6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Getting A Literary Agent When I First Started Writing Novels

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1. Agents are just as hard to land as publishers, if not harder.

You have to knock yourself out marketing your very best work, making yourself look wonderful, over and over again, in order to win the heart of an agent. It’s exhausting. They’re looking for a long term commitment and are harder to convince.

2. Agents really want to believe in you.

They’re not cynical, or they wouldn’t be in the business (for much longer).

3. Agents aren’t mind-readers.

They want you to sell them on your talent and potential, but they don’t know anything about you. You have to tell them who you are. You have to give them the information they need to know you have what it takes. They can’t operate in a vacuum.

That means you need to know what skills you have that are marketable. Do your research. What makes you hot? What makes your manuscript different? Tell the agent that. This is what they’re going to want to know, along with the basic demographics of what genre you’re writing, etc.

4. Agents genuinely love novels and reading and are looking at you as the next potential New York Times Bestseller.

Even as you’re pitching your book, they’re thinking potential markets. Every element you introduce eliminates or opens up potential markets in their minds. They’re also looking at you as a person and how you pitch, your appearance, personality, enthusiasm and energy, presentation…the whole package, in fact, and assessing you as Bestseller material. It’s not a conscious assessment, because they’re actually listening to your story pitch. But subconsciously, the assessment is taking place, and an agent generally starts out with positive expectations.

5. Once you have an agent, you don’t get to relax.

You can’t let your professional standards slide just because you have an agent now. That’s a quick way to jeopardize your working relationship. Like marriage, treat this partnership with kid gloves. It can last a lifetime with care and feeding and both of you can profit.

6. Agents can become friends.

The books and experts say keep it strictly professional, but even professionals can become friends over the long term. As long as the boundaries between work and play are well defined, you can be friends.


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