Author Rachel Eddey shared some thoughts, on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog, about what you should do when you have an agent but your book hasn’t sold yet. One of my clients asked me what I thought about these suggestions (Hi M-E!). Since I think there are some good ideas here, I’d like to comment on Ms. Eddey’s suggestions, from an agent’s point of view.
1. Provide a timeline tie-in: Sure, this sounds like a good idea. I mean, if you’ve written a novel about something historical that has an anniversary coming up, of course you want to let your agent know. Or if your novel features a virus gone wild in a futuristic society and there have been a run of news articles on pandemics or something, of course you want to let your agent know that, too. I like this kind of information because when I’m speaking with editors it’s nice to be knowledgeable about these things. It can give an otherwise run-of-the-mill pitch a little oomph. (Not that ANY of my pitches are run-of-the-mill…)
2. Gather connections. Ms. Eddey is really into LinkedIn. I was on linked in for years and when I became an agent I decided to shut down my account. It was just not the right social media for me to participate in. BUT I do think it’s important for authors to gather connections. This can be done in so many ways, including using Twitter and Facebook, going to conferences and meeting editors, entering writing contests, and following/commenting on other people’s blogs. When you’ve made some connections, of course you want to let your agent know about them. Please don’t bombard your agent with this though. If my clients started sending me emails about how they have a 3rd degree LinkedIn connection with most of Random House I’d tear my hair out. But if you’ve started a nice Twitter relationship with Stephen King or Amy Tan or someone, I’d kind of like to know about it.
3. Research editors. I suppose authors can do some research into editors, but I wouldn’t go nuts with this. Part of why you want an agent is because agents work very hard at forging connections with editors. I make it my business to do my research regarding editors. But if there’s an editor who you think would be perfect for your manuscript, of course you should let your agent know about them. I’m assuming you read widely in the field in which you write, and you may have some information that your agent doesn’t have. Is there a cool new author in your genre? You can let your agent know about them, to potentially put their editor on your submission list. Good communication between you and your agent, about your work and your thoughts on publication, can open up the conversation about where your work might land best. Ultimately though, I think it’s your agent’s job to know where to send your manuscript.
4. Ask for advice. This relates to #2. I mean, if you have a respected author giving you input on your manuscript, definitely take it! I don’t think you need to really work this one, but I guess it can’t hurt either.
5. Build your platform. I definitely agree with this. I tell all my clients that they need to have someplace online where folks can find them (including editors). So, if you’re not presently blogging but think that would be a hoot, then go for it! But if the mere thought of blogging gives you the heeby jeebies, please don’t do it. There’s nothing worse than a bad blog. But getting involved on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterist, etc… are all good ideas. But choose your social media wisely. Only do what fits for you, and what you’re going to keep up with. Dead Twitter account? Bad idea. Facebook that’s growing cobwebs? Just skip it. Also, if your manuscript touches upon “issues,” get gigs talking about those issues, at conferences, at schools, online, on the radio or television (if you can). And then, of course, let your agent know what you’ve done!
I think that whatever you do, the key is to be in good communication with your agent. Don’t try to do your agent’s job (please) but step into your role as an author. Act like an author, because you are one! To be honest though, the main thing I want my clients to do while I’m busy submitting their work is to write another manuscript!
Besides nail-biting and finger crossing, what do you do while your work is out on submission (for those with agents) or what do you do while you’re querying?