Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Monday, November 10, 2014

There's More Than One Way to Get an Agent

Last week Charity gave us an in-depth look at aspects of publishing, marketing, and even how to get that movie out of our heads and onto the paper. It was a week of sharing what she's learned with the rest of us.

Typically, I like to do author interviews, but since I'm in the throes of querying my YA novel right now, I'd like to take this week and share with you what I've learned. Except that my knowledge stems from my place in the publishing process. So, please, bear with me as I try to get these thoughts that have been going through my mind, out into some kind of collective format.

There's no right or wrong way to get an agent.

1) Querying-

Sure, it may be a little harder to stand out in the slush pile, but querying is one of the most common outlets writers use to get the attention of an agent. And many bestselling authors found their agents through the good old-fashioned time-honored tradition of the query trail. And lucky for you, our very own Huntress gives stellar query critiques when she hosts, so be sure to swing by on occasion.

So, if you're trudging along and aren't sure who to query next, here are some great sites to help you find agents to query:

Agent Query

Query Tracker

Writer's Digest

New literary agents are always a hot commodity because they are actively seeking to build their client list. If you are interested in staying informed of new literary agents, Writer's Digest does a great job of spotlighting these agents. Check the Writer's Digest website periodically or subscribe to their newsletter for updates.

2) Contests-

I didn't realize until recently how many online contests there are for writers. Everything from twitter contests to pitching contests, there are many ways to get your work in front of an agent. The key is to perfect your pitch, logline, query, and first 250 words of your manuscript because typically the contests will want one or more of these things.

Here are some great contests that provide wonderful opportunities for writers:

Baker's Dozen: Every year Miss Snark's First Victim hosts the Baker's Dozen where writers send in their logline and first 250 words. Those entries chosen will appear on her website where agents have the opportunity to "bid" on their favorites and request pages. Sounds fun, right? I mean, who wouldn't want a group of agents fighting over their work?

Nightmare on Query Street: Each year in October, bloggers SCMichael, and Michelle have an online contest. Writers send in their query and first 250. Those chosen to be on the teams will be posted on the blogs where selected agents can make requests. Visit Michelle's blog for more info.

Pitch Wars: Each year Brenda Drake hosts Pitch Wars. "Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round." Stay tuned to Brenda's blog for info on the next Pitch Wars contest.

#PitMad: #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed manuscripts. For rules and more details, please visit Brenda Drake's website.

Here are the dates for their upcoming quarterly #PitMad events:
September 9, 2014
December 4, 2014
March 11, 2015
June 4, 2015
September 10, 2015
December 4, 2015
#PitMad starts at 8AM and ends at 8PM (EST or EDT, which is New York time).

Query Kombat: Bloggers SC, Michael, and Michelle have teamed up to bring you a Query Kombat tournament. It sounds like fun! Here is the info from last year's Query Kombat held in May. You may want to check the website periodically for info on next year's contest. 

"Query Kombat will host 64 kombatants in a single-elimination, tournament style query-off. Entries will go head to head (one on one) with one another until only ONE entry remains. There will be a total of six rounds in Query Kombat. 64 entries in round one, 32 in round two, 16 in round three, 8 in round four, 4 in round five, and 2 in round six."

3) Conferences-

Let's face it, if you're serious about getting published, you should attend writer's conferences. Some can be as lengthy as several days, while others might be a one-day workshop. Whatever you choose, just make sure you get the most out of it as you can. Does it offer agent pitches? Query critiques? Manuscript critiques? After you register for your conference, check the submissions deadline so you don't miss out on other important classes or critiques offered.

And another bonus is that the agents who attend the conference will give you special instructions on how to submit to them. Your query may even be pushed to the front of their reading pile just because the subject line of your email mentions the conference.

I went to my first SCBWI Carolinas conference in September and it was awesome. I mean, what is better than meeting a whole bunch of people who are as obsessed with writing as you are? And I got to chat with the amazingly talented Carrie Ryan (NYT Bestselling author of the YA novel, Forest of Hands and Teeth, who I hope to interview in the coming months. *keeping fingers crossed*)

Here I am pictured with other fabulous women I met at the conference.

But one of the best parts about writer's conferences is the opportunity to meet and mingle with agents. If you can get up the nerve (and I highly recommend that you do), a conference is a great place to casually pitch to agents.

Now, I don't recommend going up to an agent and immediately plowing into your pitch. Instead, try starting up a conversation, maybe ask a question or two. If they're interested, they will ask what you're working on. THEN you can dive into your pitch, but make sure it doesn't come off as so-rehearsed that you sound robotic. And if you're super nervous about talking to an agent, the lovely Christa Heschke has some awesome advice on her website that really helped ease my fears.

So, in a nutshell, don't think you're limited to querying alone. There are many opportunities for writers trying to find an agent. You just have to find the right one. Good luck!

Questions for our readers: Agented authors-how did you get your agent? Any contests I missed? 


Liz A. said...

So many different ways to find an agent...

Huntress said...

Zowie! What an amazing amount of information!

I'm considering stepping on the query train again to see where it leads me. This post is very well timed.

Sharing this post with others.

Kristin Smith said...

@Liz: I know, right? :)

@Huntress: So glad it was helpful! These are all things I wish I had known BEFORE I started querying my first novel (which turned out to be an epic fail). :)

Chrys Fey said...

This is fabulous! I've never tried any of those contests, but I might just have to. :D

J. Lenni Dorner said...

This is a great post! Thanks so much.

Leandra Wallace said...

The contests can definitely be a lot of fun(yanno vs. regular querying...) ;) I didn't think much about them until I started querying, but once I was a part of a few, I can see why there are several that happen every year. And I love the New Agent posts that come to my email through Writer's Digest, super convenient!

Gina Gao said...

This is really great information. Thanks for sharing!