This week I’m sharing notes from my workshop, HOW TO LAND AN AGENT: STEP BY STEP. Today I’m going to talk about Steps 1 and 2.
STEP 1: Finish Your Manuscript
This is the most obvious but it bears repeating. You HAVE to finish your manuscript first. I’ve had several writer friends who write 3 chapters or 10 chapters and then send it off to an agent. They get a great response and then guess what? The agent wants to see the whole manuscript. They end up rushing to finish and lose a great opportunity because the quality of the novel wasn’t consistent.
So make sure your work is finished. When you’re finished, this also means having your work critiqued by other writers (not your friends or family) or hiring a reputable, independent editor (someone who can give authentic references). There are a lot of editors who have worked at publishing houses who now do freelance work.
When you feel your work is the BEST it can be, than you can start thinking about submitting to agents. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression so make sure your moment is one where you shine.
STEP 2: Create a Query Letter and Synopsis
Most agents will not accept full manuscripts but they will accept query letters and some may ask for a synopsis.
A query letter is basically a pitch in business letter format. The query letter should be looked at as a selling point especially since it may be the only thing the agent sees. You want to write a compelling letter to make the agent want to ask for your full manuscript.
The query letter format is usually 3 paragraphs. The first paragraph is the hook—something intriguing about your novel. It should also reflect the tone of your work (humorous, mysterious, or serious). The second paragraph is the pitch – what your work is about in one or two sentences. Finally is the ending paragraph which just quickly thanks the agent for their time. Usually, in the third paragraph, it can just be a sentence stating that. There is no need to include any information about yourself unless it includes any published works (including magazines), writing organizations, or something about you that is directly connected to your novel.
The synopsis is usually not required but some agents may ask for it. It’s also a good practice to summarize your novel in one page (about 250 words). This is usually what you see on jacket flaps in the bookstore. Sometimes creating a synopsis is good indicator about the viability of your novel. Sometimes writing the synopsis is where you may find holes or inconsistencies in your novel. When you write the synopsis, you only need to include the main characters and the main plot. You can think of the synopsis as three parts: the inciting incident (the story problem), the obstacle (what stands in the way) and the resolution (how the characters resolve the problem). Sticking to this blueprint will help you write a concise synopsis.
So that’s it for Steps 1 and 2. Tomorrow, I’ll share Steps 3 and 4 of How to Land An Agent.