You wrote a fabulous book. You studied query letter form and wrote a zinger. Now several agents actually have your manuscript! Maybe these tips helped.
Now what? Remember Max, the Grinch’s dog, dangling over that tip top snow cap? That was me, when seven agents had their hands on the full manuscript for The First Secret of Edwin Hoff, 48 hours after I sent in the query letter. Because after strategizing and creating urgency to get their attention, I felt out of deal mojo. These agents just had to love what I’d actually written.
It’s always tempting to wait for others—agents, publishers, or readers—to discover your work and recognize its genius. But no start-up venture—your book is one—waits for the passive marketeer. Do not dangle. Always act—especially to find an agent.
With this choice, you pick a business partner, editor, counselor, advocate, strategist and co-worker who must commit time and resources to your writing career. The decision will affect your work for years, hopefully decades. You must select this partner, not just accept one.
Here are 3 signs that you have found The Right Agent.
1) The Right Agent Loves Your Book More Than You Do. Ok, that’s impossible, but it sets a good standard. This person must really, truly get your book, your characters and you. But he should out-do you in this: The Right Agent must have a vision for the book that exceeds yours.
2) Your Book Will Help The Right Agent Reach His/Her Own Career Goals. That’s right—you must be able to help The Right Agent. You are forming a strategic partnership, and the best ones drive the goals of both sides—naturally. Where does the success of your novel fit in this agent’s career path? Is it another tick in their list of blockbuster clients? Or could your book be his breakthrough moment? If your book is part of his own career narrative, The Right Agent will delight in prioritizing it. No writer wants to be another To Do item on a long list of a well-meaning but pre-occupied agent.
3) The Right Agent Expects the Problems, And Fights to Solve Them. Any start-up in any industry—including a new manuscript presented for publishing—will confront problems. The Right Agent plans to beat them from the start. He focuses on the goal and commits to make it happen. (Edwin, in The First Secret of Edwin Hoff, has this skill in spades. But he’s no literary agent!)
How to Close the Deal
Swinging from that snow cap, I realized what to do: go meet the agents who had my manuscript. After confirming one meeting, it was easy to get two, three. Scheduling meetings also created urgency; the agents read my manuscript quickly.
The meetings proved crucial.
One agent had a very impressive website and confident email style. But in person he slumped on the couch, bemoaned the state of the industry, and depressed us both. Two weeks later he left the agency business.
Another agent’s title, firm, and personality were all stellar. We met at a literary hotspot restaurant. But this person was very busy, stretched thin. I knew where Edwin would fall on the list, despite best intentions.
Between these two meetings, I met The Right Agent. Josh Getzler had responded almost instantly to my query letter. He loved the manuscript. With an MBA and decade spent running a minor league baseball team, in between stints at top agencies, Josh understood business. He knew a good story; he could tell one too. He saw in Edwin a “tent pole” character who could sustain a powerful series. It seemed my book could help with his plans, too. Plus, Josh was professional, respectful, nice—and funny. If I found him fun to work with him then so would publishers and producers. That is The Right Agent—at least for me.
In Twelve Months, Here’s What The Right Agent Made Happen.
1) The First Secret of Edwin Hoff was published by Watch Hill Books in September 2011. It is available in paperback on Amazon.com, and e-book from Amazon, B&N, iBookstore, and everywhere else.
2) On October 1, 2011, Edwin hit #4 on Amazon’s list of “Hot New Releases in Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue.” Right up there with the big boys and girls.
3) Josh introduced me to his client Whitney Johnson, author of the upcoming Dare-Dream-Do (Bibliomotion 2012). Thanks to Whitney, the Harvard Business Review published a blog I wrote, and the assistant editor has invited me to write more often.
And A Year From Now?
I’ve already written the outline for The Second Secret of Edwin Hoff. I’m excited for what Josh and I—and his new agency, The Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency—will do next with Edwin and with our careers. With The Right Agent, you make progress. So figure out who is best for you, and go get ‘em!