Contacting Agents and Editors

I’ve not yet reached the querying stage for Father’s Creed, but it’s never too early to learn more about the process.

Today I attended the “Pitching an Agent” discussion at TOK Ottawa. Carolyn Forde, an agent from WCA, and Jen Knoch, a senior editor from ECW Press, spoke about best practices when soliciting representation from agents and editors.

Both agreed that they take unsolicited work, but it’s a smaller percentage of their volume. That’s somewhat good news for new authors who are flying solo in their efforts to get publication. More positive feedback is that your background as a writer is not so important. If you’ve been published or have received awards for your work, your bio should mention that, but those who collect ABC gum in the shape of celebrities are just as viable in their eyes as the next big name in writing.

What it comes down to is the writing, and not just the sample from your novel. Here’s their boiled down tips for making first contact:

Email, don’t send snail mail.

Be concise: 3 short paragraphs, 2 to 3 sentences about the novel, 1 paragraph about you, a note about why you feel they would be a good fit with your work.

Use their names in the opening; don’t call them ‘sir’ or ‘gentlemen,’ especially when you’re addressing women.

Have your work as polished as possible.

Read their guidelines for submission.

Agents and publishers sift through a lot of emails to get down to work they’ll even read, so what you say in your email is possibly just as important as that novel you’ve been working on so diligently. Spend time to craft that email, revise it, and make sure it is personal, telling, and all spelled correctly.

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