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corcutt
06-26-2007, 06:50 PM
I'm a newbie to Absolute Write, but I have to admit I was a lurker for a quite a while. Every now and then, I would go to the Bewares and Background Checks page to look into prospective agents. This is a terrific site and a great resource. Thank you, Ms. Glatzer.

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Recently, after 161 queries, I got an agent. I'm starting this thread so that writers who made it can share their advice.

I've written a piece on my blog (http://www.orcutt.net/weblog/2007/06/the_killer_query_letter_chris.html) describing my quest, and I'm offering a free e-book (http://www.orcutt.net/weblog/2007/06/the_killer_query_letter_chris.html) with guidelines and tips on writing the query and getting an agent.

This is not a sales pitch. Now that I finally broke through, I want to help other writers do the same.

Thanks,

Chris Orcutt (http://www.orcutt.net/)

P.S.: If I created a thread that already exists, I apologize. I searched for ones on this topic and couldn't find any.

Lauri B
06-27-2007, 12:39 AM
Hi Chris,
Congratulations on acquiring an agent. With what agency did you sign? If you'd rather, you can pm me with the information. Your offer of a free ebook is nice, but since you've started a thread devoted to having people share their advice, why not give some here rather than try to solicit names for your blog? Your post is pushing my spam buttons.

I like the idea of talking about how people get agents, though. I'll share my advice: I wrote a pitch, sent it out to the three top agents I wanted to work with, and received responses back within 24 hours from two of the three, requesting a proposal (it was for nonfiction). The third responded within the week. I had offers of representation from both of them within two weeks of initial contact.
My advice, based on my experience, is to write a good hook in the first three sentences.

Shady Lane
06-27-2007, 12:52 AM
Hey corcutt--

As someone who's sent out a dozen queries and is already feeling discourged, I've got to say that your 161 is pretty inspiring. Thanks for sharing. ;)

SDBmania
06-27-2007, 01:02 AM
I probably sent 30-40 quiries before I gave up with my first book and went the self-publishing route. I admit I gave up too soon, but I was just getting started in this buissness at the time.

I'm looking forward to finishing my book and going back to the traditional route again. This time, I'm going to stick with it.

I'll check back to this thread often to see what other authors have to say about the process.

Lauri B
06-27-2007, 02:08 AM
I don't think I was direct enough: if you have to go through 161 queries to finally find an agent, something is vitally, dreadfully wrong with either your pitch or your manuscript.

Will Lavender
06-27-2007, 02:27 AM
I don't think I was direct enough: if you have to go through 161 queries to finally find an agent, something is vitally, dreadfully wrong with either your pitch or your manuscript.

True.

But it proves that you're dogged, and that you understand criticism.

Something positive happened between the first rejection and the acceptance 160 thin, floppy SASEs later.

aadams73
06-27-2007, 02:35 AM
Thanks, but I can get that information elsewhere without having to hand out my email address. That's just too off-putting.

SDBmania
06-27-2007, 07:22 AM
I don't think I was direct enough: if you have to go through 161 queries to finally find an agent, something is vitally, dreadfully wrong with either your pitch or your manuscript.

That was my previous mistake, I wrote a bad letter. I won't make that same mistake this time.

Maryn
06-27-2007, 09:51 PM
Amen, aadams. I'm sure corcutt feels s/he has valuable information or tips to share, but this feels all wrong from the get-go. I double-checked with a mod, concerned that I was too prickly (or simply being a prick).

Anybody who queries 161 agents (are there that many legitimate agents who represent any single genre?) isn't doing the appropriate homework, screening agents who are a good match for their manuscript. That's not inspirational but unprofessional.

It's possible the query letter isn't or wasn't up to snuff, or even that the book, no matter how well written, isn't likely to sell enough copies to merit publication. (This happens when a niche is flooded or when one exists but it's too small.)

I don't know what's wrong with the query or the book, if anything, and what was changed to make it right, but no, I'm not clicking through to find out how corcutt finally landed an agent.

Yes, perseverance can and does pay off. While I wish corcutt and his/her book the best, no freakin' way am I signing up to be on a contact list and join a fan cub for an author whose work I've never read because it isn't even published yet.

Please, a fan club? A little hubris is in order. And a reality check.

Coming from a member whose profile is empty and who's made three-count-'em-three posts, this offer of help feels like a rather unsavory form of phishing, limited to waters teeming with fellow writers.

If you have something to share which may benefit your fellow writers, offer it up without strings.

Maryn, who's dodged an author's persistent promotional emails for years now, despite blocking, since the author can always contact Maryn from a new free email account (and does)

Shady Lane
06-27-2007, 10:08 PM
I didn't click on the link, for the record.

Lauri B
06-28-2007, 03:03 AM
While I think the pitch for fans was cheesy, the request for advice is still a good one: what advice can authors with agents give people who haven't had much luck? I know we cover this over and over in individual forums, but just for fun, let's do it here, too.

Anyone?

rugcat
06-28-2007, 05:15 AM
I did everything right: I studied and researched agents, refined my query and synopsis, persisted amidst rejection.

But what I did most right was to have just the right agent, in just the right receptive mood, at just the time they were looking for my type of book, open the envelope.

Susan B
06-28-2007, 08:08 AM
I did what Rugcat said and ended up with an agent who seems like a great fit for me.

One mistake I made (which fortunately didn't prove fatal) was to treat the agent search like college or grad school applications: apply to a range, including some "dream agents" and the equivalent of "safety schools."

Trouble is, there are no "safety schools" among agents. And typically you query in batches, rather than one shot and that's it.

So better advice (as I've subsequently read on AW) is "Start at the top." Or at least with solid agents with good track records in your genre.

My first few queries led to an offer from an agent who was very enthusiastic, but who hit me wrong during our phone conversation. She turned out to have a poor track record and an 'iffy' reputation (as I learned after doing some Internet research--that's how I found AW!)

So it took me about 6 more months to connect with the person who became my agent.

Be creative in thinking about genre, and what it means to represent "a book like yours." My book is a memoir, and it involves music--but it is also very much a woman's story. I had better luck when I began to look at agents who weren't just linked with memoir. It is very much a matter of "feel" and of finding an agent whose sensibility appeals to you. As soon as I began to explore my agent's website, something resonated for me. Continued in my subsequent contacts with her, and in my eventual face-to-face meeting.

And I found Agent Query to be the best resource.

It is still an uphill climb, when you get an agent. (I currently have 3 publishers reading the full ms, after looking at the proposal--so I am hoping!)

My thoughts, anyhow.

Susan

reenkam
06-28-2007, 08:43 AM
So better advice (as I've subsequently read on AW) is "Start at the top." Or at least with solid agents with good track records in your genre.

The only issue I have with this is that let's say you query a bunch of agents...25 of the best ones you can find for your type of story. Then, on the 25th one, when you're moving into iffy territory, what if you get an amazing critque back that makes you realize something that needs be be fixed and will make the WIP 1000x better. You did it, but realize that you've queried your top 25 already. Now what do you do?

That's why my first list included email queries only and I split it between two MS. If nothing comes through I'll switch lists and try again. Then it's onto snail mail lists and the same double sending. That way I'm not using up my resources all at once. And by the time I get through all the listings lots of time would have passed and I'll be able to query the agents again with different works.

aruna
06-28-2007, 09:41 AM
That's why my first list included email queries only and I split it between two MS. If nothing comes through I'll switch lists and try again. Then it's onto snail mail lists and the same double sending. That way I'm not using up my resources all at once. And by the time I get through all the listings lots of time would have passed and I'll be able to query the agents again with different works.

This is very wise advice; it;s a fine line between starting at the top, and sending in your very best work, since between first queries at the top, having partials read, getting feedback, and requerying, you may have used up your best agents!

One tip of mine is to look for new agents at top agencies. These people can offer you the best of all worlds: they have a fresh eye, plus they are looking for hot properties, plus they are eager and enthusiastic, plus they have all the top contacts of the top agent they apprenticed with. I got one of those, and I am delighted with her. I am sure she is the best agent for me.

Susan B
06-28-2007, 10:02 AM
Yes, I agree. I didn't mean to literally do a ranking and start with querying all the "superstar" agents (whatever that is!) By "start at the top" I meant start by querying agents you'd be very happy to work with: good reputations, decent track records, AAR members or (if too new for that) newer agents in established agencies.

Also, I think querying 25 at one shot is a lot--precisely for the reason you say. If you learn something from feedback that would lead you to re-work your query, you have blown your chances with that bunch.

I'd read that querying 10-12 at a time makes sense, and then as you get rejections re-tool the query and send out a few more.

Susan

ErylRavenwell
06-28-2007, 10:27 AM
That's why my first list included email queries only and I split it between two MS. If nothing comes through I'll switch lists and try again. Then it's onto snail mail lists and the same double sending. That way I'm not using up my resources all at once. And by the time I get through all the listings lots of time would have passed and I'll be able to query the agents again with different works.

Fair advice. What does MS stand for here? Manuscripts?

reenkam
06-28-2007, 10:53 AM
I'd read that querying 10-12 at a time makes sense, and then as you get rejections re-tool the query and send out a few more.

Yeah, I agree with your number to query. I did 9 with one MS and 6 with the other. 25 could be a lot to do at once if I decided to rework things later...


What does MS stand for here? Manuscripts?

Well...it does in my post...haha. I might have completely made up that abbreviation when I typed it. I tend to do that...(I've been saying manu in my blog...I thought that MS might work out better here...probably not)

Maryn
06-28-2007, 09:44 PM
It's fairly standard 'writerese' to use ms. for manuscript, mss. for manuscripts.

And here we thought you were a natural! Good instincts carry a person pretty far.

Maryn

Julie Worth
06-28-2007, 10:40 PM
My advice, based on my experience, is to write a good hook in the first three sentences.

Chris’s 15% response rate is good, but hardly spectacular. Nicolas Sparks had a 50% rate with his query for The Notebook, and I have two unpublished examples that did even better. Neither delved into the plot; both used marketing phrases that stirred the soul; and both did a marvelous job of stretching paltry publishing credits and integrating those into the pitch. (Naturally, both writers owned marketing firms. Even so, one didn’t bag an agent, as his ms was loaded with problems.)

ORION
06-29-2007, 10:25 AM
I don't know about 161 rejections being a problem. I racked up 71 over two years and three projects before getting representation. If you were querying over 5-10 years and submitting various projects -- it could happen.
The mother of the guy who wrote Confederacy of Dunces queried for 10 years?
Sometimes learning curves vary.

Julie Worth
06-29-2007, 03:16 PM
...The mother of the guy who wrote Confederacy of Dunces queried for 10 years?


As I've just read that one--most of it, anyway--I can say I would have rejected it too. On the one hand it's funny, on the other it's burdened with dialect, adverbs, a flatulent and pompous MC, and no discernible plot.

Lauri B
06-29-2007, 05:38 PM
I think the OP queried 161 agents with the same pitch--that's a problem.

Soccer Mom
06-29-2007, 05:53 PM
No, actually I went to the site and read the blog. (I know. I was bored.) I think it was something like 161 queries and four or five books before he landed an agent.

Still, I didn't register for his helpful information. That stuff is freely given at places like, um, HERE.

He posted the same bit over in newbies and he hasn't been back. I sniff someone trolling for blog hits.

Lauri B
06-29-2007, 11:22 PM
Okay, I confess that I looked up his agent, too. And while I hope for the best for both of him, his agent is brand new, has never worked in publishing, and as far as I can tell, has never made a sale. So take that for what it's worth.

To repeat one more time what has already been said ad nauseum (and much more eloquently) by others on these boards: a bad agent is worse than no agent. Reach for the top. I love the advice Susan B has given here: it makes sense, it's doable, and it builds in a revision cushion.
Thanks everyone who contributed to this interesting thread!
Lauri

Julie Worth
06-29-2007, 11:37 PM
Okay, I confess that I looked up his agent, too. And while I hope for the best for both of him, his agent is brand new, has never worked in publishing, and as far as I can tell, has never made a sale. So take that for what it's worth.

This seems to be the same person: http://www.homebusiness123.info/

And here: http://www.foreclosures-now.info/

Soccer Mom
06-29-2007, 11:50 PM
I guess agenting is the new home business du jour. Yeah, I admit searching for the agent and finding nothing. No sales. Good luck to all of them.

atthebeach
07-03-2007, 10:12 AM
I did not visit the blog of the op, but I just thought I would mention that an offer of an ebook is not always altruistic. Ebooks often have links embedded that take you to an advertiser's site and earn money for the referring person. Just FYI...

I think this is a great idea, advice for agent-seekers- keep up the encouragement!