Agent Hunting

The first thing you should know about the process of procuring an agent is that it will almost always take a long time so you must be patient. Once you send out a query letter, if you’re lucky, an agent might get back to you within a month. So that means that you’ll be in limbo for a long time. It’s definitely a good idea to do some research on the agents you’re sending your work to. If they have a website, read their introduction to see what kind of books they like to represent. It probably won’t work out if you send a fantasy manuscript to someone who deals exclusively with non-fiction. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t send your query letter out, it just means you probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a positive response. Many of the responses you get back will be rejections but don’t be discouraged because often agents don’t take young writers at all. Some of them will offer advice and criticism. You might not want to hear it but you do have to learn how to take constructive criticism. It’s also a smart idea to compile all the comments you get. After all, an agent wouldn’t take the time to critique you if they didn’t see anything good.

Once you have an agent, that’s when the real work begins. After the contracts are signed, you have to send your manuscripts to them as electronic files and, depending on your agent’s specific orders, perhaps a print version as well. Agents generally have many authors whose work they must read through and promote so once they receive your work, they simply add it to their reading list. Depending on the agent, it may take them upwards of a month to even start reading your manuscript. As they read, they’ll make corrections where they see obvious errors. But mostly, they read to make sure that the story is engaging and that the plot moves forward at a good pace. If their requirements aren’t satisfied, they’ll send the manuscript back to you and ask you to correct it. For instance, they may point out that this chapter drags on too long or that idea isn’t quite fleshed out enough. Since you are in a partnership, you aren’t obligated to follow every piece of advice that they give you but a good agent will generally have the right idea when they tell you something needs to be altered. Once the first round of corrections is done, the manuscript is sent back and the process continues until both parties are satisfied with the final result. It’s at this point that your agent will finally start to send your manuscript out to editors who may be interested in it.

Alda Yuan

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