WorldCon 2013 Report: Day One — How To Obtain an Agent

agentPanel: John Berlyne (agent), Joshua Bilmes (agent), Jaime Moyer (writer)

It was interesting to hear Jaime’s story of sending out more than 120 queries over 2-1/2 years for her two books before she found an agent willing to represent her. She spent much of that time reworking her queries, believing that the right query is key. Finally, she ignored samples and wrote a query from the heart. That is the one that got her her agent.

Other Notes

  • Check out
  • Research what the agents want
  • Going to conventions
  • Check Acknowledgments in the books you like
  • Where possible, personalize the query
  • Don’t CC all agents at once
  • You spent all that time writing that book, don’t spend 5 minutes trying to sell it
  • Fascinating that there are so many stories of major authors breaking the rules to get in
  • A query letter has to talk about your book and it needs to talk about you
  • I’m not going to make money on your first book
  • Right desk, right story, right day
  • Sell one thing at a time
  • Address the agent by name in your query letter
  • Don’t commit to a single agent (exclusive) without a really good reason
  • We want to work with authors who want to work with a big publisher and make lots of money (in reference to accepting self-published books)
  • Publishers don’t pay a lot of attention to winners from writing conferences; they have a different mindset than authors who want a check from…
  • "Most of my friends who have self-published have failed miserably"
  • If you’ve self-published, what do you need me for?
  • Short story vs. novelist background: 50%
  • The assumption of doing an apprenticeship that way is not important
  • Consider the author as brand
  • It’s difficult to establish a new author in multiple markets from the beginnings
  • Include relevant publishing or professional credits
  • If the author has a footprint on the Internet, I’ll get a sense of whether the person is suitable for me. Comes down to a matter of good taste
  • View it as a long-term business partnership
  • Find an agent who is willing to grow your career
  • Look carefully at the language of any agreement your agent asks you to sign, particularly what happens when you leave the agent
  • Have a new book out every year
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