Tag Archives: synopsis

The Quest for an Agent

Man holding a note that reads 'call me'
Searching for an agent is like dating.

I start by letting friends and family members know I am ready. My book is finished. It needs to be sold, and who better to sell it than an agent with a great reputation, preferably one who works with a writing friend. It’s a lot like scoring a date with your best friend’s brother. You know the family, get along with them well, and your future sister-in-law already feels like family. It would just be making it all official.

Of course, the chances of it working out beyond the first date are infinitesimally small.

The number of writing friends who have an agent who represents adult fiction dwindles considerably once I factor in the genre: suspense, thriller, crime, and mainstream. Those are the genres in which I feel the book fits. Trying to convince my friend’s agent who represents romance that my manuscript would be perfect for her would be a lot like trying to convince my friend’s brother who is gay that dating me would be a match made in heaven.

Once I exhaust the friends and family route, I determine to strike out on my own to meet The One. That’s a lot like being in the right place at the right time and saying the right thing to get the right response. I hang out where agents hang out: writer’s conferences, book expos, national and local writer’s groups, and publishing conferences. To mitigate the cost, I apply for grants and scholarships and chances to win an all expense paid for trip and an exclusive one-on-one meeting with the agent of my choice by writing a contest-winning essay or story. Hundreds of thousands of other writers also apply for the same chance to win. After paying the entry fee and waiting several months, I discover the winner is another lucky writer, not me. Since I have too many home and auto repairs to cover the entrance fee into the conference, not to mention travel, lodging, and meals, I proceed to Step 3 of my quest: Internet dating.

After all, I’ve heard so many stories of others finding true love through Match.com. Why can’t I find a literary agent through one of the online match making companies that bring writers and agents together? I fill out the online questionnaire, opt for the four week no cost special, and upload the first 100 pages of my manuscript into the database. Several times a day I check my mail, hoping someone read my partial manuscript and wants to see the rest of the novel. Whenever a new agent joins, I make sure I “wink” at them if they represent the genre in which I write. Sometimes they wink back and a dialogue begins about my book. Most of the time, however, they don’t. A few request the full manuscript, promising to get back to me within six to eight weeks with a response. Many, however, decide to pass.

Although I’ve abandoned my search for an agent many times over the years, I am hopeful this time I will find The One. It took three years before my husband finally asked me out on a date. Hopefully, it will take less time to find the perfect agent.

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Focus on the Story

Now that I’ve successfully completed two rounds of revisions and shipped off the manuscript to beta readers, I am busy polishing up a back cover copy blurb in an effort to focus the storyline even further.

Why bother writing that one paragraph teaser now?

When I pitch the story to an agent for representation or answer a curious reader who asks, “What are you writing now?” I have to be able to summarize the story in as few as words as possible to pique as much interest as possible. It increases my chances for representation and encourages sales.

It’s much harder writing a 100 word back cover copy than it is writing a 100,000 word novel because it distills the story into its essential elements: whose story is this, what does the person want, what stands in the way of getting it, and what does the person learn along the way. Writing it now while the work is still in progress helps shape the overall product, because it forces me to deliver on my promise. It highlights areas I haven’t fully developed and casts shadows on extraneous subplots that can possibly be eliminated for clarity and brevity. The overall result will be a tighter, faster-paced, streamlined story with a coherent and satisfying beginning, middle, and end.

Next up: the one line elevator pitch. Yes, I have to take those 100 words and winnow them down to one sentence. Yikes! How can anyone do that successfully? It’s my turn to learn.

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