The Agent Game

The Literary agent is an unusual breed and quite easy to spot in public. The first thing you notice is the glazed over often cross-eyed look from reading endless queries about the next huge best seller. Carpel Tunnel will be evidenced by the brace around one or both wrists. Seems they have done a lot of copying and pasting of rejections. Agents will be moving fast and are hard to stop because they know most conversations will end up with a pitch line. If you sit next to one on an airplane, marvel at the pods, pads, tablets and assorted other technology devices they have to keep them from any lengthy conversation.

As with anything in life, there are exceptions to the picture I have painted. Finding those agents and getting their attention can actually be a fun game. Here are the rules.

  1. Write the best query letter and then rewrite it 50 more times.
  2. Send it out to as many agents as you would like. Some players insist on more because the chances for success might be greater. Others will send it less hoping for quality responses.
  3. Points are awarded as follows:
    1. -1 point for no response. Sorry, your query was either lost or ended up on the Friday afternoon rush to clear out email boxes.
    2. .5 points for a form letter rejection. “Dear So and So, Thank you for writing unknown agency but no thanks.”
    3. 1 point for a rejection with encouragement. “Although your title is not right for us please do continue looking for representation.”
    4. 2 points for a rejection longer than 100 words.
    5. 3 points for a request of the first 50 pages. Now we are getting somewhere.
    6. 3 points for a synopsis request.
    7. 5 points for a full submission.
    8. Bonus points: +2 for responses within 3 days; -1 for sending the same letter to the same agent twice; -3 for misspelling the agent’s name or agency; +5 for a phone call from an agent;
    9. After 30 days total up your points.
      1. +20 or higher= You have a winning style, although no representation. Keep at it as you are going down the right road. Take a day off and do something you love to do.
      2. +10-19= Not bad at all. Your project is simmering and with a tweak here or there you could be in position for an upset win.
      3. +0-9= Rewrite your query another 50 times. Lock your manuscript up for 15 days before reading it again in one sitting. Revise, revise, revise…
      4. Negative points: Consider another career.

No matter what, if you are passionate about your project, keep trying. I have heard many stories of authors sending out over 100 queries before obtaining an agent. Good luck and thanks for playing.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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