Posted by Christopher Russell on 24 February 2020, in Byte Experts, News
In this month’s Byte Experts, author, musician and Byte The Book writer-in-residence Chris Russell offers his top tips for securing a literary agent.
Finding a literary agent is a rite-of-passage for the aspiring novelist, and once you’re on the other side of that fence, it can be easy to forget just how intimidating and stressful the process can be. So, at the risk of reliving those months of nail-biting uncertainty, I thought I’d dig deep into my past and fire out my top five tips for finding a literary agent…
1. Be prepared
Most agents are pretty open on their websites about what they’re looking for, so make sure you spend time matching your submissions to the appropriate people. An agent who primarily represents historical fiction is unlikely to be interested in your erotic steampunk zombie cookbook, no matter how scintillating it is.
2. Know what you’re writing next
If I had to pick one of these tips to encase in steel and fire into the cosmos for future generations, it would be this one. It’s really, really tempting to assume that the book you’re submitting is your masterwerk, your magnum opus. Your ticket to a lifestyle overflowing with Ferrero Rocher, designer yachts and blue pool tables. But the truth is, your current manuscript may just be a stepping stone to the rest of your career … and that’s fine. Case-in-point: my first MS piqued my agent-to-be’s interest, but it was my pitch for book two that actually sealed the deal. If I hadn’t been thinking ahead, then to this day I might still be sitting in my pants drinking watery Gold Blend and weeping into my Find-An-Agent spreadsheet (which, by the way, was a thing of supreme beauty).
3. Grow a thick skin
You will get rejected. Again, and again, and again. In fact, this won’t stop once you have an agent — in many ways, that’s when it properly starts — so if you don’t already have a thick skin, make sure you get hold of one ASAP (I assume you can buy that sort of thing off Amazon). I believe my magic rejection number was thirty-two, but it could just as easily have been double that. And most importantly, when you can, learn from your rejections. Not all of them will be template responses, and the feedback you receive may be exactly what you need to hit the jackpot next time.
4. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint
Unless you’re exceptionally lucky and/or a staggering, once-in-a-generation literary genius, it will likely take you months or even years to find an agent. The publishing industry, y’see, moves … very … S L O W L Y … and even agents who are interested in you may take weeks to respond to your submission. So just sit back and enjoy the ride. Learn to play bridge. Get a puppy.
5. Don’t be a rascal
The publishing world is small, and word travels fast. As tempting as it is, try not to reply to every rejection with “YOU’LL BE SORRY WHEN I’M FAMOUS, SIR OR MADAM, YOU’LL ALLLLLL BE SORRY” written in red caps, because pretty soon, everyone will know who you are and they definitely won’t be returning your calls.
Best of luck, everyone!
Chris secured representation with Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock in 2013. His trilogy of YA novels, Songs About a Girl, is published by Hodder Children’s and tells the story of a teenage girl who discovers the world’s biggest boyband is mysteriously writing songs about her. A horror buff, Chris’ favourite novel is The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. You can find him online at www.chrisrussellwrites.com.