I've been receiving lots of emails recently about when the next Go Teen Writers contest is going to open up. The short answer is SOON. Like mid-Augustish, after I'm back from vacation. Sorry contests have been unofficially on hold this summer. We had a decent amount of travel happening in the Morrill house, plus some family health issues, plus the contest for the NextGen Writers conference (which is going on right now, yay!), so I just couldn't figure out how to squeeze in another contest until mid-August.
But our next contest will be pretty sweet, I can promise you that. We've noticed that, um, something really cool is about to happen, and we're going to celebrate that something-cool by doing a ... er ... bigger contest than normal. That's all I'll say for now...
A writer emailed me saying she's about to start querying, has been on agentquery.com, and has some questions. They're questions that I assume many of you might have:
Am I supposed to have a certain agent/publisher in mind, or is it okay to just query a bunch and go with whatever turns up?
Back when I was querying, I had a big book that listed literary agents. A lot of those directories have moved on-line, but you can still buy the books too. I went through and marked every agent who was interested in new clients and who represented YA.
At that time, queries still happened through snail mail, so I picked my top 5 and sent out 5 letters. Then I waited.
Out of my first batch, I had two ask to see more and three rejections. (That ratio was beginner's luck, because I never had that happen again, so don't despair if you're getting all rejections.) So I sent the requested chapters to the two, then sent out three more query letters.
While it's okay to query multiple agents, it's not okay to blast them all with a generic email. Relationships are key in this business, so address them by name ("Dear Ms. White...") and I think it's good to say why you're querying them. ("I know you represent Sarah Sundin. Not only is she one of my favorite authors, but I also write historical romance and....")
It's important to keep in mind that not all agents are right for you and a bad agent is way worse than no agent. Just because they're listed in a book or have a website doesn't mean they can get you a book deal. And if they ask you for reader fees or any kind of money - run!
Are agents connected to certain publishers, or no? I've never heard of most of the agencies listed, does that mean my book would get taken on by a no-name publisher?
This is a great question. As much as it may not feel like it during the query process, agents work for authors. Good agents have relationships with editors. Editors rely on agents to find good talent for them, but agents get paid by you (they typically get 15% of whatever you make) and therefore they work for you, not publishers.
If you've never heard of them, it doesn't mean much. I had never heard of any agents until I started querying. But if editors and experienced writers have never heard of them or the authors they supposedly represent, that definitely means something.
Here are a couple questions that this writer didn't ask, but that others have:
How do I find an agent?
In Making a Literary Life, Carolyn See has this great quote that writers whining about how to find a literary agents remind her of girls sitting in a bar whining about how to find a boyfriend. The whining is not only fruitless, but off-putting.
There are three main ways to find a literary agent:
Querying through email: I'll be honest, the success rate of this isn't all that great. I have friends who found their agents that way, but not many. Most writers I know met their agent at:
A writer's conference: There are always literary agents at writers conferences, and usually part of the deal is you get to hang out with them for lunch or for a 15 minute one-on-one appointments. This was a much more successful route for me as well as many of the other writers I know.
Referrals: This is when a writer friend who's already agented recommends you to their agent, or another agent they happen to be friends with. This is awesome when it works out, but I don't recommend hitting up every writer you know and asking for them to refer you. Awkward for both parties.
When is the right time to query an agent?
Most writers start querying before they're really ready. This writer included.
After your manuscript has been through several drafts and you've written up a book proposal. And, hopefully, after you've had a critique partner give input.
Any other literary agent questions I can attempt to answer?
Other posts that might interest you:
What does the perfect query letter look like?
Download a sample book proposal of Jill Williamson's
8 Tips for Getting What You Want
What Teen Writers Should Know About Pitching Their Book