Friday, April 14, 2017

Top Ten Reasons You Don't Have an Agent Yet - AWP Panel

Want to seal the deal with an agent?
Check this top ten and see
if you are ready to go.
This is a continuation of my previous post "Demystifying the Business Side of Writing and Publishing" which was a panel at the 2017 AWP conference.  One of the topics the panel spent the most time on was 'getting an agent.'  The panel had so many ideas related to this that I figured it deserved its own post.

To reiterate, the panel members as listed in the guide are: Whitney Davis, Tarfia Faizullah, Paula Munier, Joshua Shenk, and Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum.  Again, I was completely blocked in a packed room and could not see the panel table, so I wasn't sure who was speaking when.  But I think the bulk of this was shared by Paula Munier, who was introduced as an agent.

Top Ten Reasons You Don't Have an Agent Yet:
  1. You are approaching the wrong agent.  You need to have a similar sensibility to the agent you have selected.  These people are swamped with submissions they will never represent because the authors have not done their homework.  Send only to people you think will really resonate with your work.
  2. You are not being strategic.  This is related to the above.  Don't just send work out to anyone at all, have a solid plan and reasons for that plan.
  3. Your query letter isn't working.  The query letter needs to be "sales copy" and many writers are not good at that kind of writing.  A query is a pitch, and needs to be written like one.
  4. Your story idea isn't unique.  The story has to stand out against the competition or against those that are in the same market.  Focus on what makes you and your work unique or special and enhance those traits.
  5. You don't know the competition.  Related to the above.  Read more within your own market and community to know how to make your work stand out.  Support your own community by reading.
  6. Your story idea isn't strong.  Even a unique idea must be strong enough to sustain a book length narrative.
  7. Your story idea is not well executed.  It's unique and goes the distance, but there are other issues ... can you cleanly pitch this story in 50 words or less to sell it?  If not, there may be issues with execution of the story.
  8. Your craft is not high enough yet.  Again, related to the above.  Stories have to be crafted at the highest level to have a chance, since competition is so keen.  Look to your community to find ways to bolster your craft and make your story flawless.
  9. You are not active.  You need to be an active member of your writing community, at the local, national, and perhaps even international levels.  An agent wants to see you as a contributing part of this body of people.
  10. You are not prepared to be an author.  This is different from being a writer - being an author requires signings, social media, personal appearances, and more.  If the agent does not feel you are ready to be that person, they will not sign you.  Get good recommendations from established authors in your market.  Publish your work in other formats.  Have a solid writer's platform.  Present all work and yourself professionally.
Image Credit:  Handshake  Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0

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