A new perspective on literary agents (and myself)

Your book is finished and edited and polished and it’s time to send it out. Grow some thick skin and wear a helmet. Get ready for rejection and get ready for a load of advice.

Writers are advised to query widely.

We are also advised to choose agents to query wisely.

This is just a switch of one little letter : widely or wisely.

These two bits of advice seemed at odds to me. Why bother choosing wisely if we are querying widely? Isn’t the whole slushpile query game really just a crapshoot? You play the odds and you either get lucky or you don’t.

Well, last weekend, at the SCWW conference in Myrtle Beach, I learned the reasoning behind each bit of advice.

Query widely: This is because opinions are so subjective! Two agents were confused by my query and first two pages while others got it and were intrigued. I’m looking for an agent who gets my book. I now know that a necessary qualification for my future agent is that they are rather intelligent.

I wonder how many of my rejections are from agents too busy and tired to try to get it?

Choose agents carefully: After spending time listening and talking to the agents at the conference, I found I was impressed with some and became certain that others would not be a good fit for me. This is (almost) impossible to discern by reading their blurbs online. Meeting them in person makes such a difference.

One agent landed on the top of my agent wish-list without even trying. (S)he was intelligent and funny and interesting to talk to. (S)he was experienced. I’m sure (s)he could represent my book, and in a slushfest, (s)he ‘got it’ from just reading my first two pages. And if I didn’t meet this agent face to face, I would never have guessed that we’d be such a good fit. I plan to query soon. Fingers are crossed.

It was an amazing weekend and I learned the most important thing about myself: I am a writer. I think of myself in many ways. I’m a mom.  I’m a wife. I’m a sister and daughter and grammy and friend. I’m a professor. I’m a reader and singer and runner. I’m moody and loyal. Sometimes, I’m funny or shy or noisy. And now I know for sure, after discussing my book and facing this next challenge–I am a writer. If this book doesn’t get published, one of my others will.

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