Happy Agent Monday, all! What? It’s Tuesday? Okay, so I am a bit late on this one, but, hey, I was taking care of business yesterday. Doing things like reading a full manuscript, and corresponding with interns and clients, and dealing with some contract-related stuff, plus putting together a full-day “Spend the Day with an Agent” presentation for this Friday, which I’ll be doing as part of the Push to Publish Conference sponsored by Philadelphia Stories. So, yeah, Agent Monday slipped away cuz I was busy, well, taking care of business. And that is the topic of my post today. Why? Because when the writer seeks an agent, he must put down his creative hat and put on his business hat. When creative meets business, you’ll need to make some adjustments for true success.
Writers are creative people. They work on their own. They get lost in their words. They are independent. If I could turn on a webcam and find you banging out your novel, chances are pretty good you’d be wearing sweats, your hair just might be sticking up and you’d have a cold coffee at your side. If I were to interrupt you in your moment of epiphany, you wouldn’t be too pleasant. You are in your own world, which is just where you should be.
Now lets pretend, for a sec, that instead of working on your novel or being your writerly self, you decided to get a cushy corporate job somewhere (hey, it’s PRETEND). You’re a smart person, so you know to get a professional resume together, and to research the firms you’d like to approach. You’d apply for jobs, and when you’d get called in for an interview? You’d put your best professional foot forward. Day of interview, you’d show up in your best business attire, well-groomed. You’d be ready to demonstrate your best assets, and show that you can work well with others, plus you would be sure to have an understanding of the business. You would be, in a word: READY.
Alrighty then. Here’s my point. When you, the creative writer, approach me, the agent, you are stepping out of your creative zone and into the business zone of publishing. The same is true if you are approaching an editor directly. That means that you research who you are approaching, discover why you are right for them and they are right for you. The query letter? That’s a business letter. It should be professional and clean. Like a job application, the query should highlight what you are offering (what’s your book about), should show you have done your work to understand the business side of things (your book’s genre should be accurate, its length should fit the genre, say what audience the book appeals to…in short, where it belongs in the marketplace…), and also demonstrate that you are someone I’d work well with (bio that shows you are a serious writer, tone that is professional and cooperative, evidence/willingness to engage in social media and to market).
Your manuscript, if requested, it’s kinda like a job interview. It’s you showing up and demonstrating all you have to offer and proving that you are right for the job. The manuscript should also have a proper professional polish. Formatted correctly. Edited to perfection. It should make me shout: YOU’RE HIRED! Or rather, you’re REPRESENTED!
And if you ever meet an agent or editor at a conference? View that a bit like a job interview, too, though more like a first round of interviews vs. a final one. Dress neatly. Act like a pro. Do your research about the person ahead of time so you can have a meaningful discussion and ask pertinent questions. You want to leave a positive impression.
That creative self is still there within you, but don’t let it get in the way of the business of getting your manuscript sold. Change your creative hat for your business hat (and while you’re at it, change out of those jammies and comb your hair too! ). Always represent yourself and your product professionally, and that will give your manuscript the best chance possible.
*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.