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Just Had Dinner With Four Agents and an Editor


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#1 RSMellette

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    Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, Dec. 2014 Elephant's Bookshelf Press

Posted 05 March 2018 - 04:38 PM

As a member of the board of my local SCBWI, I got to have dinner with several agents and editors.

 

Oh, the places we go... 

 

To hear the agents discuss with each other about how they approach queries was enlightening. Without talking out of school, and without naming any names, here are some things I learned.

 

First and foremost, all of the agents want your book to be good. No one is going through submissions with an evil laugh, happily rejecting authors while making fun of us all. They genuinely love books and the authors who write them, and they absolutely want you to be their next favorite. 

 

Some, don't read your query letter at all, but go straight to the sample. If they like that, they'll circle back to the query. Some, are just the opposite. They feel if you can't sell your own work, you probably aren't going to be a good fit for them. Some pass on word counts alone, others (okay, one, but it was a small sample size) won't even look at a word count. Some expect the first paragraph to be why you picked them to submit to - there was a general feeling that agents want to feel like you've chosen them for a reason, while realizing that it's not necessarily so - others were more concerned with the hook and summary, or the bio - which didn't need to be about writing experience.

 

In short, it's a crap shoot.

 

All of them made their decisions based on the words on the page - either the sample, the letter, or both. All of them want a sample to start with chapter one. 

 

And, all of them are very nice. They love books. They love authors. They could all make more money doing less work in some other business, but they've chosen to be in the same business you've chosen. If your image of agents is anything other than that, you're wrong. Sure, some might be mean, or impolite, or rub you the wrong way, (none for me at this dinner), but you have more in common than not. So, cheer up. The gatekeepers don't want to stop you. They want to help you. You just have to show that you're worthy of their time and attention. 


From Elephant's Bookshelf Press

 

51xExIpByyL._SS140_SH35_.jpg51n1zBAR2vL._SS140_SH35_.jpg

by R.S. Mellette

"WOW. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about how I felt reading this book - WOW. I was so pleasantly surprised - oh, let's be honest, it was more like blown away!" -- Holy B. In NC, Amazon Review.


#2 DisgruntledWriter

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 05:24 PM

This is all very helpful and reassuring info.  It answers my million questions I have about how agents do things.  It's funny how the general consensus was that they wanted personalized queries; I suck at writing them, and it just feels like I'm sucking up to them (and doing so terribly.)  I wonder how they would react if I wrote: "I am writing to you because you happened to be on a list of 25 other agents looking for my genre, and I'm just going to hit you all up and hope one of you like it enough to request more."  :biggrin:



#3 RSMellette

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    Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, Dec. 2014 Elephant's Bookshelf Press

Posted 05 March 2018 - 06:12 PM

They would probably smile, then pass. 

 

I think one of them said in a workshop that it's easier to pass, so don't give an agent a reason to. 

 

You can just skip that part of a letter, or write a sentence at the top of an e-mail that you then paiste your form letter below it.


From Elephant's Bookshelf Press

 

51xExIpByyL._SS140_SH35_.jpg51n1zBAR2vL._SS140_SH35_.jpg

by R.S. Mellette

"WOW. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about how I felt reading this book - WOW. I was so pleasantly surprised - oh, let's be honest, it was more like blown away!" -- Holy B. In NC, Amazon Review.


#4 DisgruntledWriter

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 09:04 PM

They would probably smile, then pass.

I think one of them said in a workshop that it's easier to pass, so don't give an agent a reason to.

You can just skip that part of a letter, or write a sentence at the top of an e-mail that you then paiste your form letter below it.


Haha - I wouldn’t actually do it, it’s just what I always think when they want to know :P

#5 RSMellette

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    Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, Dec. 2014 Elephant's Bookshelf Press

Posted 05 March 2018 - 09:41 PM

Haha - I wouldn’t actually do it, it’s just what I always think when they want to know :P

 

People have done worse. :)


From Elephant's Bookshelf Press

 

51xExIpByyL._SS140_SH35_.jpg51n1zBAR2vL._SS140_SH35_.jpg

by R.S. Mellette

"WOW. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think about how I felt reading this book - WOW. I was so pleasantly surprised - oh, let's be honest, it was more like blown away!" -- Holy B. In NC, Amazon Review.


#6 mwsinclair

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 10:50 AM

I remember once having a conversation with a book editor, in an elevator, and apparently failed miserably. He was literally running across 6th Avenue after we spoke. I didn't take it personally. ... well, maybe a little.



#7 Nonicks

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 09:03 AM

Thank you! It's really useful! Good to know they really read the query letters authors send them.  :biggrin:






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