How (Not) to Get an Agent

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If you've been interested in this writing thing for longer than a couple of weeks, chances are you know that the avenue to traditional publishing 9/10 times is through a literary agent. A good literary agent is the writer's advocate, the person who deciphers those confusing contracts filled with legal terms most of us are not equipped to understand, your beta reader, cheerleader, etc. It's easy to understand why writers interested in getting published traditionally work so hard to get an agent's attention, and ultimately, representation.

But getting a literary agent is no easy feat--it's not uncommon for a writer to spend years working on manuscript after manuscript before writing the one that garners enough attention to get an agent to utter the magical words that go along the lines of "I would love to represent you."

So without further ado, I present to you the ten secrets to getting a literary agent to represent you.

10 Guaranteed Ways to Get a Literary Agent*

  1. Cyberstalking. The very first step towards researching agents is to hone your cyberstalking skills--follow your prospective agent on every social media profile possible (even ones you don't already have or haven’t used in ages--hello, Myspace). Don't even think about beginning the query process until you know where the agent lives, the name of his cat, her birthday, favorite food, and, of course, where he graduated high school. You'll want to incorporate all of the above into your story, so they feel right at home reading your manuscript.

  2. Write the perfect query letter. Everything you need to know about writing the golden query letter can be found in this post, but beware: once you send that baby out, you better be prepared for an onslaught of calls from agents dying to get their hands on your work. It’ll be a bloodbath. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  3. Ignore the agency's submission guidelines. Those are for people who don't know how to think outside the box. You're a literary genius. You don't need silly submission guidelines.

  4. Send your query letters to agents who don't represent your genre. It won't matter that they don't represent your genre when they see how incredible your query letter is. They won't be able to resist--you're the type of genius that only comes around once in an agent's career. Send your query letter regardless of represented genres.

  5. Bribery. Since you're going to be sending out those query letters en masse, you better stock up on the chocolate. Agents love chocolate more than mice love cheese. It also helps if you tuck a few Benjamins in there, too.

  6. Be the squeaky wheel. Once you've sent your query letter, it's time to pull out those phone numbers and call the agencies up to make sure they've received your letter. If they haven't, you'll be doing them a favor by telling them to clear their schedules and prepare for your epic query letter, and if they have, chances are they were about to call you anyway. If you can't get answers --keep calling. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so start squeaking.

  7. Promise them glory. Sometimes when agents come across incredible query letters, they're taken aback by the sheer awesomeness of the letter. If you haven't heard back from your prospective agent within 24 hours of sending your query letter, chances are they're in shock that someone as talented and incredible as you drafted up such an incredible letter and sent it to them. Call them up or send them a second e-mail to let them know how successful they're going to be after they represent you to seal the deal.

  8. Create a blog dedicated solely to bashing bad agents and books. These rage blogs are immensely popular with agents--they show that you're educated about the literary world, have tact and good taste. As a bonus, you'll make them feel better about themselves because you're a famous rage blogger and you chose to query them.

  9. Create a Twitter account for your rage blog. The nice thing about Twitter is you can mention the bad agents you're talking about when you tell your millions of Twitter followers about your posts. As a bonus, the other agents will see your insightful posts on their feed (because they'd be crazy not to follow you).

  10. Don't write a book. Don't write anything except fabulous query letters about the books you're going to write, for that matter. Attract your agents with your genius, charm, personality and chocolate. Then, once you have one representing you, you can focus on writing that masterpiece without worrying about writing a book that might not get published.

*This is a sarcastic post! Please, please, please, PLEASE don't do these things, ok? Pinky promise?

Now it's your turn: what "tips" do you have for getting an agent?


Heather M Bryant said...

Tip number one reminds me of a fake query letter Query Shark posted on her site. But you forgot to mention adding the cyberstalking to the rage blog. Even after the agent has stupidly turned you down. Because there's always the next non-book to query, and they'll be so impressed with your consistency and ability to forgive.

Ava Jae said...

Fake query letters (excuse me, I mean totally serious query letters) can be fun to write and read.

On another note, great additions, Heather! I hadn't thought of combining the rage blog with cyberstalking and everyone knows breakfast tweets (particularly breakfast query tweets) are every agent's favorite.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Man, I've been doing it all wrong. Thanks for the advice to set me straight. :D

I'm so paranoid as coming off as a stalker, I rarely follow agents on Twitter, especially not right before I query them. If I'm not going to query them, then I follow them.

Ava Jae said...

I follow agents whose tweets I find particularly interesting (regardless of whether or not I intend to query them), but I also have a running list of agents. The nice thing about it is I can see various opinions from many agents without following all of them. :)

Also, you know I'm always happy to dole out life-changing "advice." :D

Maria Adcock said...

Ha ha, glad this was sarcastic. I was reading thinking, "Oh, this is not the way to go..." :)

Emily Mead said...

Don't forget to mention that your book is better than Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight.

Ava Jae said...

This is absolutely sarcastic, although sometimes the sarcasm doesn't come across as obvious as it does in my head, which is why the disclaimer is there. :)

Ava Jae said...

Not only is your book better than all three--it's better than all three combined.

Emily Mead said...

Now that would be one HELL of an awesome book!

Ava Jae said...

It'd be a pretty intense book, for sure. :D

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