Thursday, February 19, 2009

I SPY ... Or Where Do I Find An Agent? by DL Larson

This week I attended an Author's Panel at the Lisle Library with authors Dyanne Davis, Melody Thomas and Keena Kincaid. The room could have held forty or more people, but a dozen brave writers joined us, each with questions on getting published, finding an agent, and what is expected of an author.

Writers have been pondering these questions since the concept of publishing the written word. If only the answers were a step by step process to success. And so, in our discussion we discovered or perhaps re-discovered there are many ways to accomplish the task of becoming published.

We chatted about a few basic guidelines we have used, I've included a few of my own; perhaps they will help you:

Completing your manuscript is a must!

Put your butt in the chair and write.
This means creating a routine for writing.
Stick to your schedule.
Make personal goals and reward yourself when you reach them.
Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder was mentioned as a great resource to help you through the writing process. Search your local bookstore for others.

Read, read, read.
Read what other writers in your genre are publishing.
Keep up with what is happening in the publishing market.
Subscribe to a writer's magazine, or ask your library to subscribe to a few.
Join a writer's group; WindyCity RWA is always open to new members.

Having your friends read your manuscript is great.
Hiring a professional editor is better.
Or submit your work to a critique group; listen to their feedback.
Consider what all have said, then polish your work in a way that is best for YOU
and your book.

This step is best done when you have completed your book! (or it's nearly done)
Search online for Literary Agencies. There are many Agency Directories, listing their expertise and wants.
Go through the Writer's Market Book - this book specifies agents or publishers into categories and what type of book they are looking for. Be aware people move from place to place and may have moved on from the copydate of the book.
Always best to address a particular agent or publisher.

Make a spreadsheet to tabulate your progress of queries sent.
A simple spreadsheet could include:
name, address of Agent/publisher (include email address)
list what you sent, when you sent it and a space for agent's response
There are great On-line programs to help you keep track of queries, check agents profiles, etc.
Send out what you can keep track of: 2 a week? 10 in a month? Sending out 40 at a time becomes very confusing, and as you work through this process, you may want to adjust your query or proposal.
Evaluate the feedback and decide which direction your next step should be.

In other words, don't give up!
Don't worry about the many rejections!
You are a work in progress! (emphasis on progress!!)

I enjoyed visiting with the group of writers at the Lisle Library and sharing what I could in the time we had. It's times like this when I regard my own writing career by measuring stick standards and I realize how far I've traveled on the journey of writing. Giving advice and encouragement is especially sweet, recalling the many writers who extended the same gracious understanding to me. Just a few days ago I received an email from a friend of a friend's acquaintance. Meaning I had no idea who this person was, but he was searching for help on getting his wife's work published. Encouragement is sometimes the balm folks are looking for. A road map would be fantastic, but then I wouldn't have stumbled into so many wonderful writers bumbling along like me. Who needs a road map when I'm in such good company!

As an author, I may not know where I'm going, but I know I'm headed in the right direction as long as I keep striving, stretching to write the best work I can. None of us know what tomorrow will bring, except the weatherman of course! But as a writer I find it exciting to be a little bit lost, the winds whipping up from unexpected directions to toss me about, and I scramble to stay afloat.

Foolish? Perhaps. Fun? Oh, definitely! Writing is an uncertain profession, always searching for the right words, the best agent and a super contract. Both sides play I SPY. Agents search for a great hook, an intriguing query, a thought provoking storyline. Writers dig around for the best word, agonize over sentence structure and then use fine-tooth combs to pick out the best and most polished to represent them. And we all grow old in the process.

Maybe we do need a road map.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: If you have any helpful hints to offer aspiring writers, feel free to share with us.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Excellent advice!

My dear friend, author p.m. terrell, has always advised to seek out a publisher first rather than an agent - to get some success with a book or two. I think too many writers focus on finding an agent and miss opportunities with publishers.

L. Diane Wolfe

Keena Kincaid said...

Excellent post, Deb! You captured our collective advice very well.

Morgan Mandel said...

And some people just guess, but don't usually get anywhere that way.

Morgan Mandel

Deb Larson said...

I certainly agree with searching for a publisher before an agent!!
Thanks everyone for sharing your ideas.