9 thoughts on “Approaching an Agent”

  1. Interesting advice, especially the advice to have a webpage (point 4). I don’t think I’ve seen that advised before. How important do you think that is, and what do you think the webpage should include?

  2. ian
    you could touch up this entry in a flash and sell it as a how-to article on agents, etc. piece of cake. don’t know if that interests you or not.
    some of my blog is going to be published regionally next week (26,000 readers!) so i’m very excited. it’s different than my freelance essays, etc. and certainly not the book work i’ve got my heart set on, but it’s something. 🙂

  3. One thing I wonder is, how beneficial might it be to use a more “informal” tone in a pitch? I’ve written more querey letters than I can remember, but the one and only hit I ever got was when I completely re-wrote the querey in a conversational tone, pitching to the agent as if we were sitting at a bar and having some drinks.

    It didn’t work out, on both our ends. However, it was interesting to note that I caught an agent’s attention after I switched away from an overly formal tone.

    The two short stories I’ve sold were using formal pitches. I’d be interested to try out a more informal approach.

    Anyway, I’m just getting into this blogging thing! But I’ve already found some helpful advice floating around. Anyone here know of any sites where people actually post some of their work? I’m giving it a shot:




  4. Thanks for your comment, Jon. I think it’s a good idea to mix and match a little; drop a few informal wild cards into the formal deck. One thing’s for sure – nobody quite seems to know what agents response to in a query letter on a given day.

  5. As with most of life, it’s a fine balance to find. I personally believe that agents/editors might receive so many formal pitches that one informal (but respectful!) pitch might catch their eye.

    One item I’m toying with is getting the agent/edtior to read the first line of the story/novel I’m pitching, right in the query letter itself. As we all know, getting the first portion of your story/novel read is the hardest part.

    Example, I’m working on a pitch now for the story I have posted in my own blog. Might seem a touch like cheating, but I feel it could work. What are your thoughts?

    * * *

    The origin of the barber pole is associated with the service of bloodletting. During medieval times, barbers also performed surgery on customers. The original pole had a brass basin at the top (representing the vessel in which leeches were kept) and bottom (representing the basin which received the blood). The pole itself represents the staff which the patient held onto during the procedure.

    The red and white stripes symbolize the bandages used during the procedure: red for the blood-stained and white for the clean bandages.

    I thank Wikipedia for that bit, and offer you my own take, which begins, “The red as arterial blood, white as a fresh bandage, and blue striped barber pole spins upward from nowhere to nowhere.” “Close Shave” is a 5,000 word story that features as protagonist an eighteen-year-old university student, who the reader finds out has ulterior motives for his extended trip to the U.S. He’s a “fighter” in the growing World War III, able to look and speak and think like a native, but who wishes, walking unnoticed, to bring terror to this land.

    “Brighton” has his odd blue eyes on the dorms, which he sees as cesspools of humanity.

    But before he can even begin to set his plans in motion, he feels compelled to “cleanse” himself with a visit to the barbershop. There he meets Franky Taglio, who might look like an Italian-American nightmare and sound dumb, but seems to have stumbled upon Brighton’s plans.

    An advertisement taped in Franky’s styling station lets the customer know he still offers old-style shaves. In addition to baby powder, hairspray, shampoo, and scissors, Franky wields a straight razor. The barber appears a tad troubled by life at home and the young man, in the seat, before him and the mirror.

    * * *

    That’s about a page in length. I’m curious for any input.

  6. Hi Jon

    I’ve given it a quick read through, and I think you need to work on that first sentence a bit; I have to read it a couple of times before the meaning sank in. Overall, the proposal, if I’m honest, didn’t quite make me want to read the story…it might be better to have a longer excerpt from the story, and more of an indication about where the story might be headed; also, the first para is a bit info-heavy, and could discourage a particularly busy agent.

    I hope I’m not being too critical. It sounds like a good story, and I wish you luck with it!


  7. Hey Ian,

    Great post. I’ve been scouring around for this information from as many different people as possible, and yours is at the top of the list. Here’s my question:

    My manuscript is complete, and query is written (which in my opinion is pretty gripping, but of course I would think that). I’ve sent it out to about 10 agents and have recieved 4 form responses thus far.

    Where could I go to get some honest advice from an agent on the power of my query? I understand thet writing conferences are clutch, as well as writing groups, but do you have any other suggestions?

    Would you be willing to look it over? And if so, does this breach some sort of solictation/ copyright restriction?

    Thanks and look forward to hearing back!


  8. Hi Chris

    Thanks for your post. You could try http://misssnark.blogspot.com/, but I’m not sure about whether she’ll read for free. There are some paid services, too. I think The Friday Project (http://www.thefridayproject.co.uk/) do an editorial/pitching service. My advice, such as it is, is free, and I’d be happy to look at your query letter – though it’s probably best if I don’t look at your synopsis.


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