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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