What attracts an agent?
It is appropriate to ask this question in intimate relationship terms, as if you were courting a much sought after object of desire, a person very likely to reject you. For writers, that is precisely what’s going on when it comes to searching for an agent match.
The question is asked me this time specifically in reference to the dreaded Query Letter. Dreaded because so much seems to ride on it and, in fact, too often too much does. May I offer a trick and a tip for surviving query letter hell and perhaps thriving as well?
The trick is to take back some of the power you automatically give away in such out-of-power-balance situations.
Most agents say that a query letter is all they want to see. Not only does the agent have the veto in her kit bag, the power to thumb up or down on a writer’s work. She is also narrowing the performance arena to virtually no-win parameters.
How do you display your ability to write fiction in a one-page business letter? The same question applies to memoir, dramatic/narrative nonfiction and all but dry-as-dust nonfiction any type.
This catch carries a number much greater than twenty-two. So what have you got to lose? You might as well go for taking back some power. Here’s a Tip re: doing that. Send a few pages of text plus a short synopsis along with the obligatory query letter.
Of course, those pages must be smokin’ hot. Your dramatic opening must catapult the agent into a fast-paced, wonderfully written manuscript. The momentum must be so unrelenting that only someone ready for the pallbearers could put your pages down.
Your equally thrilling synopsis follows suit. BTW, a future blog will tell you how to create such a synopsis with minimum angst. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, back to your submission scenario. The agent is at the end of your scintillating synopsis, panting for more of you and your project posthaste.
Okay, I exaggerate a little, but that almost overwrought state of drama and urgency is precisely what you must create. Anything less lacks the mega tonnage necessary to blast an agent out of the ennui typically induced by reading far too many humdrum submissions. A few hours of that kind of reading, and the mind glazes. Your assignment is to shatter that glaze to smithereens.
Will she forgive you the few added pages of reading? Literary agenting is talent scouting. The joy of the work is in finding a new, wonderful, eminently marketable voice. Make that your voice, and she will forgive you anything. Make that your voice, and you will have gone beyond attracting an agent. You will have begun to worm your way into her heart.