This month I left my agent. We’ve done some good work together but the relationship didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere, so it’s time to find a new champion.
Submitting to agents is one of the less fun parts of being a writer but I think I’m better at it than I was. For one thing, I have more knowledge about what an agent is looking for, which helps me to shape my approach letter. Secondly, I feel more in charge than I used to. True, an agent is one of those ‘gatekeepers’ that the industry talks about all the time. You (mostly) need one to get your book on the road to being published. But agents need authors. They need books, they need ideas, they need talent. A great agent may be looking for specific books that they know they can sell, but they’re also going to be keeping an eye out for an idea that comes at them from out of the blue. Some agent out there is looking for me.
So I write my letters. I read up on various agents to find ones who seem to be interested in books like mine, who have profiles that appeal to me, whose Twitter feed I enjoy, who I’ve come across personally or know of through friends. I tailor my submissions to whatever their particular format is (they’re all different: 3 chapters/5,000 words/10 pages; attachment/body of email; synopsis of 1 page/500 words/300 words; blurb; list of published works). I think carefully about why I’ve picked this particular agent and craft a charming sentence at the end to make it personal.
It's kind of like internet dating…
So now I’m thinking, if it’s like dating, I ought to be compiling my own list of what I’m looking for in an agent. So here it is:
1. Someone who is a champion of my work, who loves what I’ve written and is certain that publishers and readers will love it too.
2. Someone who is interested in my whole career, not just this one book:
• who will consider all the manuscripts I have written and discuss with me whether they’re worth spending more time on.
• who will guide me when I start out on a new project.
• who will bring me ideas that they think would be sellable.
3. Someone who will take on both my fiction and my nonfiction.
4. Someone who will give me brilliant editorial feedback that will help me improve my work.
5. Someone who will reply to messages from me promptly and check in on me regularly.
6. Someone who knows how to read what’s going on in the industry and how to get the best deal for me (and themselves).
7. Someone who is professional and but also feels like a supportive friend.
So now I wait. Between 4 and 16 weeks, so the submissions pages on their websites say. I could do more submissions but I think I’ll wait and see what comes of this batch of five. Maybe I’ll decide my letters need tweaking. Or my synopsis. Maybe all five will want to see my book. That would be interesting. Maybe I’ll have a meeting with more than one agent and I can use my list to interview them for the job of Best Possible Agent for Me.
Watch this space.
My new book, Snippets, is available now.
For a taster tale, you can read a Snippets story that's not in the book here.
You can get a copy of Snippets on Amazon or if you’d like a signed copy send me a message on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Go to https://ko-fi.com/clairewatts to read a new Snippets story every month. It’s free, but you can support me with a donation if you like.
You can also find me on my website clairejwatts.com