August 25, 2011

agent advice

I was participating in a chat event at Savvy Authors last night and wanted to share some of the lessons I learned from it. The topic was "Discuss Publishing with a Literary Agent," and the guest of honor was Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

As I've previously mentioned, I have queried many literary agents in an attempt to sell my first novel. Though I've come to the realization that I may need to do another draft of this novel — and even change the title — querying weighs heavily on my mind.

Here are the two questions I asked during the chat, and Ms. Dowdle's answers:

LC: If a writer re-works his or her manuscript, what is the etiquette for re-querying an agent who previously rejected the work?

It depends on the agent.  I'm open to requeries and often will suggest they requery if they make changes.  Some are not as open to it.  I would suggest writing a letter asking if they would be willing to reconsider once you've done your edits.  Put your hook in the letter and a few paragraphs about the book.

Maybe some info about the changes you made

LC: What is the best thing a new author can do to stand out (in a good way) to a prospective agent?

Have your manuscript edited and critiqued.  Make sure it shines.  Write a professional query letter.  I got one the other day where partway through the letter the man told me how pretty I was or something.  I get all types.

Know the publishing market.  Write in genres that publishers want.

And here is a question from another attendee and the response:

Even though the manuscript is the important part, are you concerned solely with the manuscript or are you also looking for an author who is already making themselves marketable when you choose your clients? (ie. authors with blogs/twitter/facebook pages/etc.)

DD: Both are VERY important.  But you have to have a marketable manuscript to sign with an agent.

I'm especially intrigued by her thoughts on requerying, as that is something I may have to do myself in the future, and it's good to know where an agent stands on the issue.

What are your thoughts? How would you suggest an aspiring author gets better acquainted with the industry? What are some ways to stand out from the rest?

For those of you interested, Ms. Dowdle will be on Savvy Authors again tonight to hear (read) book pitches. I'm participating and will let you know how it goes.

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