Finding an agent is akin to dating online. You research which agencies to send your query to much like you’d decide which app to download the most fabulous pics of your cute self (if you’re single, of course). You read the bios of agents who represent fellow writers of your genre the same way you’d scan a potential partner’s profile for similar interests. You read about the authors they already represent. Is the potential mate in it for a booty call or a long-term relationship? Do elements of a story excite them? Do physical attributes align with your personal preferences? Is the book made with the stuff that’ll keep them engrossed to the point where they’ll “miss their subway stop?” Did you laugh out loud?
Swipe right. I mean, craft your query.
Writing a profile for a dating site is one thing and it’s not an easy task, especially if you’re someone who’s never been especially comfortable extolling the virtues of yourself. Whipping up a query for a book? Well, the self-consciousness can be excused, but I won’t lie. Summing up a 300-something-page novel into a couple of short paragraphs, all the while attempting to pull out those “grabable” plot points is a lesson in objectivity. Not particularly a given for someone who’s been thisclose to a story for, well, in my case, years.
But once you get to the stage of shopping around for a rep for your work, you’re confident enough—or at least you should be—to know you’ve already succeeded in accomplishing the most important step: finishing the book. Now it’s time to put that talent to use and focus on the hard part: composing your query with the sole purpose of receiving an invitation to sign on the dotted line for a three-book deal. With film options.
After one part agonizing, one part writing and two parts editing, you hit send and wait, knowing that nothing is instantaneous (and checking your inbox every day twice a day will not produce an instant reply). Patience is key; it also helps to embrace the notion of timing, coupled with it being a numbers game. Out of all the folks you send the query to, all you need is one who’ll feel as if they’re the best advocate for your work. Just like the many matches you’ve gotten on Bumble—most times you just don’t feel especially excited about furthering the conversation.
So you wait and occupy yourself with other activities—meeting your friends for drinks, binging on something on Netflix, starting your next novel or outline, downing a bottle or two of wine—all the while obsessing over any and all possible reasons why you haven’t gotten a response yet. With each day that passes, a little more of the hopeful anticipation wanes. And you keep waiting with weeks going by. Sometimes even months.
And then you realize that no response means no one’s interested, which forces you to consider sending out another round of queries to a new batch of hopeful contenders. It’s also a wake-up call that this second round might not be the last. Thankfully, there’s a pretty healthy number of literary agents interested in hearing from people like us, and if we can just keep our mojo going and optimism in check, we up our odds of receiving that long-awaited request for more pages, maybe even the whole manuscript (and best case, a face-to-face meeting).
My father’s voice rings in my ear, “Keep the faith.” And that’s exactly what I know I have to do until I get the reply I’ve been striving for. It’s kind of like when the conversation on Match moves from the message center to the exchange of screen names in Viber. Baby steps…