Stuff in the ‘Finding a Literary Agent’ Category

8 June, 2016

Writing with a Positive Attitude–It May Get You an Agent or Publisher!

There are many reasons why writers write, but one is that that they wish to be read.  Most writers want to find their audience and connect with their audience.  Whether it is because they have something to say, information to sJoelle portraits0105_001hare, or are creating an experience, through memoir and fiction, most writers–at least those who seek to be published—are looking for someone on the other end to read their words.

Volumes have been written about how hard it is to get published, from the grueling search for an agent to finding a publisher.  And it is all true.  It’s damn hard.  It’s easy to get discouraged as the rejection pile grows higher. Even worse, many queries and efforts appear to go unheard, with writers not even receiving a rejection from which they can glean the reason why they are being passed over.

As a busy publishing professional, I am guilty of doling out rejection and ignoring queries.  This is not because I am an unkind person.  But there are literally not enough hours in the day to fully evaluate unsolicited queries and respond thoughtfully, with sensitivity to each.

Writers should know that we are truly searching for you.  The thrill of discovering new talent never dulls.  One thing that can help is exhibiting a positive attitude despite the discouraging aspects of the quest.  A writer’s personality usually resonates when they make an appeal, and at the end of the day, we’re drawn not only to talent but to a person with a positive spirit.  I don’t mean you should be relentlessly cheerful, but we do tend to work harder for people we actually like.  Not all talented authors are likable, but some are, and I just love working with authors who are professional, kind, respectful, hard-working, listen well, and hungry for true partnership.

So next time you send out a query, let your higher self shine through.  It just may help you get the attention you deserve.

–Joelle Delbourgo


16 February, 2016

Why Literary Agents May Give You the Cold Shoulder

It’s often said that it is tougher to get a literary agent to represent you than to find a publisher.  That may well be AIbEiAIAAABDCLG685W5porlUiILdmNhcmRfcGhvdG8qKDkxMTljMWNi_002true!  And yet, it’s essential these days to have representation.  With rapid-fire changes in the industry, including consolidation and the inevitable contraction that accompanies it, the chances of getting published by a traditional house are slimmer.  Agents form an essential bridge to the publishing industry.  It is also their job to negotiate strong contracts on behalf of their clients, which necessitates staying on top of the complex policies that underwrite contracts.  Reputable agents also guide their clients at every stage, from shaping the material that will be submitted to a publisher, to matchmaking their clients to the right publisher, to guiding their careers as writers overall.

When agents do not respond to queries, they surely appear mean and indifferent. When they do send a rejection letter, they often unleash wrath from the spurned writer.  Yet this is hardly the case.  Agents work incredibly hard, spending thousands of hours perusing unpublished pages, including query letters, proposals and manuscripts.  They don’t get paid directly for this labor.  In order to find what may be the right fit projects for a given agency, we sift and sift, and sometimes it feels like looking for a needle in a haystack.  We also read our client’s manuscripts-in-progress and finished work.  So when we don’t respond, it is not because we are truly heartless, but because, for whatever reason, your project is not right for us or doesn’t spark the passion.  It’s very much like internet dating!  You need to feel the chemistry, and sometimes it is just not there.

For every rejection or non-response, a writer should move on.  Every writer deserves to be represented with excitement and commitment.  Don’t take it personally.  Your work may be wonderful but if an agent doesn’t have the time to give it or the vision for how to get it published, you’d be better served by representation elsewhere.

I hate to be part of this discouraging process, but every once in a while, there is an up side.  I find something that I want to work on, connect with the writer, and we’re off and running to the races.  Sometimes, we can create a little magic for a writer, helping to make a dream of getting published come true.  And those moments are almost as exciting for the agent as for the writer.  It’s that collaboration, that very special partnership, that we live for, that makes us feel valuable and truly alive.  Every writer should hold out for that.

–Joelle Delbourgo


25 April, 2014

Choosing a Literary Agent is a Lot Like Dating

It’s often said that it is harder to get literary representation than to get published.  And it may be true!  But as many of you know, I think it is essential for writers to be well represented.  This ensures not only a better chance of getting published, but also provide20140101_115820_resizeds a writer with a seasoned guide throughout the entire publishing process, indeed, throughout the life of a book.

Writers get understandably discouraged by the lack of response or negative response from agents to their queries.  But one key reason for that is that you may not be targeting the right agents.  I’m always amazed, for example, at the letters I receive from writers who have clearly not checked in advance to see if I am accepting queries for the category of project they are submitting.  I don’t handle screenplays, picture books, or Westerns, for example.  Anyone visiting this website, or checking out the agency Facebook page, or following me on Twitter, or looking at Google entries or listings for me or the agency at the AAR Association of Author’s Representatives) website, reading a profile in Jeff Herman’s annual guide to publishers and literary agents among many places that contain information about the agency would know that.   It’s a guaranteed non-starter.

Just as you have preferences in choosing a mate:  you like tall men, or literate women, or someone athletic or who shares your passion for skydiving, so, too, your literary agent needs to be a fit–a fit in terms of having similar taste and interests, and also in style of conducting business.  Once you have ascertained that an agent will be receptive to the kind of book you are writing, and if you are fortunate enough to enter into a conversation with that agent, you may want to ask:  How do you see my book fitting into your list?  How do you work with your clients?  How might you approach selling my book?  How do you like to communicate with your clients? Similar to the dreaded “first date” questions, the answers will not only be informative but also give you a feel for whether there is the right chemistry.  Follow your gut.  You may find eternal love and happiness or heartbreak, but it’s a start.  Without taking a risk–a calculated one–nothing happens.

–Joelle Delbourgo


5 August, 2013

Do Your Homework to Land a Literary Agent

It never ceases to amaze me by 99% of the unsolicited queries we receive at the agency are doomed.  Why?  Because in so many cases, theheadshot_joelledelbourgo writer clearly did not check our agency website and submission guidelines.  And I’m assuming that if they are querying multiple literary agents (which, by the way, is OK), this is true for the queries directed to them as well.

How do we know this?  Here are some of the telltale signs:

*The letter is addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam.”  Always, always, direct your query to a specific agent within an agency.  That also means, do not direct your letter to someone who is not an agent.  We, for example, have a publicist and several editors affiliated with the agency.

*In the case of a query letter that is mailed in, there is no self-addressed, stamped envelope (as stipulated on our website), or in the case of a query from abroad, there is a postal coupon that we specifically ask authors not to send us as the post offices often don’t know what to do with them.

*The works that are being offered do not reflect our interests, which again, are stated in the agent bios on our website.

*The letters are poorly written. We ask authors to make their best effort to write a letter that reflects their talents as a writer, that showcases the writing itself.  If your letter is not well-written, then why should we expect the proposal or sample text to be any better?

*Email queries are sometimes sent out in a mass mailing to agents who are all copied on the same email. This shows very little preparation and research and is poor form.

There is an art to approaching an agent. It is no longer a secret as there are many wonderful resources and books on how to get published, how to write a query letter and/or proposal.  There are communities of writers, many of them online, who graciously share their knowledge and experience.  Take the time to do your homework.  We are actually eager to hear from you and love nothing better than responding to a well-crafted query about a fascinating subject you can illuminate or dazzling story you have to tell.

–Joelle Delbourgo