One of the questions often asked is: “When should I start contacting agents”?
In my opinion, the answer should be: “When your manuscript is not only finished but polished”, which is exactly what I did not do at first.
My first novel, The Crossing Lives Trilogy – Book One: Foundation, is set in two very distinct eras. I had completed the contemporary part but only had the first two chapters set in the Middle Ages ready when I started sending a few queries. They did not come to anything, but I did get a few encouraging comments, such as “You write very well and the idea for a trilogy is exciting” or “I thought the premise of the story was really engaging and original, and could see it appealing to fans of The Time Traveller’s Wife”.
Once the book was finished, I realised that the contemporary part was not working for me anymore and was definitely weaker – see what I mean about submitting too soon? I decided to re-write half my book. I am glad I did, as it is now much more balanced, which has been confirmed by my beta readers. After a request for the full manuscript from an agent I had met at the Frankfurt Book Fair came to nothing, I submitted again, before spending six months on our house renovation project. This time, my novel had been proofread and re-worked as well, but no positive answer came.
Finally, last month, I went again through the list of literary agencies I had compiled and researched them thoroughly. It turned out that about half of them did not represent my book’s genre or were not currently opened to submissions. I sent queries to the remaining agencies and then promptly wondered if January is a very quiet month for agents as I received some answers – all negative – incredibly quickly! Still, I hope to find my name on an agent’s “Client List 2016”.
I found the submitting process more time-consuming than expected. I spent a lot of time reading all relevant info on agency websites. I studied the bios of the various agents carefully, to be sure I would submit to the right one. My query letters are personalised, as I do not believe in “blanket emailing”. Then there are the subtle differences: the number of chapters required, in which format the document should be sent and how it should be named, if information about yourself and your writing experience is to be mentioned in the cover letter or integrated into the document attached, etc, etc. And finally, the synopsis. There are so many definitions of what a synopsis should be that it can be confusing. I asked that very question to an agent I met at a blogging conference and his answer was: “Don’t worry too much about the synopsis. If an agent finds your sample chapters exciting, you will be contacted, whether or not your synopsis is perfect”.
I would love to hear your thoughts on submitting and also have a question for you: some agents mention that they prefer to be given an exclusive period to consider your work. How do you feel about this?