I was really lucky to meet Andrea Brown when she came to speak to the Las Vegas Writers Group. How many times have I had the opportunity to listen to an agent, ask a couple of questions, and have her critique the first paragraph of my novel? Um, never.
The first thing I realized is that this is a woman who loves her job. She glowed while discussing what she does. She was animated and excited. If I come across an agent who seems disenchanted with agenting, then I’m gonna keep on moving. Ms. Brown showed me that even after years in the business, there are people who still get giddy when discussing their work. That’s the kind of person that I want agenting me.
She also suggests that we don’t only query the super high profile agents, but also turn our attention to young, hungry agents. I think that a young, hungry agent and a young, hungry writer sounds like a gloriously carnivorous mix. But then, I think that professional relationships always run smoother if they have a little teeth.
Ms. Brown also gave us a down and dirty three paragraph query letter template. It goes something like this:
Paragraph 1: What is your book? This is your pitch, and preferably a three line Hollywood pitch. It, like a skirt, should be long enough to cover everything but short enough to be exciting. Don’t forget title, genre, and word count.
Paragraph 2: This should be about you. Be brief and relevant. This is where you put your writing credits. If you don’t have any credits or relevant information, skip this paragraph.
Paragraph 3: This is the single “I look forward to hearing from you” line. Don’t forget to put your email and phone number here.
That’s it. That’s all you need. Ms. Brown expressed that they don’t have time to slog through laboriously long query letters. Short and sweet is all that is necessary. If they want more info, they’ll ask for it.
She gave us some basic agent-hunting advice. Don’t pay a reading fee. Don’t sign an agreement specifying that you stay with the agent for four or five years regardless of sales. Two or three weeks for an exclusive is normal and four weeks is tops. Don’t give up when you get rejected. Keep plowing forward.
But perhaps the most important thing that I personally learned was this: I’m not going to automatically click with every agent. I was thrilled to briefly discuss my novel with Ms. Brown. She was very helpful and I liked her immediately, but it was obvious from the get-go that we weren’t meant to be agent and client. We didn’t share the same tastes and vision, and that’s okay. It was a bit of a relief, actually. Two happy, likable people don’t always mesh, and despite what Mama says, there isn’t any shame in that. (Sorry, Mama.)
I thought she was fantastic and I’d suggest checking out her website, especially the “Fact and Fiction: Best Advice” section. They’re kind of like warm fuzzies for the writer’s soul.
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