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Thread: What an Agent Requires

  1. #1
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    What an Agent Requires

    Seems like every time I turn around, I'm hearing about more and more things an agent might request. First, I thought all I needed was a finished manuscript and a strong query, but then I read about synopses and bios, back cover blurbs and character lists, and now I just heard about something called a marketing statement.

    I don't do well at writing under pressure, so I'd like to have everything ready beforehand. Can anyone provide me with a list of things an agent might ask for? Not just in the beginning, but after they've agreed to represent you, too. What all will they need?

  2. #2
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    Definitely a synopsis and a bio. Not sure about the character list.

    Since you write fiction, marketing and/or promotion statement will only be necessary once you've got a publisher. It includes who you a writing for (that's the marketing part) and how you reach them (that's the promotion part). For marketing and promotion, they'll want to know things like where you went to school, what kind of contacts you have, who you might be able to get an endorsement from, who they should send review copies to, etc.

    Hope that helps.

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    You will need a synopsis. It's a good idea to do more than one--a one-pager and a five-pager, for instance, since different agents may have different wants. A brief bio is also good to have.

    The kind of publisher an agent would place you with will create the back cover blurb itself (often with your input) so that's not something you should need (and if an agent asks for it, be wary). I also don't see the point of a character list, since if an agent or publisher is interested in your book, they'll read it and discover the characters for themselves, and if they're not interested, a character list will make no difference. You also don't need an author photo at this stage of the game, though if you get a contract offer, the publisher will probably ask you for one at some point.

    For fiction, and for the kinds of publishers an agent will submit to, you do not need a marketing statement or marketing plan. Smaller publishers often request this, because they rely more heavily on their authors for marketing. But big publishers and larger independents will not ask for such a thing. If an agent requests this as part of your submission package, take a close look at his or her track record--he or she may be working only or mainly with smaller publishers (for which you may not even need an agent).

    Obvously, if you have a huge platform on social media that relates to your book, or some other meaningful PR advantage, it makes sense to mention it in the section of the query where you briefly mention your credentials. And once you've signed a publishing contract, the publisher will give you a marketing questionnaire with all kinds of questions about local bookstores it could target, media outlets you have connections with, who they can approach for blurbs, and the like. But you don't need any of that at the query stage.

    - Victoria

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    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    The character list, I'm told, is so they can keep track and make sure all the names are spelled right throughout the whole book. Sounds like something they probably wouldn't need until the book was with a publisher, though.

    So just a synopsis and bio? All this other stuff makes me quake with fear. I'm basically a hermit, so I don't know any authors or famous people to endorse my novels. I have no connections with the local media. My novels have nothing to do with my non-fiction work, so my platform is pretty worthless. Ugh.

  5. #5
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    Don't worry about the platform. That's just for thems of us what writes non-fiction.

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
    "The only freedom any of us ever has is the freedom to choose how we will not be free."

  6. #6
    figuring it all out
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orianna2000 View Post
    Seems like every time I turn around, I'm hearing about more and more things an agent might request. First, I thought all I needed was a finished manuscript and a strong query, but then I read about synopses and bios, back cover blurbs and character lists, and now I just heard about something called a marketing statement.

    I don't do well at writing under pressure, so I'd like to have everything ready beforehand. Can anyone provide me with a list of things an agent might ask for? Not just in the beginning, but after they've agreed to represent you, too. What all will they need?
    In one of my writing crit groups, someone brought something that sounds a lot like that, and she said it was required by one of the agents she was going to query. It looked more like a screenplay query than a novel query. Maybe it's the "next big thing" that agents are going to start wanting, I dunno. But I have to say, it actually made sense.

    I'd never seen that before, nor heard about it at any writers conference. But this is the 2nd time in a month I've seen it mentioned.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW amschilling's Avatar
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    Don't sweat it until they ask for it. For the two books I've queried (one of which is currently making the rounds), I've never been asked for more than a synopsis and pages. For the bio, if you have no pub credits you can usually skip it on the off chance they list it. If you get "the phone call," they *might* ask you if you have marketing ideas. But as Victoria said, that would be for agents that mainly deal with small publishers only.
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  8. #8
    Hopeful romantic/hopeless pedant ARoyce's Avatar
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    You should do a synopsis (probably 1-2 pages). Some agencies do require them as part of the query submission, but those that do will make that clear in their query guidelines.

    Bio can be confusing because there should be a credentials paragraph in your query, and that's sometimes referred to as a bio. But then it can also be helpful to have a brief bio--the kind of "About Me" that might appear on the back of a book--just in case.

    As others have said, the other stuff depends on your genre and on publishers.

    Ultimately, I think it would be helpful for you to check out the websites of agencies you plan to query. They'll have clear guidelines and tend to be pretty uniform...and you'll see if there are additional pieces/requirements showing up.

    Good luck!!
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  9. #9
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Thanks!

  10. #10
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orianna2000 View Post
    The character list, I'm told, is so they can keep track and make sure all the names are spelled right throughout the whole book. Sounds like something they probably wouldn't need until the book was with a publisher, though.
    This is the copy editor's job--not the agent's job (and the copy editor isn't an issue until after the book has been sold and edited). The CE will produce a style sheet with character names, place names, terminology you use, etc., which he or she will check as s/he goes through the manuscript, making sure everything is consistent.

    If you're writing fantasy or a historical novel and have a lot of unusual/foreign names and/or terms, it doesn't hurt to provide your own style sheet to help the copy editor--but again, this is not something that's needed at the agent submission stage.
    So just a synopsis and bio? All this other stuff makes me quake with fear. I'm basically a hermit, so I don't know any authors or famous people to endorse my novels. I have no connections with the local media. My novels have nothing to do with my non-fiction work, so my platform is pretty worthless. Ugh.
    You don't need a platform to sell fiction. Really. Plenty of totally platformless, previously-unpublished first-time writers sell novels. You don't need anything more than a finished, polished, marketable manuscript.

    You don't have to find endorsers or blurbers, either. Your publisher (and sometimes your agent) will help with that--they'll probably ask you for suggestions, so that's your chance to suggest your dream blurbers. Again, though, not something you need to worry about until the book is contracted.

    Ditto for media connections. That kind of thing falls under "great if you have it, not a problem if you don't."

    Once your book is sold, you will need to think about what you can do to promote it, but there are plenty of things that even hermits can do (one of the beauties of the Internet is that you can do publicity while alone in your home in your pajamas).

    - Victoria

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