5) DO NOT submit more than one manuscript to one agency at a time.
6) DO NOT think that just because you have self-published that you’ll be taken seriously as a published author. That only happens if you have a massive (and by massive, think the army of orcs from LOTR) following online, and have sold several thousand books.
7) DO NOT think that most agents/publishing companies are going to see most of your writing accomplishments as “valid” accomplishments. Unless your work is more than a blip on the literary radar (which means you have to keep getting your name out there), you may not register on theirs.
8) Don’t just throw your stuff out at random. Use QueryTracker.net http://querytracker.net/
or AgentQueryConnect http://agentqueryconnect.com/ to (A) Find a great community of helpful gurus (B) narrow down the agents that would be right for your work.
9) I learned late in the game that you need to break your agents down into three lists, in order of priority. I also learned that you should start with the agents lowest on your lists first, so that by the time you get to the Agents
you would consider selling your first born to sign with you really, really want… you have tweaked your query to the point where the gods themselves look down upon it with rapt approval. *Sigh* I did not do this.
10) Take a break. From writing. From querying. All of it. If you write for hours, and try to query for hours, your eyes will get screwy…you’ll miss crucial guideline-info or just make random stupid mistakes…and all you’ll get out of it is an automatic rejection.
11) Suck it up and keep moving. Rejection letters come in all forms for all reasons. Maybe the agent’s had a bad day. Maybe your query just wasn’t enough of a snag. Maybe you need fresh eyes and re-tweaking. The trick seems to be to keep plugging away. If you aren’t willing to give everything you have to promoting your book, even in the face of a great wall of “NO!”, why should an agent kill him/herself on your behalf?
12) DO surround yourself with enthusiastic, sagacious folk who know about the travails of writing and agenting. Do this whether you plan to move forward with your work, or even if you just want to hide your bad couplets under the bed where no one will ever read them. Knowledge really is power.
13) DO REMEMEBER: Even if you miss out on an opportunity, that doesn’t mean a better one isn’t around the corner. If you are willing to learn from your mistakes and keep trying.